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for me. for him. for them. for love.
Table of Contents
A. Published. I. Blue Print II. Breaking Habits III. Extraordinary Rendezvous IV. Tin’s Sketchpad V. Butterfly VI. Waiting VII. A Thousand Cranes for Leila
B. Unpublished. I. II. III. IV. V. VI. Just Like Heaven Jen’s Pseudorelationship Exclusively Dating Twenty Question Love Tale of the White Witch The Julia Collection a. Sub 7 b. Julia’s Love Story c. It’s Complicated I: Gazebo d. It’s Complicated II: Yellow Tulips
And there she goes. After two years, the girl he loved is walking away from him, out of his life. Jeff could feel his lids were getting heavier every second but he just knew he must not cry. Strongly, he held up all those emotions that raged in his veins causing his tears to draw back rather than fall. Just moments ago, he felt numb, and just now, he wished he still were. “Nga-a haw?” his voice was cracked. The girl turned away from him, “Basta lang.” was all that she could say. However, he could not digest reality, “May ara gid na ya!” he insisted, there has to be a reason, there must be something wrong! “Hambala lang ako kung ano ang sala. Pwede mo man na guro mahambal sa akun sang diretso ah.” Then she turned to face him, her eyes filled with sorrow and tension, “Inde ta na ka palangga.” BLAG. His body froze. He could feel his tongue tied and his mind went blank. No words came out from his mouth, he just stared at her. Jeff does not know what to say or ask. Would he question the reason why and wo und his heart more? Ask her if she loves another and let himself die? Or beg her to stay and imprisoning her in a dark sarcophagus of his selfishness? He was silent for a few moments, unable to move, the girl turned to him yelling, “Inde ako paghipusi, Jeff! Akig ka, di bala? Hambal ka man bi! Pangakig ka!” she fretted. But Jeff stood still, watching her every move, no words would register in his hypothalamus. All he knew, all that he could ever think about, this girl would not be his anymore. “Mapunggan ta ka bala?” at last he said, “Kung maghambal ko nga inde ta ka gusto madula, mapapugong ka?” he asked softly, unable to prevent a touch of sarcasm in his voice. “Inde.” “Ti wala na ako may mahimo.” That night, his whole room mourned with him. He was unusually silent. The room was tensioned as he was. Jeff slowly turned to his drawing table, smiled sadly at the blue print he just started to do this morning… “Maubra pa ko tani. Galling wala na man may maista r sa imo .” He said running his hands on the paper. His heartache broke his life in puzzle but it taught him how to bring the puzzle back together and the significance of each pieces. He learned not to be bitter and it was okay to hurt a bit. Jeff concentrated on his studies, he had an unmatched performance in his course, both in designs and in theory. But still, there was something lacking. “Excuse me, masara na kami.” He lifted his head from the book he’s reading and stared at the girl in front of him. “Abi ko alas-otso pa ya gasara ang library.” He said impatiently, he was in the middle a research work. “Sa idalom to ya, inde dire.” The girl answered firmly. He got her patience. “Ti pwede madala ang libro sa dalom?” “Hulma.” An idea filled his mind, the girl was irritated; he wanted to know why. Maybe she wanted to go home early or she just hated his guts, “Wala ako library card .” “Ti paano ka di kasulod?” she started to group the books on each table. “RF. Ano ngalan mo, Miss?” She raised a brow saying, “Mahal akun ngalan. Wala ko ginabaligya bisan kay sin-o.” He smiled, “May duha ko di kalibo sa wallet ko .” She stared at him unbelievably, she cursed him in a low voice and left. She made her way outside where Gilbert, an engineering student who was also his friend was seated. He saw her laughed with him. Then pointed him to Gilbert. In a matter of minutes, his friend is already walking towards him. “Pre!” he called. Jeff beamed, “Duty mo?” “Oo.” Gilbert answered, “Abi tama na ina. Maalam ka na, pakuging ka man gihapon sa library, mapuli na nga daan si Denise.” “Denise gali ngalan ya?” he immediately gathered his things before bidding his friend goodbye, he turned to him saying, “Ano na course ya man? Sugid na lang kay mapuli na ko.” Gilbert shook his head in amusement, “Accountancy.”
He hurried outside the circulation section where Denise was sitting, busy calculating library stuffs. “Denise gali ngalan mo? Nakuha ko libre. Tapus may free pa, a ccountan cy.” He flashed his most irresistible smile, “Ako gali si Jeff.” And offered his hands. Denise did nothing but looked at it and he felt himself blushed. He was a bit humiliated. He held back his hand and stared at her, “Wala gid ako bala gapangaon tawo.” That incident brought him back to the library every now and then, reading boo ks he read before, searching for things he already knew and seeing the girl who brougt something familiar to his heart’s domain. But no matter how he tried to get close to her, he just could not. Denise already built an invisible barrier between them. Nevertheless, he never gave up. He wanted something to happen, he hated wasting his time doing nothing. So, he asked someone whom he knew would have the power to persuade the girl. “Denise, lakat di bala anay.” Sir William called, he was one of her major subjects professors. And Jeff was behind him looking at her innocently. She wanted to run, yet she stopped herself. Denise already knew what would happen next, “Ano to sir?” “May ipakilala ko sa imo.” He took Jeff by the shoulder and introduced them. Jeff once more offered his hand. She wanted to glare at him for dragging her into this kind of scene. “Ti, indi mo gid pagbatunon ang kamot niya, Denise?” the professor teased. This time, it was her who turned crimson red. She cannot do anything but to accept his hand and smiled. This unusual incident started a friendship that was bound for love. Both of them didn’t know how it happened. One day, he was waiting there outside the library, the next, he was at the doorstep of her last class at the New Valentines Building; the next, they were eating at the student’s union building; the next, he was holding her hand as they walk through the half-moon drive going home. No words were spoken, it just happened. Jeff was sitting in his drawing table when he felt Deni se hands encircle his waist. “Tapos na exams, ano naman ina?” she asked, resting her head on his shoulders. “Future house ta ah.” He saw how her face stiffened and how it turned pale, the hands that were around his waist dropped. She moved away from him. “Nga-a Denise haw? inde mo gusto?” he asked softly. He stood up and reached for her, “Makahimo ko ya sang pinakanami nga blue print kag makapatindog sang manami nga balay para sa imo.” Denise smiled sadly, “Bal-an ko, Jeff. Nami ka gid man maghimo ya. Pero…” she was about to say something but then she decided to seal her mouth, “Mapuli na ko.” Jeff knew ther e was a problem, but looking deep in her eyes, he knew she would not want to discuss anything right now. Things were quite blur as they head on the doorstep. Denise does not want him to take her home, but he insisted. “Gusto ko tani mabal-an kung malain ang ginhimo ko. Pero daw inde mo man gusto isto ryahan subong.” He cupped her face, and when he was about to kiss her, she turned away saying, “Sige na Jeff, gab-I na. Puli ka na.” She went inside. He was dumbfounded alone there. He sat outside the door wanting to knock, and ask her what was wrong. Was it the design? The room? Him? Nevertheless, he convinced himself to go home. He knew things could be complicated if he insisted. Denise pressed her back on the door, she waited for him to go. Would she ever tell Jeff nothing is going to last forever? Tomorrow marks the first day of her leave of absence in the university. No one knew about it, just she, her mom and Gilbert. No one needs to know. She is not sure if it is temporary or permanent. An hour. Two hours. Three hours. Four hours. 8:00 p.m. Jeff gaped at his wristwatch, where the hell was Denise? He went to her last class but she was not ther e. So he thought of the library, but he couldn’t get a glimpse of her shadow. “Pre, masara na ang library.” Gilbert reminded him. He collected his things and asked, “Si Denise?” Gilbert’s eyes juggled, could not look straight at him when he replied, “Wala ko kabalo.” “Sugat ko siya kagina, wala siya kuno hambal ni tita.”
Gilbert’s shoulder shrugged, “Wala gid ko ya kabalo, Jeff. Puli na lang to pre. Basi may ginlaktan lang si Tata.” Jeff wanted to beg. He knew that Gilbert knew where she was but decided not to tell him. He has no choice but to go home and pray that tomorrow he will see her, A day. Two days. Three days. Four days. Five days. A week. He was restless, terribly distressed, no one has seen Denise these past few days. Her mom always told him she was busy with school works but none of her classmates knew where Denise was. He was worried. He wanted to find her. Would he find someone who’s hiding and doesn’t want to be found? “Gilbert!” he called. Both of them were walking by the half-moon drive. Gilbert didn’t probably hear him, so he ran after, “Gilbert, bal-an ko nga bal-an mo kung diin si Denise. Lihog lang bi itudlo man sa akon.” He asked, almost pleading. “Gusto ko lang siya makita. Kung inde na gid man siya sa akon, gusto ko ya siya mahamb al wala na sang iban.” He could curse himself for being so melodramatic, but then it was no skit, he was near to tears. Gilbert looked at him with a heavy heart, “Nagpro misa ako, Jeff.” “Bal-an ko. Bisan subong lang gid nga adlaw.” “Sigurado ka gid ya nga gusto mo siya makita ?” Gilbert made sure. When Jeff nodded, he led the way. They stopped at St. Paul’s Hospital. Gilbert led him to one of the private rooms. Jeff’s heart wobbled, he wanted to ask questions, tons of it. Yet, he chose to shut his mouth a nd follow silently. Stopping by the doorstep, Gilbert kissed Denise’s mother who was gripping to the rosary beads. “Ano natabo, Gilbert?” Jeff demanded. He could not control himself a second longer with all these tension. But he did not answer. He just tol d him that he should be quiet and come inside the room. Jeff’s heart was pounding too hard; it wanted to slip outside his body. He was too scared. He wanted this though. He wanted to see Denise, to hold her, tell her how much he loves her. “Na-diagnose siya nga may leukemia last yea r. Da w terminal naman to gani. Ha mbal sang doctor, mga six months na lang siya kuno. Ginahambalan na siya namun nga mauntat eskwela kag mapa -chemo , pero inde niya gusto. Mas gadasig lang na kuno kabuhi niya. Give-up na siya to tani mo. Galing nag-abot ka. Ginpadugay mo kabuhi niya. Subong, ari siya, gapachemo, basi pa lang may tsansa nga palawigon iya kabuhi.” Gilbert left him ther e alone. He wonder ed where he found the strength to move him feet to the visitor chair next to the bed. Jeff sat and held Denise’s cold hands on his palm, kissing it softly. He did not know what to say. He just wanted to be ther e. “Jeff.” Denise mutter ed without opening her eyes. “Paano mo nabal-an nga ako?” he tried to put some humor in his voice, pretending that nothing is wrong, “Inde mo na ako pagpanaguan ha?” “Bal-an ko na perfu me mo eh. Aww ah, inde gid ya masaligan si Gilbert.” Denise laughed gently, “Ginsugid ya gid ya sekreto ko sa imo.” “Nahidlaw ko sa imo, Denise.” Her smile disappeared and she looked at him seriously, “Inde ta ka ya gusto paasahon. Bal-an ko nga wala na gid ako sang chance…” “Ari lang ako di, Denise. Inde lang ako pagpilita nga bayaan ka kay amo na ang inde ko mahimo.” He kissed her forehead and lulled her back to sleep. Jeff did as what he had promised. He was always there. After class, he would go to the library, borrow books or photocopy what he needed and go directly to the hospital. He accompanied and gave her the courage during her chemo sessions. He knew there was almos t no chance of survival. He just wanted to have her for a matter of time. “Busy gid, Jeff?” He opened a blue print paper in front of her, “Tan-awa bala.” He said with pride. Denise excitedly followed but when she realized what she was holding in her hands , she rolled and gave it back to Jeff. “Inde mo gusto? Inde manami?” he asked worriedly. She shook her head, “Inde na para sa akon.” She smiled sadly. “Ti ano gusto mo, hambali ko bi.” He dared.
Denise pulled him close and gave him a smack on the lips, “Blue prin t sang mausoleu m, ang akon nga mausoleum.” His arms around her lost its grip. He just could not believe what he heard from her. He drew her a home, a beautiful home, his masterpiece, but she wanted a mausoleum. She was already asking a place for her corpse. “Dira man ako gihapon makadto. Bisan ano himuon ko. Sooner o r later mapatay ako!” “Inde lang anay subong!” Jeff said almost desperately. Denise looked at him bitterly, “Inde mo na mahambal, Jeff. Plea se do it fo r me na lang. amo na lang na ang ihatag.” She held him close once more, “Na mi-on mo ha?” The room was empty. Papers were scattered all over the floor. Déjà vu he must admit, but this time, it is much, much more painful and excruciating. Although he was not a smoker, he wanted to smoke badly ; tension was choking him. His hands were idle. He could not move them to start working. Yet, he pushed himself to start. When his hands were forced to hold a pen and draw, it trembled and tears fell down his cheeks. He was supposed to make a house for her, but instead, she asked for something that she knew was her destiny. Jeff wanted to hide her from God’s eyes, so that He would not take her away from him. It was destiny that bound them together, yet it is destiny that would take her away from him, leavin g him in misery. Jeff watched her sleep. He didn’t want to think about anything now. All Jeff did was stare at her. He didn’t want to think about anything now. He wanted to touch her, held her tiny face on his hands, but he just could not move, he was too afraid, that even in a blink of an eye, this girl would vanish. “Uyy… ano natulok mo?” Denise asked when she caught him looking intently at her, “Dal-a man ko bi sa may bintana.” She pleaded weakly. He immediately obliged, pushed her wheelchair near the wi ndow, “Na tapos mo na?” He nodded and gave her the blue print, “Matapos ni siya ayhan before???” “Denise!” he warned, “Inde ka gid maghambal sang amo sina.” Instead, she laughed, “Kapila ta na ka hambalan nga inde mo gid na ya mapaktan.” She folded the blue print, faced him and whispered, “Can you hug me?” Again, he did what she wanted, he embraced her tightly but careful not to suffocate her, “Palanggapalangga ta gid ka bala, Denise.” She replied, “Bal-an ko. Pero inde ako ang para sa imo. So meone is still there, ind e ka lang matak-an nga pangitaon siya.” “Bayaan mo na gid ko haw?” “Nah!” she told him, “I’ll be your angel.” Denise turned to him, stood up weakly, dismissing his hands and place her arms on his shoulders, “Wala ka lang kabalo kung ano ta ka kapalangga. Tungod sa imo, gusto ko pa palawigon akon kabuhi. Bisan bal-an ko nga inde pwede.” Then before he could respond to her revelations, her lips covered his mouth. Kissing him like it was the last thing she could ever give him before leaving. Then, she asked him to lay her down the bed because she was already exhausted, “Ind e mo ko pagbayaan ha?” It was Denise’s last words before she drifted off to her eternal sleep. After 3 months, he was standing in front of his masterpiece, it was finished. Again, there she goes, after months of fighting leukemia, the girl he truly loved is walking away again, to the arms of the creator, but not out of his life. She is his angel. Somebody may have his heart again in the future, but half is buried with Denise, right here, in her mausoleum. Nine Years After… He smiled when he opened the curtain, Sunrise… he said to himself. He looked at it with much affection and said, Denise I found her… the one that you told me about. I kno w she could make me happy. She could brin g me the same smile you did way back. Thank you for co ming into my life. So meday we’ll meet again. Then he felt someone behind his back, “Let’s go back to bed, Jeff.”
Jessie “Sorry bestfriend… I can’t be your girlfriend…I… I’m in love with somebody else…” those wher e Michelle’s exact words three days ago when Jessie proposed to her. She can’t be his girlfriend. She won’t and never will. After a decade of keeping his feelings to himself, he decided to let it go and tell her straight of what he really feels. Strange, he thought the feeling was mutual. Then poof… his imagination just worked overtime. They have been friends since then. She was one of his favorite habits. He can’t remember how it started. They almost grew up together. Their moms were best of friends. So are they. They usually do things together, they share secrets. Now, why didn’t he know about Chino? Because if he did, he would never… ever tell her how he feels… he would bring it with him to his grave. There was no one else, just Michelle. He didn’t court any girls because he wanted that his first would be his last. He was not the type to do the trial and error thing. Michelle was the epitome of his ideal girl; someone whom he could spend the rest of his life with. But then, what can he do? She asked him for a so-called space for the mean time. If she was rude, he swore she was asking him to stay away. He will loose her… his best friend… the love of his life. Michelle He was like a brother to her, and he was thinki ng they could be more than that? Damn! What does he think of them, a story inside a romance pocketbook? It doesn’t work like that all the time. Yes, she liked him. She’s glad Jessie was her best friend. He stood by her everyday of her life. Nevertheless, their constant companionship was not enough to make her fall . There was no magic… there were no sparks when she’s with him. He should understand that after what happened she coul d never talk to him like the usual. She could never hold his hand without any malice. She could never be with him without thinking that every time she would give him, he would take it a point against her… that he would tell her, she was letting his hopes up. She was in love with someone else. Chino was her long-time dream. Then finally, after ages, he noticed her. She didn’t tell Jessie because she wanted to keep it to herself first. She wanted to enjoy the fact that Chino was giving her attention. After all, Jessie doesn’t need to know everything about her… he was just her best friend. Not her diary.
Melissa It was a hot summer day. Melissa hated the heat. The agonizing rays of the sun was burning her skin. Her dermatologist wouldn’t like it. She decided to go to the library. She wasn’t really fond of books. She reads of course, in the internet. This time, she was going to the library to get some cool artificial air from the airconditioning unit. Upon entering the library, the librarian told her to wear the bolero she’s holding and follow the university dress code. Melissa smiled, apologized and did as what she was told. “Ma’am it was hot outside…”, she said grinning, while putting on the bolero. The librarian just smiled at her and let her enter. Melissa break rules --- when she thinks that ther e’s no logical rationale behind it. She spent her high school days inside a boring boarding school, she decided to make the best out of college instead. Yes, she was one of those who maximizes the possible absents in class. She’s late most of the time, but still ranked at the top of her class. After all, her future lies in it.
She sat near the air-conditioning unit, placed her hands on the table and rested her head on it. She was about to close her eyes when it caught something. A guy… he was somewhat leaning on the shelves, massaging his temples and not looking that good. Like the curious person that she always is, she stood up and walked towards the shelves. Jessie
He was supposed to study here. Gain some concentration he can’t find at home. His whole house reminded him of Michelle and how much he missed her. What was he thinking? He’s having his midsummer examinations in a week, he has to study! “Are you okay?” Jessie’s thoughts stopped when he heard the voice. He looked at the person who spoke to him. Do I know her? As if she read his thoughts, “I know you don’t know me… but I saw you from there.” she pointed the seat. Jessie tried to smile, “I’m okay miss…” he told her. Some people just can’t mind their own business. She looked at him as if she didn’t believe his answer, “You sure?”, again she asked. He nodded. The girl smiled at him, odd, how could that be? Is it possible? Is there a smile that could lighten up burdens? Better believe it man! Her smile just lightened up yours… She was about to leave, “Excuse me, miss…” he called. The girl looked at him with question mark written all over her face. “I’m Jessie. You are?” “And I thought you’d never asked.” She laughed and gave him her name. Melissa.
Jessie and Melissa Melissa invited Jessie to sit with her in the table. She figured that he needed company. She asked him what’s wrong but Jessie acted as if he didn’t hear her speak. Although curious, she dropped the subject and changed it into something light. Maybe he wasn’t ready to spill what was bothering him moments ago. She found him intelligent and charming… now she wonders… what kind of girl broke you r heart? Jessie was glad that he found a perfect companion in Melissa. She wasn’t just fun to be with, but also sensitive. She didn’t push topics he wasn’t comfortable of talking. He found temporary solitude with her big mouth. They have been reprimanded a couple of times by the librarian because she had been talking too loud and he had been laughing out loud too. Ironic, he was feeling melancholic this morning, and now, he feels exactly the opposite. He asked if he could see her again. She answered positively and even gave him her mobile phone number. *** For weeks, they have been constantly seeing each other and talking about anything under the sun. They became good friends. Jessie was beginning to like her, she was pretty, simple and witty. He was thankful that she was keeping his mind off his worries. But still, there was his first love, Michelle; whom he was trying to learn to live without. Was he succeeding? He was still texting her, asking her when they could talk things out. If she doesn’t want him to be her boy friend, would she at least reconsider building the friendship back again? Yet, Michelle remained deaf to any of
his pleas. No replies, no nothing. It was as if he didn’t exist in her world anymore. What have I done best friend? What happened to us? *** Melissa hated when things get out of hand and she losses control. She has her whole life planned in her hands. One wrong move and all her plans will be in jeopardy. She already told herself to stop seeing Jessie before he’ll turn into one of her routines. But did she? No. She was too hardheaded to obey what her systems have been telling her. Now suffer the consequences, Issa. They go out, they talk, and they flirt sometimes. Jessie has this reservations in him that makes her wonder sometimes who is he thinking of? Where is his mind wandering? Yes, she likes him. She really does . But as long as his has this unknown skeletons in his closets or unfinished business in the past… she won’t gamble her heart. As much as possible, stay away from him… fa r… far… away. She was almost lost in her thoughts when her phone rang, “Jessie? Ummm…okay… I’m coming…” You are getting stupid by the minute Melissa… *** “You asked me what’s wrong with me th e first time you sa w me…” finally, after two hours of playing with her drinking straw on her iced tea, Jessie spoke. After almost twelve months of spending their time together, she going to learn what’s bothering him all this time. “I was hea rtbroken…” She smiled sadly, “I know…” Jessie’s eyes didn’t hide the feeling of surprise, “You knew?” “It won’t take a genius to decipher that your p roblem concerns your love life” she explained. Her hypothesis was right, she concluded. Someone did break his heart. Then, he told her about Michelle, what really happened and his concerns. On how pain ful that day she told him that she can’t reciprocate his love. How he would wake up each night wondering several what-if’s that increased his insomnia problem. Gosh, this is pathetic… Melissa told herself. All this time, she had been wasting her time thinking about him and ways to make him smile; while he had been b usy mourning on the same thing over and over again. “So… every time we’re together…” Melissa started in a low voice, “In your mind, you… have been turning your emotional television on… like you always do… to watch the same p rogram… hurt you rself over and over again…” Jessie shook his head, “Melissa…” he was about to hold her hand across the table, but she took it away. His confessions were too much for her to handle. She could feel her hands tremble. If this is what he has been doing all this time, he’s never going to cross the bridge to recovery. He’s standing still on the foot of the bridge, confused if he’ll cross or wait that Michelle will change her mind and asked him to stay. “It’s too much to remind yourself how mu ch you suffered fro m that h eartbreak, that is only poisoning you, Jess. No one else… It’s been holding you back from every possibility of happiness that you could have experien ced if you had just let it go…” I’d have to vanish into thin air if I cry…so DON’T!
Melissa was holding back her tears while Jessie was looking at the table, now his hands unconsciously playing with his mobile phone. His face was blank. Was he even listening to her? Melissa resigned in exasperation, “To let go of that hu rt doesn ’t mean you don’t love her anymo re. You just have to live your life less the flashbacks… no one is telling you to replace Mich, Jess… No thing is irreplaceable. As you said, Mich is a habit.” Her lips formed a poor smile. “But a habit is not always a need…” and she told herself the same thing. Jessie looked at her. He was about to open his mouth and reply when his phone rang, “Mich?...” excitement was too obvious in his voice. Then his face suddenly filled with worry. Her eyes widened in disbelief. Had he been listening to her monologue? One call… just one call and he went nuts… Michelle Michelle watched as Jessie walked away from her. She was biting her lips hard that she could almost taste blood…in lieu of her promise to herself that she won’t cry. She would’ve wanted him to stay, but it will be useless if she asked him too. Five days after Chino dumped her, she realized she’d done the biggest mistake her entire life when she chose him over Jessie. What made her do that? Maybe because no matter what she does, Jessie will always be there. Saving her like a knight-in-shining armor that he is. He loved her much… and she didn’t appreciate it. After all, she thought, he will forever love her… he will never leave. If not for the heartbreak that Chino caused her, she would never realize that, for a long time, there was no one who cared for her like Jessie do. No one was ready to give up everything for her. Be with her in the wee hours of the morning if she asked him to. But her hopes for a reconciliation was not the one that she expected
Jessie and Michelle “You… you don’t… love me anymore?” Michelle asked directly. Jessie stared at her then he flash that smile that he always give her, very assuring, but this time, there was a difference in it…, “I do… I’ve always loved you, Mich…there was a time when I loved you more…” There was a time? He didn’t love her anymore? Is that it? Had he given up already? What do you expect Mich… it’s almost a year… Then he continued without looking at her, “Th e day you told me you can’t love me more than a broth er is probably the wo rst day of my entire life... I… I tell myself everyday tha t I won ’t take another step until I found out why some things that was so important and so concrete in my life have vanished right before my very eyes…” Michelle scolded hersel f hearing how much she hurt Jessie. How much pain she had caused him. He was so good to her and what did she do in return? Break his heart?
“But so meone has taught me that my wo rld could revolve around many things. That moving on would be the best decision that I’ll make. I owe it to myself after a year of sulking.” He told her. Bitterness and what-if’s had no room in his heart anymore. Michelle finally found the words, “I guess it’s my fault… I pushed a way a perfect love wh en it was offered to me…” “There will always be someone who’s perfect for you… ” his voice was comforting, “Someone who will see you like I did… you’re a wonderful person, best friend…” She smiled sincerely, “You too… She’s one lucky girl…” Jessie blushed, he didn’t confirm or deny her statement instead; he kissed her cheeks and bid her goodbye. Jessie This afternoon, when Jessie told Melissa he’d be seeing Michelle, Melissa didn’t say anything. She just nodded at him. But when he was about to open his car, he turned around and saw how she rested her head on the table and started sobbing. He closed his eyes firmly and uttered a curse under his breath. There’s one thing I need to do, Melissa. Just one mo re… he told himself. However, guilt was eating him up driving his way to Michelle. He should be ashamed of himself, he knew the feeling of being hurt yet he didn’t stop himself from hurting Melissa, the girl who’s been ther e for him all the time. It’s a good feeling… when you can feel that ther e is someone who cared for you. When you f eel that your effort is reciprocated equally. Yes, he must admit. There were times when he wished he was with Michelle. He was listening to Melissa… her words had sunk deep into his heart. He was playing with his phone because he wanted to hold her hand badly. She needed comfort but she shoved his hands away. So he needed to hold on to something else. Melissa was right. The what-if’s that he was thinking all along is deliberately poisoning him. Yet, he was glad that it didn’t take him another year to realize that. Melissa is a nice girl and she never failed to make him feel important. With her, he could feel that his efforts were appreciated. She made him happy and making her sad will be the worst mistake he would ever do. What are you waiting for, man? Go get the girl…
Melissa Melissa was trying to get the weeds from her potted plants. The heat of the sun was excruciating. Never mind the dermatologist. I had my sun block on…she rationalized. She needed to tire herself to sleep so that there would be no space for thinking and dreaming. It was useless. He was still head over heels in love with her. You were just a good diversion, Melissa… Tears started to run down her cheeks. Go on girl… cry till your tear ducts so re… then you won’t have any tear to shed anymo re. She was hurt. Badly. She didn’t like the feeling. It was like her heart was too congested that
it needed to burst. She was crying because she needed to, it was her way of helping herself to alleviate her doomed emotions. Melissa promised herself she would never be like her pathetic friends who were too martyr for love. But looking at her now, she’s sure her friends would burst into laughter. She can’t even manage to have a fake smile.
Jessie and Melissa Jessie took a deep br eath, counted one to ten before he pushed the doorbell. He waited for someone to open the door for a full minute. It was Melissa who opened the door for him. It seems like she haven’t had enough sleep all night--- just like him. She looked at him, as if asking him what he was doing at 5:30 in the morning in her house. Jessie handed her a rose he picked from his mom’s garden, “I… I… don’t… I don’t…”Damn! You have been rehearsing it all night, Jessie… Get on with it! He reprimanded himself for stammering. He once again filled his lungs with air and continued, “I don’t want to wait for anoth er yea r to realize that I am over my best friend and that I’m in love with another girl…” he moved a little closer, almost close enough to hear her breath. “I love you Melissa…” Melissa’s eyes lightened, he saw her eyes shimmered with unshed tears. She hugged him tight, sti ll not believing that he’s real. Finally, he broke his habit and moved on… “I love you just as mu ch, Jess…” she whispered.
The memorial park, like the usual days, is silent. The breeze of the wind is the only thing that one can hear. The aura of the place would either give you the creeps or the solemnity that you sought to find. Everyday, there would always be someone who would come, sit in one of the lots, light a candle and start talking their hearts out. Real life drama is usually seen here, the genuine tears of sadness and grief. The over exaggerated cries of anguish or probably relief. The reunion of families who were drifted apart by reasons unknown to others. And the blank stares filled with undeciphered emotions. The place was the end of every hope and dreams of being together with the person. It’s a resting place, the final rendezvous… *** The cemetery was the sole place where Joy could think properly. It’s the only place she chose to unwind…beside her boyfriend’s grave. It has been what? Four years? They wer e Her world stopped for so long. Allan almost graduating in high school when the Cr eator asked for was everything to her. He was a best Allan’s life back. friend, a brother, a boyfriend… he was Her world stopped for so long. Allan was everything to her soul mate. her. He was a best friend, a brother, a boyfriend… he was her soul mate. He was everything that she wanted, except for one thing, he loved adventur e… too much that he usually put his life at risk. He would try everything new… and the drag race came. They fought over it several ti mes. He promised her that he would never do it… again… and again… and again… Only to find out that he would sneak out in the wee hours of the morning to indulge himself in hi s socalled adventures. It was her birthday. She was waiting for his call; he usually calls her when the clock strikes twelve. But sunrise came and there was no call . She didn’t sleep the whole night, her body seemed too agitated to do so. She was nervous and was having palpitations. That morning, the news shocked her; Allan was rushed into the hospital. It was dreadful. His whole body was covered with bruises and wounds. Not only that, he also suffered internal injuries. Most of his vital organs were damaged. Since no blood was available to match his, the doctors had his aunt signed consent for an autotransfusion. His own blood is to re-infuse to him!!! She was anesthetized in disbelief. All that she could manage was to close her eyes and pray. There were problems during the operations that the doctors decided that they should rush him to the ICU. Three days of no sleep, she was there, beside him… and heard him breathe his last…
*** Luke was having ambivalent emotions. He was happy that finally his mom would never go through the whole painful process again at the same ti me, he felt sad because he knew, the moment he arrived home, it would be empty. His mom was suffering from breast cancer for almost seven years. She had even given up both her breast in the faith that it would slow down the disease. It did. The sacrifice she made gave their family two more memorable years together. They love her dearly, that is why her father usually takes his time off and spends it with them. On the other hand, his two sisters working abroad went home to spend the last few months with their mom. He was glad that his mom died peacefully, she has taught them well that would have the thr ee of them equipped for their future battles in life. Nevertheless, he could not deny the fa ct that he lost his mother. There was no one he could turn to in times of dilemma. Everyday for two weeks, he was there. Talking to his mom as if she is listening intently and would comment on what he is talking about.
“Ma…” he started. “Did you know that… ” *** “You’r e crying again…” Joy heard a voice from behind. She gasped in horror thinking that one of the residents was talking to her. When she turned around, she saw a boy, probably in her age group, standing five graves away from her. “Everytime you come here, you always cry… your folk must be drowning down there of your tears…” he added. She wiped her tears fast and threw the guy a sharp look. How dare he talk to her like that?, “Do I know you?” she questioned, her voice filled with maximum sarcasm. The boy grinned, “Not yet,” he answered. Then he walked towards her, “I’m Luke” he offered his hands. Joy stared at his palm, and then at him unbelievably, “Did you hear me ask for your name?” Instead of her expected frustration, he remained cool and composed, “No, I believe you did not… so rather than wasting your effort asking…” he stopped and winked at her, “I took the initiative of giving you my name…” Her tongue touched her molars unconsciously --- an actuation signaling that she was loosing patience. Help me, Allan… she plead silently. “Would it be too much if I asked your name?” he continued. “Spell ASA?” she turned her back and marched out of the cemetery. Damn the guy! She even forgot to say goodbye to Allan. *** Luke can’t stop grinning. Did you see her, Ma? She’s beautiful wasn’t she? He had been eyeing her since last week. Every time he was here, which was almost every day, he could see her bicycle parking somewhere near that lot, and he would see her shed tears. Curiosity killed the cat, they say… but he was no cat. So what he did was he went on that lot when she left… wondering if the person had been dead just this year… to his surprise… the person died almost four years ago. She was still mourning? Ma, you think it’s normal? He looked at his mom’s grave and sighed. And you call talking to your mom normal? He added sardonically. He cried when his mom died, he didn’t promise it to her. Crying, he knew was never a sign of weakness. However, come to think of it, even if how many pails of tears he will shed, it would never bring his mom back to him. What he promised her, that he’d be strong and he won’t grieve long. After all, his mom will never leave him. She will still be there guarding him, making sure that he’s a good boy. I’m a good boy, am I mom? He laughed in a low voice; I stopped her from crying, made her angry instead. Way to go, Luke! *** Joy slammed her bedroom door. She has never been this furious her entire life. No one had made fun of her like the way Luke did. Hey! You remembered his name. She closed her eyes in frustration. Deep breaths… inhale… exhale... inhale… She went as early as five thirty in the morning because she heard her dad packing his clothes --- again. After her dad’s car took off, she changed her pajamas and went to the cemetery. Allan has always been there for her. She found comfort in his presence. Funny, but every time she’s in his lot, she could feel him. She talks, as if he was just there sitting with her, listening to her whims like he normally does. She cries, as if he was there, hugging her tightly and assuring her that everything is going to be just fine. And how will everything turn out to be fine when she knew the moment she arrived home, no one is there to welcome her. Just her nanny. Her mom died giving birth to her, while her dad was busy. Perhaps that’s why she wasn’t done mourning… because four years ago, when Allan died… he took not only her heart with him, but her whole being. Allan was the only person (besides her nanny) who cared about her. Four years. Has it been that long? I missed you Allan… so much…
Luke was waiting for her to come. Ma, before you say anything, I’m here, primarily, to visit you… promise… and to… well… to see her… He didn’t know what hit him yesterday but it di dn’t make him sleep the whole night. He was smiling and grinning like a lunatic. He can’t help it. His feeling, whatever it was made him euphoric. At last, she came, riding on her bicycle. When she parked it under the mango tree, he touched his mom’s niche and whispered, “For a while, ma… wish me luck…” *** As usual, it was as unproductive as Luke expected. She hated him like he was the worst person on earth. Well, at least she didn’t avoid him like a plague. She was still going everyday on Allan’s grave --- that’s the name on the niche she was visiting. Only these past few days, she wasn’t crying anymore. Her eyes were showing sadness, but when they “talk”, despite the anger that her pretty face was showing, there was this tinge of loneliness that he could see in her eyes. Perchance, like he was, she was getting accustomed to their unusual “talks.” It was a habitual, every time he approached her, they would start arguing. It started with him asking for her name. Until now, a month later, he still didn’t catch her name. So, he was calling her Asa --- the one she let him spelled--- instead. *** “You’r e smiling again, Joy…” her nanny’s voice seemed to wake her up. “Huh?” The woman smiled and placed her glass of orange juice in the table, “You’r e eyes are glowing again, dear… It has been ----.” Her nanny stopped what ever she was about to say when she noticed her silence and changed of mood. “I’d be in the kitchen if you need me…” she nodded in acknowledgement. Her nanny had always known her. She needed not to say anything for the old woman to know what she felt. She told her that her eyes were glowing. Was it really? She was smiling a while ago because she remembered the last time she and Luke “talked” --- as he would refer their arguments. He kept on calling her Asa because she wouldn’t tell him her name. For the longest time since Allan was buried…one month … one whole month that her lacrimal glands didn’t excrete any tears. But guilt rushed through her veins when she felt a cold breeze brushed her skin. Allan?...Am I betraying you?... *** Rain was pouring since she arrived. Joy’s dress was completely soaking wet and her lips were trembling in coldness. She was sitting in the grass, trying to ease the tension that she was having but couldn’t help i t. Her eyes were sore from crying since this morning, and her lungs were almost desperate in catching ai r. Her dad promised her he’d be arriving; she didn’t get enough sleep because she wanted to pr epare all the food that she was going to cook for her birthday. To her dismay, just before sunrise, her dad called her and told her he wasn’t coming home. He had an emergency meeting. “We’ll just reheat what you have cooked tomorrow.” For her dad, it was just as simple as that. Today’s her birthday, not tomorrow. Sing me happy birthday, Allan… she begged desperately. She was too upset to celebrate. She looked around, hoping Luke was there. When she saw no one, she decided to go home and sleep until the day passed. A little later, she slowly stood up, her vision blurred and literally, she collapsed. *** Joy woke up inside a room, wearing someone else’s shirt. Her head was throbbing with pain. Where is she?! She was about to get out of bed when the door opened, Luke entered carrying a tray of food. “What am I doing here? What am I doing in your shirt?!” she demanded. He smiled at her, and instantly her heart did a somersault, What is happening to you, Joy? He placed the tray on his study table and faced her, ”It would be best if you would thank me first…”
She raised her brows, “Luke?!” she warned. Her voice was demanding for an immediate explanation that didn’t seem to bother the guy. He laughed at her, “Thanks to me, your pretty little head is still intact until now…” She shook her head in disbelief, “But you wer en’t there!” Luke stopped grinning then she saw that familiar naughtiness in his eyes, “You looked out for me, didn’t you?” he asked her. “You missed me, eh?” Joy didn’t answer his questions . He was there. Why didn’t she saw him? Did she arrive just on time that she lost her consciousness? She tried to find another topic when she remembered her unanswered questions a while ago, “What am I doing inside your room and in your shirt?” “You’r e her e, Asa because I don’t know where you live, you were burning with fever, and your clothes were wet…” he looked at her and smirked, “For the r ecord, it was my sister who changed your clothes and did the sponge bath. Not me. They won’t let me in my room. So I have to sleep on the couch outside. And that shirt you’re wearing is not mine…” his brows went up and down a couple of times then he continued, “I should’ve known you want to wear my shirt instead…I’ll get you one?” Luke offer ed generously. Joy was shaking her head the whole time he was explaining and tried suppressing her laugh but failed terribly. By the end of his statement, she was laughing. However, she immediately stopped, seeing him looking at her intently. “Is there anything wrong?” she asked. “No… It’s just that this… this is the first time I saw you laugh your heart out…” he told her dramatically. Then his naughty smile was visible again, “I cooked you breakfast. Don’t worry. I didn’t put a love potion or a poison in it…I’m too lovable to do such desperate craps…” he made his way to the door but before he could take another step, she called his name. He once again faced her, “It’s Joy.” She spilled. “The one that you make me feel every time I see you?” he asked. “It’s Joy.” She spilled. Joy laughed softly and shook her head, “My name…” “Oh…” he winked at her and closed the door. *** Luke brought her home that afternoon. He and his sisters made sure that she was totally fine before deciding to Joy laughed softly and shook her head, do so. Joy was overwhelmed with attention. It was a loss that “My name…” she didn’t have the chance to meet their dad. She was almost sure that he was as thoughtful as his children. She called her nanny after breakfast. Her dad was home… he came home yesterday at lunchtime and was worried sick about her. she cried over the phone and promised her dad that she’d be back as soon as possible. H er dad told her that he took a week off and booked a vacation spree in Palawan. When his car parked in front of their gate, Joy took the initiative of speaking first, “Do you want to ask why I was there?” “You are always there…” he simply answered. She was amazed how Luke could manage to act according to what the situation calls for. Like right now, there was no hint of gag in his voice, plain serious. It was the first time he used that tone of voice on her, “It was my birthday yesterday… Dad promised me he’d come but he broke his word again…” she explained. Joy was staring straight ahead, on the empty street, “It was the day when Allan… when Allan had the accident…” she recalled painfully. She told him how lonely she felt yesterday and how she wished that Allan would take her with him. No one had been there for her since Allan left. No one had understood what she really felt. No one had given her light in her darkest moments. Luke held her hand firmly, “I, too, lost someone I loved Joy… I know how it feels… how empty the space that the person left in your heart… the realization that I will never see my mom again was a big bombed exploding right before my very eyes…it will never be the same again…” he told her . He put his arm around her shoulders and pull her close enough for comfort, “But you see, Joy… we’re still alive… they’re not… we have to live life --- no matter how painful, unfair or ironic it is… my mom wouldn’t want me to cr y until my eyes wer e too puffy… Seeing you weeping all the time would never rest his soul in peace…It’s time to move on, Joy… You’ve been grieving long enough.” Then he whispered in her ears, “Don’t worry, if you need me… I’d always be here…”
“The one that you make me feel every time I see you?” he asked.
“What do I get in return?”
Joy closed her eyes and sighed. Weird, but the sense of security she was feeling was sufficient to make her feel okay. “You know what?” she asked in a low voice looking into his eyes, “I never thought you could “My heart…” be this serious…” He beamed, “So…you want to get to know me mor e then?” Once again, she laughed, pushed him away smoothly, kissed him fast on the cheeks, “Maybe…”
*** Luke knew Joy would be gone for a week; her father was taking her to Palawan. He missed her a lot. A week of no communication was misery itself. On the other hand, he was happy for her. It was a dream came true. Now, it’s time to make his dream come true as well. He was here again, on the place where goose bump meets solemnity --- the cemetery… their unofficial meeting place…. An ex traordinary rendezvous. He was standing not in front of his mom’s but in front of Allan’s niche. He sat down, lit a candle, did several deep breathing and started talking, “Um… I’m Luke… you must’ve noticed me several times talking to Joy… well… I… I just want to ask permission if… if I… umm… I… could…if I could court Joy…” he was staring at the niche, as if really talking to Allan, closed his eyes once in a while, trying to find the words he wanted to say. “Promise…” he clasped his hands together and bowed his head a little bit, “I’ll try to make her smile all the time… to make her laugh…I will not do anything to intentionally hurt her… I will take care of her the way you did or even better… I… I love her, Allan…” At last he spoke everything he wanted Allan to know. It has been weeks since he started debating with himself if it was really love or something else. He was about to say somethi ng when he heard a soft laugh, “You’r e talking to Allan?” she asked. Luke gazed as she was approaching, he couldn’t believe that he was here already. In the flesh! “Wow…” was all that he could utter, “You look…” wher e are you adjectives??!!! “Pretty?” she supplied him with the lost adjectives, he nodded, Joy grinned, “I know…” He was dumb-founded. Perhaps caught off-guard by her arrival he couldn’t find the words to say. “I missed you…” he heard her whispered. “Huh?” was she talking to him or Allan? “I missed you, Luke…” she chuckled, “What were you telling Allan?” “Um… I… I…” he was stuttering! She grinned even mor e at him, then touched Allan’s niche, “Did he pass Allan? Do you think he won’t make me cry?” Luke’s face turned pale, he heard him? Everything that he said? She was almost laughing at him. Nevertheless, the thought made him feel more okay rather than humiliated. The Joy that is sitting beside him was different from the Joy that left last week. Her aura radiated happiness, and contentment. Finally, he could tell that she had moved on with life… She looked at him seriously this time and threw him the question, “Now why don’t you tell me what you told Allan… I’d be glad to hear the whole speech…” “Well…” he pouted his lips, put his forefinger on his temples as if he was thinking to spill it out or not, “What do I get in return?” “My heart…” “Fair enough… Well… I told him that…” *** Joy heard him loud and clear. He was too busy aski ng permission while she was busy staring at him and listening to what he was saying. She knew in her heart that she wouldn’t r egret the decision that she’s going to make. Luke had taught her how to live life… she loved Allan, but he’s gone now… She’s sure that Allan wanted her to find the happiness that was once lost. Well, she already found it and it spelled… L-U-K-E.
It was a Wednesday. Mark was sitting on one of the benches in the half-moon drive, a violet book on nursing leadership and management was opened on his lap, and yet, he was looking right through it. His face was full of anxiety, his forehead showed lines that were not usually there, his lips moved into a frown rather than his usual smile. He could hear his mobile phone beeped and rang too many times. He chose not to answer any of it. He would allow it until his cell phone’s battery drains. He was running away, like he usually does. But this time, he was forced to; ther e was a reason that has to be considered. *** St. Valentine’s Day. Tin was more than upset. She was mad. Or rather hurt. Mark told her to meet him at 1 o’clock in the afternoon and it’s already 4:30 p.m. But she saw no one. Ther e was no Mark who arrived, no even a trace of his shadows. Three hours and a half, it was okay if he told her that he could not come or that he’d be late… but no. He didn’t even bother to text her or call her. Not even answering any of her calls. She’s getting sicker of their game. She didn’t know the rules, only he does. And from her point of view, he enjoys manipulating her emotions. He knew she likes him, and otherwise. On second thoughts, maybe there was ‘no other way around.’ But they were friends! He could not possibly do this. He wouldn’t have the guts. He won’t hurt her. Damn. Why couldn’t she be logical enough? How many times did he invite her out? How many times did he show up? Did he ever>? He always has his reasons. Way beyond reasonable, but she accepts it. Like a friend would do. He was lying, she could tell. His eyes were usually deviating at the right side – the artistic part of the brain – he was making up stories. Yet, she feels that he cares for her, he even said that himself. He would always show how much. Other people would notice. What everyone was waiting for… what she was waiting for all along… was for him to TELL her that he loves her. She was about to stand up when someone called her name, “Hi Tin.” she was ready to flash her most lovely smile, hoping it was Mark… to her dismay, it wasn’t him. *** The moment he arrived home, Mark looked at his cell phone, 25 text messages and 30 missed calls. There was only one registered name. Tin. His only one, the only person he loves; only that with her, things get complicated. This morning, he was carrying with him the sole thing that he has been saving the whole week, a bouquet of roses. On the way, he met his best friend Mon carrying a teddy bea r and balloons. “Daw damu gid na Mon haw?” he asked when his friend was closer. Mon grinned, “Siyempre. Mangaluyag mo.” His brows met, Mon never mentioned plans of courting anyone the last time they talked. “Kay sino?” “Ang babaye to bala nga ginpakilala mo sa akun sang U-day.” He said. Suddenly, his heartbeat seemed to get faster. He introduced about three girls to him last September, Michelle, Diane and Tin, “S…Sino?” “Si Tin…” OH MY ---. He almost dropped the flowers he was holding at the sound of her name. “Oi! Para kay sino na ang bulak nga nabitbit mo?” Mon asked him when he was not able to say something. “Ummm…p…para kay m…mama…” he answered stammering. “Ti sige Mon ah, goodluck na lang ah. Una ko anay.” He didn’t even bother to wait for his response. He needed to get away from the place. FAST. He went home, gave the flowers to his mom, like he told Mon, and went back to school. It was he who asked Tin for a date. But he won’t come. Instead, he tex ted his best friend the place where he could find Tin. It was stupid. It was like; he was giving his buddy the thing that is very sentimental to him just because the former wanted it badly. Why did he never saw this coming? Maybe, if he was just brave enough to tell her how he felt earlier. Perhaps, none of these confusing things could happen. He would never go against Mon. He is his best friend since diaper years. Although they have taken different courses, they still remain the closest. He had been there for him when his dad died; if not for him, he would have died in depression. And no girl could drive them apart. Not even Tin.
*** The mall was filled with couples professing their love to each other in public, holding-hands, embracing, hugging and so forth and she was inside one of the most expensive fast food chain (or is it a restaurant?) inside SM City. She was busy playing with the straw on the glass of ice tea, while her unexpected date was busy talking. She wanted to cry. Badly. If Mark wanted to arrange a date, he should have told her earli er. Is this the surprise that he was talking about? She thought… damo gakapatay sa sala nga pongabi-abi. She thanked Mon that he brought her a teddy bear and a couple of balloons. She knew it was expensive. Too bad it was hard for her to appreciate it. She took something from her pocket. A pen. Took a table napkin and started to do some strokes. “Ano na?” Mon must’ve noticed that she wasn’t listening to him. She looked at him and kept what she was doing quickly, “Wala ah… you were saying?” *** “Tani ginhambalan mo ko.” Mark was busy manipulating the karaoke inside the chapel for the devotional when he heard Tin’s voice. He was not sure if it sounded sarcastic or sad. “You deliberately set me up with your best friend. Gin pamangkot mo ko kung gusto ko na siya idate ko?” she said in a low voice. He looked at her, stood up and asked, “You expect me to co me instead of him?” She was speechless for a while. Then he realized it was foul. It sounded like an insult.”Wala. Wala ka man pirme gaabot. Pirme mo lang ko ya napasalig. Pirme mo lang ko ya napahulat. Pirme mo lang ko napahulat sa wala.” His heart wanted him to reach out for her. But he stopped himself. It was too obvious that she liked him a lot since then. He liked her too. She was not that pretty. Sh e was just an ordinary face in the crowd. But what caught his attention is her simplicity, her kindness, her silence, her talent and her smile. The same thing that Mon loved about her, the smile that could ease all the stress in one’s system. He would ask her out, and then he would fail to show up. Not that he wanted it that way; he was just getting butterflies in his stomach. His nervousness was a lame reason for him not to show up. The following day, he would just explain what happened, and she would understand. She always understood. “Sa liwat nga mag-hambal ka, inde na ako magpati sa imo.” Her tone was monotonous, bare of any emotion. Finally he found his voice, “Tin, ma-explain ko…” he was about to open his mouth when one of his group mates came to him. “Mark, 7:30 na… ma-start na devotional.” Tin smiled sadly at him and walked away. *** The next few days were a nightmare for Mark. Not only that Tin was obviously avoiding him, he noticed that she was also going out with Mon, a lot. He even picked her up after duty hours! He called her that night, but her mom told him that she was already asleep. The next morning, she just passed right at him as if he was not around. She didn’t smile or even looked at him. It seems that he didn’t exist in her world anymore. He started to regr et everything that he did. On the other hand, will he be willing to loose the friendship that he and Mon safeguarded almost all their lives just for a girl? Or rather, is he willing to give up with only reason why he wakes up every morning? *** One of the hardest decisions that she ever decided was to give up her fantasies on the one she loved and face reality. She started dating Mon and forgetting Mark. And in order to do that, she has to pretend that Mark didn’t exist. Nevertheless, how could she? They go to the same school; they’re classmates and even seatmates! It was hard to act as if he was not around when his very presence affects her system a lot.
Now here she is, alone in the prayer garden, clutching her sketchpa d and started sketching. She was hoping to draw something, only to realize that her strokes seemed to form the familiar face like those of the previous pages. When her drawing was finished, she looked at it intently, stared silently at the face that could not be hers. And like her prior drawings, she affixed her signature below… Kristine Grace Defensor -Villa. She shook her head, and put an X mark on the last work. Ambisyon. Bugta w Tin ! *** It was not Mon’s attitude to scan another person’s belonging without their permission. Except that the sketchpad intrigued him. Tin was inside the faculty office, talking to her thesis adviser and she asked him to wait for her. He sat in one of the canopy, and started to look into the sketches, his jaw dropped when he realized that all the images resembles only one person. No other than his best friend, Mark. Not only that, Tin also attached his last name to her name… what in the world is going on? *** Mon was currently working on their power point presentation inside the library when someone thr ew a sketchpad at him “Daw gago ka lang.” It was Mon. “Shhh… Lib rary ni to .” The librarian reminded Mon. He saw him breathing heavily and looking at him with piercing, angry eyes. He closed his laptop and opened the sketchpad. “Surprise ka?” his friend asked sarcastically. He slowly shook his head. “Bal-an mo nga naluyag siya sa imo?” he asked once mor e. He preferred not to answer the question. “Bal-an mo gid eh. Tapos ano nga kahangagan ang imo kag ginpasugtan mo ko n ga pangaluyagan siya?” Mon was furious. Mark breathed in, filled his lungs with air and whispered, “Inde ko gusto maguba friendship ta.” Mon closed his eyes as if he was stopping himself from doing something drastic, “If you were just honest enough, inde maguba friendship ta. Indi kitid u tok ko. Inde ko pagpiliton ang tawo nga maluyag sa akun kung sa iban siya ya naluyag. Look at that, ginsugpon ya pa apelyido mo sa ngalan ya. Kung inde ka man bala tanga.” He glanced at the sketchpad he was holding and smiled, “Sorry gid, migs. Abi ko tama to ginhimo ko.” “Kanubo sang tulok ko gali sa akon kung amo.” He r eplied dramatically. Then Mon offered a sincere smile, “Inde ta ikaw pagbaylo sa babaye ah. Kung ginhambalan mo ko siya to gali, kundi tani wala na ko nagastuhan.” His friend stared at him. “Ano?” “Swerte ka mig s… ti, ano pa da nahulat mo?” *** Tin was worried. She was only away for like ten minutes or so but when she went outside, she couldn’t see Mon anymore. Wher e is he? She was not really worried about him, but on the thing he was holding. Her sketchpad. When she was about to go out of the building, she spotted someone holding the very thing that she was looking for. He was grinning from ear to ear, waving her sketchpad in the air as if it was a piece of cloth. What the— “Ibalik Mark!” she demanded. He was still grinning, “Ehem, may nabal-an ko… dali lang bala.” Mark was obviously torturing her. He opened the sketchpad, “Ka-familia r gid ya sang tawo ah, nakita ko na ni siya mo .” Tin turned red. They wer e starting to get attention. When she noticed that he won’t stop, she walked out. *** Mark panicked. Ai tanga! He walked after her. He finally caught up at the back part of the LDT parking lot, “Dali lang Tin.” He held her arms. “Buy-I ko ah! Pakahuy-an mo naman ko.”
He released her arms, “Sorry.” He spoke sincerely, “Sorry kung wala ta ka gina-sipot, pirmi ta ikaw napahulat sa wala. Pero patiha ako, Tin. Gusto ko gid ya na kadtuan ikaw sang Valentin es. Galling kay nasugat -an ko si Mon. May tuyo man siya gali mangaluyag.” She was looking at him straight in the eye as if testing his honesty, “A mo na to guro ang pinakahangag nga gin-ubra ko… hambal man ni Mon.” “Mayo bal-an mo.” He heard her mur mured. He agreed, “Gani man. And now, na realize ko na inde ta ka gusto madula, Tin.” Her brows met, “Nga-a?” “Ti kay palangga ta ka.” “Nga-a?” He laughed, “Now I know why asking ‘why’ is never therapeutic.” He commented, “Ti ako ya?” “Ano ka ya?” “Palangga mo man ko?” Tin smiled, the kind that could melt his heart, “Feeling mo ?” He grinned. He was too happy that he can’t stop himself, “Laban gid eh. Gina-usa r mo na ya daan apelyido ko.”
Marvin was silent. He looked at the window, but his gaze went beyond it. The blank stare that masked his handsome face bare no evidence of what was running in his mind. He heard himself sigh. The heavens must have sensed his melancholic mood and joined him. The constellation that accessorized the darkness of the evening sky hid themselves behind the clouds. The blue moon, so they called, had been too kind that it remained static. It provided his dark room illumination. He slowly reached for the small glass by his side, held it on his palms tightly as if it would go away. He filled his lungs with fresh air and gulped all the glass’ content. He dramatically closed his eyes, feeling the strong liquid slowly burning the lining of his esophagus. Finally, he felt more relax. The stiffness that he experienced a while ago was no longer there. Looking at his expensive wristwatch, his lips formed a smile. An hour from now, he would see her again. After thr ee long years, he would see the smile that could melt the ice in his heart. He waited long enough for her. He waited long enough for Mary. Mary has been the fire that lit his tedious life. Five years ago, he was a boring boy, they said. An introvert, seldom smiled, all he has as friends were his books and his laptop. Social life was not in his vocabulary. A first-class nerd. He was stiff and lifeless. Monotonous and dull. While Mary was a butterfly, free-spirited and strong-willed; friendly and charming. She was all that he wasn’t. They wer e classmates during their senior year in high school. Although he was totally her opposite, she befriended him. Tried everyday to enter the world he made for himself. She was too determined that he left her in after many failed attempts. He had no regr ets when he did. Instead, his heart is engorged with foreign emotions that filled his dim world with colors for the first time. Whenever she’s around, he felt reborn. Excitement rushed in his veins. But then, everything went seemed to have an end. Even though they both decided to take up nursing, they had to part ways. Mary had to stay in Iloilo and he had to go in Manila. The two of them separated as friends. Nevertheless, when he arrived in Manila, memories of Mary haunted him. It was like she was holding a piece of him with her. Funny, though, he cannot bear to call her. He was afraid that he would take the nex t flight home hearing her voice. Their communication was through SMS and social networking in the internet, seldom but continuous. And just a year before they graduate, he decided to go home and see her. His reminiscence halted when he heard his phone rang. It was Kristin. A few seconds later, he left the glass slowly slipping down his grip. It broke. *** Mary had been looking forward for this day for months si nce she received that short message from Marvin that he was going home for Christmas. But all her enthusiasm evaporated into thin air in an instant. She drove her car away from the place that suffocated her. She did not mind that her car is running twice the legal speed limit. The need for her to escape was too intense that she felt her heart beating, almost ripping her ribcage apart. Her whole body was trembling. Just when she was about to turn her car on a sharp curve, it just lost control… BANG! Weak and hopeless, she welcomed death with almost open arms. Then, darkness. *** But then, the grim ripper must have missed her name on his list. Mary felt it. She was alive but she can’t move. She cannot even open her eyes. It was like she was inside a lifeless cadaver. She silently cried in anguish, and began to hear voices. “She’s in coma.” A man said, as if talking to another being. “Her head injury is not that serious as we expected but she is not responding.”
Someone touched her palm, “Do you hear me, Mary? Can you grip my finger?” another voice ordered. She tried but her hands were immobile. She felt him pressing something on her chest, wer e those knuckles? She wanted to complain, to push his hands away because it was painful, but she can’t. She heard the man sigh, “Open your eyes, Mary.” Again, she failed. Her ocular muscles must have turned rigid. Her lids were too heavy for her to lift and open her eyes. “GCS = 6.” Then she heard another sigh, “She’s too young. Barely in her 20’s. I do hope she’s a fighter.” Mary felt them leave her bedside. She must be inside the intensive care unit, of what hospital? She doesn’t care. If she’s really in a coma, she doesn’t want to wake up at all. That day has been the darkest part of her life. Mary was tired of wearing the mask, she had to take it off and shove it aside. Her parents have expected too much of her. From topping her class to winning every single contest she entered. And what did she get in return? Nothing! Not even their presence during awarding ceremonies. They were either busy making money or busy fighting over it. She remained invisible to them unless she disappoints them. True, her parents were live, yet she felt like an orphan. For years, she endured all these. Lived her life the way she wanted it but still bound to her parent’s expectations. But she’s just human – who get’s tired. She gr ew tired of the charade. Pressures and family issues started to reflect in her grades. On that fatal day, her clinical instructor handed her a progress report to be signed by her parents stating that she failed to pass two major exams. She didn’t make it to the college cut-off grade. The removal examination is not a gateway to graduation. She had to work double time if she wanted to graduate this March and now, she is forced to talk to her parents. Yet, fate must have hated her too much. Upon entering their front door, she heard her parents’ voices throwing painful curses at each other. Her dad was threatening her mom that he would file for an annulmen t. Her heart sank. The strong walls around her collapsed and no one was there to save her. She needed to escape. It seemed that the house was starting to suck the soul out of her body. She vaguely remembered the accident. The only think that she can recall is the desire to end her life. She was a fighter. She fought for her parent’s love and attention all her life. But now, she was giving them time to realize all her battles, and time for them to see the wounds had from fighting. Or else, she could not fi nd any reason for her to continue breathing. An ultimatum. If someone would just be so kind and detach her tube from the mechanical ventilator. *** Even as a student nurse in Manila, Marvin hated the Intensive Care Unit. It smelled toxic and the whole place just gives him the creep. It’s like in a matter of time, someone’s cardiac monitor would just signal a straight line and the drama would start. Kristin, Mary’s best friend, called him to day that Mary cannot make it because she had an accident. For the first time in his life, he felt afraid. He didn’t want to know Mary’s condition for it may cloud his mind and stop him from thinking logically. Yet, he can’t wait to go to the hospital. Kristin was still there, sitting in one of the benches with her head rested on the wall and her eyes closed. He sat beside her silently, she must’ve noticed his presence, without uttering anything, she turned and hugged him tightly as if giving him the comfort and strength that he needed. “Where is she, Tin?” he asked in a low voice. “Inside.” He closed his eyes forcefully and told himself not to cry, “Is she okay?” it was a stupid question but he was hoping for the best. It took her a long before she answered, “She’s in coma, Marvs. GCS=6.” Marvin gasped. With that kind of scale, Mary was barely responding at all. It’s like she’s in a deep sleep and waking her up would mean a lot of work or probably a miracle. “You’r e going to see her?” He nodded silently and answered, “Yes, I went home for her.”
Entering the door of the ICU was difficult. Either the door was hard to open or rather his feet stuck on the ground that he cannot move it. Marvin wanted to see her badly but was scared to find out about her condition. His eyes searched for her. His heart bled when he saw that familiar face at the end of the room. His Mary, the Mary that he knew five years ago left no trace in the woman who is now in front of him. What he was seeing is a pale, weak and almost lifeless body attached to an artificial respirator and several tubes that he could not enumerate. She is at the mercy of these man-made machines. He almost cried. How could someone so young suffer this kind? Why does it have to be her? Marvin didn’t speak a word. He sat down on her bedside, held her hand tight an d let himself weep in silence. He wept for Mary and for himself. He wasn’t ready to loose her, nor give her up. She has to know the reason why he came home. She has to wake up. He stayed for a while. He was just quiet. He cannot help himself but stare at her. He didn’t left go of her hand. He was holding it tightly as if telling her to hold on, to fight for her life. “Sir, I am sorry but visiting time is over. You can stay outside or come back tomorrow.” If it wasn’t for the nurse, he would’ve stayed a li ttle longer. Before he left, he gently kissed her forehead like he usually do. Then, his brows met, he looked at her closer. Tears streamed from Mary’s unopened eyes. *** The firm grip that she felt in her hands had brought her security that she had n ot experienced for a long time. Mary didn’t hear her visitor speak. It just stayed beside her, holding her hand. And when her visitor kissed her forehead, she felt that familiar beating for her heart once again. A surge of emotion so ancient that she could not decipher, for now it gave her a flicker of hope that everything will turn out just fine if she wakes up. It seemed like she had been sleeping for years, yet that pang of pain once again crossed her heart. Where are her parents? Don’t they care about her anymore? Would they just let her sleep until she decides to tell herself to stop breathing? The single finger that she placed on the cliff where she is hanging right now is still there because of a sole reason. Her hopes that somehow her parents woul d soon come and realize that she needs them mor e than the money and material things that they provide her. This deep slumber and death made no differenc e at all. *** Wesley was holding Sarah’s trembling hands while his other hand is busy driving their car. Who could have thought that they almost got an annulment five days ago? He could hear his heart beating rapidly. He was troubled but then he head to r emain calm for the both of them. Five hours ago, they were currently attending a convention in Singapore when he received a phone call. “Tito… I have been trying to call you for days…” if he was not mistaken, it was Kristin. “Kristin, what is it?” he asked impatiently. They were in the middle of a very important topic. There was a long pause before she spoke again, “Its Mary, tito.” Hearing his daughter’s name got his full attention, “What is it this time?” he repeated. “She had an accident five days ago. She’s in coma, Tito Wesley. She needs you.” His whole body numbed. His jaw dropped open in disbelief. Suddenly, waves of realization set it. He felt like he is the worst father in the world. His breathing labored, Wesley knew he had to let it go. With all his strength, he punched the cemented wall. He didn’t notice the pain, or the red mark on th e wall, even the blood that is dripping from his hands. All that he could ever think about is Mary. Sarah was inconsolable. Though the convention was far from over, they didn’t care anymore. They asked their secretaries to take care of their luggage. Th ey needed to take the next flight home. They needed to see their daughter befor e it’s too late. “This is my entire fault. If… If I just stayed at home…” he heard her spoke.
Wesley shook his head, pulled her close, with his eyes still on the road, he whis pered, “It’s going to be okay soon, Sarah. We’ll start anew. I’m sorry for being a jerk all these years. I’m sorry for causing you and our daughter pain.” She closed her eyes and dried her tears, “I hope it’s not yet too late for us…” “It won’t.” he firmly said, secretly crossing his fingers, “I love you Sarah. I’ll make it up to you. We’ll make it up with Mary.” He silently prayed. Asked God to let them see their daughter before anything dreadful happened. Not Mary please, not our daughter. He promised God, if He allows them to see her ; he’s going to do his damn best to make things work. He’s going to fix his family and make them happy, Hopefully God will agree with the bargain, He’ll understand. *** Wesley firmly closed his eyes when he saw her daughter on that hospital bed. The tubes that served as her lifeline were too much for him to handle that tears finally dropped out from his eyes. Sarah placed her hand on her daughter’s abdomen as if hugging her, whispered her name and asking for forgiveness over and over again. “We’re here Mary. We’re not going to leave you anymore. Everything’s going to be alright.” She assured. “Baby, its dad.” He started to talk as well. “I know we have been nothing but worthless parents. We expected too much from you and have not even appreciated your efforts.” He held her pale palms close to his heart and kissed them, “Open your eyes, Mary. Please. I promise, everything will change. Once you wake up… we’ll go to beach for Christmas like you always wanted… I’ll take a l ong time off and spend it with you… I… I am sorry for hurting your mom. Fight death, baby… you’re strong… You’re mom and I need you.” “She’s…. she’s crying Wesley.” Sarah exclaimed when she saw the tears from her daughter’s eyes, “Do you hear us, Mary?” Instead of answering, Wesley felt Mary’s hand slowly moving to hold his palm. Then suddenly, the cardiac monitor signaled an alarm. The nurses on the station rushed toward her bed, one of them was pushing a cart. The student nurse told them to wait outside. They had no choice but to go out of the ICU. He wanted to get a glimpse of her for the last time but they already closed the curtain. Please be with her, Lo rd… don’t leave her side. Tell h er we love her so much. And… and… please hold on… try not to let go… please don’t take her away from us… not now… Oh God! Wesley prayed desperately. He didn’t know what to do. *** She was slowly loosing grip. Those were the voices she had been waiting to hear. Those wer e the rods that she’s been longing from two of the most important people in her life. She wanted to hug them tight, to thank them for coming, to tell them she loved them so, but all she can managed to do was to move her hands. Her whole body looked as if it placed all its remaining energy for her to d o the simple action. After that, she experienced her weakness progressing. She tried to open her eyes, to catch her breath, but she failed. She wanted to live now. She wanted to be with her family. She wanted to see Marvin too. She promised him. She’s fighting for her life now, fighting really hard. Almost everything that she had wished for since she was young was coming true and she wanted to be there to experience it first hand. “Can you hear us, Mary? Mary?” her name was called again and again in panic. Once again, she tried to move her fingers, but she failed. She tried again. And failed. And again. Finally… “Dear Lord, she’s back!” a man shouted gladly, The people that surrounded her cheer ed. ***
Just two days before Christmas and it has been a lmost a week since Mary was admitted. The nurse told Marvin that the patient is getting better. Her consciousness is beginning to progress. She hasn’t opened her eyes though, but she will in due time. th It was her 7 day in the ICU. They all thought that she’ll die two days ago when her cardiac monitor showed a straight line. But then, she wrestled with death and had won. Marvin once again sat by her bedside and held her hand. He was quiet. He always is. He just wanted to hold her hand and stare at her beautiful face. Wounds were beginning to disappear now. He promised himself he’ll gather all his guts and talk to her this time. Who knows? She might wake up and tell him to shut his mouth. “You promised me you’d come, Mary. But you didn’t.” he scolded her gently. “That --- was the first time you broke your word.” “I … I went home to see you… just to see you. You have something that’s mine.” He smiled sadly, not minding the nurses that were staring at him from the station, “My heart.” “I’m still the same old me, you see. Shy. Sorry. I am taking this opportunity while you’re still asleep so that you’ll have no choice but to listen.” He continued. “You showed me the life that I never thought existed. You brought me to your world and let me experienced that b est thing there is.” He kissed her hands, “I am getting corny already,” he laughed in a low voice, “I guess I just wanted to tell you that I love you, Mary. You… are my heart’s keeper.” “So please wake up, my butterfly. Be with me this Christmas.” Marvin held his breath when Mary’s hand clasped his. His heart swelled with gladness and almost stopped beating when he saw her eye lips moved, and slowly… her eyes opened. *** Mary was silent. It was an hour after midnight, the coldness of the air rushed inside her veins. Still she decided to stay. She didn’t have to look up to know that the moon is bright tonight; it’s reflection on the man made lagoon in front brought her to a halt. She filled her lungs with fresh air and silently thank God for it. And for everything else. Months pass after the fatal accident. Life has been kind to her. It gave her all the motivation to endure its remaining idiosyncrasies. Her family, and Marvin. Mary extended her right hand unconsciously and then smiled, on her ring finger was the graduation ring her dad brought her. They wer e proud of her despite the fact she did not have the cum laude announced after her name. Meanwhile, on her middle finger is an expensive sapphire ring which Marvin gave her 3 days ago on the night of her graduation. His mother told her that his son had been saving for it for years. Happy? Definitely. All the while, she thought she’d be delayed for another year, but then, miracles do happen. With her parent’s and Marvin’s support, she surpassed the removal and other examinations thereafter, Her grades started to increase and finally, her name was on the list of those who will march for the commencement exercise. Her disposition in life became positive. It was Christmas when the medical team decided to extubate her. And the r est of the tubes followed subsequently. The doctors were amazed on how fast her recovery is. They thought she wasn’t going to make it. Yet, she proved them wrong. The next day, she and her parents talked and sort things out. She was g lad that the annulment was out of the topic. “Hey.” Marvin’s voice drove off all her thoughts. She didn’t notice that he was already next to her, “What are you thinking?” his arms went around her shoulders, pulling her close to him. “You smell good.” She heard him laugh. Earlier today, she and her family arrived for his graduation. It was not surprising that he graduated as Magna Cum Laude in Nursing. He was, after all, the brightest in his class. He gave her his medal telling that it was for her. After the cer emonies, dinner followed. “It’s late. Should we be asleep?” Mary didn’t answer his question. Instead she looked at him seriously and asked, “What if I never woke up, Marvs?” He sighed and kissed her temples softly, “Then I’ll never leave your side. I’ll never let go of your hands until you wake up.”
“You’d get tired.” She said. Though, she never forgot Marvin’s tired but hopeful eyes that she first saw when she regained consciousness. Nevertheless, Mary witness how the exhaustion in his eyes disappeared and were r eplaced with something else. “Why would I be? Although I must admit that I am really scared of the ICU. Still, I won’t get tired of looking after you.” He said truthfully and added, “You have my life a new meaning, Mary. YOU.” “You are the best thing that ever happened to me.”Mary replied. Then she stopped and thought for a while, grinned at him and said, “Well probably just second to my parent’s reunion.” She laughed. Blushing, she added, “We are getting corny, Marvin.” Marvin smiled, “Everyone is asleep. Nobody will hear us.” He cupped her face and said, “I love you and thank you for waking up.” “I love you too Marvin.” She replied, “I guess your butterfly decided to fly once again. And this time, with you.”
Waiting could kill a person especially when one waits for nothing but then; waiting could give you a set of wings when it is all over. May and Art wer e… friends? No, mor e than that. They both knew they had already crossed the boundaries of friendship but none of them wanted to take the risk. They were both young and idealistic. They were afraid to break each other’s heart. May was the high school literary editor and Art was the high school curriculum chair. A perfect match, but no one knew what the real score between the two of them. No one but them. It was graduation day and both of them need to say goodbye. Art will be studying abroad and May will take her college education in Manila were she got a very good scholarship. He wanted to tell her how he felt befor e saying goodbye. They may not see each other again. He wanted to tell her the truth. Art told her he will be waiting for her in the field. It was only some meters away from both their dorms. He wanted to surprise her. May was lying in the center of the field when he arrived. Hair spread in the vast layer of Bermuda grass. She was looking at the stars and the moon. The latter was too enormous that you could actually feel it in your soul. Her eyes wer e so focused on it, but he knew something else was bothering it. He only wished it was him in her thoughts. He lay beside her and held her hand. She grinned and locked her fingers on it. Art stared at the sky for a while and found it empty. He could feel his fingers sweating because of nervousness . He looked at her, he could see the most beautiful star in the sky. He wished they will just have to stay this way. He breathed in deeply and forced his head to look away, held her hand tighter and said, “I don’t want to say goodbye, May.” She laughed softly, “Then don’t!” she stood up, pulled him with her, “Let’s go. It’s getting late.” She started to walk but then he stopped her, “Why?” “I don’t want this, May.” He said miserably. May smiled sadly as well, “I don’t want this either, but we need to. W e’ll see each other sometime…” “Year right! Sometime after may years?” “At least you will have time to miss me…” May whispered playfully. He managed to laugh for a while and looked at her intently, “Will you wait for me?” May’s smile froze on her l ips and tears that she held back were starting to drop one by one, “Will it not take you long to come home?” she asked him back. He was speechless while looking at her. She took something out from her pocket, an envelope, “Keep this, Art. Do not open it until I say it’s time.” Art took the envelope with a big question mark written all over his handsome face, “You don’t want me to open this envelope? Why?” “Trust me, it is not yet time.” “When will be it?” “Just trust me on this one. Don’t open it, promi se?” He nodded. She knew for a fact that he wanted to spill something out of his heart but she managed to stop him. “We may not see each other tomorrow. I don’t want to ruin this last night we have. Let us not push some things hastily just because we are a fraid that we may loose each other. If we are meant to be, fate will make its move.” Art did not say anything, instead, he gather ed her in his arms, “Now I know why you are so special to me.” *** Seven years later. May passed the nursing licensure exam and ranked number four. She’s working as a volunteer nurse in one of the local hospitals in the city before she’ll apply abroad. Experience was badly needed. She vowed a life of celibacy after Art. She did not have the chance of loving someone else. S he was in love with the same person for a lifetime and it was just so hard for her to let the love go that instant. May wanted to regret that day he was about to propose. On the other hand, she thought she was too young to be in a long distance relationship. She wasn’t mature enough to handle it. She only realized she let go of a perfect love when he was already gone. She didn’t hear anything from him. No letters, no phone calls, all she has is FAITH.
Nevertheless, May believed in serendipity, fate and soul mates. Two people bound by love will find their own way back to each other’s arms. *** After two mor e years, she is finally ready to go abroad. She completed her papers and necessary documents. She was assigned in one of the biggest hospitals in Florida. May was a little enlightened when she saw that almost all hospital employees were Filipinos. “Hi May!” Kian, one of her college friends greeted her. She raised her head from the chart that she was holding and gave her a quick smile. “My! You are just so busy. Have you heard that you will exchange shift with Rose? She has a fever and won’t be able to come. Can you still do it?” Kian asked, she knew that she has been on overtime for a week now. “Sure.” “You are killing yourself, friend. Anyway, don’t worry. The doctor in-charge later is very handsome and a hundred percent Filipino. Who knows? This maybe the guy you are waiting for…” she teased. May stared at her unbelievably, “Meaning?” Kian laughed, “You have been working too hard, I guess it’s about time someone lightens your dull life.” Before she could even think of a good retort, her friend was on her way out of the station. She was trying to help herself with a cup of coffee that she brought from the vending machine when the doctor arrived. He was covered with a pile of charts. “Excuse me, Miss ----“ Both of them wer e stunned looking at each other, she knew who the doctor was. It’s him. It’s Art. *** After almost 10 years, he saw her again. He decided to find her after his contracts expires. But she came to him unexpectedly. It was like God’s package for him. A gift he would gladly appreciate and thankful for. He invited her for breakfast after their shift. She didn’t say no. Art guessed now was the time he could finally tell her how he felt. A decade without seeing her was like imprisoning himself in a solitary confinement. It almost made him insane thinking of her every time. He was too afraid that she might get tired of waiting and find herself another man to love. Thinking about it is piercing his soul. “No wedding ring?” May asked subtly. “Not yet.” During breakfast, they talked of memories of the past and all the things that happened after. “Is someone waiting for you back home?” She shook her head, “I was waiting for someone back then.” It was spoken in a low voice but his auditory nerves were too sensitive in catching it before the air could swallow her words. He whispered a silent prayer to God. A prayer of gratitude. “Do you have plans tonight?” Actually, he had already checked her schedule and he knew she will take the whole day off. “None.” “Please have dinner with me.” His eyes were begging. She grinned, “Sure.” “I missed that.” He was referring to her grin. “Missed what?” “Missed you… everything about you” *** They spent their day-offs dating, still Art did not have all the needed guts he needed to. He practices his speech before he would go to their dates, but the moment she smiles at him, it was all gone. And he was afraid, too afraid that she may reject him.
That night was much more special because it was his birthday. He vowed to himself that this day would never end without him professing his love for her. He should do it now or else he will suffer forever. “Happy Birthday!” May kissed his cheeks and handed her gift. “Where do you plan to go?” “Secret.” Art drove his car and they stopped by at a resort. “So this is where you are taking me?” “Well, yes. Let’s go?” He opened the door for her and made their way to the shore. They spend the whole time laughing and talking, “I have something to tell you, May.” He said finally. “Art?” she said but he motioned her to shut-up. “Please don’t. I may not be able to have this perfect time again. You stopped me from doing this almost ten years ago, and I won’t let you do it again now. I was so afraid that I may be too late about this. I really don’t know why I am still hoping. Maybe because I knew, deep inside, fate will always lead me back to you.” He said slowly, “I was just waiting for my contract to expire, than I will be back home and ask you this. But you came. You came to me.” He breathed in deep, got something out of his pocket, a ring. He placed it on her finger, “Will… will you marry me, May?” He saw astonishment on May’s face. She was surprise, maybe she had not thought that this would happen now. He was kneeling for such a long time that he felt eternity already passed. He could not fathom her thoughts. “Please stand up, Art.” She pleaded. He immediately obliged still his eyes were asking her to an swer the question. But when she whispered, “Let’s go.” He felt his whole world collapsed in an instant. Was she rejecting him now? Did she mean no? He wanted to ask her further but he caught his tongue. He was about to start the engine when her hands stopped him, “Do you remember the envelope I gave you that night?” What envelope? Ahhh… Then he remembered, “Yes.” “Did you open it?” He shook his head. “Do you still have it?” May asked again. He reached for his wallet, opened it and handed her the same envelope she handed almost ten years ago. He almost forgot that thing existed inside his wallet. “I told you to open it when it is already time.” She said handing him back the envelope, “It is already time, Art. You can open it.” Art never spoke a word when he tore it. It housed an empty piece of people folded for times. He opened it, he couldn’t fine anything else but a word… YES.
“If you leave no w, I won’t run after you.” Leila halted when she hea rd Christian spoke. He didn’t shout, he stated those words firmly as if he wanted her to make a difficult choice. Can she? Walking away fro m heaven and into something that she is not sure, so meone n eeded her mo re. Leila didn’t look back at him. She can’t, she wa s sca red tha t the pleas in his eyes would just make h er stay. ““I’m sorry, X. Please understand me this time, just this time. Like the way I have und erstood you for yea rs.” Befo re he could even answer, she opened the door and left.
He is torn between his
Leila grasped her phone tightly, wishing she could throw it girlfriend and his away--- but after remembering how much her phone cost, she changed dreams. He was not her mind. She counted from one to ten to calm her nerves after that ready to give up any phone call from Christian. He promised her, she made him reiterate it a couple of times but he still broke it the last minute. He was of them. not coming again. There was an emergency case he needed to attend to. Last night, he assured her that he was free today. Didn’t he hear of the word ‘day off’? She closed her eyes and muttered a soft curse. Since the day after his graduation at med school, he started to loose time for her. At first, it was because of his application for his post-graduate internship. Then after he was hired, there were a lot of emergency cases that could not be delayed or cancelled. Sometimes, he would tell her that he was busy with reviewing for his board examinations. She thought all the while that she should understand, that complaining about his lost of time for her is a petty thing since she was also a med student, she ought to understand. Yet, she could not bear even to think that she should have to schedule an appointment with him if she wanted to talk to him. An appointment that he could cancel anytime that he wanted. She doesn’t feel secure anymore. This has been going on for more than a year already. At first, it was okay, but after a while, a long while, she finally decided that she had enough. She was not born a martyr. God gave her brains, so she should use it before it atrophies. Her relationship with Christian used to be smooth-sailing. They didn’t have any problems, especially with their schedules. But now, it is the very thing that is separating the both of them. Tears began to fall from her eyes, not because she was starting to get weak with her emotions, nor she wanted sympathy or pity. She’s crying because holding back the tears is no longer possible, the pain, the hurt, and the agony she had been enduring became too big to be kept inside. Leila missed him. A lot. She just hope the moment he finds time for her, she would still remember what he looks like. *** Christian took off his gloves and washed his hands. The operation was over and the surgical team just saved one life. At the same time, his relationship with Leila is getting rougher each day. He knew it was his day off and he can go out of the hospital, enjoy his day and just be with her. Something happened when he was on his way out. Ther e were three patients in the emergency room with stab wounds and are scheduled for Stat operations. Problem is they are looking for assistants. He’s a doctor. Well, not full-pledged, but still he is. He was needed mor e here. He wanted to become a good surgeon like his father that is why as much as possible he wanted to assist to as many operations as he can. So, without second thoughts, he called Leila to tell her that he could not come. He knew she was mad at him now. She had been patient for a long time. He should admit that it scares him to loose her. However, she should understand how
things work knowing that she would become a doctor soon. Stop rationalizing things, X! Face it! What is happening right now is your fault. He is torn between his girlfriend and his dreams. He was not ready to give up any of them. *** Leila took the chart out of the stack and opened it. She released an annoying air out of her system. Yes, she did not sleep well the other night. Yes, she was pathetically waiting for his call that never came. And yes, she woke up at the wrong side of the bed. Now here she was being nagged by one of the PGI to check the skin test result of one of the patients because the former was too sleepy to examine it. And then this, no diagnosis, no hint whatsoever of why this patient is inside the hospital; not even a medical history was written on the chart. What in the world is this? Just do what you’re asked to do, Lei. Get on with it. You still have other patients to check-up on. She’s just glad there was at least a name on the chart. Raja Lizares. No age, and no gender. Geez, she was not even sure if this is a male or a female. But why does the name sounds familiar? Did she hear the name somewhere? It rings a bell, but she could not recall. Placing the chart close to her chest, she made her way to the patient’s room. When she reached the patient’s door, she knocked three times and waited for an answer. She lingered for a few mor e moments before decided to enter the room. It seemed that no one wanted to open the door for her. The room was dark. She whispered a soft curse. Leila tried to close her eyes for a while and open her eyes again to let her vision adjust to the darkness. She thought that the patient was sleeping since the lights were off. But she was mistaken. When she looked at the bed, no one was there. Not even a shadow. She was trying to find the switch when she noticed something unusual with the room. Heaven’s sake! The room is filled with papers! Not just ordinary paper, but origami papers! Is he a child? Another pedia patient? What kind of child would like dark places? She moved her hands on the wall and tried to search for the switch when she felt that something was wrong. It was like there was another person in the room. Her hands moved faster on the wall, her adrenalin was almost rushing inside her body. When she found the switch at last, she almost fainted when a hand stopped hers from turning on the lights, “Who in the world are you?” the voice asked in the most arrogan t and demanding voice she heard her whole life. *** Raja came from the hospital’s garden. He needed to get some fresh air. He used to love the hospital. He longed to smell the disinfectant in the four walls of the building. He liked to see the people in their white uniforms, doctors and nurses, or even people in the laboratory. But now, he loathed being in here. Every time he entered the hospital, it felt like prison. He could almost feel invisible hand cuffs on his wrist the moment he wor e the ID bracelet. It was devastating, almost frustrating. He was trying his best to remain positive at all times. Telling himself that he is well, that nothing is wrong with him, that he is fine. But how can a person still think of the birds and the bees, and the blue sky when he cannot move in pain? When he came back in his room, he was surprised when he felt that someone was there inside. Then he finally noticed that the “someone” was wearing white. Must be one of the medical students, Just when I need rest. But he didn’t expect the big surprise right before his very eyes the moment he turned on the lights, standing in front of him is a girl with the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. And it was throwing daggers at him. Uh-oh, bad move, boy! “Ar e you the patient?” she asked, slightly moving herself away from him. He went to his bed and sat down, “I guess so.” “I’m JI Pabulayan, I’m here to interpret the skin test.” Purely business, how unromantic. “It’s negative” he flashed his most charming smile, “What’s your first name?” The girl raised a brow, “Wher e is it? Left or right?” “I told you its negative.” “I still need to see it.”
“Is this a part of therapeutic communication?” He saw her breathed in deeply, “Perhaps. So can I please have the arm now?” “What if it’s negative just like what I told you?” he dared. “I still need to see it,” she continued on insisting. This girl just never gives up. Her arms were already folded in front of her and he noticed she was already stamping her right feet. “You owe me a dinner if it’s negative.” “Whatever!” He held out both of his arms, “See, I told you so.” She looked carefully and shook her head hearing the old cliché. She opened his chart and wrote something. “You owe me dinner.” He reminded her. The intern just smiled at him, the kind of smile that doctors give to their patients, “I would love to, but you’re sick so you need to rest.” “Can you see any diagnosis on my chart, doc?” “You did that on purpose!” He instantly denied, “Of course not. My attending physician knows me inside-out. I don’t think my history is necessary. I don’t like student nurses or medical students invading my privacy. Her brows formed a straight line, but befor e her mouth opened for another rebuttal, he silenced her with another reply, “I’m sure it’s for my own good. But it’s my choice, and so far my physician agrees with me.” “Then why are you here?” “I won’t die and you won’t die either if we talk it over dinner?” *** Leila was almost loosing her breath. She hadn’t touched her dinner when someone paged her that ther e was an emergency at his room. He looked so well yesterday, what went wrong? Did he have an arrest? Anaphylactic shock? She ran up the stairs because the elevator was too long. She didn’t drop by the nurse’s station , nor noticed there was no emergency cart in front of his room. When she opened the door, she observed that the room was dark again. What is this all about? She felt her adrenalin rush nearly dropped. She wanted to sit down. Leila reached for the switch of the light, when she turned it on she was surprised to see Raja standing, still alive and grinning. “What do you think you are doing?” she demanded. Leila wanted to throw anything at him. “Relax. You owe me dinner, remember?” It was then that she noticed the room was not as messy as it was yesterday. There wer e no papers on the floor and a table was really set up for dinner. You must admit, he made an effort! “You don’t have to page me like that!” “You haven’t replied to any of my text messages.” He si mply replied. Why does he have to be so cool? So he’s the one who’s been texting me the whole day. It was not her fault she didn’t reply. Mainly because it was an unknown number, and second because she was too busy. “Where did you get my number?” “I’m just very resourceful. Anyway, aren’t you hungry?” he led her to the table and assisted her to sit down. Suddenly, she wanted to cry. When was the last time she and X done this? She could not even remember the date; all that she could remember was that he was in a hurry to go because there was an emergency. “Are you okay?” She tried to offer him a smile, but the look on his face tells her that he didn’t buy it, so she decided to change topic, “What do we have for dinner?” “Italian foods actually. Somebody mentioned you love pizza and lasagna.” Raja started to serve her the foods which amazed her. Asking herself when was the last time she and her boyfriend done this seemed to be a tune that was nagging her thoughts. “Somebody mentioned that you have a boyfr iend too. It’s Dr Uy, right?” “You’ve done your research well,” she acknowledged. “Is it okay with him if I invite you for dinner again?” “Why would you invite me for dinner again?” “I just want to spend time knowing you.” “You told me yourself, you know I have a boyfriend.”
He smiled again, “Where? I can’t see him right now. You ate dinner yesterday, breakfast, lunch and dinner again alone. And he’s working here also.” Leila smirked, but it seemed he wanted to go on, “If I were your boyfriend, I won’t let you eat alone. I will never take you for granted. I will spend even just 30 seconds of one hour for you.” She can’t help but laughed, she needs to or else she’s going to cry. Raja just hit bull’s eye. “That one is called hypoglycemia, Raja. Eat.” When they finished desert, she started to ask him, “How old are you?” “Wow, is this The Buzz? I’m twenty-four.” So young, “Do you still go to school or do you have work?” He shook his head and laughed softly, “I love this question and answer portion . I could feel that your interest in me grows. Work? You could say that. I was a resident-doctor abroad before I decided to stop.” “Why?” that’s why he was knowledgeable about medical stuffs, like the skin test. He is a doctor, what went wrong? Did he suddenly realize that medicine was not for him? “Psychiatry tells us that asking why is not therapeutic.” He r eminded her, “Anyway, I won’t beat around the bush. Here’s the climax of my story: I’m dying.” *** Raja was diagnosed having brain cancer while he was having his residency in one of the most prestigious hospital in New York. After bouts of painful headaches, he decided to have a CT scan. The results had brought his dreams to waste. All his life works is worth nothing. He loved his course, no matter how hard it was, he finished at the top of his class. He was then invited to work abroad after the board exam which he also topped. Raja wanted to be an oncologist. What an irony. At first, he was in total denial. He didn’t want to quit his “Anyway, I won’t beat around work and go back to the Philippines. But the hospital left him no choice, they asked for his resignation letter. the bush. Here’s the climax of His father picked him up and brought him back to the my story: I’m dying.” country after series of test. Those painful tests proved to be idle. His cancer was on its final stage. He was waiting for his call from God. His mother died of cancer. And now, he was also dying from it. *** They wer e having dinner in a nearby restaurant; this is the first time in months that they ate on the same table. Not nearly a date, but will pass as one. Leila always settles for what is offered to her, she doesn’t complain, and he was glad. He can’t drive far because he was tired from work. While he was talking, he noticed that Leila wasn’t paying any attention to him. She was busy texting. She was smiling, she looks so happy. All of a sudden, he felt uneasy. He decided to shut his mouth and look at his girlfriend. When was the last time she smiled in front of him? A smile that looks so genuine? He can’t remember. Damn. The moment he became one of the Post Graduate Intern, he realized the he lost his capability to make her happy. “Who are you tex ting?” he asked. “Friend.” “Do I know her?” “I don’t think so.” She simply replied in her most impersonal tone and started to eat. Maybe you are just overreacting. Maybe those are just her friends trying to say hi. Leila loves you remember? Stop it X! You are just tired. Your imagination is working overtime. He reached for her hand over the table and held it, “Have I told you how much you mean to me lately?” Leila stopped eating, looked at him with a confused mask on her face and sadly shook her head. ***
Christian looked at his phone. Exactly three days, that Leila didn’t send him any SMS messages. He sent her messages already. At least 2 SMS a day but she didn’t reply. Every time he comes home, he would ask his mom if she called, but her mom would say she didn’t. Is there something wrong? He felt worried already. It was his break time, instead of offering his services again and extending his shift, he will find her. He can’t remember her rotation days or her hours in the hospital. Well if she was not here, then more or less, she will be at home, or at school. When he was walking down the hallway of the hospital, he felt scared. Is she tired of him? Did she want out of their relationship? He shook the negative thoughts out of his mind. No, Leila loves him. She is just busy, like he was. He didn’t have time to text her when he was busy, right? He was almost near one station when he bumped into one of her friends who is a nurse, “Jen, did you see Lei?” “Leila?” “Yes. You’re friend, my girlfriend?” “She’s out.” She simply answered. Christian suddenly noticed that Jen was getting uncomfortable with him. “Is there something wrong?” He saw her sigh, “I don’t want this to come from me, X. Believe me. But a patient has been asking her out.” “A patient?” “Yes.” She gave the room number, “They don’t usually date outside, usually just in his room. But today, he was discharged and he asked if she could come with him. She did.” He could feel his heart thumping hard, “Is it even allowed?” No, maybe Leila is doing this out of good deeds. She’s kind and has really nice relationships with patients. Maybe this is just a professional relationship and there is no need for him to panic. But panic rouse before he could even stop it. For chrissake! She was not even texting him. He can’t assure himself that there is nothing wrong. “The patient is son of the hospital director. I think it’s allowed.” *** Leila accompanied Raja home. He pleaded. He even asked the permission from their dean and she just can’t believe how strong his persuasion power could be. After the first dinner, she and Raja became good friends. She would drop by his room every now and then an d check on him. She knew some of her schoolmates and even nurses are talking behind her back. But she doesn’t care. She was not doing anything wrong. Perchance she was doing this out of good deeds or j ust mere kindness. He was a nice guy to be with. He was funny, he showers her with compliments, he makes her smile, and it was always a glorious day if she’s with him. In all their conversations, he never mentioned anything about his disease. All he was talking about is how great life was and how he would li ke to live each day as if was the last. His positive thoughts wer e so communicable that it made her forget sometimes about the pain and the frustrations that X was causing her. “What are you doing with these papers?” she asked when she saw the same set of papers in the garden of his house. “I’m making paper cranes.” “Paper cranes?” “Yes. Origami bird. Didn’t you hear of the famous legend?” She shook her head and watched him fold the paper into several angles , “What legend?” “One will make one thousand cranes, then you will make a wish.” He simply replied. She could feel a bad lump in her throat, “What is your wish?” “I will know if I’m finished. Do you want to learn?” “Does the legend say someone can help you make the thousand cranes?” He stopped and thought for a while, “I have no idea.” Raja handed her a piece of paper, “Here, I will teach you to make one.” “How many have you made already?” “Nine hundred plus.” “When did you start making these cranes?”
“Two months after I was diagnosed” he simply answered, and then when he noticed her sad smile, he held her hand tight, “I’m okay. I have never been okay in my entire life. You look worried, stop it. Look at me, do I look like I’m dying?” She shook her head, “You look fine except that day when you vomited almost all your GIT out of your system.” He laughed, “That was the effect of the chemo! I can’t stop it.” Then he moved closer and whispered something in her ears, ● ● ● “When I was diagnosed two years ago, my doctor told me I had just about six months to live. But look at me, Lei. I am still talking to you.” “Where do you think you are He never failed to amaze her. Until now, he was the one who was taking me?” she demanded. offering everyone encouragement. Leila’s face was already red. He “I’m glad.” was just not sure if she was “You are an angel, Leila.” “No, you are.” mad or embarrassed with the ***
scene he caused.
“What did you say?” Christian dropped his fork on the table together with his jaws. Leila was breaking up with him. “Somewhere where I can make “You heard me loud and clear, X.” She was looking at him you love me again.” bare of any emotions. It seemed she had practiced all her dialogues well, enough to surprise him. He started massaging his temples. Dear God! He was having a ● ● ● migraine. Is this for real? “W..why?” She laughed softly, “X, com’on! You don’t know why?” “Refresh my memory.” Leila took a deep breath before she started, “You have been neglecting me, X. You showed u p the right moment befor e I forget what look like. I’m your girlfriend, not a patient with no life-threatening disease whom you can cancel my appointment anytime you like it,” befor e he can reply to her speech, she continued, “Don’t reason me out with I’m a doctor and I should understand, what is 30 minutes of everyday or 15 minutes every two days? I am okay with 3 messages everyday. Just some simple assurance that you are still there, that you still love me.” Then out of the blue, he remembered something, “Is this because of the Lizares guy?” “No!” She immediately protested, “What are you talking about? This is about you and me. Raja has nothing to do with this. We are just friends.” He wished he could believe what she said. Friends? How can she make him believe her when she is leaving him already? Leila was right. He’s always good with his timing. Tonight, he will vow to her that beginning today he will find time for her. He will make her one of his priorities, he will fulfill all his promises and that he will take care of her again. Am I really on time or too late to change her mind? Without any second thoughts, he stood up; throw the some bills into the table, enough for the cost of the food that they wer e eating. Grab her arm and drag her to his car. “Where do you think you are taking me?” she demanded. Leila’s face was already red. He was just not sure if she was mad or embarrassed with the scene he caused. “Somewher e where I can make you love me again.” *** Christian proved his point after three wonderful days in his family’s beach house. At first, she was hesitant, but after seeing his mom there with them and ensuring her they would be spending the nights in different bedrooms, Leila started to be comfor table. She didn’t know if it will scare her or it will make her feel good. He cooks for her, started to become his old self once again. The sweet and caring Christian that he was years ago. Tonight, he invited her to walk down the beach, “Don’t you miss the hospital, X?” “For real? No. I missed this more.” He took her hand and held it close to his chest.
Thanks to the darkness of the night, he didn’t see her blush, “Why are you doing this?” “You don’t know?” Christian started to laugh. Suddenly, she got annoyed and tried to get her ha nds from his grip, but instead, he tightened it. “I don’t want to loose you. I thought I will never loose you, but that night when you broke up with me, I felt so desperate to have you back and tell you how much I want you in my life. I love you, Lei. I hope you never stopped loving me” She looked at the stars, whispered a soft prayer to God, thanking Him, before she r eplied, “I never did.” Everything was almost perfect. The only drawback of everything was that, he took her mobile phone from her. There was no way that she can contact Raja or the other way around. Sometimes, she gets worried, what if something bad happens to him? *** Raja knew she was never in love with him. Every time they talk or when they are together, he would feel it. Leila was just being a good friend, or a good doctor at the least. She has a boyfriend!! Yes, her boyfriend may not always be around and reject her in the most painful way possible, but she loves him. He could feel her pain, no matter how she laughs so hard on his silly jokes or how she tells him she’s okay; he just knew deep inside, she was sad. If only he could live longer, to make her happy, to love her. He could not even tell her what he feels. He was scared that she would stay away from. This one is better, he’s going to die without causing more confusion and pain to the person who finally made his life complete. But where is she? He could not contact her cell phone and he doesn’t know where she is. He was getting worried. All of a sudden, he felt a sharp, stabbing pain in his head. He firmly closed his eyes and shook his head, This can’t be, my medications are on time! He felt the pain engulfing him every second. “Tita!!” Before he could even reach the bottle of morphine at his bed side table, he fell unconscio us. *** “Leila, phone call.” Christian’s mom told her. It was her fourth day in the beach house and she was due to go home three days from now for their enrollment. She still doesn’t have her mobile phone back, sometimes she doesn’t mind. As long she can talk to her mother via land line. She can’t call Raja, she can’t memorize his number. Furthermor e, she will be back in three days, the first thing that she will do was not to enroll herself but to go in his house and see how he is. He was a friend, and she is truly concerned about his health. A woman’s voice greeted her on the other line, “Leila, I’ve been trying to reach your mobile phone a hundred times. Finally I got your landline number, your mom gave me this number.” “Tita Rose?” It was Raja’s aunt. She could sense both agitation and relief in her voice. “Leila, where are you? Please, he needs to see you. This may be for the last time.” She continued, “He’s in bad shape. I don’t know what to do. My brother has been trying to calm me down, but I just can’t. He’s been through a lot, Leila. If he dies, if He wants him to die, at least I want him to die happy. Leila, please?” “Tita?” “Please come to the hospital.” She gave the room number, “I just can’t understand why Jay has to put all those machines around him.” “Calm down, Tita. I will be there in a while. I just need to pack.” Leila just can’t believe how calm her voice was. She could already feel her radial pulse against the handset. Please wait for me, Raja! “Hurry.” *** “Where in the world are you going?” Christian barge in Leila’s room, he was mad at the same time, he can’t help but feel anxious. Why is she going away? Is she going to come to him? He heard from his mother that someone had called her earlier, and then she became upset . She told his mother that she needs to go home. When he asked his mom who called, both his shoulders shrugged when he heard the name, Rose Lizares.
“I need to go, X.” she told him while packing the clothes that he got from her mother a day after he dragged her to the beach house. “Where? To Raja? Can’t he wait?” “I need to go.” Leila repeated without even looking at him. He stood at the closet and caught her arm that was about to get another piece of cloth. He felt her hands were shaking, when he looked into her eyes, tears were already showing, “I need you to stay here.” She shoved him aside, “And I need to go. I really need to.” “Is he that important that you need to leave this late?” he asked, he felt blood rushing in his face. His heart once again beating loudly, waiting for her response. “He is a friend!” “I am your boyfriend!!” “You don’t need to remind me that.” Leila closed the suitcase and made her way downstairs. He followed her, still trying to stop her from leaving. Finally he rushed his way to the door befor e she could reach the knob, “My mom will pick me up.” “Leila, I put aside my duty to be with you, just to save our relationship that has been on rocks for years.” He reminded her, he didn’t want to. But he was too desperate to ma ke her stay. What is the rush? Is the man dying? He saw how her jaw dropped in surprise; she shook her head and looked at him with a face that looked so tired and hurt, “Whose fault is that?” Christian walked towards Leila and tried to hug her but she mov ed away from his embrace. She walked towards the door; just then reality hit him real hard. He couldn’t stop her, she was eager, deter mined to leave him and go to the Lizares guy. He felt that all his sympathetic responses were activated and his brain cell s suddenly became lethargic. He couldn’t think straight, before he could even stop his mouth from opening, he said to her, “If you leave me now, I won’t run after you.” Leila turned rigid, she didn’t move. And he felt so awful after saying those words. He was not even sure if he means it. But he needed to know if who’s more important to her. If he still means a lot to her like what she has been reassuring her in their whole stay. She didn’t look back at him when she answered the words that broke his heart, “I’m sorry, X. Please understand me this time, just this time. Like the way I have understood you for years.” *** Raja saw his angel when he woke up, “Leila…” She smiled at him, “I’m glad you’re awake. Tita Rose has been telling me you have not gained consciousness since yesterday.” “Tita is always exaggerated. I’m still alive. No endotracheal tubes attached. I signed a DNR already and I will sue dad if he will give consent for an intubation.” He stared at her for a while. God! How much he missed Leil a. “Where have you been?” “I… I was having a vacation.” “I heard Dr. Uy was on vacation too.” “How do you feel?” the abrupt change of topic just gave him the conclusion that they wer e together. He told himself to feel happy for her, but he can’t. She looks like she has been to a funeral rather than a vacation. “I’m very okay. How was the vacation?” “It was good. You should take care of yourself more. What happened back there?” “Nothing unusual. Except the pain was more severe. My doctor says the canc er metastasized. I told him not to tell me my death sentence. After all, he is not God.” He knew his time was coming. He just knew it, the moment he felt the pain, he knew something was very wrong. He didn’t want to hear the doctor’s prognosis. Knowing how bad it was will just make him more depr ess. “Don’t look sad, please. Except for the bald hair and sunken eyes, I still look dashing…” But it didn’t stop Leila from crying, “I… I can’t help it. Y…you are so…so… young…” he took her in his arms and hug her tight. He wanted to comfort her, to tell her that she should not worry, that everything will be okay in the future, that he will not die, that he will always be there for her. Empty lies. He wanted to cry with her, but he stopped himself. He is a strong person, a fighter. But if it’s God’s will, then nothing is more powerful to stop Him. He will just be brave enough, no matter how painful, to accept his fate.
Leila cried all her heart out, and when she stopped at last, he decided to release her and offered her a heartening smile, “It’s going to be okay, Lei. Trust me, now let’s make paper cranes. It’s almost done.” *** “I’m Raja. Raja Lizares.” Christian moved towards his hospital bed and accepted his handshake. “Dr. Christian Uy.” Five days after Leila left the beach house, he decided to move on with his life and go back to his usual routine. He didn’t call her; he was scared that she might really reject him this time. After what he did to her when she left. He was very insecure with Raja, of the importance that Leila gave to him. But looking at him now, he was not sure if he should feel sorry or admire him. He looked so weak but his eyes fought all the pain that he was experiencing. “Here, have this. I will teach you how to make a crane.” Raja hand him a paper and let him sit on his side. At first, he found it weird. He paged just to give me origami lessons? But he didn’t argue instead; he followed his directions silently. “Make one thousand paper cranes, and then make a wish.” Raja told him. “I hope you won’t get offended, but you didn’t bring me in here just to teach me how to make origami birds, did you?” The other guy laughed and shook his head, “No. I want to tell you how lucky you are to have her. I wished I could, but she doesn’t want me. All I am to her is a friend.” He smiled wryly, “Although I wanted it to be mor e. But what can I do? I’m years too late.” He found no words for reply. Should he be happy that this guy whom he thought was his rival was telling him that he was not a threat? On the other hand, how can he repair his relationship with Leila? Where will he start mending the broken patch? “I wish I could buy all the time in the world to be with her, to make her love me. I can’t force her to love me, however. It would be against my nature. Before “Win her back the moment I I die, can you make me a promise?” His brows met, Raja may look weak, but the way die.” he spoke to him doesn’t really sound like he is dying today or tomorrow. Yet he indulged, “Okay?” “Win her back the moment I die.” *** The next morning, news came to the doctor’s quarters that Raja didn’t wake up anymore. Christian could not believe what he heard. They were just talking yesterday! And he was quite strong. He didn’t look like he was going to die today. He looked a little healthy. He was even laughing! They were laughing together! Indeed life is truly full of surprises. Sometimes, it can make you happy. Sometimes, it can make you sad. Sometimes, it can scare the wits out of you. But the most important thing is one knows how to deal with it. That afternoon, the hospital director called him in his office. He was wondering what was the reason behind the note. He hated to play guessing game. The moment he entered the room, he saw the hospital director, Dr. JP Lizares and his sister sitting on the sofa. “Please sit down, Dr. Uy.” He opted to sit in the chair in front of the director, “Good afternoon, sir. I’m sorry for your loss.” The old man smiled sadly, “My son made me promise not to consent to intubation or any measures that will prolong his agony.” “He is a brave guy.” He commented. “I didn’t know you two were acquainted until I saw this box today. He addressed it to you.” His eyes widened in surprise when Dr. Lizares handed him a box with his name on top of it. Raja left something for him? What could it be? He stared at the box for a long time befor e he took from the director. “Thank you.”
“You may go, Dr. Uy. Thank you for the time you shared with my son.” He was near the door when Ms. Lizares called out his name and came nea r him. Then she whispered softly in his ears, enough for the two of them to hear, “Thank you for letting my nephew love Leila.” When he reached his quarters, he immediately sat on his bed and opened the box. He was astonished to see hundreds of paper cranes inside. Each line was tied in a string. This was the paper crane that he was teaching me the other day. Ther e was a note inserted on the side of the box :
Christian, Love her, try not to make her cry or hurt her or else I’ll be giv ing you tons of nightmares. I counted this over and over again. Nine-hundred and ninety-nine. Just one more to make it a thousand. You remember how to make one, don’t you? All it takes is faith. One more and make a wish. A million THANKS, Raja
*** Leila was in grief when Raja died. He was one of her closest friends. Yes, they may know each other for a short time, but it surpassed some of her decade-year old friendships. Raja made her realize that no matter how important it is to go with life’s flow, one can delay fate; go against it and fight for what you wanted in life just to make all the possible time in your hand worthwhile. Furthermor e, he made her realize what specialization she wanted to pursue. Oncology. Many people will surely die in your hands but the comfort, the care, the pain-relieving measures and the hope that you will give them is priceless. On the other hand, two months had already passed since the beach house incident. She wanted to call him, sometimes badly, but she was not s ure if it was the right thing to do. Christian was surely mad at her. He was doing well in avoiding her in the hospital during her rotations. No phone calls, no text messages. Tomorrow, if he won’t give me a call or any text message, I will see him. Promis e. But for now, I need to drive home and sleep. I’m so tired. No matter what his decision will be, she was going to accept it. She made her choice. She will have to suffer the consequences. When she arrived home, she immediately parked her car in the gar age and rushed inside. She could feel sandman’s sand on her eyes. She wanted to sleep badly. Thirty-six hours with no sleep could leave you dead. “Ma?” “Did you have dinner already, Leila?” she heard her mom’s voice reply from the kitchen. She groaned, “Later ma. I’m sleepy. Love you.” “Enjoy!” Her brows rose with her mother’s reply. Enjoy sleep? She pushed her curiosity aside and reached the knob of her room, her jaws dropped. There wer e paper cranes everywhere!!! She felt all her sleepiness washed off and Mr. Sandman was no longer above her head. She knew this paper cranes, some of these wer e Raja’s. Raja, are you here? Stop scaring me!! I really don’t like ghost, even if it’s you. She was about to shout for help when Christian showed up from nowhere holding a paper crane in his hand. “These are Raja’s. He made nine-hundred and ninety-nine cranes and told me to make the last one so I can make a wish.” He told her, when Christian stepped a little more close, she felt her lids getting heavier. He’s here! And he’s real, not just one of my dreams! He’s really here! “And your wish is?” Leila could do nothing but hold her breath for his reply. He gather her in his arms and held her near that he could almost hear the sound of her heart, “You.”
Best friend, I’m sorry if I’m out of sight these past few months, I’ve been busy with my studies. Nursing, after all, is not a joke. It requires longer study hours and concentration to get the 2.5 cut-off. I’ve been working hard lately…a bit tired, that’s why I have not been returning your calls or replying to your text messages. Even to your messages in Friendster. You must’ve noticed I haven’t logged on for more than three weeks. But then again, thank you for remembering me. That’s sweet of you. You know what? I haven’t said this to your since we became the best of friends, but I’m lucky to have you. I really am. We may have our differences way beyond comparison, yet, we just click. You’re quiet, I’m loud. You’re an introvert, I’m an extrovert. You’re good in math, I’m good in english. You’re an engineering student, and I’m a nursing student (hehehe… that’s out of the topic). Without you, I can’t pass my chemistry, algebra, statistics and physics subject. And without me, you have probably flunked English and speech. A good pair, aren’t we? It was not always good, wasn’t it? We had our fights. I have my tantrums, and thank you for going through it with flying colors. No one stayed as long as you did by my side. No one had the patience like you have. It was comforting to know that you’re there beside me, ready to tame down my dopamine-filled blood stream. You’re the most successful anger management therapist. Not to forget, the best shock-absorber ever! You were the only shoulder I cried on when things are too confidential, you never spoke a word to anyone about it. You were the one who helped me nurse my broken heart when it was crushed into pieces. You help me get back on track. You were my angel. I always wonder why you can’t find someone else to love. Your high school sweetheart must’ve moved on ages ago, and you are still hanging on to her memories. You would tell me sometimes that you are over her. But I doubt. It’s funny how other people would pair us. Why would they? All we have is a platonic relationship. I’m not your type, you’re not my type either. It didn’t even cross my mind. Oh well, sometimes it does… but then, it’s impossible. Friendship is too important to be the ultimate sacridice for love. That’s too much to loose. I remember, you told them, you never close your door for chances… who knows? I… was left dumbfounded. But here you are, texting me that you have a girl friend. I should be happy, you know. I always wanted you to have one, I wanted you to be happy, to experience the joy and pains of love. To be kissed and cuddled… and perhaps, to enjoy the climatic surge of emotion. However, I never expected the effect of your message. My heart stopped beating for a while; I turned white and fe lt nothing. My five-night review of the 70-pages neuro-nursing went to waste. I can’t remember a single nerve! Just look at what you did! I wished I won’t see you till finals. I still don’t know what to say in front of you. You know very well that I am not good in lying, especially to you. Let me justify before you say anything… I just remember I told you way, way back that if you ever have a girlfriend, I would never ask for your help immediately. I will have to solve my problems all by myself and just ask for your help if I rea lly… really need it. I won’t disturb you like the usual, I’ll be out of your way; so that the usual bestfriend and girlfriend feud will not bother you. Now I’m getting a little selfish. So now I fear, I’m not only going to loose my best friend. I’m going to loose a part of me that I’m afraid no one can replace. No more body guard to follow me anywhere I go, no more text messages from you, no more cute testimonials in friendster, no more kiss in the cheeks whenever we meet, no more free lunches whenever I don’t have someone to have lunch with. I’ll have no one to pick me up in the wee hours of the morning or whenever I’m drunk. No one to tell me that I shouldn’t cry over spilled milk cause you’ll buy me a new one. No one to tell me I’m pretty though I look like I’ve been inside a tornado for ages. And no one to tell me that you’ll always be there no matter what. Someone owns you know, and I just have to live through with it. I guess I need sometime to process all this. For the mean time, let me be. Let me feel this way. I guess, I’ just afraid I’d loose you, best friend. AN
Kareen saw him with another girl at the mall, they were holding hands and seems like they were the only two people in the world despite the crowded area. She felt her hands went numb and her knees weakened. This morning, she asked him if he could accompany her to the mall, he said he had more important things to do – so this is what was more important? Geeez! How can she be that blind? Is he doing this behind her back for three years? She should’ve listened to her friends. They were all right! He was deliberately cheating on her in front of the whole world to see, and she only knew this just now? Look at the brighter side, at least you have them now. Slowly. She inhaled all the possible air and courage that could fill her lungs – she won’t let him get away with this. Enough is enough. He lied, he cheated – what can he still possibly do to her? With a smile plastered on her face, she approached the two, “Hi Ash. Nice to see you here.” He turned pale white when he saw her, probably wishing she was just an air of his guilty conscience but sorry to say, she’s in front of him and very real. She was not afraid to look straight into his eyes; she wanted to see what lie can he still say to her when he was already caught red handed? “Why don’t you introduce me to your friend?” “This is Mara. Mara, Kareen.” The girl was indeed prettier, sexier but she thinks she’s smarter. Kareen wanted to shook her head pathetically for comparing herself with his new girl. “It’s nice to meet you, Mara. Are you his girlfriend?” she asked candidly, not wanting to break her façade. Mara, who may be innocent about her existence, just smiled at her and nodded. And when she did, Kareen almost heard another part of her heart break. I hate you Ash! “Are you his friend?” the girl asked politely in return. “Oh no.” shaking her head exaggeratedly, she let out a sarcastic laugh and said, “No of course I’m not. I am his ex-girlfriend.” Putting more emphasis on the “ex” word. She continued to smile at Mara whose brows were already meeting halfway in her forehead. “I think I need to go.” I still need to cry my heart out one last time. She once again turned to the pale Ash and slowly kissed his cheeks, “You never knew what you lost, Ash and please, stay away from me.” *** Ash was holding his phone and kept on texting words of apology but he can’t seem to make up his mind whether to send it or not. It was his fault- it has always been his. He has this habit of projecting his mistakes to Kareen. This afternoon when she saw him with Mara, he felt so guilty he cannot speak. He wished to vanish in an instance. He hoped that Kareen was a part of his imagination too. He had a lot of flings when he was with her, but she never caught him. She asked just once or twice if he was cheating on her, demanded honesty from him, yet he denied. What will he say to her? Hey! I have a new fling and she’s so good in bed we could not stop doing it. This afternoon, when he saw her eyes, he knew she finally wanted out. This is what he wanted, right? To be free from her crude lifestyle and routine works. He didn’t feel good at all. *** Lord, if he texts me in an hour I will have him back. Kareen whispered to the air. Then tears fell again, what are you doing to yourself, Kareen? Leave him. He is not worth it. He doesn’t give you respect, he cheats on you, he lies. Leave him and give yourself a break. She sat in front of her laptop and look at the screen, she was browsing her Friendster account . One by one, she deleted all their pictures together and changed her status back to single. Then, she
deleted his account from hers. Reminding herself to stop another wishful thinking and just be happy she didn’t spend another single day being fooled by him. It was painful, not mild. It was more of a crushing, substernal pain- yeah, more like a myocardial infarction so to speak. You deserve more. Kareen felt she was slowly letting go of the person she felt she loved for more than a lifetime. It was time for her to settle her nerves and that awful pain she is feeling right now. Ash was a friend of a friend; they were introduced and started out as friends too. She found him rather charming, he was openly honest about his escapades which at first she didn’t mind because after all, they were just friends. He was cute, with little eyes which seemed to smile often even when he frowns. He was a typical bad-guy person, while she was the ever goody-two-shoes. When he proposed, she was shocked, unable to bear the reality that someone like him --- who had really beautiful and sexy ex-girlfriends would come to like her. In short, it was an overwhelming feeling. She did say ‘yes’ after a couple of weeks. Kareen wasn’t even sure of her feelings. But who the heck cares? She wanted to feel excitement for once, something to add spice in her tedious life. Her friends would argue, but she kept her silence. She was known for standing for what she has decided for and she wouldn’t be shaken now. She chose this, now she has to prove to everyone that she made the right decision. She learned to love him in the craziest way she could ever imagine. She gave all of her to him --something she now wished she never did. Her schedules were always in disarray, she follows anything he said and she was almost putty in his hands. How can someone who was so sure of herself turned out to be a girl like that? But it’s too late to cry over spilled milk now, right? Well, it’s his loss. He could never find another girl who can love him the way I did. The last thing she did was to take off the ring he gave her on their first year anniversary and hide it in the most bottom part of her drawer. It’s really over. *** There she is. Josh put on his eye glasses and stared outside the window of the engineering building to get a glimpse of her. He saw her couple of nights ago with her friends walking around the field. It become their habit after coming out of the library, they just walk around, talk and laugh. That is why she caught his attention, her laugh. It made him wanted to look outside and see who owned the voice. Out of curiosity, he went one night in the library. He tried to look for them and spent almost 30 minutes before he found her sitting at the reference section with her books open and laptop still turned on. She was reviewing for an examination. He just wanted to watch her there, studying and concentrating on whatever she is doing. The girl is not the second-look type of beauty he often saw on TV and ramps, but hers was the face of sincerity and strength, of calmness and maturity. Something different, something not boring --- because rarely he could see a girl like her. What was left was for him to find out her name. Because he has a lot of friends in the library, he tried to bribe them for her ID. And it worked, after a week of stalking her: he had her name: KAREEN. *** Kareen’s friends were not in the mood for a walk, but she was. She wanted to go home, so tired that when she did, all she has to do was to lie on her bed and go once again into a dreamless sleep and not to think about him.
Yes, she still thinks about him often, sometimes, a lot of ‘what-ifs’ would just cross her mind. She tries not to entertain them and pretended everything is fine and in proper order. But deep inside her, she was still a mess. Moving on was too hard and it was deliberately breaking her one by one. Her didn’t text, not even tried calling her. He moved on with his life, why don’t you move on with yours? Maybe walking alone wasn’t a good idea after all, a lot of things were trashing inside her mind and it was too hard to stop it. No music to play because her phone was low bat, all she has was the sound of the crickets in the air. All of a sudden, an unfamiliar voice was calling her name, “Kareen!” She stopped and turned around, there was a guy coming towards her, “Do I know you?” He smiled and shook his head. He was tall, around 5 foot and 9 inches or he could pass for 6, fair, she wasn’t really sure. His eyes were three shades lighter than the usual brown color, he has glasses which she was sure has an enormous amount of lens. How did you know my name? “I am Joshua.” A brow raised in her from her face, so? She laughed sarcastically and started to walk again. There was no way she was going to talk to strangers who knew her name. Is he a stalker? “I often see you here walking with your friends…” he started to chat, not minding that she was walking a little bit faster than the usual and was not in the mood to talk to him, “I see you in the library. What are you studying for?” STALKER!!! Alarm was starting to buzz inside her brain. This guy was giving her the creeps. “I’m not a stalker. Just as curious as a cat.” He admitted. “It kills.” “Huh?” “Curiosity.” “It won’t kill you if you talk to me. I am not a dangerous person. As I said, I am Joshua, graduating chemical engineering student.” Finally, she stopped and eyed him, “What can a get from talking to you?” “A smile?” *** Ash had this obsessive thought of calling Kareen. He missed her so much. He missed her persistent texting when he can’t reply, her missed calls, her worried voice, her concerned touch, everything he grew annoyed of in the last three years. What went wrong? He doesn’t know actually. All she did was to be there for him. That was the primary reason why he fell in love with her in the first place. She was not the conventional type of girl whom he can see in bars and in malls. Kareen was different. She was Kareen after all. The weird girl whim he saw one day at a party alone, looking at her watch every five minutes and was feeling bore d. He asked a common friend to introduce them, then they started to become friends. Kareen was an obsessive-compulsive type of girl. She is more of the routine-slash-moralistic-slash-prude-slash-rule kind. An introvert. He, on the other hand, was a party boy. He loved adventure, he was up for all the crazy stuffs, he was not afraid to try new things. And lastly, he has a lot of girlfriends. A lot in one time. Then she came. For the first time, someone made him feel he is important. That there is more to a relationship than sex and companionship, there is still love and friendship. Who will blame him from jumping from one relationship to another? He grew up feeling unwanted by both his parents; there was no security in his life. Everything was temporary. As h never had a home; all he had was his friends who also sometimes weren’t there for him. His family was himself.
She made him felt love and wanted. He was surprised when she agreed to become his girlfriend and was just so glad. He remembered it was the happiest moment of his life. What happened? He got bored, he got so pissed off with her routines, he thought, she was too rigid not knowing the sacrifices she made just to be with him. Is he too late to realize it now? Do you want to loose her, Ash? He asked himself. Admit it, you love her. You never gave this much value to anyone than her. He ran his palms on his face, welcoming the headache with both arms wide open. If he wanted to win her back, he should start somewhere. Problem is, he doesn’t know how and where to start. *** “So, did you walk?” Julia asked when they once again resume their hobby in the field. Kareen almost laughed when she heard the question. Yesterday was the weirdest night in her life. A stranger approached her and talk to her, to just realize they were already walking around for hours talking about anything. He was right when he said he can make her smile. She shouldn’t mind it, maybe, it was just a one time deal. Who the hell would like to talk to a boring girl like her? “Yes, I walked.” Then Ruby asked further, “With whom?” “Why?: Julia grinned, “Someone must be with you!” she said, “Because if not, you’ll tell us a simple no but you didn’t.” She replied with a dry laugh. They must not know she talked to a stranger, “I’m glad that you’re with me now. It’s lousy to walk alone.” Her friends eyed her suspiciously, they don’t believe her, she can tell. “Kareen!” her eyes widened with surprise hearing the voice. They all turned around and looked for the owner of it, “Hi.” “You know him?” “Hey Josh. Nice to see you again.” “My class finishes at 8p.m. everyday and I saw you walking here by the window.” He explained pointing at the window on the 3rd floor of the engineering building. He’s been watching me? “Can I join you?” Before she could reply, her friends warmly agreed to his suggestion, “Of course you can. Since Kareen forget her manners, we will introduce ourselves. I am Julia, this is Ruby. We are her friends.” Josh smiled kindly and offered a handshake which her two friends gladly accepted, “I know. I always see you with her.” Ruby stared at her for a while and mysteriously smiled, “You see us with her? Well, I haven’t seen you. Where did you meet?” Oh no! No. No. No. He’s going to mention it. I’ll be dead. And she wasn’t wrong. Josh, the jolly Josh narrated what happened yesterday. Julia and Ruby were both grinning when he finished his story, “Oh, so he’s the one who’s with you yesterday. Interesting.” She shot her friend a warning look, “Can we go now? I think I’m already tired.” “Can I bring you home?” “Oh my gosh!” Ruby gasped, “He’s bringing you home. And to think Ash didn’t even bother seeing you!” Kareen turned red. Is it really necessary to mention his name? “Don’t worry. It’s her ex-boyfriend.” Julia gave the explanation to the confuse Josh who was surprise to hear the name.
She saw the guy’s face lighten up, “Oh good. So can I bring you home?” *** Ash wanted to light the cigarette but then he remembered Kareen doesn’t like it when he smokes, so instead of lighting it, he threw the whole pack away including the lighter. He must be crazy to stop smoking when nobody is asking him to. Smoking was the only way he could relax and the only thing that could make his nerves settled. They often had fights because of it. “How many sticks did you consume today?” Kareen was already frowning when she saw him lighting another cigarette from his front pocket. “You know I stopped counting.” “When will you stop?” “I don’t know.” “You have plans of stopping?” She hated smoking a lot and has been pestering him of stopping since time immemorial. She told him that she would break up with him after a year if he won’t stop. But she didn’t. Probably for the first time in years, she didn’t stick to her word. She stayed with him. And he was too stupid not to appreciate what she did for him. All the little things she did. He could not even spare her a little time, even just to listen to any of her angst. Now he wanted her badly. He wanted her words of wisdom, her annoying reminders, her hugs, her kisses. He just wanted all of her back. Desperately. He wanted to tell her how much he loves her, how much he cares of her and how much a mess he is without her. She is the other half of him and no one could ever replace her. Howeve r, how can he tell her that when she has to plans of talking to him anymore and he didn’t know where to start apologizing for the wrong things he did? *** Josh looked like a stalker already. His friends had been teasing him of exercising every night an d looking like a dog following her. But he’s happy with it. Sometimes, he makes her smile, sometimes he wished he knew what was she thinking the moment her gaze flew so far. Who is Ash? Well, we both have the SH on the lasy part of our name. the only difference between us is I won’t cause you any pain. He must be out of his mind. There was no girl who made him feel like this in less than a month. She was extraordinary but she didn’t seem to know it. Her self-esteem must’ve dropped so low. What did the former boyfriend do to her? After his last class he went into the library and just sat a table across them. He didn’t want to disturb or impose his presence when they study, so he just waits for them to finish and go with them walking. One day while they were strolling and her two friends left them behind to talked, she asked something, “Why are you doing this?” “Doing what?” Kareen shook her head and sighed, taking her bag from his hands, she replied, “Forget it.” “Waiting for you to finish studying? Going out with you every night to walk? Texting you everyday?” She stopped and gazed at him; waiting for a confirmation of what was she trying to ask a while a go. He stopped as well and smiled, “I like you. Is there anything wrong with it?” he was half-afraid of telling her how he felt, but he doesn’t care. He wanted to tell her anyway and delaying it everyday will just add up to his agony.
She laughed at what he said and continued on walking. “You don’t believe me, do you?” Her eyes rolled, “If you’re too bored with your life, please spare me.” This time it was him who laughed, “Who said anything about boredom?” *** “Are you sure this is for me?” Kareen asked one more time when someone handed her a strand of white tulips after she got her bag from the library assistant. Her brows met. There were a lot of people who knew that her favorite were tulips. But when she saw the flowers, it reminded her of him. Nah. It can’t be him. She remembered what he said to her in the past. “Are you afraid to loose me?” he looked at her as if she was loosing her mind, “Just asking.” “Yes, you’re having paranoid thoughts again?” “No.” she denied, she just wanted to ask the question for the sake of securing her heart, “If you loose me, are you going to win me back?” This time, he laughed and shook his head, “Maybe no.” That was the most painful thing he told her. She turned her back on him and started to walk away. He didn’t even follow her. So why the hell would she thought this flower is from him? Stop it, Kareen. When she went outside the library, Julia and Ruby were already there waiting for her and gasped when they saw what she was holding, “That one is for you?” “That’s what the assistant told me.” “Is that from Josh?” Ruby questioned curiously. “No, it’s not from me.” He was already standing behind her friends and was staring at the flower, “You like tulips?” Julia butted in, “She’s crazy about them!” He just smiled and took the bag from her, “Awww… I wish I will have a boyfriend like Josh. He’s so sweet.” “So, when will you agree for a date?” He had been asking her since he told her that he likes her, but she was adamant about agreeing with it. She wanted her singleness, okay, being miserable for a while. Entering into another relationship while her heart was still aching is suicide, she won’t be making the same mistakes she did. “That would be a no.” he answered his own question for her but sill smiling, “It’s okay. I can still wait.” “We won’t be walking today, Josh.” Ruby informed as they walk away from the library. “Why?” “Because it’s my mother’s birthday, our family is dining out.” “Do you want me to bring you to the restaurant? I’d like to meet your parents.” Her friends giggled and she dropped the tulips she was holding. Is he for real? Why can’t Ash be like him? “Where are we going?” Ash asked impatiently when she turned the car around. She smiled at him, “We are going to meet my parents. We’re having dinner at home.” His brows met and he ordered her to stop the car, “You didn’t ask me if I want to.” “You don’t want to meet my parents, why?” confusion rocked her brain cells. They were already a year and a half, why does he always say no when she was asking him to meet her parents? He closed his eyes and took a deep breathe, “It’s not that I don’t want to, but you see I’m not yet ready to meet your parents. I’m afraid they won’t like me.” Three years later, he still wasn’t ready.
*** Ash realized if he wanted her back, he should start with rehabilitating himself to be more right for Kareen. He will change his ways, drop all his baggage and win her. He will have to or else he’ll be miserable for the rest of his life. He will do everything she wanted him to and this time whole heartedly. Anything, anything just to have her back. He started to stop smoking and eat candy instead; sometimes he thought he’ll be loosing his mind especially when he could feel his heart beating too fast. I can do this, I can do this, have been a mantra inside his head. He deleted all the girls who flirted with him in his friendster account and ignored them on his yahoo messenger. He cut off his drinking, he comes home early. He learned to forgive; he stayed away from his friends who kept on pushing him to other girls. He did well with his work and he goes to church during Sundays. His patience was longer now. He had beein waiting for his father over 20 minutes inside the restaurant. When he looked around, his heart almost leapt when he saw her. She was holding the tulips he sent her today. He was planning on courting her again. But first, he needs to fix himself. So what he will do is just to send flowers, notes, everything that she likes but discretely. Someone was behind her, holding her stuffs. It was a guy. *** Josh was shy. Of course he was. He just had this very good way of looking so confident in asking Kareen if he could meet her parents. He won’t join them of course; it was a family dinner after all. He still knew his limitations. When they reach the table, her parents were not yet there. They were still on their way, so he insisted on waiting with her. “Where are your parents?” it was the first personal question Kareen ever asked him. “They’re not here. My mom is working in New York as a nurse. My father is an engineer in Boston. During special occasions either they go home or I go to them.” Unlike other children of OFWs, his parents made sure he grew up responsible and not holding any grudge against them. Why would he? They made sure they have an open communication, goes to see him every singl e important event in his life and made him understand why they can’t be together all the time. They made him realize that life is his to ruin, but he always has a choice of making the best out of it. She just smiled. “Isn’t it hard for you?” “No. it was hard at some point but they never made me feel I was abandoned.” “You are very lucky to have parents like them.” A grin formed on his face and his brows danced, “Do you want to be their daughter in law?” “What a subtle way of proposing Joshua Thomas. But no thanks.” Then there goes her worried look again, “There is nothing wrong with you. It’s just that I’m still in the process of nursing a broken heart.” “Well, I may not be a nurse, but I sure can help you nurse that broken heart of yours. If you’ll le t me…” He once again offered. Josh wasn’t in a hurry to have her as his girlfriend not will it come to a point that he will force her to say yes, just seeing her everyday and making her smile makes him happy already. A shy smile broke on her lips, “That’s generous of you, Josh. But thanks again. I’m glad you are my friend.” “Patience has always been my virtue.”
*** Kareen’s parents came thirty minutes later, they were caught on traffic. Seeing him with this guy was a surprise to them. She already told her mom and dad she broke up with Ash, “Finally after three years, I’m meeting you!? Blood escaped her face, did her mom just thought that this guy was Ash? Mom! Josh just smiled at her parents and didn’t utter any word, “Ma, this is Joshua, a friend of mine. Joshua, my mother and father.” She leaned and whispered to her mom, “He’s not Ash.” “Oh.” Her mother just laughed at what she said and kissed Josh on the cheek, “Would you like to join us?” “No ma’am. But thank you. I need to get going. Happy birthday!” He shook hands with her father and kissed her mother once again. When her parents finally settled down, her mother said, “That was a very nice boy. If he courts you, I will immediately agree.” “You don’t even know him.” Kareen smiled at her father’s retort, it was so typical of him. “I have a mother’s instinct.” “Hi Kareen.” The smile froze on her face when she heard the voice, was that another pigment of her wild imagination? Yet, when she turned around, she saw him. Standing in front of her, and her parents, wearing a red polo shirt without his usual pair of earrings and not smelling an ashtray one bit. “Hi.” She replied curtly. Go away! “How are you?” Ash continued on asking. “Good.” Can’t you see I don’t want you around? Go! Leave me alone! Much to her surprise, he turned to her mother and introduced himself, “Good evening Ma’am, sir. I am Ashton Louie.” The old lady’s jaw dropped in shock, “The ex boyfriend?” *** Ash didn’t really stay. After what her mother blurted out, he chose to smile and gave himself a graceful exit. Following the incident, weird things started to happen in her life. Tulips were increasing in numbers everyday; sometimes there were even notes on it. Just simple notes telling her to take care, to smile, to eat well, actually they’re petty stuffs but they made her more confuse than she already is. Where these tulips did come from? No, she didn’t want to entertain the idea that those tulips were from him. He could not possibly do these things. If her so-called secret admirer was giving her tulips, Josh was giving her blue roses. She finds it really, really thoughtful, especially when she found out he still orders it from Cebu. It was almost six months later when she decided to agree in dating Josh. It was more out of gratitude for being patient with her. Maybe it was time that she gives this guy who had been there beside her, being her friend and not asking for anything in return, a chance he was waiting for. After all, it seems Ash was happy with his life right now. She needed to move on as well. The doorbell rang a few times, “Wait.” She shouted at the top of her voice. What kind of visitor is this person? Can’t he wait a second longer? Literally, Kareen ran her way towards the gate and peeped before she opened it. Behold, outside the gate were bouquet of tulips and there was a car parked across her house, but the moment she unlocked their gate and before she could step another foot to the ground, it accelerated away. Was that the mystery guy?
She stared at the flowers for quite a long time before she decided to pick it up, the moment she did, a note dropped from it. It was a line from her favorite song, ‘I’ll dream of different ways just to make you glow.’ *** “Where are we going?” Kareen was far more than surprised when Josh asked her to wake up early in the morning for their date. What place could possibly be open at five o’clock in the morning? Josh was in his street clothes as always, he was wearing a pink t-shirt today and a pair of checkered shorts, baseball cap on his head and a black jacket on his lap, “Don’t worry, I promised your mother I’ll bring you whole tonight.” Her brows met, the car was speeding towards the outskirts of town. A picnic? Where? In the mountain? The guy, however, was very persistent in telling her to be patient. Why can’t he just tell her where they are going? What is wrong with it? We are going to the airport. She thought. Yes, this is the way to the airport, but what are they doing here? Joshua finally parked his car and opened the door for her, she was not going down unless he tells her where he is taking her. The guy is tolerant, instead of stomping his feet he bent over for their eyes to meet and smiled, “Do you trust me? I’m not going to do anything that you don’t like or anything that could hurt you.” “Where are we going?” he took something from his back pocket and handed it out to her, “Plane tickets to Manila?” “It’s all that I could tell you, it’s round trip so rest assured we’ll be home tonight.” He offered his hands, “So, can we go now? We may be late for our flight.” It was a long journey, but much to her surprise, he took her to an amusement park, Enchanted Kingdom. So much for their first date. *** Kareen was smiling from ear to ear when she arrived home. That was the most amazing date she ever experienced, it was not that romantic, but definitely sweet. Something different for her, she brought home a big El Dar stuffed toy. She refused his offer to bring her home because she knew he was already too tired from the trip. She stopped at the door when she saw who was sitting comfortably on their living room talking animatedly with her mom, Ashton, on his hands was a bouquet of tulips. Is he the one? “She’s here.” Kareen kissed her mother hello, “Do you need something?” “He’s been here since four o’clock.” Her mother informed. “So I suggest I’ll leave you two alone so that you could talk.” She frowned, “No ma, you can stay, this won’t take long.” But her mother played deaf and still left. Kareen settled herself across him, placing El Dar on her lap, “Talk.” “This is for you.” “Just put it there.” Then silence. She could feel her heart beating so fast, crying will be the last thing I will do in front of you. “What are you doing here?” finally she asked him. She can’t understand why he is here in front of her. After six months of not contacting her, asking her for an apology, why the sudden presence? Did realization come in just now?
“I love you. I still love you. I will always love you.” He told her softly. It almost made her cry at the same time laugh. If you had told me that a day after I told you to go away, I would have run my way towards you. “Wow.” She exclaimed in sarcasm. Left speechless for a while, she finally found her voice, “Don’t you think it’s too late?” The million dollar question came, “Do you still love me?” “I do.” Kareen admitted and added, “But I don’t want you back anymore.” She wasn’t sure with her last statement though. All she wanted to happen now was not him to go out of their house and leave her alone. She was starting to get confused again. “Why?” Is he going to make this more complicated? “I was so sure of myself, of what to do. But when we were together I wasn’t that sure anymore. It has always been about you, you never asked about me.” Then out of nowhere, tears fell. Geez. But still decided to continue, she wanted to tell him these since she can’t remember when, and perhaps there would be no next time anymore, “I am through begging anything from you. You see, it’s a tiring task to do. I am through with loving you because the pain was too much to consider a second chance. I’ll find someone who will take care of me because I am tired of taking care of somebody else.” *** If Kareen thought it was the last time she will see him, she was dead wrong. Ashton seemed to be courting her again, or is it the guilt that is making him do it? No matter how much she wanted not to think of him, he has this way of slipping into her mind. One morning, when she woke up, he was there waiting on thei r gate. He brought them breakfast. When she checked the clock it was just around four in the morning. Then, there was one Sunday when both her and her parents were surprised because at five in the morning, he was already outside their gate and told her mom he wanted to go to church with them. He never goes to church! Admit it, Kareen, it was a surprise and you find it amazing. In their 3-year relationship, she can never remember when he woke up before nine in the morning and nor he was making all these efforts. She and Joshua were still dating and Ash didn’t seem to mind it. They never crossed paths anyway. What made her more puzzled was what his friends told her one day she went out with Joshua. “So if it isn’t Kareen.” Harold greeted, as usual he smelled of alcohol and smoke. She just went out of the rest room and was on her way back to the table where Joshua was waiting for her. “Hi Harold, long time no see.” “What did you do to our friend?” She laughed, “What are you talking about?” I did not do anything to him, he did something to me. And it is still my fault? Did you ever know what he did to me? “He never goes out with us anymore. He prefers to stay at home with his family because of you.” “Did he tell you to tell me that?” she was almost pissed off and wanted to walk out. She did not ask him to spend time with his family and leave his cursed friends behind or even his girlfriends, in fact, she doesn’t care what he does anymore. He can go to hell and surf in the waves of fire and she wouldn’t even mind. Harold shook his head, “We don’t talk anymore. You don’t like us, remember?” She bit her lips, “Yes, I don’t like you. But I don’t have any business with your friend anymore. We broke up months ago. If he wants to change his ways, I’m not aski ng him to do it anymore, he’s too late.” Before he could even reply, she chose to leave.
Why the sudden confusion, Kareen? You were so sure you don’t want him back. You said so yourself. Are you changing your mind? He got the best of you, and made the worst of you. What about Josh? Don’t you feel anything from him? “Is there something wrong, Kareen?” Josh worriedly asked. Kareen swallowed a gasped of surprise when she heard his voice, “No.” she denied, “Nothing is wrong.” *** Joshue could sense that something is wrong. Kareen will say no, but there was a strange thing in her eyes that would tell him, he needed to know something. “I saw his car the other day. He was early.” He stated in a very nonchalant manner but his heart was breaking. “Who?” “Your ex-boyfriend.” Silence. Nobody spoke, he could hear her breathing and he was almost close to hell as the pain in his heart would suggest. “I love you from the first time I saw you on that 3rd floor window. I saw a girl who is not only beautiful inside, but also outside. You are intellectually enticing and there is a never a boring day with you.” She smiled at his words but didn’t look at him, “Funny, I never thought about that before.” “It’s still him, is it? You almost lost your soul because of him.” “You helped me find it.” Kareen finally turned to him and held both his hands, “I appreciate everything you did for me. You were patient, kind and so unselfish. You make me smile.” “But I can’t make you happy.” *** Ashton has been working for late hours since Monday and he was tired, but he got to finish his work before he goes home. “Ash, someone’s looking for you.” Fiona, his friend, announced. “Bring him here please.” And much to his surprise, his visitor was the guy he saw with Kareen, he’s the one who had been dating her since they broke up. What is he doing here? “You one lucky bastard, you know that?” he started while walking towards him, he seated in front of his table without his permission. “You’re luckier, you have her.” “I deserve her, you know. She’s better off with me than you. You made her cry, miserable, so bad she didn’t know herself anymore. I can take care of her way much better than you did. I cannot hurt her. I couldn’t bring myself to make her cry. She’s special. I love her maybe more than you do or did. I can show her how much I love her in different ways which cannot hurt her.” Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Is that why you’re here? “But you know what I can’t do?” he laughed and stood at his feet, “I cannot make her happy. Because for the love of God, no matter what you did she’s still in love with you.” That was a grenade he was too happy to catch. “She does?” his heart almost jumped out of his shirt and the relief he was feeling was too intense. He nodded, “Yes, she does. Just promise me three things and I promise to stay out of your way.” “Gladly.” He would do anything for this guy. “First, you will allow us to be friends. Second, love her and don’t make her cry and third, make her happy or else I’ll win her for sure this time.” Ashton’s smile was from ear to ear, “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you’ll remain her friend for life.”
“Good. That’s all actually. I need to go. Nice meeting you.” “You are?” “Joshua.” He extended his hands out to him, They shook hands as perfect gentlemen, “Ashton.” *** “Kareen, there is a box for you downstairs.” Her father called her. She rushed down the stairs and looked at the box on their living room. There was no return address, just another note (it was still from her favorite song) Why won’t you ever know that I’m in love with you, that I am still in love with you. Her brows met, That couldn’t be. She opened up the box and saw all the books of her favorite authors were there! Kareen laughed and took one book at a time from the box. Some of which she already had a copy but most, she doesn’t have. It took her a long time before she can have a copy with some of them. How did this person managed to get these for her? “I wanted to apologize from the start, but I didn’t know how.” Ash was on their front door carrying a tulip on his hand, “I wanted to tell you how much I love you and I regret breaking your heart. I didn’t know how much you mean to me until you were no longer there. So I decided to step back and change myself, mostly for myself and for you. Because I want that the next time we meet, I will no longer have my baggage. You deserve a guy far better than what I was. I want you back, Kareen. I want you back badly. I will never hurt you again. I love you so much.” She rushed into him and threw her arms around his neck and cried, “You just made me cry.” “I love you, Kareen. Please have me back.” She looked at him and smiled, “With all the books you sent a bookworm, I can’t say no. I love you, Ash. I trust you not to break your promise this time.” He kissed her forehead lightly, “I won’t” and hugged her one more time, “This is just like heaven.”
“Hi, my name is Jen. Are we, by any chance, disturbing you?” Jen plastered the sweetest smile on her lips to insure a possible rejection from this person. The guy was staring at her and her friends for a while now. He was wearing a serious expression, which totally matched his green Lacoste polo shirt and his brown slacks. Since they enter ed the restaurant his eyes have been glued on them. If they weren’t noisy, she would’ve bet that he’s ogling at their beauty. He lifted his eyes from the book he was reading and looked at her, What a strange man. She thought. “Yes, you are disturbing me. Kindly tell your friends to lower down their voices because they don’t own the place.” She was taken aback. That was rude. Before there was a chance of thinking another rebuttal someone showed up, “Hi cuz. I see you have met my friend, Jen…” it was Kate. Finally, she has arrived. So he is Kate’s cousin. Interesting. Jen grinned as ideas start to form inside her naughty mind. “You’re cousin?” Kate winked, “My intelligent and handsome cousin, Mikail. You can call him Mike.” Her friend whispered something into his ears that made him scowl and shook his head. “You sure?” She pulled her friend and asked, “What did you say?” “Asked him to join us…” He flatly refused? Geez. “You sure you don’t want to join us? You could use a little fun in your life.” She just can’t believe that her charm doesn’t work with this guy. Is he a stone? Well, he could surely pass for one. His brow rose, “I am having fun.” “Jen!!!” Her friend was almost laughing, “Com’on, leave my cousin alone. Let’s go?” She can’t help it. Curiosity? The guy was utterly rude, introvert to the nth level and there goes the same adjective again, interesting. What would it be like for him to go out of hi s comfort zone? They have already seated and have their usual introductory chats when her friend elbowed her, “Stop looking at my cousin! He’s blushing!” Kate scolded her. “I’m a little fascinated.” Gem rolled her eyeballs, “Not another project, Jen! Have mercy on the guy!!” Her friend offered some facts for her, “He graduated top of his class since kindergarten and now, he’s taking up law.” “Boring…” Jen acted as if she’s suppressing a yawn. “And guess what?” Lucy up for a new trivia, she grinned and told them, “No girlfriend since birth!” Her eyes widened with amusement and awe. “For real?!” “Jen?! What in the world are you planning?” finally Ann asked. Knowing her, her friends were almost a hundred percent sure that something is cooking inside the cauldron in her brain. Her lips pouted, “I have no idea yet.” But I will have one soon. *** Mikail didn’t know if he should be flattered with the attention given to him or should he be aghast. Kate’s unbelievable friend, Jen --- was making him a conquest. Maybe it was a little rude that he snapped at her on their first meeting. It has been months since then. But she was a little unbearable; she made a point to always pester him on a daily basis. It was not fair! Theirs was a game of wills --- hers is the will to pester him and his was the will to totally ignore her. It was a formidable task, harder than his examinations in law school. Even his cousin Kate wouldn’t make a move to tell her friend to back off. He understood that she loved the both of them dearly. And she enjoyed watching him being tormented and taunted by her friend. What a refreshing view. He was blushing to hell and she was grinning from ear to ear. Where is the justice in that? Maybe it was time to change tactics. After all, Jen had all the fun. Why can’t he? Suddenly a light bulb lit above his head. Time for witty rebuttals. ***
“Hi Mikail!” Jen greeted him as she entered the living room. She sat down immediately beside him, didn’t wait for his invitation because it may take them ages before he notices her and even centuries to let her sit beside him. Mike barely glanced at her. He was giving a 101% of concentration in what he was reading. And literally, he was ignoring her. She almost frowned, Why is he difficult to deal with? Like those autistic kids in the pedia tric wa rd. Then she suddenly remembered something, “Mike, have you ever wonder ed why is it when people asked something about astronomy, they always end pointing upwards in the heaven? Although we we’r e taught that the world is rotating and the moon could probably below the earth?” Mike dropped his book and stared at her, for a long time. Jen gasped for breath --- what in the world was that for? He just made her uncomfortable! She should be the one making him feel uncomfortable, making him blush up to the top of his ears. Or better yet, make him smile. But instead, he was the one who’s making her flustered and made her blood rushed in her senses. What is wrong with the way he looks at me? She hardly remembered she put on clothes. Then out of nowhere, he grinned. Shook his head violently and laughed. “Did I say something wrong?” suddenly, she was the one annoyed, he kept on laughing and laughing in front of her. I didn’t remember telling him a joke. Is Kate’s cousin sane? Kate should probably major in psychiatric nursing – just to make sure his cousin maintain a normal mind. Jen frowned. “That is a very simple question, Jen. Classical conditioning! You know that, don’t you? Pavlov’s theory. The dog salivating the moment he rang the bell? Or should I remind you of it?” he offer ed. How could he catch her off guard?! How could she let this happen? She needs to think of something but she can’t! Her mind went blank and she could feel her mind swirling, regurgitating every ounce of knowledge she has. “Caught your tongue, dear?” Mike moved his chair in front of her, and placed his arms on the sides of her chair. “Now I have a question for you…” Now, he’s the one scaring me. *** Mike almost wanted to congratulate himself for pulling of this act. He never knew he has the capacity and the guts to tease her. Finally, a change of luck. She was the one in the hot seat and not him. Jubilation! Jen was all red, which make her a little cuter than she already is. Her eyes were shouting that she was very uneasy; sweat went out of her forehead. “Ready, princess?” She forced a smile and angled her head away from him, “Can you move a little bit farther, I seem to be out of breath.” “But I like this kind of position. I have no glasses on today, you see. It makes me see you clearer.” His grin widened, “Now, where was I?” Did I mention you look pretty wh en you blush? And I hate how my h eart flutters when you are teasing me? Makes me want to kiss you so metimes. Erase! He cursed his thoughts and attempted to go back to what he was saying. Ah. The question. “Smile, Jen. The chair doesn’t look like an inch of an electric chair. You look like you are being executed.” “Is this my punishment?” “To be in my arms?” Acted slightly hurt, he moved an inch away from her. “I thought it’s heaven?” “Mike!!!!” He laughed softly, “Answer the question okay? Here is the question: A woman went to her mother's funeral and met the man of her dreams ther e. He was handsome, well -dressed, courteous, well -spoken... But in all the mourning and mental confusion that is typical to burying a loved one she failed to get his name or any contact information on him. Two weeks later she killed her sister. Why did the woman kill her sister?” he loved that riddle and his answer was a bit surprising. He wonders what her answer would be. Would she have the same inclination as he had? Her brows met, perhaps thinking what her answer would be. “First thing that comes into your mind, princess…” “Why are you calling me princess ?” Jen asked him hastily before she could even answer one of his questions. “Because you look like one. Now, answer please?”
She sighed first then shook her head, unsure of what to answer mor e or less, “Maybe because she wants to see him again…” Mike smirked, “Now that’s a criminal mind…” Jen’s mouth dropped in shock. “What?!” “Would you like to have a date with me, princess? My treat?” he suddenly asked seriously. She looked at him as if he’s loosing his mind. Am I scaring her? Yeah, looks like it. Then after eons of years, she told him the answer that made his shoulders shrugged, “No.” *** Jen was a bit confused. Everything is in proper order, and then went topsy-turvy. Mikail was the culprit. Why the unexpected change? Suddenly, he was becoming different. No more the silent and frown-faced man that he usually is. He became more animated when he talked to her, teased her most of the time, and for Pete’s sake! He was flirting with her! Sometimes it was scaring her. Especially when he would start to stare at her, it was giving her goose bumps! She could never read him. He was supposed to be busy reviewi ng for the bar exam, she wondered wher e did he find the time to bully her --- that’s right --- bully her!!! He found ways to let her know that he exists or that he was in the room. And it was getting into her nerves. So one day, she decided to change her number – gave it to a few friends. Only to realize tha t Kate hand it over heartedly to Mikail. Yes, they wer e cousin and she could probably not hide anything from him knowing that her friend will betray her. Nah. I can’t be angry at Ka te for long. W e have been friends fo r decad es. What Jen did was just stay out of Mike’s way as possible and don’t mind him the moment he came in the room. Ignore his text messages and just live like the usual. Surely he will get tired of following her around. But something strange happened… Kate invited her for lunch and she was a little bit late already. She was walking very fast when she noticed a too familiar figure near the restaurant where she and Kate were supposed to meet. Jen had a bad feeling about this. She knew she had to follow her intuition and to cancel their lunch. However, before she could even turn about face, her friend was already calling her name, “Geeez Jen! You’re late!” she exclaimed as she pushed through several people to get to her and gave her a bear hug. A frown crossed her lovely face, she dragged her friend to one side and asked, “What is he doing here?” pouting her unlip-balmed lip towards Mikail. She could see guilt painting on Kate’s face, “He’s… he’s going to join us.” “What?!” definitely, she could not believe that her friend turned against her again. Get tha t into your thick head, Jen. Blood is thicker than water. But still! Her friend could have forewarned her. Then an apt rationalization was spoken from her ever witty friend, “Duh! If I tell you my cousin will join us, you won’t bother to come.” Point taken! “Don’t worry, the rest of our friends will be joining us…” Kate mentioned as if it will alleviate all the discomfort that she’s feeling right now. She loved Kate, truly, but the moment her friend starts to pair her off with Mikail, phobia develops. Why can’t Kate understand that she doesn’t have --- even a little itty bitty feeling --- for her cousin? He has been tor menting her for two years or so which had been very unfair! It was just one year! One year that she has out there teasing him and she has been long suffering for it. Jen didn’t like that it will come to a point that she will have to humiliate Mike in front of someone for him to leave her alone. He is intelligent, why can’t he sense that she doesn’t like it when he’s around? But obviously her friend Kate doesn’t understand that either. She was too eager to pair the both of them that sometimes it really sucks. She sure loved her friend’s loyalty to her family. On the other hand, can’t she be loyal to her even once? In a while, her friends started to arrive one by one. Mikail didn’t dare sit on their table not until th ey are all complete. Did he think that he can use his friends as armors against her? He wished!!! Good for him that he didn’t try to say anything the whole duration of their lunch. Her friends’ eyes have been like tennis balls – looking to and fro her and Mike – waiting for something. What are they up to?
Then finally they finished eating, Mike asked, “Jen do you want some ice cream?” She refused, “No thanks.” “Mikail I want sundae!” Lucy gladly told him. The rest gave their orders to the waiter. “How are you, Jen?” he asked softly. “Good.” “I’ll be getting the bar soon…” “I know. Good luck.” *** God help him! Ho w would he do this? Mikail sighed. He’s been practicing this speech whole week! Why is it that this one is harder than those books he is studying at home? “Jen, what are your futur e plans?” She stared at him in both amazement and annoyance, perhaps anxious that they are surrounded by friends – “I have many plans. What about you?” much to his surprise, he didn’t expect the politeness from her. “After I pass the bar, I have to go to the US to train for a few months, when I return ---“ Damn ! Get over it!! “Can you wait for me until I return?” He heard Kate chuckled, some of her friends gasped but Jen’s cheeks were tinged in pink, “Wait?” “You see, after I finished training abroad I plan to formally court you and ---“ his head snapped to the left, Jen just laid her palms on his face. Her friends’ jaws were almost dropped in awe. “What courting are you talking about?” “Was that a proposal?” he heard Gem’s voice curiously asking. “Was that a no?” Ann’s voice came in second. Jen stood up out of the blue, glared at him and the rest of her friends, shaking her head in disbelief. “Why can’t you just leave me alone? Stop playing games with me, I’m tired of it! Get out of my life!” *** Yet, it didn’t stop Mikail from pursuing Jen, although he must admit, he stayed away from her a bit just to calm her nerves. His feelings never changed. It just grew big everyday. Why can’t she give him a chance? Just a little chance for him to show how much she meant to him – he won’t expect for anything in return. Kate has been working really hard to bring the two of them together. However, Jen had been stubborn. She didn’t want to talk to him anymore. His cousin is getting the blame – thanks to him. He caused an awful scene at the restaurant, giving a lot of people to talk about behind their backs. He was a bit thankful because at least, he was having his attention diverted to his review for the bar examinations. Maybe if he’s a full-pledged lawyer, Jen would be impressed. For certainly she wasn’t impressed with any of his antics. She was merely annoyed. He just wish, one day Jen would get out from his dreams. And be real in his arms… Maybe all he has to do is to wait. *** After one year… “You are being too hard on him.” Kate’s voice was filled with irritation. She was stomping her feet, her brows rose in annoyance. She came in moments ago to invite her to Mikail’s victory party. And she downright refused to go there. Now, it resulted to this drama. Jen’s mouth dropped open, “I am not!” she denied immediately. “Yes you are!! Mikail has been hopelessly in love with you since --- well, since ages ago!! Why don’t you give him a chance? I think he deserves it!” She massaged her templ es, and wished her friend will just vanish in a jiffy. “Kate, how many times do I have to tell you that my relationship with Mike will never reach the intimate level?!” “You didn’t even try!”
She can’t believe she’s having this conversation with one of her best friends, “My God Kate! Do you know what you are talking about? We will end up hurting each other…” Kate shook her head, “You just need to give him this chance, Jen. It’s all he wanted. If he got hurt in the end, well, it’s his damn fault for being persistent. But at least, you gave him the chance.” Her friend sighed, “Mike has everything, Jen. And he just topped the bar exams…” “You wanted me to be your gift?” She asked nonchalantly, almost cold. “No! I just want you to think it over. Just give it a thought. Maybe it is worth it, maybe you will find something in him that you like if you get to know him better.” “Kate…” “I never ever charged you with what you did to my cousin in the restaurant. You kept on hurting him piece by piece when all he wanted to do was to love you…” *** Jen is not sure if she made the right decision of being here in their house. Kate was extremely ecstatic but when she looked at Mike, she didn’t expect his serious actions towards her. He gave her a cold shoulder that she never anticipated. She found him alone near the pool, away from friends and his “Grant me this fervent wish, family. He stared right through the water as if thinking about something very seriously. At first, she was a bit ambivalent about approaching him, but her princess.” concern grew. He looks suicidal. She decided to go to him before she changed her mind. If he gives her a cold treatment again, she would just “What is it?” storm out of the place and return to her friends as if nothing happened. “Hi Mikail!” she greeted. “Love me…” “Jen! Didn’t think you will still speak to me…” She didn’t think either. After what happened in the restaurant, it was very hard for her to even look at him in the eye. “It’s your victory party. Why do you look so sad? You have everything Mikail. You have an almost perfect family, a wonderful cousin, friends and topped the bar exams. What more can you asked for?” “If I ask for one more, won’t you think I am abusing?” Jen shook her head, “No, I won’t think so. You hardly asked anything for yourself. So I guess I’ll make an exception on this one. So what is your wish?” “Ar e you a fairy god-mother?” She grinned, “No, I’m your princess remember?” Mike seemed to be short of breath as he looked at her intently. Should she be scared? Start to run? She had inkling what he would ask. Kate’s words came back into her, Why don’t you just give it a try? She won’t loose anything right? She will be doing him a favor. Then all of a sudden, he gathered her in his arms and whispered in her ears, “Grant me this fervent wis h, princess.” “What is it?” she wasn’t sure whose heart was pounding, hers or his. This was the closest possible distance between her and Mike. Almost a breathe away; it made her a little uncomfortable and giddy. An emotion that was a bit foreign but quite familiar arouse from somewher e in the pit of her heart. “Love me…” *** The demand to be loved is the greatest of all arrogant presumptions . Mikail read that adage somewher e, but he refused to let his thoughts linger into that direction. He did not demand, he reasoned out. He just asked Jen nicely if she could try to love him. There is a big difference between the two. He was just relieved that she agreed without someone telling her to do so. He knew Kate has been working her ass off in pairing them, but he would not appreciate it if she pushed Jen too hard in giving him this chance. After almost five years of wishing for her --- dreaming her --- she’s right in his arms. Euphoric is not enough adjective to describe what he feels. But the offer has been almost too good to be true, well for him, it already is. A trial relationship --- a pseudorelationship. Mike thinks that is fair enough for him – he considered it as a chance that he has been waiting for. He’s willing to do almost anything to make the r elationship real and show Jen how lucky she would be if he would become her boyfriend.
For now, he would just do anything to make her happy. He just prayed that she too will give it her best shot --- that she too was considering to make this relationship work. It has been months, and so far they had the best time when they are together. During their first dates, there had been several awkward moments but soon disappeared after several more. They started dating exclusively, spending quality time toge ther in restaurants, beaches, movies or even at home. He loved cooking for her. Jen let him hold her hand sometimes – and so fair it is enough for him. He can never ask for intimacies if she wasn’t ready for any of it. “Where are we going?” he asked her. Jen dropped by their law firm late in the afternoon and he invited him to go out. “Calm down.” Jen laughed softly as she drives his brand new Silver Chevrolet Optra, “Your car is safe with me” Mikail chuckled, “W ell I won’t give a damn if you bang in one on the next wall.” “What an interesting offer. But I think I’ll have to pass. I don’t want you to cry over your car. You love this thing so much!” It has been his father’s present for him after he started working for the firm. “But I love you mor e…” Dead silence followed. Was that a bad thing to say? It’s true, he loved her. Maybe the first time he saw her inside the restaurant with her loquacious friends or later than that. But he knew for certain that he was madly in love with her. The only thing he wasn’t sure yet is that if it’s reciprocated. He doesn’t have to think about it now; there is a lot of time in it in the future. “Where are we going princess?” Mikail asked one more time to break the uncanny silence. “Heaven?” Interesting. What kind of heaven? “I’m sorry to disappoint you princess, but I’m already in heaven when I’m with you…” Jen laughed at his old pick-up line, “Where did you get that?” she threw him a glance and said, “Why don’t you sleep for a while, you look so tired… I’ll wake you up once we are there.” *** Jen must admit she had a lot of second thoughts after she talked with Kate. There are a lot of complications and she was not brave enough to take the risk. For a few months, she wished Mikail would just realize how stupid the idea is and let go of her and what he feels. She was dead wrong. Mike proved to be as stubborn as she is. He was always doing his best in making her happy, and finally the time came when she learned to appreciate what he does for her. The selflessness of his actions which made her heart grew fond of him. Despite his busy schedule with his work, he still finds time, which is very touchy in her part. No one went into that extent just for her. He looks different when he sleeps. A little dangerous, a nd a bit cuter. Looking at him these pas t few days she knew he needed a break. He has been working too hard. That is why she came up with this idea, a 1-night 2day vacation in his family beach house, of course with the help of Kate. She hopes she may do something for him just for a change. “Mikail?” she touched his shoulder and tried once again to call his name a little louder this time. “Yes, princess?” “We’r e her e…” He rubbed his eyes and looked around. Then he flashed his endearing smile at her, “I know this place. Where did you get the key?” “Kate is my friend, Mike. Let’s go inside?” She was the one who cooked their dinner this time. She has to admit that it is not as delicious as his cooking, but he managed to consume all the food. After dinner they stayed in the living room, talking about anything at all. About the past events that happened and plans about the futur e, the both of them were careful not to touch the love aspect. They never dared discuss things that would destroy the fun that they are having now.
“Can we sleep?” Jen yawned and looked at the clock, “Its past three… you should be resting.” “But I’m having a lot of fun!!” Jen frowned, “It’s late. Let’s go…” “Same room?!” Mikail’s face brightened, his eyebrows wiggled in naughtiness. “In your dreams!” “Well, I have that dream sometimes.” He admitted. “Please Jen! I won’t be in the same bed with you. I’ll sleep on the couch or the floor…” She stared at him for a while, trying to decipher if it “I love you Jen because I can’t find the was a joke or for real. Sleeping together? She doesn’t wan t to reason not to…” think that Mikail was asking fo r sex. Is he? Mike laughed in a low voice as if he heard her thoughts, “I respect you a lot Jen. I just want to sleep near you. Just in the couch, promise I will behave…” He’s harmless…a voice in her head thought. Nothing will happen if I didn’t want to right? “Okay. But you’ll be on the floor! There is no couch in the rooms here! Can you sleep on the floor?” “I can do anything for you…” She rolled her eyeballs and smirked, “You are not superman Mikail…” “But I can be for you, Jen…” Mike was placing his blanket on the floor when she entered the room. She went to the bed and sat down, “Ar e you sure you can sleep on the floor?” Because she can remember how Kate would complain if they sleep on hard surfaces, the next morning she was having backaches. He grinned at her and lay down, “Yeah… Sleep tight, Jen. Thank you again…Dream of me.” he turned his back on her and settled down. She lay down in the bed, turned off the light and closed her eyes. But moments later, she was still awake. “Mikail?” “Hmmmm?” “Ar e you still awake?” “Yes. Why?” “Why do you love me?” Mike laughed, “What kind of question is that?” “Because you never loose hope, I turned you down several times. Why do you still love me?” she was really curious. After a lot of years of throwing him out of her life, a couple of times, may it be verbal or non-verbal, he was still there for her. “I love you just because.” He simply replied. “Com’on, ther e has to be a reason…” Mike sat down, and looked at her then he laughed again, “Why are you always laughing?” “Because you make me happy, princess…” Jen placed her hand on her opened-mouth, acting surprise, “Awww…that is so nice.” Then retorted, “Now answer the question?” He sighed, “I love you Jen because I can’t find the reason not to…” Jen flashed him her sweetest smile, “That was so sweet!” She moved a little bit to the farther side of the bed and sat down, “Would you like to sleep on the bed with me?” Mike’s eyes widened in surprise, “Did I hear you right?” “Just sleep! The bed is wide enough for four people, and a lot of pillows to put in between. So would you like to sleep? My offers only lasts for 20 seconds…” And before she could even blink, Mike was on the bed and grinning from ear to ear, he was already lying on it, “Thank you for trusting me, princess…” She lay down as well, and closed her eyes. A bit uncomfortable or scared that he might hear her loud heartbeats, her feeling now days were a bit different. But she was happy with the changes, because finally she was really opening her heart to him. She was letting herself fall in love with him. “Mike…” she tugged his shirt and pulled his shoulders to face her. “Jen, I thought you’re tired…” he murmur ed without opening his eyes.
Before she could change her mind, she closed her eyes and pulled him closer for a kiss. Mikail’s eyes opened in an instant but before he could fathom what was happening, she moved away and turned her back on him smiling, “Sweetest dreams, Mikail.” *** Mikail gazed at Jen for sometime. He wished he would never have to go. But he needed this training. It was an opportunity that only a fool would turn down. And another fool would leave this woman whose cold hands were firmly holding his. He told her not to drop him off the airport, but she insisted. He hated saying goodbye, afraid that his tear ducts may fail him. And he was afraid that she may say goodbye for real. He would miss her, more than he would miss anyone here. He promised to call her everyday – he can just imagine his phone bills would cost him a lot. She looked sad today. Is she sad that he’s leaving? She never mentioned it. He told her countless time how much he loved her, all she did was to smile. Does silence meant yes? Clearly, he didn’t want to assume. Yet, the way she looked at him these past few days or the way she take care of him… it makes him feel that she loves him as well. Thinking about these things certainly makes me crazy. If she loves me, she will tell me in time. But when?!! It would be really nice if she could tell him before he leaves the country. He didn’t notice that they have already arrived at the airport. “I’ll go inside, just stay here okay? I may never want to leave if you still accompany me inside.” Jen looked at him with tears about to fall from her eyes, “Do you r eally need to go?” Mikail laughed softly and hugged her close, Ahhh… he’s going to miss h er scen t, so sweet, so innocent, so Jen. “Yes, I need to princess. It would be just for six months. It won’t be that long. I promised to call you everyday right? E-mail you every now and then…” “But it would be different.” Her lips pouted in dismay. He kissed her fast on the lips and once again inhaled the scent of her hair, “I know. I’m going to miss you badly Jen. Take care of yourself.” “I’m going to miss you too…” “Wow…” he grinned, trying to mix humor into the situation but he failed. He released her shortly and once again stared at those eyes, “I love you Jen…” silently hoping she would reply the same phrase. “Mike…I…I…” He sighed sadly and stopped her, she looks so distressed. He didn’t want to push her so hard, “It’s okay. Maybe when I come back, you will have an answer for me, and no matter what it is, I am going to respect it.” he kissed her one more time, longer this time, “It’s time to go, princess. I love you. Remember that okay?” She nodded sadly. He didn’t wait for her to say something again. He got out of the car and went inside the airport. He never dared to look back. *** Six months after… “Tom, I told you I have a boyfriend.” Jen felt the sentence had become a tune every time Tom is around. He is one of the resident doctors in the hospital and one of her classmates back in college. Okay, he’s been pursuing her too si nce college but stopped when he took medicine. She thought he totally forgot about it but then he came back again. She told him a couple of times that she is not available anymore. The moment Mikail comes home, she would tell him that she loved him in person. At first, she thought of telling him when they talked on the phone, but later she realized that it would be better to tell him face to face. She was excited that finally one of these days he’d be back. “But I can’t see him…” “He’ll be coming home soon.” She patiently told him, “Tom, you are a good guy, but you see I’m r eally in love with this wonderful man. I hope you understand.” Tom’s face reddened and his shoulders are down, “Well, I guess I have to stay out of the way.”
“We could still be friends…” she suggested, offering him a sympathetic smile. “Friends?” “Yes, we were friends in the past, right?” “I guess I should be contented with that.” He said. “Can I hug you one last time? She hesitated at first but then there was nothing wrong with one last hug. After all, they were old friends, “Okay.” Tom moved closer and gathered her in his arms, “Thank you for being kind…” “Jen!” her eyes widened and her jaws dropped when she saw Mikail across the room. His face was flushed and accusations were written all over his face. She gr ew rigid for a second, astounded by the pr esence of the man in the room. Is he real? Or just another hallucination caused by missing him? She saw Mikail stormed out of the room that is when she regained her composure, she pushed Tom away and ran after him. What have I done? *** It was raining cats and dogs, the street was almost invisible to the eye. Her favorite time of the year – but now, it seemed it was the most dreaded day of her life. She didn’t expect this to happen. She thought it would soon be perfect for them, but something went wrong. It was her this time. Not him. It was her fault. She was the one who hurt him. She should be the one to blame. How could she hurt him when he only wanted to love her? Jen rushed to follow Mike outside. But he was walking too fast, as if he was running away… from her. Both of them were dripping wet from the rain, she was already shivering. She was only wearing her pajamas when she went out of the house. Someone was calling her name that too could wait, this couldn’t. She needed to explain, she was guilty. She wanted to let him know that she was sorry. She felt that familiar pang of guilt sliced through her. How long did s he have this? A long time ago. How could it come back a hundred fold this time? What could be worse than this? Soaked in the rain, chilled, her heart in anguish and he wasn’t listening. Could she blame him? “Mikail!” she called his name again, “Mikail please! Let me explain!” she begged, but he didn’t even lo ok at her! He opened his car and stepped right in, but she was faster. Before he could even start the ignition or activate the automatic lock she was already inside his car. “Get out!” It was spoken in a low dangerous tone, the first time she ever heard him speak to her in such a voice. She suddenly got scared. Never in their relationship did she ever saw him angry. His patience was too long, she had seen him frown, but not this mad. He didn’t even spare her a glance. He was breathing heavily and was almost choked in his own respirations. She tried to touch him but he shove her away, “Mike, let me explain! Please listen to me!” Then finally he looked at her in that disturbing expression he has on, “Did you agree to have this relationship with me becaus e you were forced by your friends? Answer me dammit!” his eyes were blazing with fury, and his knuckles were almost white gripping the stirring wheel. Her jaws dropped, surprised by his question. She didn’t know what to tell him, “Mike I ----“ Kate suggested, but it was her own blasted decision. “Shit!” She moved aside, away from him. Totally frightened by his sudden outburst. He faced her, held both of her shoulders in a painful grip, “How could you do this to me?!” he asked her a dozen of times, all she could answer was a sob. She didn’t know where to begin to explain. He’s been kind to her. She couldn’t think of any valid answer which made her feel guiltier than she already is. Mike seemed to be tired of gripping her shoulders, he let her go slowly and once again placed his palms back on the wheel, “I’m giving you what you’re asking, Jen.” “Mike?” No… she didn’t want this to happen. Not now that she knew what she wanted. She was not confused anymore, but he didn’t want to listen to her. She had hurt him badly. And there was no one to blame but her. “Mike, let’s talk please.”
“There is nothing to talk about, Jen. I don’t want to hear anymore of your lies.” his voice loaded with insufferable innuendos. “I remember you told me to get out of your life in the past. And I’m doing you a favor today. I’m getting out of your life, so get out of mine.” He spoke those words slowly as if he wanted her to understand what he meant. “If you wer e too eager to get rid of me, you don’t have to get yourself or me into that much trouble, all you have to do is to tell me. Tell me that you want me out of your fuckin life!” She could feel her heart beat a little harder this time and her breath a little slower, how could this happen? She asked herself again. “Do you hear me, Jen?” Talk Jen! Tell him! She cursed herself for not finding her voice. She couldn’t stop sobbing, she was almost gasping for air, but she couldn’t stop. Why won’t he listen? Because he always has, and you always don’t… one part of her brain had the answer. “You broke my heart over and over again. This time, you have nothing to break anymore. Even my soul is tearing apart.” He smiled at her sardonically, unable to hide the sarcasm in his voice, “I hope you are happy now.” Mike reached for the door on her side and opened it, “Go, you are free.” If she heard those words months ago, she’ll be eager to comply. But hearing them today, it somehow felt she’s been stab so deep. She moved slowly, hoping that Mike would change his mind and reconsider, bu t he didn’t. He let her go. The moment she closed the door, he accelerated his car immediately. “I love you, Mike….” Jen whispered to the wind, hoping it could reach him finally; he had waited long enough for this. “I love you.” Too bad she was too pathetic and too late to admit it. *** Jen has been crying since Mike left the house, she called Kate and not an hour longer, her friend came to her. “Mike is here.” “You broke my heart over and over “You are a mess, Jen! What in the world happened to you?!” again. This time, you have nothing to with the puffy nose and the red eyes, her hair was not in proper order break anymore. Even my soul is tearing and looked like she need ed to sleep. Kate guided her into one of the chairs and sat with her, “Mike is here?’ apart.” She nodded, unable to resist the urge to cry on her friend’s shoulders, “He hates me Kate!! He told me to get out of his life. He doesn’t want to talk to me anymor e.” “But I haven’t seen him, are you sure it’s Mikail?” “I am so sure! Kate, help me!” “What happened?” her friend asked in a very therapeutic tone, giving her the fairness that she badly needed. Then she once again retold the story, on how Mike caught her on the arms of another man, on how he shove her away and how she tried to tell him the truth. “He wouldn’t listen to me Kate. I tried. I really did…” Kate inhaled deeply and hugged her one mor e time, “What I want you to do tonight is to sleep, I will call Vincent and asked him to go with me to find Mike. Vince may have an idea where he went. I will do my best to get him into his senses okay? But you need to rest…” Jen shook her head and covered her face with her palms sobbing, “I love him Kate.” Her friend smiled sadly, “I know. Perhaps, it’s not yet too late to save what you have right?” *** Days passed after Kate called her that they found Mike. She could barely hear her friend when she told her that Mike was fine but needed space. “Maybe its better if you give him space fo r now.” “He doesn’t want to talk to me anymo re?” “He’s hurt, Kate. He’s not ready to listen .” “When then?” “I don’t kno w. Can you wait fo r him?”
That was the question of the c entury – if she can wait until he gained his senses and finally listen to her. He waited for her for a long time, maybe this time it was time for her to wait too. It wouldn’t be that bad. All she has to do is to think positive. Jen was about to go inside her favorite coffee shop when she saw a familiar figure sitting in one of the window tables, it was Mikail, and he was alone. She almost lost her breath seeing him. She just stood outside the building for a while, arguing with her instinct if she would go inside and say hi or just ran off. Maybe this was the sign that she was waiting for, finally a chance to talk to him. However, she froze on her first step, when she saw a very pretty girl kissed him on the cheeks and sat in front of him. She can’t b elieve this he’s already dating. *** “Why didn’t you tell me he’s been dating?” Jen accused Kate the moment she arrived in her friend’s house. It was two days after the dr eadful thing she saw at the coffee shop. How dare he date other woman i n that place? When he knew she would be there anytime?! “He’s been dating different women everyday, so I think he’s really not serious.” Her friend’s voice was very cool and she was staring at her as if she’s over reacting. “Different women?” Ouch! “Yes.” Kate held her hand as support, “I know it’s not advisable to say everything is going to be alright, but I know it will be. He loves you, we both know he does. The problem is that he is not ready to listen yet.” Jen sighed impatiently, “But it’s almost a month that he’s not talking to me!!” Kate raised both hands in defense, “Well then dear, by all means, go to his office and try if he will talk to you!” She finger-brushed her hair and massaged her temples, realizing that she was taking it on her friend, “I’m sorry Kate.” “Jen he loves you. I know that you know it inside your gut. I can’t tell you what to do. So go and follow your heart dear.” And that she did. *** Jen stormed inside Mikail’s office the next morning. After contemplating whole ni ght on whether to get on with this or not, she made her decision. She needed to do this to end all her suffering. If he doesn’t love her anymore, he has to tell straight into her face so that she can get on with her life. Mike was standing and looking beyond his ceiling-to-floor window pane. He looked so serious and it was almost he was not inside this room. “Mike?” she saw him stiffened, but when he turned around and saw her his features grew hard. When will I see you smile fo r me again, Mikail? A loud curse broke from his mouth which made her flinched, “What are you doing here? Who let you in?” “I let myself in. I just want to talk to you.” She pleaded. He looked at her from head to foot and smiled sardonically, “I’m giving you 2 minutes.” He positioned himself behind his desk both of his palms rested on it and he was looking at her in a very nonchalant way. How could he be so cool about this? When her heart was rumbling inside her? Totally out of order. He was giving her two minutes to explain? How can he do that!! How can he be so rude to her!! She can’t find the oxygen in this room, her breathing labored. She must admit that she is a little bit intimidated with their venue. The room was so big, filled with huge bookcases with expensive law books. He was wearing a suit and she was just wearing her white uniform. “One minute is already up.” He r eminded her, tapping his fingers on the desk. “I love you.” Mike made the tsk-tsk sound, got out of his desk and came near her, “How can you look at me in the eye and lie to me?” he spoke in a very dangerous tone, the same tone he used on her that night. “I am not lying!” she tried to hold on to his arms but he backed her off. “Why don’t you just listen to me? I love you Mikail.”
He shook his head and opened the door, “Get out.” “ Mike!!” her warning bells rang. The moment she goes out, she had this feeling that she’s not going to see him again. “Get out!!” they wer e already causing a scene, his staff were already looking at their way. She closed her eyes and settled her nerves which are still in turmoil, “You don’t need to drag me out, Mikail. I can find my way out. But in case you are ready to talk to me, you know wher e you can find me.” *** “Damn you Mike!” he closed his eyes and drank the last shot of his tequila. Hoping that Kate would evaporate in a zap, he was not in a mood for the ‘talk’. He had been a jerk this morning. The last glance that Jen gave him hit like a large punch in the gut. He was too concentrated on his own pain that he di dn’t realize she was in pain too. “What did you do to my friend?” “Nothing.” “You don’t get it don’t you?! She’s in love with you, Mike. Is n’t that what you have been waiting for?” she took the tequila bottle out of his sight, he groaned in frustration. He needed it to get out from reality. “Yes! That is what I have been waiting for. But what I wasn’t expecting is s eeing her in another man’s arms the moment I returned. Do you know how much it hurts, Kate?!” His cousin slapped his cheeks hard that almost erased all the alcohol content off his body, “What the hell was that for?” he stood up and glared at her. “You’r e a damn miserable bastard who is blinded by jealousy. You know what you did to my friend?” she dared. “What?” “You drove her away!! Just when she recognized what she feels for you. And you know what I told her after what you did this morning? I told her to date other guys…” Panic alarm button rang in his brain, “What did you say?” “I told her to date other guys. And I just asked one of your friends to take her out tonight…” His cousin was deliberately provoking him. But what if it’s real? What if she will start dating someone else? Damn! He hated it. He must admit that he dated some girls these past few days, girls without substance who can never replace Jen in his heart. He hated that Kate hit him bull’s eye. Making him feel how stupid he was and making him see it was time for him to pick up everything and fix whatever there is to fix. He searched for his car keys in his study desk as Kate watched him with one of her brows raised, “What are you doing?” Finally, he found what he needed. He turned to his cousin, hugged her tight and whispered, “The right thing.” *** Jen was watching ‘The Notebook’. She wanted to divert her attention but failed badly. She spent all afternoon talking to Kate, sorting out all her feelings. After the talk, she felt a little better, relieved and ready for the battle. She was not going to give up on Mikail. But this time, she won’t go to his office and humiliate herself all over again. She would play his game, and she will make sure she will win. Then came a loud knock at the door. It’s almost mi dnight! Who th e hell is this person knocking on her apartment door as if he o wns the whole complex!! She walked towards the door and dropped her empty mug when she saw via the peephole the person on the other side is. It’s Mike! Jen filled her lungs with all available air, plastered her perfect smile and opened the door, “Yes ---“ He slowly pushed her back into the room and kissed her fiercely, she was caught off-guard, her knees weakened and almost fell on the floor. He caught her right on time, pulling her waist against him while he ravished her mouth. Oh God, she missed him so much. A moment longer, his kisses slowed down, mor e passionate, mor e
warm… more forgiving. And finally he released her, “Take me back,” he whispered. “Please, please, take me back. I love you Jen. My life means nothing without you.” He touched her lips and gave it a chaste smack. “I’m so sorry.” “I already forgave you even when you didn’t ask.” “I was a jerk. I was too jealous. I didn’t hear your side…” “And you humiliated me in front of your staff.” She added. Mikail blushed, and hugged her again, “I’m really sorry about it.” when he r eleased her, he started to look around her apartment. “What are you looking for?” she asked curiously especially when she saw that frown up on his sleeve. “Kate told me you’d be dating tonight.” She grinned, “She did?” I love you Kate. Thank you. Kate should receive something nice for Christmas, she added in her mental note. “Well, I was not in the mood to date tonight.” “Ar e you really going on a date?” “Maybe…” “Jen!!!” “I’m not.” She touched his face tenderly, “Can I explain myself now?” He nodded slowly. Jen led him to the sofa and sat beside him. “Tom was a friend. He was really in love with me.” He saw that playful smile on her face again which made him frown for the second time. “But I told him I love another man. I love you. I wanted to tell you that these past six months. On the other hand, I thought it would be nice if I tell you personally.” She held his hand close to her heart, “Hear my heart, Mikail… It only beats for you. It is yours now and always.” Mike gazed at her affectionately and kissed her hands, “I love you more today than those years in the past, and you won’t believe how much I loved you then…” At last, after all the trial and error, the both of them had their happy ending. No more pseudorelationship. This one will las t till eternity.
Kate groaned inwardly, as she was about to drink another shot of tequila. Since high school, she vowed that she will never let alcohol enter her system. But because of her friends, she broke her seven -year-old vow. She just can’t say no. Her best friend, Jessa just arrived from Manila today, This is the first time in three years that they went out as a complete group. Jessa (who just arrived), Ann (who is always busy), Gem (who didn’t have a date this time), Lucy (who has no graveyard duty) and Ken (who has to find a replacement for her shift). Oh bless all of them! Everybody was enjoying the night and her best friend, who never drank alcohol since time immemorial, was the one who invited them to drink. They just couldn’t say no. th th So, here she is, gulping her 5 or 6 shot of tequila and her brain almost went out of her system. Her tolerance to alcohol just went below negative after years of alcohol fasting. . This is one heck of a trip that they had. Everyone was laughing. Almost all of them were already flushed – almost drunk. No boys tonight – they agreed to it. They have the whole night to themselves and they won’t think a shit about tomorrow. “Guys, I’m going to the r est room. Anyone wants to go with me?” Kate waited for a few moments, when none of her friends answered she took it as a no and went alone. After going out of the restroom, she decided to go outside. The place was too polluted for her lungs and she needed some fr esh air. Kate sat in one of the vacant benches outside the bar. The music is audible even from her e. She wasn’t really into loud music. It pisses her off most of the time. However, today is different – she was with her friends and all of them were having a good time. Anyway, a couple of tequila shot altered her hearing a bi t so more or less the music was quite tolerable. Trying to smell all possible fresh air that could feel her lungs, she felt satiated. The scent of smoke had already clung into her shirt. She wanted to change but she fought the urge. “Excuse me, are you Christine?” a voice disturbed her much needed solitude. When she looked at the owner of the voice, she felt her heart leap. Steady girl. Is this one of those pick up lines? He looked like one of those yuppies she often seen on television. He wore clay-colored shirt and a simple straight cut maong pants. It was the aura, however, that made him stand out from the crowd. He has the cutest eyes she’s ever seen so far. Now, who’s Christine? “I’m not Christine. But you can sit with me,” she offered. The guy smi led and shook his head to refuse, “Eye ball?” He laughed and finally decided to take the seat she offered, “This is embarrassing.” He muttered under his breath, “It’s a blind date actually.” “It’s okay.” Too bad she stood you up. And good for me. Yipee! She ought to be damned for her thoughts. She was in her flirting mode. “She told me she’d be wearing black.” She looked at her shirt and indeed, it was black. But looking around them, a lot of girls were wearing the same color. “You’r e the most harml ess.” As if the guy heard her thoughts already. I got myself a mind reader. “You don’t have a boyfriend by any chance, do you?” “No one is going to break your bones if that concerns you.” “Ar e you alone?” “I’m with friends. They’re inside, I’m just tryi ng to catch my breath out here. Sorry, I can’t invite you to join us though.” “You’r e not comfortable with night life?” “No, I’m not a night owl. I prefer the comfort of my bed.” He grinned and sparks of naughtiness reflected in his eyes, “What did you say?” Uh-oh, wrong choice of words. Kate rolled her eyes. This guy was the real epitome of charms. She touched his face and slapped it softly, “I’m not inviting you to share my bed, just to make everything clear.” There goes his laugh again – a sound that was too sensitive to her ears, “Do you have a name?” She grinned. This guy is fast. She could almost hear herself giggle. Is that tequila working on her nerves right now? Is she going to give her name or her number? She looked at him again. He looked harmless, handsome, sensible and delicious. She frowned on the last adjective. What can she do? It was the most suitable word to describe this guy in front of her. She’s okay with flings, but she’s not going to give this guy an idea that she was an
easy catch. So far, her reputation is still untarnished, and it is going to remain that way as long as possible. This guy spelled DANGER. For her, guys are unhealthy diversions that could alter her plans in the future. Plans that were there for quite a while. She was not into relationships because she did not believe in forever. Not in love or any other romanticism that she read in novels. She thought of them as frauds and their works as products of wishful thinking. So unreal, so not true. Her past relationships were also no good. It was all a ticking time bomb and meant to be a disaster. Nevertheless, she thought her thinking went to far already. What did he say again? Before she could open her mouth again, they both heard a commotion on the other side of the vi cinity. The girl was shouting all the bad words in her vocabulary to the guy in front of her. “Oh… Shit.” She heard him whispered. Just then she noticed that the girl was wearing a black shirt and the guy was wearing a gray jacket. “There goes your supposed-to-be-date.” Kate bit her tongue to pr event laughter escaping from her lips. What a night! “It’s okay. Talking to you is more fun.” She laughed softly and stood up, “I think my friends are worried now.” She stared at her watch and noticed she was already talking to him for more than half an hour. How time flies. “I am Vincent Leonard. What is your name? Can I have your number?” he got his phone out of his pocket, and it was the latest Motorola model she saw on TV just the other day. Must be rich, s he doesn’t care though. Even if he owns her favorite bookstore, she won’t give a damn. This guy was a danger to her sanity and her future. She needs to get out of this trance and fast. “It’s nice to meet you, Vincent Leonard. But no, you can’t have both.” Without fur ther adieu, Kate strolled back inside the disco bar, attempting to suppress the feeling of regret that she was having in the pit of her stomach. He was just another one of those guys she met and she wasn’t about to loose half of her life not gi ving him any information about herself. Why do I have this feeling I am going to meet him again? *** Vincent looked at his computer. Shit. Blank. He could not work well with no parts of his brain is working. This was a new site that he needed to develop before dawn breaks. His blind date with a friend’s cousin went pretty well even if he didn’t meet the real person he was going to date. That girl! He tried to follow her inside the bar but ther e were just a lot of people. He couldn’t see her. She moved too fast for him to catch up. What was her name? He didn’t know. Not even the first letter of her name! Why the hell would she keep it a secret? He was not a murderer. Not even close to it. Maybe she doesn’t trust strangers. If only he knew her name, then perhaps everything in his brain will fall into their proper places again. Just the name and nothing else. To gratify his eager curiosity, he needed to know what is there to know. Then maybe this would stop. He shook his head. He was not into relationshi p either. Not in ten years perhaps or even maybe forever. Girls are a bunch of commitment freaks. Giving his commitment would mean a lot of effort, a lot of hard work and a lot of trust to be given away. He was afraid of commitments, afraid that he would end up being nagged and frustrated at the end of the road. He was dating, a lot of dating here and there. None of which he found interesting except the accidental one he had yesterday. And it annoys him that someone starts to bug his mind already. I need to know your name. He fixed his laptop, his mp3 and his paper works, he needed a break and he needed to get the hell out of here. He’s going to his favorite coffee shop. *** Jessa was never late. Kate thought. What happened? Her battery must be empty because her cell phone wasn’t ringing anymore. Kate blew an impatient air out of her system and went inside the coffee shop where she and her friend was about to meet. She ordered her favorite choco-oreo frappe without the whip cream and some cookies. This will be enough until her friend will come along. She found a seat away from the window and the nice waiter gave her a magazine to scan. “Finally!”
Her brows met. She heard that voice before. In her dreams? Yeah, probably. Is this one of her auditory hallucinations? Nah. She’s probably just hungry and needed an ample amount of glucose to stabilize her starving brain cells. But reality set in when someone took the chair in front of her. Damn . It’s him. She stared at him and touched his hand that was placed above the table. He feels real. He is. And I look stupid. She smiled, “Hi.” Intending to withdraw her hand, but it was too late. He was holding it already, not to loose at that. “You gave me a hard time.” He said. “Hard time?” she didn’t know what he meant. He was the one who’s not making her sleep in the wee hours of the morning. “I did not.” “I went back to the bar several times.” “I told you I wasn’t a night owl” “I know, but I just wanted to know your name.” Give me a break. It is just a name. No harm. She sighed and bit her lips and then answered, “Its Kate.” Vincent’s smile widened, “At last!” “At last what?” “I can sleep.” Blast! Is that another pick-up line? Do es he have a book with pick-up lines that can make a girl’s o rgans cartwheel inside? “Can I have my hand now?” It was his turn to frown, “Why should I do that?” “So that I can eat my cookie?” Kate didn’t like what she’s feeling right now. It was very confusing and not healthy for her. “Or you could run away again?” his lips li ft in a smile, one of those sexy smiles she can see in the models of Calvin Klein in the magazine that she is holding right now. She cannot believe what he is doing to her, “I’m not.” She assured him. “Well, I cannot give you the chance and I like holdi ng your hand.” “I can’t get out of this shop not unless my friend arrives.” “I will only let go of your hand if you will give me your number.” What the f*** -- what have I gotten myself in to? “Why do you need my number?” His shoulders moved up and down, “I just want to know you better.” “Why would you want to do that?” she dared asking. If she would give her number, she was sure that this isn’t the last meeting that they will have. He has a very powerful charm that can make her say yes to every whim he has in mind. Are the neurotransmitters in her brain still working? *** The question reiterated in Vincent’s brain as he searched for an appropriate answer not scaring this girl or him away. “So that we can be friends.” “I already have a lot of friends.” She told him impatiently. “Me too.” He replied promptly, “Since both of us have a lot of friends, what do you think our relationship should be?” He saw one of her brows rose and he heard her laugh, “What does your question imply?” “What do you think?” he dared, crossing the fingers on his other hand as he awaits her verdict. “I don’t need a boyfriend right now.” “I don’t need a girlfriend too.” “So what are you doing here, holding my hand and challenging me?” her lips were already pouting and her eyes were throwing warnings at him that the nex t reply should be safe. I need all the confidence I can gather. He grouped his so-called charms and flashed his most dashing smile, “What about exclusively dating?” “Dating exclusively?” she was confused, “Care to elaborate?” “Do you want to go out with me? Nothing serious, nothing heavy. Just going out. It won’t hurt you.” Vincent assured, then added, “When was the last time you had fun?” Kate grew silent- trying to decipher when the last time that she had fun was. Real fun. Oh blast! When I’m with the girls? But how frequent is it? “If you agree with my proposal, I’ll promise nothing but fun.”
If she’s going to get uncomfortable with him, she was going to loose because Vincent seemed to be enjoying himself. She knows how to play the game. She would just have to enjoy it. After all, what he was offering is not permanent, right? Just temporary. She found permanent things intangible and temporary things real. So why not enjoy what was offered to her right now? And just promise herself not to fall into the trap of love or she will end up wrecked. This is just flirting. She just wasn’t sure if this was harmless flirting or a dangerous one. “I’ll go out of it unscathed?” Well, I still have my virtues. He winked, “Just don’t fall in love with me.” “Not if you fall in love with me first.” “Ar e you scared you might end up head over hills in love with me?” “I am careful with my steps, I hardly tripped over.” *** Vincent was reading a book while she was bus y playing yahoo games on his laptop. It was raining today; none of them were in the mood to go out. So they decided to stay at his place. “When was the last time you fell in love?” he asked, breaking the eerie silence. “Hmmmm?” “Com’on, you must have fallen in love?” She smiled and closed the laptop, “What about you? When was the last time you fell in love?” did she just pretended she didn’t hear his question? “Couple of years back.” This time he put down his book and stared at her, “Now answer my qu estion, sweetie.” Where did that question come from? “In love?” Kate rolled her eyes and frowned, “I don’t believe in love. It is just a bunch of hormones went bizarre inside one’s body.” The mysterious smile showed up in his face again, leaning a littl e close he murmured, “Speaking from experience?” Is this a game of flirting? She would never give in to him. She moved closer and grinned. She heard him gasped, perfect! “I’m afraid you have to ask the next question or I just might kiss you to shut the hell up.” She said in a gentle voice. “I prefer the latter.” He crossed the remaining distance between them and his lips touched hers lightly. And all she did was to close her eyes and taste the intoxicating coffee from his lips. Almost she reconsidered to make herself believe in forever. *** Kate closed her eyes and muttered a soft prayer. Please, please save my heart. She had been sinfully happy these past few months. The problem is that she was scared that after the euphoria, hell will come. It was usually that way. The routine stupidity of life which she could never get used to. Vincent was the best. He was always there when she needed him and never pushed her to the limits. They only settled for what the both of them are offering to each other. So far, their so-called relationship is still working. The main point was just to have fun and as much as possible, don’t fall in love. They wer e currently eating in one of their favorite fast food chain after she shopped for shoes. Good thing he was patient for three hours while she was trying on and off different pairs. “Can I pick you up this Sunday?” Vincent sat beside her and placed her food in front. Why does he sit besid e me and not in front? She was busy ogling at him before she noticed he r epeated the question two times already. She shook her head; family involvement wasn’t really her thing. She isn’t ready to get serious with anyone right now. She didn’t like to bring or introduce her flings at home. Complications will sure arise if that happens. She couldn’t bear introducing several guys to her friends or family, especially to her parents in the period of one month. It doesn’t work that way. They only man she will bring home is the one whom she is sure of. “Why not? Its night time and it might be dangerous for you.” He reasoned out.
“I don’t want you to meet my parents.” She simply answered. No w that was direct. Not because she wasn’t proud of her parents or her house. Her parents need not to know her affairs. Vincent grew silent for a couple of minutes. He was toying with his potato fries. She decided not to add insult to injury, so she kept her mouth shut. Did she just upset him? Yeah, looks like it. “Why don’t you want me to meet your parents?” She sighed, trying not to get irritated, “Why do you want to meet my parents?” “Why don’t you want me to meet them?” he insisted. How can she answer that question without raising her voice? She breathed in deeply, imploring all patience to come to her. “It would only mean complications. I don’t know how to explain what we have is only temporary.” When a few minutes he was still silent, she decided to ask, “Will you introduce me to your parents?” Vincent looked at her, it almost touched her heart when he answered, “Any time.” *** Vincent wanted to open the conversation about their relationship, but he was dead scared. Kate had bigger commitment issues he had to desensitize slowly. Does he really want their relationship to move to the higher level? Perhaps. Is he in love with her already? He hones tly doesn’t know for sure. What he was certain now is that he is happy. What he wanted to do is give what they have a chance. What they have is fun but then he realized that there is more to a relationship than having fun. Am I considering co mmitment? He’s almost there. On the other hand, he was hopeful that Kate will meet him half-way or they’re never going to make it. He felt her kiss his brows. He tried to hide his frown but did an awful job, “Anything bothering you?” He shook his head and smiled, she looked so happy today. If her mood will change, it will be his entire fault. The last time they talked about personal things, it caused them an awful fight. Maybe he needed to keep it to himself for the mean time and find the right time to open a sensitive topic like that in the near future. “Sit.” He pointed to the chair across him, “You miss me?” She winked, “I did. But I’ll bet you missed me mor e.” He chuckled, “What makes you think I do?” “Because your eyes sparks when you see me.” “Really?” she noticed. “Yeah.” He grinned and chose to bit his tongue than to comment on that one. Today is not the right time for that, “Give me your feet.” “Why?” “Trust me on this one.” Still eyeing him apprehensively, she extended her legs and placed her foot o n his lap, “What now?” “I’ll give you an erotic foot massage.” He said softly. Kate’s eye widened in disbelief, “What?” Vincent laughed and tickled her feet, “Kidding. Just sit and relax.” “Is this part of your strategies to seduce me into going to bed with you?” “Is it working?” She playfully kicked him, “In your dreams!” “Well, a man could always dream, sweetie.” *** “I wasn’t flirting!” Kate was mad, awfully mad and on the verge of crying. There was no way she’s going to cry, not in front of hi m anyway. Vincent was a little drunk and a lot more annoying every passing minute. What the hell is he up to dragging her in front of everyone? He has no right! She was just taking to an old friend, Mark (an old fling actually), but it was just a friendl y chitchat.
She would’ve felt elated if he did this because of jealousy but the scene he caused was just horrible and she just didn’t know how to explain it to her friends who have just witness first hand domestic violence. The whole ride was dead silent. None of them wanted to open their mouths and blaze the fury that is already burning inside them. Until they reach their house, he didn’t speak a thing. She didn’t wait for him to open the door, she did it herself and rushed to the gate. However, he was a bit faster. His hands were already in her arms, preventing her from opening their gate. She wanted to sleep. She was too tired from the party. She was just too tired to fight. “Listen Vincent, we are both tired and angry. If we talk about this now, we’ll end up fighting and regret everything tomorrow ----“ “Who’s Mark?” *** Vincent already knew the answer. Her friends were pretty honest in telling him the details about Kate’s history with Mark. He was a former ‘special friend’ that Kate wasted her tears on. Upon hearing the story, he can’t help jealousy arising from inside him. How can she still smile at the guy and pat his arms every now and then when all Mark did in the past was to make her cry? He must be very special. After 30 minutes of control and glaring at the both of them, he literally dragged Kate home. That wasn’t nice, he knew, but he couldn’t help it. How can she flirt with another guy knowing he’s around? “Mark is an old friend.” She simply replied, avoiding his gaze. “That is not what everybody told me.” “What did they tell you then?” “You should tell me?” he didn’t want to provoke Kate but looks like he is doing a good job in making her furious. “What would you like to hear?” “The truth.” “He was an old fling whom I loved dearl y for years and I ended up a wreck after it was all over. Happy now?” she asked him sardonically. The topic about Mark was simply forgotten. She was over him, that is why it really didn’t matter when he’s around. “Is that why you don’t want to make this relationship work? Fear? That I may leave you a wreck too?” Finally, she looses it, “I have given you time, effort… what else do you want?” “I want security! I want commitment! All I want is this relationship to work!” Her jaws dropped in surprise, unabl e to speak for a while. I am hea ring this right? Her heart was thumping so loud, it blocked her ears, almost leaving her in vertigo. “You want me to give more than what I can offer?” she replied in a soft, hurting tone. “Now what is wrong with that? Am I not making you happy?” he was careful as hells not to further provoke her. “You are making me happy!” her voice was strained, choking, almost as if she is about to cry. “Then what else is lacking?” he challenged. “Bliss? Gladness? Euphoria? Overjoyed? Pick your adjective, Kate and I will do my damn best to make it come true.” A big blow came rushing in his gut when she answered, “Alone.” And it didn’t even need an innuendo for him to understand what she meant. “You are so insensitive, Kate!” “I am not!” His voice was still low, no matter how much he wanted to shout and hit anything in front of him. He managed to maintain the tone of his voice and his composure, and it wasn’t an easy task. He would never break down in front of her. His insides almost burst in frustration and she looked so calm, so cool… so…so not affected! “Do you have any idea how much you hurt me today?” No answer, “I guess no. You always don’t. Fine then. I’ll do what you want. I hope this makes you happy.” *** “Ar e you still sleeping?” Jen asked Kate when they met in the coffee shop.
Kate nodded slowly. She was dragged by friends from home because they were worried about her. “You look so miserable!” She knew! She felt miserable as well. It has been one month, two weeks, three days and ugggghhhhh- she isn’t counting the hours. It will be pathetic. Vincent isn’t calling, sending her SMS (even stray messages!), or even viewed her social network account. Nada! It’s just like he vanished into thin air before she could stop him. “I saw that guy dating Aya last time. Then yesterday, I saw him with Kim. He’s having a time of his life with different women everyday and you’re miserable?” She wanted to cry. She didn’t tell her friends what really happened, she knew that they will blame her and she will just end up crying hard. She sincerely hoped that the drama would just stop – but it didn’t. On the other hand, she can’t let her friends blame him for her mistakes. It would be too much. It was not his fault. It was hers. There. She finally admitted it. It was her stubbornness that drove him away. At first, she thought she will feel better if he just goes away. That definitely poor judgment, she never felt low her entire life. *** “You are so stupid.” Kate didn’t know who said it since her eyes wer e already blurred with tears and she just felt awful. She was sobbing hard and yes, she is stupid. “Why did you let him go?” at last, she recognized Gem’s voice. “I’m not r eady.” Before she could even finish, Jessa already butt in, “Wha t do you mean you are not ready? Did you see yourself with him?” Lucy patted her shoulders, “Why are you so afraid to take the risk? Vincent is obviously in love with you.” “Do you love him?” the most imperative question came from her best friend whose a rms were already around her. Does she love him? Vincent makes her laugh, smile, and grin and sometimes makes her think of a future together. He makes her happy. She could not loose herself with him because he respects who she is, despite the short-comings. Do I love him? She closed her eyes briefly and saw his face, her heart swelled with longing and… love, “Yes.” Her friends’ faces lit, “So what are you still doing here? Go and find him!” *** Vincent came home early in the morning. It was almost 5 o’clock. After his break up with Kate, he lost track of time. He went back to his parents’ house to avoid nostalgic thoughts in his apartment. He started dating anyone his friends would throw his way just for the sake of distracting his thoughts. But he n ever enjoyed one bit. He subconsciously compared every girl with her. Damn the wo man! Why does her memory haunts him? She wanted to be left alone, so he did. He wanted to call her, text her but every time he had those powerful urges, he tried his best to divert his attention. He had been successful these past few days. Until when? The lights in their living room was still on, thing that he found strange. His parents do not wake up until seven in the morning. Then, he saw her. Am I too drunk to see things that a ren’t real? Sitting in the middle of their living room, with feet on the coffee table and hands on the remote control was his Kate. Am I too lonely I dream without closing my eyes? Then his dream moved and turned to his direction, This must be real. He told himself. He looked at his watch again, yeah, it was almost fifteen minutes till six in the morning, “What in the world are you doing here?” he asked briskly before he looses his voice box. She stood up, “I wanted to say sorry.” “For what?” ***
Is this supposed to be this hard? Kate sighed. She was having a tough time trying to find words and he was staring at her as if he wanted her to leave. No , I can do this. If h e wants me to leave after I explain, then I will leave. If not, then better. “For everything.” His shoulders slightly shrug as he approached her; he sat by the nearby chair and took the remote control from the coffee table, “its okay.” She wanted to cry again, why in the world is she here? Maybe it’s already too late. Mayb e he didn’t want to hear any of her explanations. Maybe his offer do es not stand anymore. Maybe ---- a lot of maybe. She wasn’t sure anymore. “You did not come her e just to say you’re sorry, did you?” he asked warily. She shook her head. “Be brave, Kate. Why did you come here?” “I wanted to tell you that I want you back.” He smiled, turned off the TV and stood in front of her, “I don’t want the same relationship though.” “I heard you were dating several girls.” God help me please. “I’m dating a lot of girls. Prettier, sexier…” Now that’s enough. Her eyes were almost filled with tears, but before any of those fell, she turned her back, “I need to go.” Vincent stopped her, pulled her in his arms and kissed her forehead, “But they wer e not you, Kate. They were not you.” His lips never left her forehead when he whispered, “No matter how much I want you back in my life, I won’t risk having the same relationship again. I still want what I asked you when I left. If you can’t give it to me, then I will have to wait.” “You don’t have to.” “What do you mean?” he released her shortly. “It’s already morning. Would you like to come with me?” *** “What are we doing her e?” they stopped in front of her house. She opened the door and waited for him to go down from the car, “I want to introduce you to my parents.” “What?” “You heard me, so come down. You’re going to meet them.” He went out slowly, “Are you sure?” “Yes. Are you having second thoughts?” she teased. “Of course not.” But it was of course, a lie. He could feel blood rushing in his ears and his palms were already sweating, When Kate took hold of his hand, he turned red, “You’r e nervous!” He sighed, “A little.” There, he admitted. What was wrong with him? He wanted to meet her parents for a long time, didn’t he? Now that he’s here, he felt a little edgy. “They don’t bite.” Her assurance didn’t help a bit. She kissed him lightly on the lips and hugged him real tight, “They’re going to love you because I do.” He almost didn’t catch his breath, his heart almost jumped out of his system. Did she just say she loved him? Or that too was alcohol working on his brain cells? She looked up to him with lips pouting, “Did you hear me?” He laughed, “Loud and clear, Kate.” “No r eply?” “I love you.” When they reached the door, her parents were already in the dining room, having coffee, her siblings were no where to be found, “Ma!” Kate called to get her mother’s attention. “It’s six o’clock in the morning, Kate. Wher e have you been?” “I want you to meet someon e…”
“VA, emergency cart please.” There was a sudden commotion inside the emergency room where Veronica was working. She rushed into the corner where the cart was located and pushed it into the stretcher. For a moment, she stood still realizing who the person covered in blood was. “Ron, pr epare the intubation set.” Dr. Lopez demanded as he inserts an intravenous line to the patient. Everyone was busy doing their own share of work in saving this woman’s life. She didn’t want to stare but there was an urge to do so while she was preparing what she was told to. The moment their eyes met, recognition sparked in the patient’s eye. “Ronnie…” Her heart squeezed in pain. She knew her! It is Cassandra! She tried to reach for her but she managed to get away from the grasp. Four years is not that long for her to forget all the anguish that this woman caused her. “Ronnie, please…” Please what? She r eplied numbly. For the past years, she managed to stay away from her, and him. She did not want any associations; it will just make the letting go impossible. Have you let go, Veronica? “I’m sorry…” she whispered in between heavy breathing. Her face covered with blood, she closed her eyes for a moment and then tears started to fall. Is she really so rry? Why now? Why now that she is dying? When she looked up, almost everyone was looking at her, “What?” “Veronica…” she called again. “Is that you?” “Ronnie!” Dr. Lopez was already irritated with her unresponsiveness. The line was already hooked, “Attached her to the cardiac monitor, and do answer her.” “Yes, Cassandra. It’s me. Hold on, you’r e going to “Karma.” She said in a lo w voice, make it.” “Karma.” She said in a low voice, “I’m sorry, “I’m sorry, Ronnie. Please ta ke Ronnie. Please take care of him.” care o f him.” “I can’t” Ronnie replied dryly. “You aren’t going to die, you take care of him.” “I’m giving him back to you…” A vague emotion struck her heart only to realize it was pain. Aki was mine, Cassand ra. You took him away from me and I don’t have the plans of taking him back. She silently placed electrodes on her chest, trying to think that it was another woman in front of her. But she failed miserably. Cassandra finally caught her clothes with her bloody hands and pulled her close, “I’m sorry. Please take care of him.” She r epeated, then she fell into unconsciousness. “Charge to 360 pl ease. Clear!” The doctor shouted. She dazedly moved away from the bed and held herself. “Another one.” Five minutes after, Cassandra, her former best friend, was pronounced dead by the doctor. *** “What did you cay, Cassie?” she almost fainted h earing the n ews from h er b est friend. How can she and her boyfriend Aki do this behind her back? “Aki and I are together now. He didn’t wan t to break this news to you.” Aki and I are together now… The senten ce continued to go over inside her mind. So that is why Aki was avoiding all her calls and acting as if she didn’t exists since she ca me back fro m abroad. This was it. Her best friend and her boyfriend screwing each other behind her ba ck. She wanted to cry but th e feeling was too much tha t she felt too deaden already. She didn’t even know wha t to say to h er. “Aki is a co ward.” Was all that she could say the mo ment she found her voice. How can both people she trusted so much betray her? She trusted and loved them both. Sh e didn’t even think any malicious thou ghts when the two of them are together. No w, she wished she did. Mayb e it had prevented this ca tastrophe to happen. She was just away for a month. One month of exchange study progra m abroad. A month without communication to any of them. And this is wha t she got when she returned home. A welco me gift of deception from two people she dearly cared for. “I want to talk to Aki.” Veronica told her former friend. She wanted to hear the news fro m him. There were a lot of questions that were sprouting insid e her mind. He owed her answers. It is probably the best thing that she could do to herself, to find out the truth and probably hurt h erself even more. “He doesn’t want to talk to you!” “I guess I just have to find out myself.”
*** Aki heard Ronnie’s voice outsid e the door. He paced to and fro the room thinking if h e’s going to go out and talk to her. He’s a damn co ward, that’s what h e is. What will he tell her that could justify what h e did? No thing. No plausible reason could explain his two-timing charade with her best friend. “Aki please. Talk to me. I know you’re in there. I just want to talk to you. Tell me Cassie is lying.” It was the first time he heard her beg. He had no rational reason why he two-timed Ronnie and why he allowed Cassie to tempt him. But things do happened, and consequences must be faced. Ronnie didn’t deserved him, she d eserved so meone better. His conscience was eating him alive. Another minute passed and he decid ed to open the doo r. A tearful eye Veronica was sitting in front of their porch. She was still sobbing. God. He never had seen her b reak down. She always maintained co mposure in whatever she does. No matter ho w stressful the situation is, it never both ered her. It never o ccurred to him that she would react this way. He sat beside her and even though he wan ted to pull her into his a rms, he resisted the idea. He felt he will just tarnish the girl’s beautiful soul. It was now or n ever. “Tell me she’s lying Aki…” she beseeched once mo re. He shook his head, “I’m afraid I can’t.” Veronica’s eyes widened with surprise, “Why?” Aki wanted to ask himself the same thing and drop himself from the tallest cliff. Why? Nada. “Do you still love me, Aki? Because believe me, what Cassand ra said is killing me righ t now!” “I… I…I don’t deserve you.” She stared at him with eyes filled with melancholy, it almost stabbed his gut. Then she stopped sobbing, Ronnie gathered her feet with her arms and rested h er head on her knees, “I wish… I wish… you can tell me so mething that can make me feel better. Enough for me to live through with this.” He put her arms around her shoulders and kissed her foreh ead, “I love you, you know how much… o r even deeper than what you know. It’s just that things could never be the sa me anymo re.” “Then you don’t love me enough.” Veronica released herself from his embra ce and stood up. “I can’t think of anything I did wrong for me to deserve any of this. Maybe you’re right, you don’t d eserve me.” She smiled wryly and added, “Maybe you and Cassandra deserve ea ch other mo re.” *** Achilles’ car was twice the legal speed limit and his hazard light was on. He was in a hurry to get into the hospital. A call woke him up early this morning. Cassandra was rushed into the hospital in a very critical condition. This is my fault. He told himself he will never bother with the girl after he broke up with her. Yet, he’s here, driving with the remnants of his energy trying to reach the emergency room. Ca reful o r else you’ll be th e next one. He reminded himself. Early that night, they had a big fight. He finally decided to break up with Cassie. “What?” Cassandra’s voice echoed th roughout the room. It was no t his attitude to repeat what he said especially when it is unpleasant to the receiver of th e message. It will just be harder t the both of them. After four years, he finally got the courage to tell her that he wan ted out of the relationship. He had enough. He was no t happy. He had never been happy. All she does was to emo tionally and mentally torture him until he burst out. Why did he endure it this long? It was not important. What matters is that it was over now and this time no emotional blackmail will work. Enough is enough. “You heard me Cassandra.” “You’re going back to her!!!” she accused ; her fingers were pointing directly a t him. There was no name mentioned, but h e still froze. Ho w dare h er b ring an innocent person into this fight! Didn’t she ask fo r this? An eternity of insecurity. She knew for a fa ct that he was in love with another person, he was, he is and will always be. No one can change the fact. Not even time and sepa ration. He had not seen Veronica for four years. He didn’t no w know if who’s avoiding who. Th e last time he hea rd was that she was already working in one of the local hospitals.
“I am no t. I haven’t seen her for years!” Cassandra’s palms flew in his cheeks. He felt his ja w snapped in impact, “All you think about is her!!! Even if you don’t see her, all you see, all you think, all you worry about is her!” She was out of control; she wa s crying and throwing almost everything at him. He grabbed her shoulders, not caring if it would cause her to bruise. “Listen Cassand ra.” He shouted which made her calm down a bit, it was the first time he ever raised his voice a t her, “ No blackmail will work this time. Kill yourself for all I care. I am no t happy anymore. I am killing myself every second I am with you. Gro w up!” *** Veronica did not bother to stay beside Cassie after the doctor pronounced her dead. It was too much. She preferred to sit in one corner and brace herself. What the heck was that? Dying wish? She still could not believe that Cassandra was gone. Cassie’s family started to arrive. She knew all of them. They have been in good terms until the incident; she was the one who decided to just cut the bonds between them. Ronnie didn’t want to do anything that concerns both her ex best friend and boyfriend. Then behold, Aki arrived. In the way he looked, he probably forgot to comb his hair and match his clothes. He was in a mess. Maybe after hearing about what happened to Cassandra, he didn’t bother to put on anything decent and just jump off the bed to be with her. He loved h er. He really did. Celine, Cassie’s mom, approached him with slapping him with alternating palms on both c heeks and thumping his chest with her closed fists crying, “It’s your entire fault! It’s your entire fault!” He just stood there like a sentinel, unable to move. His face was bland with anything for her to decipher what he was thinking. Celine continued to pound on his chest, no one bothered to stop her. Even her fellow nurses and doctor stood in awe looking at the scene. What did she mean about this b eing Aki’s fault? He was no t with her! When Celine finally felt tired she sat down in one of the chairs . Aki made his way to the stretcher where Cassie’s corpse was placed. He opened the blanket that was covering her and just stared for a while then closed it again. The moment he looked around, he saw her at last. She knew at that point, no matter how hard she suppressed her emotions that still, she was in love with him. *** Celine’s voice became a tune playing inside Aki’s head; It’s you r entire fault! It kept on repeating and repeating until it made him almost believe that it was really his fault. If they did not fight that night, she would have stayed and she would not drive to her death. The only thing that prevented hi m from the impending separation was Cassandra’s suicidal tendencies… “That was just one night, Cassie.” He was gra sping his hair in desperation. “One night? Is it all that is to you? A one-night stand?” Aki didn’t want to spell it out to her. It was a stupid question, how in th e wo rld will he able to explain this one to Ronnie the moment his girlfriend comes home. “What else should it be?” Cassandra started to cry when he took his things from the table and stood up. “I love Ronnie, Cassie. You know that. W e were both drunk and I am so rry fo r it.” “If you love her, no matter how drunk you are, you will never do it with anymo re. Much more to her best friend.” It was a sarcastic remark he deserved p retty well. “And if you leave me, I will kill myself.” Knowing Cassandra’s unstableness when it comes to emotion, plus Celine’s begging – he decided to stay and break his heart. Seeing Ronnie again, and Cassie’s death, it brought turmoil inside him. He felt all his organs are being detached inside and were going up and down already. She was still his Veronica. She never changed a bit. But can things return to the way they wer e now that the only person who comes in between them is gone? *** Veronica didn’t want to go to Cassie’s wake. Her mother pushed her as respect to her former friend. Now, she was standing outside the gate of Cassandra’s house still undecided if she should go inside or just return home.
Until Howard, Cassie’s brother, saw her. He ran towards her and ushered her inside. Celine was nowhere to be found, something that she was thankful for. She didn’t want to think about Celine’s reaction the moment she will saw her. “It was not his fault.” Howard started when they reached Cassie’s coffin. “Cassie is a spoiled brat and I don’t know why it took Aki so long before he decided to call it quits. He was always in love with you, Ronnie. I hear your name every time they fi ght.” She told me to take care of him. At her last b reath e, she told me she was sorry. Did she really mean it? “Can he come her e?” “No. Mom made sure that he cannot come in 10 kilometers of the premises. Mom never understood. She thinks it was his entire fault.” Thankfully, Howard had better judgment than Celine. Well, after all, it is her daughter who died and she would blame almost every one but herself. She just wonders if Celine hold her responsible as well. “If you still love him, save him.” *** Aki wanted to go to her wake. Just to see her for the last time, to ask for forgiveness. Celine would kill him if he did that. So he was here, drinking every last drop of beer inside the bottle and drown his liver in alcohol. It was guilt that was driving him into this direction. Guilt that if he just probably settle Cassandra, stopped her from leaving the house and just stayed with her for another month, she would have not died. It’s your entire fault! He shook Celine’s voice from his head. He gulped another glass of hard concoction and closed his eyes briefly. Damn you, Cassie! You never wanted me to be happy. Did you cu rse me already? “What in the world are you doing?” A voice that he missed most entered his subconscious , or is it already reality? “Ronnie?” “Let’s go. Your mom called me up, she’s dead worried.” He can’t believe she’s here. Why should she be? Guilt trip? Guilt has a lot to eat these past few days, starting with him. “No. Leave. Why should you care? You hated me, remember? You hated Ca ssie!” He saw her puff out an angry air and pouted, “I’m sorry to burst your bubble, even though Cassie asked me to take you back on her last breathe, I would never have you back… It’s just that your mother was calling me, and I can’t say no. Did it ever occur to you to call her and tell her you will be here, like a drunken bastard and won’t go home for the night!” she was screaming at the top of her voice, contesting with the loud music inside the bar. He didn’t hear half of what she said because, Cassie forgive him, he wanted to kiss her. *** Ronnie wanted to walk out. Aki was staring at her hideously and it was making her uncomfortable. Is he okay? If there was one thing she never wanted to do was to go back into his life or his to hers. She didn’t know why his mother’s crying voice pushed her to be her e, trying to get him out of the bar and back home. “Please.” She pleaded softly, which seemed to work because he pulled his wallet out of the back pocket of his pants and paid his bills. “Let’s go?” he headed towards the exit, leaving her dumbfounded. What in the world is happening? They ended up on his car, when he opened the door for her, she shook her head, and told him “I’m taking a cab.” “I’ll go back inside if you’re taking a cab.” He threatened her ingeniously. It’s so like him. So stubborn. “Okay.” She let him assist her. She was silently praying he wouldn’t say anything about their past, about Cassie, about anything that will make the two of them uncomfortable. But so unlike him, he started to blab. “Let’s play?” “I don’t play anymore.” She stated simply, praying he would just stop and drive. It was a long way back home, but it’s worth to hope. “I do. Com’on, or else I will be sleepy along the way.” She glared at him, “Okay! Fine! What game?” “Twenty questions. Short honest answers. No further explanation if you don’t want to. Ten questions from you, then ten from me.”
*** It was a game they used to play when they get bor e years ago. They would sit on the couch for hours asking each other silly questions and ended up laughing. Ronnie was anxious where these twenty questions will be heading. Maybe she’ll end up crying again rather than laughing. Ugggghhh!!!!! “Be honest, okay?” Ronnie shrugged and waited for the ball to roll. It was Aki who started, “Why did you come?” “I didn’t have a choice.” She mer ely responded. Not wanting to detail further. “Why were you there?” He smiled bitterly and turned his car right on the next intersection, “Just to think things over.” “Do you ----“ “Ar en’t we a little excited? It’s my turn, Ronnie.” Aki reminded, “How are you?” “I am okay. Technically. I have been doing great. I am waiting for my papers to progress. I can’t wait to get out of the country.” “Can’t wait to get away from me?” Her brows rose in a sardonic curve, “I think it’s my turn. How have you been doing, Aki?” She was truly concerned of what he was doing with his life. His mother told her he hasn’t been home since Cassie died and he’s been wandering all around town, seemed to be lost. “I don’t know. You think she died because of me?” “I don’t think so.” She r eplied truthfully. “It was not your fault. Something went probably wrong with her car. What happened that night?” Aki stopped the car in front of a 24-hour coffee shop, “Let’s have coffee first.” “Can we just go home?” she insisted. Not wanting to spend more time with him. “If I force myself to go home, I will sleep on the road. I know you know how to do CPR, but do you know how to drive?” I don’t. And he knew it damn well. “Well, you used up 5 of your questions.” Ronnie prompted. She saw him smirked but didn’t push. At least, we didn’t have any arguments. She slid off the seat and helped herself out of his car. *** Aki knew what she would like, a hot cappucci no, no sugar. She’s fond of caffeine and he wonders if ever she can live without one. The twenty questions still work. At least, she stayed. He can drive her home safely. It wasn’t true that he was groggy. He just told her that to win her time. “That night, we had a fight. I was breaking up with her.” He saw her flinched. “Why?” “Why indeed?” “Yes, why, Aki? Why wait four years?” confusion washed her face. She fervently waited for his answers. “Those were two questions, Veronica. Because for four years she was telling me she will kill herself when I leave her. I was too tired with her emotional blackmail.” Their order came; he stopped himself from asking his next question. He could vividly recall what she will do with her cappuccino. She will hold it with both of her palms, bring it close to her nose and sniff the aroma. After which, she will tear off the brown sugar, place half of it on her cup and then stir it. Aki couldn’t help but grin when she did exactly what was on his mind. “Why didn’t you give me a chance to be your friend?” In a very, very sly way she replied, “I don’t make friends with people who break my heart.” Ouch! Then another sip before she inquired her next question, “Why didn’t you stop her?” “I have no intentions to. I wanted her to go.” Nauseating nostalgic thoughts filled his mind. “I wished I did, you know. I wished I stayed for a few mor e days or months. But things happened. And no matter how hard I wanted things to return, I can’t. It was my fault.” “She said it was karma.” “Did she notice you were ther e?”
“Yes. She noticed I was there. She called my name. I couldn’t move. It has been four years since I last saw her. I didn’t want to go near her because I was too numb. I was there when she breathed her last and when the doctor declared that she was dead.” The continuous stirring in her cup proved that her thoughts were nowhere near him. Minutes passed when she went back to reality and threw back another query, “Did you love her?” *** “Cassandra knew right from the start who I love. She tried to contest, but nothing happened. Four years after, it is still you. Celine begged me to love her daughter. One can learn love, I know. But learning how to love Cassie was a herculean task. It has always been you, and she knew that. If I were to choose between misery and her, I would choose misery gladly. After all, there’s only a minute difference. ” Aki spoke each word with an honest tone of veracity and sincerity. He wanted her to know that he tried, he tried to love her best friend, but in the end, it was still her. “What did she tell you before she died?” Veronica settled back into the backrest of the chair and stared at him seriously. She bit her lip and crossed her arms on her front. She can’t say it. “She told me to take care of you. It’s funny how she wanted to get you from me back then. It was the ultimate act of betrayal. Because of a guy, she gave up our friendship. She can’t give you up, you can’t leave her, and so I left. There was no use if I stay. I cried, the whole week I cried. When I realized what you said that things cannot be the same as what they used to be, I stopped. I told myself to stop crying and just get on with life. I love you but then, I should love myself more. I prayed so hard that our paths would not cross. The city is such a small place, but God heard me.” Veronica smiled sadly, “He didn’t let me see you. I guess the pain healed. Until I saw Cassie again, dying, in my care. It was devastating.” She swallowed her tears back to her throat, deter mined to bare a brave façade. “It was painful. It was confusing. It was very hard for me. She told me she was sorry. I thought I couldn’t find the heart to forgive her. Yet I did. I couldn’t believe myself I did.” He wanted to hug her or to at least hold her hand just to make her feel comforted. However, he prevented himself from doing so. Perhaps it will just scare the hell out of her. “Ar e you planning to go to her wake?” Aki nodded briefly, “Of course. I want to say goodbye and ask forgiveness as well. Celine would be mad at me and probably send me to the dogs. Even if I didn’t love her, I still cared for her in my own way. Not the way she wanted to, but I did.” *** Their coffee had drained in their cups and both of them knew they still have one question left for each other. Veronica looked at her watch and it was almost three in the morning. “Ar e you planning to do what she asked you?” Her head snapped to look at him, it was a barely audible question but it reached her auditory lane. Is he asking me to take him back? For a while, she just sat there and looked at him. Stared at the person she cared for a long, long time. Someone who she valued more than anyone but God. Aki loved her, she knew. Questions streamed on her mind: if another person will come and tell him she’ll cu t herself in to half, will you leave me again? Veronica was the first one who stood up, Aki didn’t have the choice but to follow her. Silently, they entered his car and put on their seatbelts. He started the engine. “I don’t know.” She honestly replied. Ronnie was in a dilemma what to say. She wanted to say yes, but apprehension comes faster than a tornado. She didn’t want to say no, because she knew she was still in love with him. Veronica is always honest with herself. “There was no one after you, Aki. I tried dating other people but I end up comparing them with you. Taking you back is another story. It is not that easy. Cassie just died. And I am not even sure if the both of us are ready to be in a relationship again.” “If we give each other time, Ronnie, you think things will be the same as they wer e befor e?” “You asked me mor e than ten questions already!” she complained weakly. “We’ll never know. Time will tell. We have been away from each other for four years, wha t is a year or two more?”
Aki stopped his car in front of her green gate, “I guess you’re right. What is a year or two more compared to four years? You still have your last question, Ronnie.” “Can you kiss me again?” *** Two years after… Aki took his hard cap off and wiped his forehead. It has been two years since Cassandra died. It was a very hard task to be in her wake, fought his way to her coffin. Celine was furious. It was Cassie’s brother Howard who helped him. He said his goodbye and apologies . Months after, he asked Howard again for help to settle things with Celine. He explained himself. He told her the truth, not just about him and her daughter but about Veronica as well. When Celine finally understood, she gave him her blessings and wished his happiness. It has been one year, nine months and five days since Veronica left for Australia. She is due to go back anytime this year. He can’t wait. He had waited long enough. They agreed with no communications and just settle each other with an ample conviction that things will go well this time. He headed towards his car and saw a paper folded and clipped in his windshield it states, Ready to grab a chance of a lifetime? He can’t help but smile. It’s her handwriting! He looked around the place bu t no woman was around. No unfamiliar car was parked in the site. Then behold, an angel gracing out of his car, she was wearing a lilac dress and her favorite white strappy sandals. She too was smiling as widely as him and winked when their eyes met. “So? ” He lost his words, “How did you get inside my car?” “Talent, Aki. Are we playing 20 questions again?” the both of them still static on where they were standing. He shook his head, “I only have one request and one thing to ask.” Aki said walking towards her. I so, so miss you. He wanted to add but he blocked himself. Her brows met and slowly stomped her feet, “Ok?” “Undo my buttons first.” *** I miss you, Aki. Veronica laughed at his loaded statement. She didn’t know if it was a joke or she has to do it in public. She just came from the airport and her luggages were brought home by their families. They told her he was working here and so she came. She was already crimson when he stood right in front of her. “What?!” “Undo my buttons.” He repeated. She’ll play his game. She undid his buttons slowly and gasped when she realized what is he up to. “Ready for the question, Veronica?” He was wearing his old chain, a chain which she bought years ago. On the other hand, a different pendant was hanging on it. A ring, a ring she never seen before. “I love you, Veronica Louise. Will you marry me?” She hugged him tight laughing and sobbing at the same time, “I love you too, Benjamin Achilles. And yes, the answer is yes. I will marry you.”
Emmie’s eyes were filled with tears and she was shouting at the top of her voice. The white witch is approaching her territory. Just like any other enemies, she was smiling, pretending to offer peace. But she knew that behind the smiling face is an evil grin. She will cause chaos and an enormous amount of catastrophe in her domain. God may help her prevent it. She was crying because the witch in white is trying to assure her that there is just a little amount of medicine left, that she has to endure the pain for her to go home as soon as possible. Yeah right. She’s telling her the same thing over and over again for the past seven days and she’s still inside the pediatric ward. Emmie threw a sharp look at the boy across her bed. One more laugh and she’s going to throw her intravenous bottle fluid at him. Can’t he understand that she is suffering too much from whatever virus she acquired? “Look, the other kid is not even crying…” her mom offered comfort. Her brows met and she frowned. How dare her mother t ell her that!! Can she feel how her vein would burn every time the white witch pushed something into it? No! Because she was not the one who is in this bed feeling so helpless. Her mother, her used-to-be-hero, cannot even stop the white witch from inflicti ng her pain. And the other kid! How dare he mock her! He was a year older than she was, with a pair of eye glasses. That must be from too much watching television, as her mother would warn her. “Stop crying, little girl.” He told her. “Be brave! It’s just medicine.” “Go away or I’ll punch you.” She threatened. She didn’t care if her mother was already signaling her to stop. She wanted to throw tantrums. She wanted to go home badly. She wanted to get this over with. Emmie just vomited a couple of food that they ate that night, fainted and had an increase in temperature. She felt cold --- nothing that her parents could not handle. And yet, they opted to go to this horrible place and made her suffer. Don’t they love her anymore? The boy came to her bedside when the witch left. Unlike her, he had no IV tubings, all he had is a little yellow tube on his right hand—how come life is so unfair? “What’s your name, cry baby?” he asked. She could not appreciate his friendliness. He was mocking her a while ago! “Go away!” she said once more. She wiped her tears dry. “I’m Ton. I’ve been here for three weeks already. I want to go home, go to school but my doctor said I can’t. I need to finish all my medicines.” He sounded like her dad, a soldier, so brave and determined. “You did not cry?” she asked tentatively. “I did! It was painful but I want to go home and taking those medicines is the only way that I can leave here.” He continued to explain. Emmie smiled at him and said, “My name is Emmie.” “Ton-ton” That day marked the start of their friendship. Ton-ton had something on his heart that is why he is in the hospital. He was absent from school as well, much longer than she was and yet, it didn’t bother him. He was already in second grade, while she’s still on the first grade. Their mothers would bring books and toys for them to share. Everything seemed to be fine, until the time Ton needed to go home. He was already well and his contraptions were removed from him early this morning. She already felt sad. “Don’t worry, Ems. You will get out soon. Just remember to drink your medicine and please don’t cry. You look ugly when you do.” He tried to lighten everything up while fixing his things.
“That’s unfair!” she exclaimed, “I want to go home too.” Just imagi ning the other bed without Ton on it made her felt alone already. “You will. But you really have to drink your medicine.” He repeated firmly. He sounded like her mother, “Will I be seeing you again?” Emmie asked softly. She didn’t want to cry and be a baby in front of him. Ton stopped packing and turned to her smiling, “I don’t know. But we are friends, and that what matters most.” She hugged him tightly and gave him her favorite rag doll. “You keep that one so that you won’t forget me.” When they separated, Ton took off his favorite ring and placed it on her finger, “Here, a sign of our friendship. I will never forget you, Emmie. Be brave.” It was the last time that Emmie saw Ton. She wor e the ring on her finger until such time that it wouldn’t fit any more, so she made it into a pendant. It reminded her of a brave little boy who taught her to face her fears. And eighteen years later, she’s the white witch. *** “Is that all I am to you? Human needs?” Emmie hated herself when she turns melodra matic. It isn’t like her. She’s Emilia Dawn Flores, a cum laude of their batch and ranked number six in the Philippine Nurses Licensure Exam. Oh God. Do not beg, Emmie. She and Kyle have been going out since two years ago. And they have remained that way since then. Emmie was almost in rage, there was no one beside her who should be blame because of this agony she’s experiencing right now. No one pushed her into this; she allowed this thing to happened thinking that she can handle the consequenc es that will arise thereafter. But no, she was handling this like a baby. Crying her eyes out, in private of course. Parading a brave face in public, she decided to meet Kyle one last time. “I think it is better for us not to see each other for a while.” She thanked her angels clandestinely that she didn’t flinch, sob or broke down the words she practiced for a week. She felt stupid standing in front of the mirror in trying to put on the perfect mask and the perfect modulation as she speaks. “Ok.” It was all she heard him say. Ok? After all they have been through? He will just let her go? Just like that? She was stopping herself from breathing heavily. The pain was too much that she wanted to cry. When he caught her staring at him, he retorted, “What do you want me to say, Dawn?” “Nothing.” She denied. Say that you don’t want me to leave. Ask me to stay. Say that you love me. All those pathetic thoughts swarm inside her mind at that moment. Thoughts she never expected that would cross her limbic system. Befor e she could say anything she would regret – she turned her back and left. She did not look back, or else she wouldn’t help herself but to stay with him. Promise, p romise I would let it be. I wouldn’t run after you Kyle. I would never run after you. I think, I really think I deserve more. *** Dr. Anthony Tan, a post-graduate intern stared at the nurse who was fixing her cap. She looked so familiar, he wondered where did he met her. Of course, he knew it was improper to stare; he would stop as soon as he remembered when the two of them met. Much to his surprise, the nurse caught him staring and smiled as if it was nothing. She went on with her work, not minding his gaze that was intently following her.
“Anthony stop it!” one of his colleagues said. She must’ve noticed that he wasn’t moving anymore. “Why are you looking at her? Did you forget you have a girlfriend already?” Oh! His thoughts stopped, he wanted to frown but he stopped himself. PGI Maricris Lavilla is one of his girlfriend’s closest friends. “What did I do now?” “Stop staring at the nurse!” “I’m not.” He r efuted. “And please don’t pass unnecessary information to Caroline.” He could picture out another senseless fight with his long-time girlfriend. That is the problem with him and Caroline. These past few days’ fights that he didn’t even know the reason behind existed. What in the world is wrong with him? Her? Them? They used to be happy but insecurity is eating her alive and he didn’t know how to save her, or if she even wanted to be saved. They have been a couple for more than a decade and there are just two possible ways this thing will end – either they would break up or he would propose to her. He is still thinking twice about the latter. *** He’s tall, about six foot, with cute little eyes, unmistakenably Chinese. The color of his eyes is the darkest shade of brown, almost black. Even if he has glasses on, his eyes shine so… definitely amazing. It is just quite funny that while she was telling herself not to look at him – she knew for a fact that he was busy ogling at her, for a reason that she could not fathom. “His name is Anthony.” She heard on of the staff nurse said. “Who, ma’am?” Ms. Irish laughed and pouted her lips to the direction of the doctor. “He’s a Post Graduate In tern and recently passed the board examination.” “Is he available?” It was merely out of curiosity, not that she was interested. Her heart needed r est already. It had been through a lot. The mer e fact that Kyle didn’t even call her was too much. She was trying so hard to get herself a good diversion. Maybe then, she would grasp that it was not really love. It was just a bunch of hormones working on her human brain. “No. With a girlfriend. But hey, it’s just a girlfriend… He doesn’t have a wife.” She wanted to laugh. A girlfriend? Well, with a face like that, it would be a miracle if he doesn’t have one. That or he’s into flings just like most of the guys. Just like Kyle. If he has a girlfriend, what is he doing staring at her? She didn’t furthermore entertain the idea and went on with her usual routine --- patient care. That is why she enjoys her work so much, especially with the kids. Not only that she finds it a very good diversion, it reminded her of the past --- something good and worth remembering. *** “Is it your off already, Ma’am?” Emmie flinched when someone spoke behind her. She was busy staring into thin air while walking. She came from a straight duty, from 3 o’clock p.m. to 7 o’clock a.m. frankly, she was too tired to do anything—just like she wanted to. Enough for her to rest and just close her eyes and not to think of Kyle. When she looked back, she was surprised to see Dr. Tan there, “Yes, doc. Why?” “It’s my off too.” So? She just smiled and did not do anything. She continued on wa lking and pretended it was the end of the conversation. There was nothing to talk about, is there? “Did you have breakfast already?” taking note that he pronounced the word as ‘breck-fast’ not ‘breakfast.’ She shook her head, “No.”
“I’m hungry. Do you want to have breakfast with me?” Emmie once again faced him and smiled, What are you up to, doc? “Why?” “Ar en’t you hungry?” he was offering her an irresistible smile. Something that someone couldn’t say no to. And she became one of the probable victims who can’t defy it. It is just breakfast. “Okay.” *** Looking at her, he knew for a fact that they met befor e. Anthony can’t point out wher e did the two of them cross paths. She looked too familiar that he wanted to ask her if she felt the same. “Funny, I invited you for breakfast and yet I don’t have your complete name.” he heard the other doctors called her Dawn. He just calls her ma’am – a professional stuff. “My name is Emilia Dawn Flores.” She offer ed, “And you are Dr. Anthony Tan.” The defense around her is too strong that he is wondering if there is something wrong. When he looked at her, she was obviously not well despite the smile plastered on her face when she is with her patient. Most of the children like her. She was kind to them and made them feel better. “It is nice that I don’t have to introduce myself anymore. But really, thank you for accompanying me this morning.” “Where is your girlfriend?” she asked subtly. He wanted to tell her that he had no girlfriend; he wanted to deny the fact. But he’ll end up a liar in front of her. He didn’t want that to happened, “She’s away.” She smiled knowingly and shrugged, “At least you didn’t deny that you have a girlfriend.” “You have a boyfriend?” he asked slyly in the middle of his spaghetti swirling. He didn’t know where it came from or if it is even a smart question to ask. Her eye balls rolled, “No.” she simply answered. “Why?” “Is it necessary that I should have one?” *** That was not the end of their breakfast, soon lunch and dinner came. Emmie knew for a fact that he was attached. She can’t help herself. After all, she reasoned out, they were not doing anything wrong. It was just mere sharing of food. Everything was beginning to fall into their proper places. She was not looking for Kyle anymore. Emmie fought hard to get over him, and she won. The usual urge she had to text him, or even wait for his calls was no longer there. She was over him – totally and she was glad. Should she thank Anthony because he helped as well? In a very subtle way. He didn’t even have that idea that he was doing her a big favor of being there all the time. “Dawn, what do you want in a guy?” it was one of their early dinner at the canteen. Emmie almost choked the pork barbeque she was chewing when she heard his question, “Why ask?” “Just curious. I mean, you are almost twenty-five. A nice woman like you should have someone.” “Ar e you saying that the moment I answer your question, you will start pimping your friends to me?” Anthony laughed and shook his head, “Why will I do that? So answer the question please.” Resting her head on her palms, she sighed dreamily, “Someone who doesn’t exist.” “Huh?” “I need someone who cans stick to one girl. Someone who is not afraid of commitment. W ell we mu st have the same level of brain waves. Someone who is witty and can stand at my whims. Someone who will love me
and won’t make me cry.” Then she grinned, “Aw… drama!” she didn’t want to be theatrical in front of him. It was not her character. “You think it can be me?” Her jaws literally dropped. “Huh?” He repeated what he said, seriously. Then finally, she pushed herself back to reality, shook her head and answered him firmly, “No.” “Why not?” “I don’t go out with men who are attached.” *** “Shit.” Emmie cursed. She was suddenly alarmed. She can’t seem to feel her necklace on her neck. “What is wrong?” Anthony asked. They wer e on their way home that night. He was about to start the engine of his pick-up. “My necklace.” “What necklace?” “I need to find my necklace.” Emmie opened the door and went down. She started to retrace her footsteps. No. I can’t loose it. It is the only memo ry I have with Ton-ton. Anthony was quickly following her, “What kind of necklace?” “A gold one, with a ring pendant.” *** Anthony helped Emmie retrace their steps. It was quite dark that he needed to get his penlight out of his pocket to shed him light. It was not much later when his eyes came across a ring. It was too familiar that it gave him the chills. He walked fast towards it, and he noticed the gold chain in which it was placed. His heart went ballistic, and he suddenly felt nauseated. Is this for real? “Anthony! You found my necklace!” Emmie already grabbed it from his hands and yet he could not move. Emilia Da wn is Emmie? My Emmie? So that is why he found her so familiar. His heart recognized her before his memory did. She must’ve noticed that he wasn’t moving anymore, “Are you okay?” I found her! He gathered her in his arms and hugged her tightly, “Emmie? Emmie, is this really you?” He felt her flinched, then pushed her away, “What in the world are you talking about?” “It’s me, Ton-ton!” he took something off his pocket and showed her the rag doll with his dorm keys that he was keeping for almost eighteen years. *** Emmie ran away. She didn’t know why, but she did. What is happening to her life? Why the sudden confusion. He hugged her and everything inside her went numb. Except for her heart that was beating rapidly on her sternal wall. He is Ton-ton. Now what? Nothing. What was she expecting? Her teen-age years were over. A silent wish that perhaps her childhood hero, someone who taught her to be brave will save her from all of this and be her knight and shining armor one day. Her hero was not available anymore. ***
They wer e drawing attention not only from staff nurses or other doctors, but as well as patients. He was following her like crazy. He was paged, she had time alone. Then the moment he comes back he was there again. “Talk to me, Emmie.” She rolled her eyeballs hearing the name from his mouth. He used to call her Dawn. She wasn’t talking to him or even answering all his calls. “Go away Ton-ton.” “Why should I do that?” “Because I want you to.” “I have been looking for you.” He informed her. “For a long time. I thought we won’t see each other anymore.” “We have.” She said. Emmie stopped giving medications and looked at him, “You saw me, I saw you, happy now?” “Yes.” He promptly answered. “Now go back to your girlfriend.” “I want you to be my girlfriend.” If she was stubborn, he was far more stubborn than she was. “You have one already!” “Ar e you fighting with Doc Anthony, Ms. Dawn?” Gretel, one of her young patient asked. She smiled sweetly at Gretel and shook her head, “Of course not, Gr etel. We were just talking. Now drink your medicine.” The little girl smiled and did what she was told. “I will break up with her and ask you to be my girlfriend. And I won’t take no for an answer. Eighteen years is enough to think things over.” He turned his back and went away. She was left flabbergasted. *** “Ar e you Emilia Dawn?” Emmie was giving medication to one of her patients when a beautiful, sophisticated woman showed up in front of her. “Yes?” The girl pouted her li ps and looked at her from head to foot, “Stay away from my boyfriend.” She told her decisively. Her brows met, she could not comprehend what she meant, “Your what?” “Dr. Anthony Tan is my boyfriend, stay away from him!” Things started to be the way it was before. This time it stings, more than it did with Kyle. Maybe because all these things happened to fast and there was no time to pr epare for it. Or probably, she nursed it secretly inside her heart for the longest time and when it finally came into vi ew, her dreams shattered into pieces. He was all she imagined him to be, except that he was taken. She stayed away from him because she wanted to think about everything. She didn’t want him near since it will just make her more confuse. One broken heart after the other, when will this all end?? “I am staying away from him. If you have problems go talk to him and not me. I have nothing to do with it.” She turned her back and went back to the station. How can she expect herself to be special to Ton -ton when his girlfriend looked like a supermodel? *** Anthony felt his jaw went numb after a slap from Caroline, “How dare you!” He deserved that one, or at least just half of it. “Ten years, Ton!! Everyone expects us to get married when you get your residenc y!” This is the way he chose to end their relationship, a break-up. “I… I don’t love you anymore, Caroline. I am sorry.” “Is this because of the nurse?” she asked furiously.
He immediately shook his head, “Emmie has nothing to do with this. We have grown apart Caroline. You have changed, I have changed. You are not the Caroline I loved ten years ago.” Caroline was shaking her head unbelievably and bracing herself, “Ton please? Please reconsider. We have been together for so long. Can you at least sleep on this first?” Anthony looked at her sadly, “I thought about this a billion times, Caroline. I can’t do this anymore.” “You can’t do this to me.” “And please, do not blame anyone. Don’t blame Emmie, or yourself. Some things cannot work out like they suppose to be. It is life. No matter how hard we work on it. If it is not meant to be, we cannot push it. At the end, we will just end up hurting each other and we could not even be friends then.” Caroline began to shed her tears, something she didn’t do often, “What then?” “It doesn’t mean I didn’t love you then. I did. It’s just that things are not the same anymor e. I am sorry Caroline. I really am.” *** Kyle called her, after six months, he called her! At first, she was not that sure if she was jus t hearing things or it was for real. But what was funny is that there was no racing heartbeats, she was thankful for it. She talked to him gracefully as if he was an old friend not a former lover or whatever. He invited her to dine in with him. She did not refuse. She needed this closure. Not that she was not over him, but its something to cleanse an old would and make sure it did not spread. They dine in a public restaurant, something that they don’t do often. Something she can’t appreciate anymore. After they had dinner, he invited her to watch the fireworks display outside. She used to love the fireworks display. She used to enjoy looking at it. But now, she just wanted to go home and rest. She just came from another straight duty. He took her hand, held it firmly against his and whispered in her ears, “I love you, Dawn.” She thought she heard him wrong, “What did you say?” “Will you be my girlfriend?” she looked at him in wide-eyed surprise and felt tears burning down her cheeks. She had waited long enough for it and now that she had heard those words, she felt nothing. A dr eaded feeling of emptiness. What is wrong with her? She shook her head and laughed softly, “I can’t” “Huh? But… but I thought…” Wiping her tears with her free hand, she offered him a comforting smile, “I thought so. But I don’t need you anymore like I did. I loved you then but nothing happened, so I stopped. Some people know when to stop when they think things aren’t meant for them. And some people can’t wait forever, that is why when you love someone and you know for a fact that you love that person, you don’t have to be afraid to gamble. At least you tried, if things don’t work out… then fine. But what happened with us is that you were too afraid to commit that I may break your heart… you didn’t even consider while you were too afraid I’d break your heart, you were breaking mine. I had enough. Yes, I wanted to become your girlfriend… but now, I just want you to become my friend.” “Is there someone else?” “It has always been him. Since I was seven.” *** “Please, Aya… Please, drink your medicine. This is good for you.” For hours, she was trying to make the girl drink her medicine. She knew that bottle; it was one of those who didn’t taste good. No wonder Aya was crying her heart out in desperation. “Stop crying, little girl.” She gasped when she heard the voice. “Be brave and drink the medicine.”
Emmie wanted to cry. She remembered those words well; those were the words he said to her the very first time they met. “Doc Ton! It doesn’t taste good.” Aya told him. Anthony took the medicine from her hand and cuddled Aya on his lap, “I know it doesn’t taste good and I won’t probably drink this myself. But then if you want to go home and go to school, be a good girl and drin k this one, okay?” he put the cup on Aya’s mouth and slowly let her drink it. When it was consumed, he gave her his most charming smile and said. “That’s my girl.” “You work wonders with girls.” She commented. “Why isn’t it working with you?” Aya took her hand and placed something on it, a ring. “Where did this came from, Aya?” “Please marry Doc Ton.” She said in a low voice which she almost didn’t hear. She looked at him unbelievably and couldn’t help but smile, “What is this all about?” “Maybe Aya can convince you…” “You are asking me to marry you? What about Caroline?” He shrugged his shoulders, “I told you I’ll break up with her, which I did already. A little girl caught my heart ages ago. I want it back.” She just stared at him unbelievabl y. Is this for real? Anthony turned to Aya and frowned, “Aya, I thought you have the best convincing powers? Looks like you cannot convince Ms. Dawn here.” “Aw, Ms. Dawn, you are embarrassing me.” “You ask Doc Ton to ask me…” she said to her. The little girl smiled victoriously and turned to Doc Ton, “Go and ask her yourself.” She took the ring from Emmie’s grasp and gave it back to Anthony. “I won’t give you the chance to say no.” he warned her grinning, “Marry me, Emmie.” He took her hand and placed the ring on her finger. “Yes.” She didn’t even notice everyone was looking at them not until she heard cheers. When she gazed around, she saw the other staff nurses, doctors, interns and patient smiling. They were happy for them, and she was happy as well. The kind of happiness that she was not afraid to feel because she knew for a fact that nothing could possibly go wrong. Right there, in the middle of the ward where they first met. The white witch got engage.
Ian finally consumed the last portion of his beer before he made that very loud sigh. The sound of the bar tonight almost ruined his eardrums, enabling him to be numb to his environment. He couldn’t hear anyone’s word only his heart being crushed into pieces. What is wrong with him? Why did she leave him? He couldn’t fathom her reasons. Nothing was wrong, he was sure of it. He and Beatrice wer e fine. And then this morning, she called him up to say she wanted out. That simple, throwing out 4 years in the window as if nothing happened. His friends say he is handsome, a lot of girls wanted to be his girlfriend… but what is wrong with him? Every girl he chose to love always end up hurting him. *** 1 week la ter… “They broke up.” Ruby whispered to Julia while they wer e sitting in the library. Both thick books were opened with pencils, mineral waters and markers just found everywhere. In a second her attention was out of the cardiovascular system and all ears to Ruby, “What did you say?” “They broke up.” She closed her book and digested what her friend just said. Ian and his long-time girlfriend broke up. “When?” Ruby smiled whispered, “I don’t know the exact day, but according to Peter, he’s always drunk these past few days.” Poor Ian. Maybe that is why he isn’t here today. “It’s your chance!” Her brows met, “What do you mean?” “He’s finally free!” She tapped her pen on the table, okay, to tell the truth she was definitely smitten with Ian. He’s charming, he’s handsome, he’s kind and a lot more. Anyone can go gaga over him. The only difference is that one of his close friends, Ruby was also her friend and the three of them had been together for months now – to review for their up coming examination. Ain’t she lucky? However, ther e was a problem; she can’t stand being alone with Ian. Whenever Ruby was absent from their ‘session’, it was hard for her to act very neutral in front of him. She’s too scared that she may be too transparent or she may end up looking like a giggling school girl. But Ian is kind, he always offered her a ride home or to accompany her to the fast food chain if she’s hungry. She can never mistake it for anything than kindness. He will never fall in love with her. His ex-girlfriends were too beautiful, too --- too extremely beautiful compared to her. But right now, he’s the one who is absent. She wanted to ask Ruby the moment she entered the library – usually she was the one who arrives last because she still goes to her part time job. So that was the reason why he’s not around… Why don’t you open your eyes Ian --- I’m just a round. I won’t hurt you. *** Ian woke up with a throbbing headache and a full bladder. He went instantly to the bathroom and released the pressure, asked their maid for a pineapple juice and went back to bed. He wished to vanish – why is this happening to him? He couldn’t help asking himself one more time. Suddenly, he jerked up from bed, looked at his bedside clock and mutter ed a curse under his breath. It was almost 3:30 in the afternoon. He’s late with his review session with Ruby and Julia. He’s been absent for a week now. He needed to move on with his life. After drinking the pineapple juice he decided to get out of the house. Why is he making himself miserable? It was not his fault. He had done his best. Now if she doesn’t want him anymore, what else could he do? Surely, he can’t sulk forever? He got on his feet and went to the bathroom.
*** Ruby went ahead because she still has a meeting to attend to in their church. She was left a lone; it was okay with her as long as Ian won’t come. Since it was raining cats and dogs, Julia decided to go stay until the rain stops or at least a rainfall that she can tolerate. Hopefully she can finish the cardiovascular chapter and the rain would cease. “Julia.” Her heart skipped. Ruby told her he won’t come until next week! Or is she just dreaming? The moment his red bag rested on the table, she knew instantly it was him. Is he supposed to be dro wning himself in alcohol or something? Still in dep ressed mode? Now, why does he look so good in his checkered shorts, red shirt and black jacket? His face is not near depression. “Where is Ruby?” he asked. “Out.” she answered in a short, curt voice. Oh, why can’t he just sit at another table? The three of them always has this seat plan every time they are in the library, and usually Ian would sit beside her (while she stays so cool and prayed she won’t hyperventilate and humiliate herself). “Where?” “She had a meeting in their church.” Again, she answered without looking at him. Julia gasped when he placed his hands on her book, “W..hat?” “Finally, your attention.” He flashed his most charming smile on her, and she almost melt. *** If he doesn’t know Julia, he could swear that she likes him. Who wouldn’t? Everyone likes me, but no one loves me. How ironic. She was blushing and still maintained a very hard façade --- now that is impressing. Surely, she can’t be in love with him. On the other hand, it will explain why she always says no when he offers her a ride or even a snack? Or is she just shy? No. He heard Julia laugh out loud talking to Ruby. She’s mor e talkative when he’s not around. He shook his head. What in the world was he thinking? Julia is his friend. He should not be thinking abou t these stuffs about her. Maybe his aura of seriousness is making her uncomfortable sometimes. Yeah, maybe that’s it. “Jules, are you done?” he asked her again. “Why?” “Let’s have an early dinner before the review?” he offered. Then he saw the panic rose up her face – damn she’s going to say no. Sorry dear, I won’t a ccept no this time. “Please? I haven’t eaten lunch and loose any appetite when I dine alone. Besides I really need to talk to someone right now.” Sh e’s reconsidering. He noticed the shift in her expression. Finally, he was able to breathe when she smiled and nodded. He took the book from her hand and he would’ve taken her bag but she wouldn’t let him. “I can manage.” He just let her lead the way and he followed behind. Out of the blue he wonder ed if Julia has a boyfriend? *** It was still raining hard when they went outside, his blue car was not in sight. And Julia doesn’t have an umbrella. “I’m so sorry Jules. I parked my car somewhere else.” “We’ll just have to wait till the rain slows down a bit.” Her brow rose when he took off his jacket, she thought that he was going to put it inside his bag, instead he wor e it around her. I can smell his perfume. She stopped himself from inhaling all possible scent from the cloth. Please don’t swoon. “Do you mind if we run? I mean, my car isn’t that far from here…” before she could refuse him, he put the hood on her head and took the bag from her hand. “Com’on…” What else can she do? She ran her way to his car. The moment they r eached it, he opened the passenger seat first and let her in. When he settled in the driver’s seat, she felt her heart stopped beating and her lungs were not fully expanded.
“Ar e you okay?” his voice was full of concern when he asked her. Ian was wiping off the rai n from his arms. “Yes. But are you?” He smiled at her, “Yes, I am. Don’t worry. It is just rain.” He reached for her seatbelt and carefully fastened it for her. After placing his own, he started the engine and hummed a song. “Should you be sad?” she can’t stop her mouth from asking the question. Ian stared at her for a while and grinned, “Why should I be?” “Because…” Is it necessary to tell? He looks so happy, I’ll just ruin his mood. “Nothing. Where are we going?” worries came up her head when she noticed the road that they were taking was going away from the city. “Beach. I miss the crabs.” “Beach?” she reiterated, at this rainy night? He wanted to go to the beach? “Is there any problem, Jules?” She sighed softly. “You don’t know what it feels like to be next to you.” *** Pretend you didn’t hear it. But Ian did. He’s hearing was sharp, it was a whisper but it reached his ears. He wanted to ask her what she felt sitting next to him. Was she feeling awful? Or was it good? Stop it Ian. You’re friends. He r eminded himself one more time before he concentrated back on his driving. He wished to go to the beach to get the air of salty water that calms his nerves, the crabs, and he wanted to walk on the shoreline. He missed that. He wanted to go out and leave the noises of the city behind and just enjoy nature on this rainy night. “Where do you live?” he asked hoping to break the ice between them. “Huh?” Ian laughed softly, “Why are you always like that?” “Like what?” “I don’t know, lost maybe? Ar e you afraid of me? I don’t bite people.” He assured her. “So wher e do you live?” She gave her address, “What is it for?” “So I know where to drop you off later.” He simply answered. Julia laughed – the laugh that he used to hear when she was al one with Ruby, “You don’t have to do that, just drop me somewhere else and I’ll take a cab.” He frowned and kept his mouth shut. What is wrong with Julia? Does he look like a monster? “You don’t trust me, do you?” “Okay!” she raised both her palms up, “I give up. You can drop me home later. After all, you are the one who wants to waste your gas.” “Tell me, Julia, what can I do to let me pass your comfort zone?” Her brows formed a straight line, “What do you mean?” “I mean, like it or not, you aren’t comfortable when I am around. You don’t like me?” *** Julia was saved because they have arrived at the restaurant. He parked his car without uttering any word, freed himself from the seat belt and before she could open the door, he was already assisti ng her out. Now that was fast. Don’t worry Julia, a few hours more and you’ll be out of here. “It stopped raining.” Ian told her, so she noticed. There wer e no mor e rain showers, she could hear the waves from the sea, Ian was right, and this place is rel axing. “You’ll enjoy it here.” he assured. As long as I can breathe ok, I think I’ll enjoy it. He was already ahead of her when she withdraw from her thoughts, but when he turn around and found her still standing near his car, he ran back to her and hold her hand, “What are you waiting for? Let’s go!” Holding her hand, he led the way towards the table near the sea shore. No, he’s doing this because you’re a turtle and he’s just hungry. She kept on reminding herself. God, can I survive tonight? But she did, after the waiter took their order he started blabbering, about anything (their college days, during the board exam and the NCLEX review). But none about his girls. Somewhere in his chat, she started to settle down, smile more often and laughed naturally. Even as they eat, they kept on talking, he talked about his family, his dreams and he asked about hers.
Then out of the blue there was an eerie silence, an angel must’ve passed that the both of them had shut their mouth. “You look lovely when you s mile.” Julia grinned, “Now where did that came from?” she couldn’t believe that she heard him say that. Do I really look lovely? He took one prawn and peeled it off then put it in her plate. “I just noticed, you always seem to be uncomfortable when I’m around. It seems that you don’t like me to be your friend.” Julia rolled her eyes, “Now that is not true!” she denied. She can’t believe that he is that observant. “It is!” he continued, “You stop laughing with Ruby when I arrive, every time I invite y ou, you seem to have every valid reason why you can’t come.” *** Ian took off his slippers and shirt, he won’t swim, he just wanted to feel the breeze of cold air in his body. He ran to and fro in the shoreline and when he looked at wher e Julia was sitting, she waved her hand and smiled. She was still there, watching him, holding her cell phone. Was she taking photos of him? He grinned. What an imagination he has. He was glad that Julia was not stiff with him anymore. He thought she looses her tongue when he is around, and he proved himself wrong. She was lively and animated while she talked. Totally different than the Julia he knew. He find this day so refreshing. It was not a wrong decision to get out from mourning and get on with his life. Maybe from now on, he will just have to settle on being single than getting into a complicated relationship again. He will just enjoy the friendship he has with everyone, friends never hurt you. He had a gigantic amount of hurt feelings to last him for a year. I’ll give myself two or three yea rs befo re I will fall in love again. When he got tired of running around, he put on his shirt and run towards Julia. It was time to go home. *** “Why is it that Ruby isn’t coming here anymore?” Ian asked Julia while they w ere sitting inside the library one afternoon. She received a text message from Ruby this morning, she said that Charlene and her will be studying somewhere else to give her and Ian the chance to ‘get to know’ each other more. It has been one week that sh e and Ian had been alone studying in the library. And indeed Ruby and Charlene were right, now that the both of them are studying together --- it made them know each other more and made their ‘friendship’ much closer. Now what will she be telling this guy? “Maybe she and Charlene are just answering test questions.” “Oh ok. They’ll be taking the exam soon. What about you, Jules? Did you schedule your exam already?” She shook her head, “Not yet. Why?” “Patrick decided to go on early. I think I am not yet ready. When would you like to take the exam?” “I don’t know. Maybe by November? Why?” now she was puzzled. Why the sudden interest on her schedule? Maybe he will pray for her? He pouted his lips while thinking, “Can I go with you?” Suddenly she grew confused, is he asking what she thinks he is asking? “Where?” “We can take the exam together. I heard you’re taking the exam alone…” suddenly for the first time, he sounded so unsure of himself. “It doesn’t mean that we need to share a hotel room or something, you see we have this house in Manila with a lot of rooms, so you don’t have to worry of sharing a room ------“ “Ok.” Did I just said that? Unbelievable! Ian stopped, turned to her with wide eyes, “What did you just say?” Yeah, I think I did. “Ok. You can go with me.” she reiterated. This is not a mistake. Suddenly the worry frown on his face was replaced with the most enchanting smile he ever gave her, “Thanks. Shall we schedule our exams next week?” “Okay.” ***
“Jules, your boyfriend never gets jealous every time I invite you out?” Ian asked one day after they ate in the same restaurant by the beach. They just finished their review session and he decided to invite her here again. She almost laughed at him, “I have no boyfriend.” Julia simply replied, no further explanations. “Why?” “Because.” When it comes to her personal life, he noticed she was always adamant in giving him answers to his questions. “What about you Ian? Why are you single?” He grinned, “It will be unfair if I answer the question.” “I’m just curious, you’re good-looking, kind, --“ then she must’ve noticed he was shock and suppressing a laughter, “What’s funny?” “I never thought you think of me as good-looking!” that was an honest statement. He thought Julia was like Ruby who can’t appreciate his looks. Something they find an ordinary thing – which made them good friends. He should feel distressed because of what Julia said, instead he found it very flattering. She finds me handsome. She turned red, “Stop it! You’r e embarrassing me!” He smiled, and turned at the panorama, still smiling to himself and letting Julia get over the ‘embarrassment’ he just caused. Sometimes, he could mistake her for a kid, innocent, playful and pristine. Totally different from any gi rls he knew. He was thankful that it was not raining this time. The moon was on its way up in the sky and the both of them are looking at it in the shoreline, both of them mesmerized by the natur e that is unfolding before their very eyes. The scene was almost romantic, except, he wasn’t holding her hands. He was just staring at the moon, his arms placed at the table almost near to Julia’s back. He wasn’t touching her, but he felt her awfully close that her scent almost made him want to hold her near him. She smelled of strawberry, and vanilla --- cotton candy? Almost edible. He tried to shove off his thoughts, That is no t friendly. You pro mised you rself, Ian. No more girlfriends fo r now. “The moon is magic.” He heard her whispered. Still hypnotized by scene that is in front of them, “Ian?” she stood still as well as he. Julia just caught him staring at her. He couldn’t stop looking at her. She was more beautiful than the moon and what he feels right now is enough to make him forget his promise to himself. He took her hand, entwined his fingers in between hers. He didn’t take his eyes off her, he was afraid that the magic will vanish. He must be crazy hearing the philharmonics in his brain, or was that his heartbeat? He wasn’t so sure. With his eyes half closed, he moved his head closer to hers. He wasn’t sure if he was going to kiss her, unable to decide what to do, feeling so confused yet exhilarated. He could feel the air that she was breathing, their lips was almost a heartbeat away when the rain poured on them. And like a hot water being splashed at the both of them, they separated in an instance. *** It has been a week since that incident happened and until now, he can’t come up with a plausible explanation of his actions. It was deliberate, not a n accident. He tried to get away. What a coward he is. Ian is running away. He was scared, the feelings he has right now seemed to be more potent, stronger than his other relationships. Maybe, a hundred more times painful once all will be over. What he has for her accumulated gradually, he never really noticed it until it leaped out in front of him. He failed to acknowledge, desperately tried to ignore but it still surfaced. No matter what he does, he can’t deny the feelings that he has for her. She is s omeone whom he will spend an extra five minutes in the mirror for. He jumped at the last small wave that came his way and once again submerge his feet on the sand. If he will say he loved her, what will she say to him? Placing his hands on his pocket, he started to walk. I’m going to do this. It’s no t going to kill me .I a m going to tell Julia that I love her. *** Then after what happened in the beach, Ian stayed away from her. Literally away. Julia was left confused of what was her fault. What went wrong? Everything was almost perfect. They were close, having a good time everyday. Then all of a sudden, he stopped coming to the library. He doesn’t text her or reply to any of her
messages. She was left confused and quite devastated. Was he toying with her? Did he just flirt with her because he finds his life a bore? Or he was just being friendly? A lot of question came up her mind but she could not even come to a conclusion. No one was there to answer any of it. After 1 week of studying alone, she decided to tex t Ruby and Charlene, she needed people around her. She hated to study alone. The moment they came in, the both of them drag her for some coffee. Nothing more r elaxing than the aroma of caffeine entering your nostrils and into your brain, maki ng your brain cells frenzy for a while. “Where is he? I thought you’re already close! I saw your pics at friendster, he even made an album!!” Julia puffed the negative air from her system and told her friends, “I saw that too and it made me mor e confuse. What the hell is wrong with him??” “He just needs to realize it.” Ruby assured her while dipping her cookie into the cold frappe. Julia frowned, “He won’t. What he needs to do is to get bumped r eally hard in the head to get himself an epidural hematoma and maybe between unconsciousness and having a GCS score of 3, realization will flood him.” “Ouch.” She froze. Oh my God. I am hearing things. Audito ry hallucinations… “Cha, please don’t tell me he’s here…” “Hi Bih, Ei Cha…” then he sat beside her, “Hi Julia” he greeted casually. “I really don’t need to get bumped in the head you know…” Julia felt all the blood in her body rushed to her head. She turned red once again. He heard her alright. Quite loud and clear. Why in the world is he here? And why didn’t they warn her? She could’ve stopped herself from speaking those things. She chose to be quiet. After all, silent treatment works all the time. *** Ian looked around the library, he felt so alone. Julia didn’t talked to him after the coffee shop inciden t, well he got what he deserved. A silent treatment. No text, no calls, and she didn’t show up at the library this time. He did embarrass her. But he needed help to make it up to Julia. He needed to apologized big time and at the same time tell her how he feels. But how? When she couldn’t even go near him? He stared at his laptop for a while and suddenly a wild idea came up his mind. A very wild idea. *** “Check it now.” It was Ruby forcing her to open her computer and check a website. She tried to open her eyes and looked at her watch, “It is 3:00 in the morning, in case you don’t know….” “It can’t wait until tomorrow. I sent the website on your phone. Check it now, ok?? Ar e you walking to your computer?” Such a compelling request her friend just made, almost dragging her body parts, she rose up from the bed and went straight into her computer, opened it and connected it to the internet. All her sleepiness flew when her computer suddenly went black. “Shit.” “Shit?” Ruby r eiterated from the other line, “What happened?” She was looking for anything that may have caused the black out of her monitor but she couldn’t find anything wrong with her wires. “My computer!!” The moment she settled in front of the computer, it turned on again and something flashed in her screen. It was a picture of Ian frowning, then there was a text beneath the picture, forgive me please? Then two boxes, yes and no. “What is happening there?” she almost forgot that Ruby was on the other line. “Can I talk to you later, Bih? There is something interesting here.” She put down the phone and stared at the screen. She tried to click NO, but nothing happened. W ell, she doesn’t have a choice does she? He looks so huggable. How can you irritate me and yet be so cu te? When she clicked YES, a picture of him with a balloon appeared and the word THANKS. She thought that was the end of it, but something happened. The screen changed, and words appear in the screen once again,
Do you know how much you mean to me? Think of something you couldn’t live without and multiply it by a hundred Think of what happiness means to you and add it to the feeling you get on the best days you’ve ever had Add up all your best feelings and take away all the rest And what you’re left wit h is exactly how I feel about you… I love you Julia! Will you be my girlfriend?
Then the two box es again, YES and NO. Julia closed her eyes and pinched herself. Is this for real? Is he proposing to me?? Is he really proposing? At first she tried to click NO, but nothing happened again. When she clicked YES, there was a long pause before something appeared in the screen again, LOOK OUTSIDE YOUR WINDOW. Is this a trick? With both brows in one straight line, she went into the window. Her jaws dropped when she saw Ian, standing in front of their gate, with balloons and flowers in his hands. *** Finally Julia went downstairs. He was waiting here for ages. Thanks to their friends and her sister, he made it through. He was scared that Julia isn’t going to follow Ruby’s suggestion to open her computer at this unholy hour in the morning. Julia’s sister was the one who let them hack their computer just for tonight, she found it very romantic. He hasn’t slept for two nights working on the sub-7 program to hack her computer a nd he needed a rest. If she will accept him, he can sleep well. If not, ther e is always the option of not waking up. She stopped in front of him smiling, “What was that all about?” He couldn’t find the words he was about to say, he suddenly lost his wor ds, “Well, the computer told you what I wanted to say…” She playfully grinned and took the flowers from his hands, “I really want to hear it from you…” It was his time to turn red, Help me Lord please. “I love you Julia, can you be my girlfriend?” he spoke in a very soft and careful voice. “The computer won’t accept no for an answer…” she slowly took small steps towards him, “The answer is YES.”
“I saw him today. The one I keep on talking about. He came her e, in this hospital. I don’t know why he wa s here. Did he quit the other hospital? Was he visiting some friends? Or finally, he came to find me?” Julia sighed and continued, “I wished he finally came to look for me but I doubt it. If that was his plan, he could’ve done it ages ago. But he didn’t. So, I guess this is a stupid wishful thinking that he was trying to find me. Maybe I was not that important to him as I imagined. Perhaps I was right, I was just a scapegoat. I was hopelessly in love with him, and I thought he felt the same way. He was still in love with her, he was dating me and I broke my heart in the process. I loved that hospital. It was where I started to become a nurse. But after what happened, I know I couldn’t be happy there anymore. I can’t bear too look at him and think about the pain he caused me…” her shoulders shrugged and tried to exhale all the remaining anxiety out of her system, “I’m sorry I’m talking to you about these. I just don’t know who will listen and not tell me I’m being sentimental again. You probably want me to sto p now…” Phil, one of her fellow nurses , stopped nearby and said, “Talking with the patient again, Julia??” She smiled and drained the Jackson-Pratt device which is attached to the patient’s head. “You’ve been here for mor e than 3 months, Tita Beth. I ha ven’t seen your folks. Maybe they are quite busy. Everyone is quite busy these past few days. I hope you will wake up soon.” She touched her patient’s hand and held it tightly, letting her know that she was there beside her and wanted to help her survive her ordeal. Julia is an ICU nurse in one of the biggest hospital in their town. She has been employed here for almost twelve months. Her previous job was not as tiring at this, but she preferred the new one. It was tiring and the moment she went home, all she has to do was to sleep. No mor e time to think and dwell on the pa st. If only it was that simple… *** “What do you mean you’re breaking up with me?” JM went ou t of the do ctor’s quarters and held the phone tightly against his ears. He was in the middle of his sleep wh en his phone rang. He was quite sleepy and a bit groggy from yesterday’s work. He just drifted off about five to ten minu tes o r so. When he checked out his phone, he was surprise to see his girlfriend’s name on the screen, Chalise. She was a docto r too, and cu rrently having residency training somewhere in her hometown . It has been a while sin ce he heard fro m her. He just assumed that sh e was busy as he was. But he didn’t expect he was in fo r a big surprise. His girlfriend for almost a de cade is breaking up with him! “JM please! Don’t make this hard for us.” She was telling him as if it was the easiest thing to do. As if it was the only right thing they could do. “Damn! You’re making this hard for us. Do you have any idea what you just told me? You just want me to accept the id ea with open arms? We were okay the la st time we talked…” “And when was that?” He can’t remember! He briefly closed his eyes and massaged his temples, hoping this was just a nightma re and he is about to wakeup. But this was fa r fro m drea mland—this was reality. And reality bites really ha rd without warning him. “See you can’t answer me. You told me last time you’ll b e here during th e holidays. But did you co me?” He welco med mig raine. He would prefer it than the pain he was feeling in his heart--- almost debilitating.
Chalise is all he has besid es medicine. He was his soul mate, his best friend, his life. There was no one else that he loved but her. Yet now, he was bound to loose her. What more is left to him? Just medicine, his suffering patients and misery. She was right. She has been asking him to come for so long but he was too busy to do so. He can’t find time. He thought Chalise would understand, but hearing her now, h e was just assu ming everything. “Tell me something – just be honest…” this was really stupid. ‘Why are you asking her the question? Why don’t you just drop the topic and tell her okay?’ He con tinued, “Tell me Cha, why are you breaking up with me?” He could hear her unstable respirations on the o ther line. The tension was almost choking him as he waited fo r her answer, “Cha?” “I don’t love you anymore. I’m so so rry, JM… It just won’t work.” Th e line went d ead. *** “This won’t hurt a bit, Josh.” Julia was pasting the sweetest smile she could offer on her face. This patien t threw several nurses out of the room and she wa s the ready pawn of th eir h ead nurse when the last one went ou t crying her heart. Joshua is a difficult patient – son of one of the wealthiest man in the city, he thinks he can buy his way on everything. But she was firm and patient. She knew how to charm people and let-down their defenses. Only that she doesn’t kno w if charming people is a gift or a curse. “Good mo rning, Joshua!” She almost sta rtled hearing th e voice. W hy does he need to be here? He settled beside her as if inspecting her wo rk and discreetly whisp ered in her ears, “Flirting with the patient again, Nu rse Julia?” Dr. JM Antonio, the sole reason why sh e felt her charm was a curse. He was a junior residen t at th e hospital. Fro m the moment she was in her senio r yea r in the nu rsing school—he was always picking up on her. At first, she was pissed off, but later she learned how not to listen to him. Instead of fighting JM, she smiled mo re sweetly at Joshua to tormen t the guy. “I hope you’ll feel a little better. And Joshua, don’t be too hard on the other nurses.” “But I don’t like them. They talk about me behind my back.” He told her. “What makes you think that I don’t?” she challenged. He simply replied, “Because you are different.” Joshua tried to hold her hand but she ba cked off. That was not part of charming this guy off. When she turned a round, JM threw her a disgusted look. She almost exhale in exasperation, why is he doing this to her? Befo re her pati ence wea r off, sh e decid ed to go out. Defending her actions in front of the patient is no t wo rth and it would cost h er more. She has no choice but to shut up, pretended she saw or hear nothing. “Why are you so hard on her, Juan Miguel?” sh e heard Joshua scolding the doctor befo re sh e closed the door.
*** “You’re frowning again Julia…” Michelle chu ckled when she sa w her co ming out of the room. “It’s the love of your life, isn’t it?” “Shhhh!!!!” Suddenly she panicked, tried to silence h er friend and lo oked around, thank God, it seemed that nobody heard her. “Shut-up!” “No one heard!” Michelle was laughing at her, “W ell, th ey are a bunch of idiots if th ey still don’t know it until now. My, my, you are wearing your heart on your sleeves, d ear…” She immediately denied, “Am not!” What an irony that she was in love with him. She and JM came a long way. When he was a Junior In tern, she was in her junior year in nursing. His girlfriend was still with him. During her volunteer years, he ca me in as a post-graduate in tern. And now, she can’t believe h er lu ck, he still p referred to work as a resid ent doctor in th e same hospital in which she is now a staff nurse. The only difference is that – his girlfriend is no longer with him. The first time she saw him, she was left du mbfounded. Suddenly, her gift of tongue was taken away from her and all she could do was to stare at his handsome fa ce. Fo r th e first time in h er life, she was sp eechless and her heartbeat was having an irregular rhythm as if she was nea r to ventricular arrhyth mias. The momen t he smiled, she could feel the butterflies in her stomachs are flying a round. But it seems all of her desire fo r him will remain inside h er fan tasy when sh e saw his girlfriend. Dr. Chalise Zaragoza, very pretty and intelligent. Perhaps, when God distributed all the gifts in the world she was up in fron t having several pails to catch the blessings. “Tita Zen…” Julia once again heard his JM’s voice calling th eir h ead nurse. Of all the young resident doctors inside the hospital, he was the only one who has the guts to refer to th eir terro r head nurse by her first name. “Yes dear? You look different today…” sh e heard the wo man replied. Julia looked at him, and stared. Does he look different today? He still looks th e same, he looks good despite the black shade under his eyes because of la ck of sleep. Just then sh e noticed his eyes, he looked different indeed. He looks sadder, but her heart stopped bea ting when he looked at her and smirked, “I look more handsome, tita?” Their head nurse laughed at him, “What was that, d ear?” “Are nurses allo wed to flirt with patients?” h e asked casually. She almost dropped the chart that sh e was holding. Isn’t he pushing the issue far enough? Ho w dare he tell their head nurse his assumptions? He does no t know wh ere his allegations will lead him. Even though it’s not true, but she will be in trouble. “Who flirts with the patient, dear?” th e older woman asked him, suddenly sounding very interested with the news. “Just asking, Ma’am…”
“No, it’s no t allowed. No t even flirting with doctors h ere. Now, if you know someone who does, tell me and we will take disciplinary actions.” She took it seriously? Damn JM. Is his life too boring to meddle with other people’s lives? *** JM was bo red. His only consolation wa s that there are many patients insid e the hospital and he was too busy to think about the problems of his heart. It was tiring but good for him. He can’t think of anything else but how to maintain his patients breathing until they a re discharged. It has been six weeks, and Chalise may have been serious with her decision. He tried to call her several times, send her messages via SMS or e-mail but she never replied. She must’ve wan ted him out of h er life. He knew he needed to step back and give her the space or rather th e freedom that she wanted . There was no point of begging if she made up her mind about their situation, usually she sticks it no matter what the consequences are. He just prayed that at least she’s suffering half of the pain tha t he felt righ t now. If only morphine could cu re this pain, he could have over-dosed himself. He closed his eyes, and the frowning face of a beautiful nurse came in to his thoughts. Why does h e love to pester her? No reason actually, he just pesters her for no reason at all. Maybe he adores her wh en she’s frowning. She’s pretty when she shots him the I-don’t-like-wha t-you-are-doing look. Julia whose smile is like molasses, dark and rich and bittersweet, and it almost melted him co mpletely. ‘Wha t a strong metaphor!’ Now he wonders why she stayed at the same hospital fo r yea rs. She spent her student nurse’s life in th ere. Doesn’t she find it boring? So me of her colleagues prefer another hospital to wo rk, bu t she stayed. He can’t figure out why. She likes routine? Maybe… What does she like? Does sh e like hotdog sandwiches? Dinner under th e sta rs? Flo wers? Letters? Finally he shook his head to restart his thoughts. What in th e wo rld is he thinking? Move away from complications, you already had enough to last for a lifetime. “Dr. Antonio, please call up ER.” ‘Time to wo rk…’ *** Julia loved the rain . She liked the feeling of it touching her skin and dripping down her fa ce, it’s like magic. She would feel awfully relief from stress and everything that is both ering her. This week has been terrible, the wo rst so far. She does hope rain will erase all her apprehen sions tonight because she do esn’t kno w any remedy fo r this. She felt so frustrated that she wanted to cry. She was n ever a cry baby. Gro wing up, it was a ra re occasion wh en she would waste tears. Something would definitely be wrong if she does. Things are definitely wrong today. Julia can’t believe that she has been reprimanded by their head nurse regarding JM’s allegations. She asked her to explain why she was flirting with patien ts esp ecially why in the world Joshua Diaz a sked her to be his personal nurse? Is that her fault she was good in wha t she does? And she’s an excellent therapeutic co mmunicator? She was very particular in touching patients. Why did their head nurse assume? JM went too fa r this time. And she does not like this one bit. She had enough.
She just came out of the hospital, it was almost 1:00 a.m. and it was raining. She do esn’t mind. The street was never dangerous for a walk. So, she chose to exercise her legs and damp her white uniform with rain. She wanted to think and think about stuffs and maybe so mewhere in th e road, she would find the answer to her problems. *** JM stared at his watch, it was 1 :00 in the mo rning and it was raining. He was trying to find Julia. One of the nurses told him that the head nurse called and reprimanded her regarding his allegations. He didn’t mean for everything to go that fa r. Was it his fault that Tita Zenny couldn’t take a joke? ‘ Yes, damn you! It was you r fault.’ Michelle, Julia ’s friend, told him that her friend looked so distraught leaving the head nurse’s office. ‘Damn. Da mn. Da mn.’ One curse followed after the other. He was worried, if anything happened to her, it was his entire fault. He went out of the hospital, looked for his car and drove slo wly. It was raining. She wasn’t in the guardhouse, so she probably is still wandering in the street if not ho me. He was near the main road when he spotted so meone in white who is sitting in th e pavement of th e street. He dimmed his car lights and went out. It was Julia. And she was crying. He let out ano ther curse befo re coming near her. “Julia?” She didn’t even raise her head when she replied, “Go away!! I don’t need you here. ” “Julia, it’s raining. You’re dripping wet. You will get sick. You still have to go to work tomo rro w.” He reminded her. But it seemed she made up her mind about staying in th e rain, “I don’t ca re. Just…Just go away. Just leave…leave…me… alone. You have caused me enough damage already…” He squatted in front of her, held both of her shoulders and helped her get up. ‘Oh God. Sh e’s crying’. He was not good with crying girls. It usually made him more stupid than he normally is. ‘Aw, what the heck’. JM gathered her in his arms and embraced her tightly. “I’m sorry. I’m very sorry…” h e whispered in her ea rs. He didn’t mind the rain was getting heavier and he was already cold as ice. He just wanted her to stop crying, to assure h er that everything will be fine. JM let her cry on his shoulders until her sobs subsided. “Why are you doing this to me?” she asked softly, trying to escape his embrace. He cupped her face with his palms. He sta red at her for a while. She looks so differen t now. He wa s accusto med seeing her smiling, fro wning and laughing but he never saw h er cry. Just no w. And she looks so cute seeing her puffy eyes and red nose. Before he could even stop himself, without second thoughts kissed her lips so lightly that he was not even sure if he did it, “I’m very sorry, Julia. Please, let me take you home.” ***
Julia was tossing and turning. She can’t help it. She wasn’t sure if it was all a dream o r it was for real. Did he really kiss her? Why? All for sympathy? Or… ‘Stop. Stop. Stop!’ She tried to apply thought-stopping and was glad her thoughts of the previous night halted fo r a while. ‘Drea ms aren’t dangerous, girl. Bu t sometimes too much is bad for your health.’ She was supposed to be tired, to feel so sleepy. Bu t she’s not. Her cell phone rang, at first she was no t in the mood to answer it but it kept on ringing. ‘Maybe it’s important’. She stared at the screen for a while, trying to deciph er whose number is calling because it is not in her phonebook. “Hello?” “Julia?” She almost dropped her phone when she hea rd that fa milia r voice a t the end of the line. ‘Who in the world gave you my number?!’ “Are you still there?” “Yes.” She could tell he breathe out a sigh of relief when sh e didn’t d rop down the phone, “I… I had your number from Michelle. And…and… I talked to Ma’am Zeny about what happened… I… I… explained to her ----“ “You don’t need to do that.” If it was his conscien ce scolding him to do it, better not. She would owe him gratitude if he does. But he sounded so sin cere. ‘Ugghhh!!! I think I’m having a bad headache.’ “I need to. I’m sorry again.” Her brow rose when the line went silent, ‘What now?’ “Julia? Are you still there?” “Yes.” “Are you free tomo rro w night? It’s you r day off…” ‘Where in the world is this going?’ Another intake of breath, she noted. “I wonder if you would like to have dinner with me.” *** JM once again glace at the bouquet of roses on his passenger sea t. Michelle told him Julia loved roses, any color. So he chose all the colo r that was available in th e flower shop and the flo rist made a beautiful bouquet. He was happy with the result. He remembered when he asked her to go out with him, sh e did not answer fo r a long time. Julia was very quiet and it scared him she might refuse. He n eeded this dinner, to apologize fo r the n th time and to clear the heavy load in his conscience. Julia didn’t want him to pick her up a t home. She told him that the two of them will just meet in so me restaurant. But he assured himself that he will bring her home tonight. ‘This is not your first date’. That was a mantra he kep t on rep eating since he pulled out from the hospital parking lot. He felt a little nervous, no, not a little; but really nervous. Finally, when he arrived at the restauran t, he felt a little relief and at the same time giddy. He was still in his scrub pants and just changed his upper shirt with something mo re approp riate. He realized he was late when she saw h er sitting in one of the tables playing with the stra w of her glass. JM once again filled his lungs with air and walked towards h er, “Hi, this is for you.” He handed her the roses and thankful she smiled. “Thank you.”
“You look so different when you are not in your uniform.” She really looked prettier without th e white uniform on. Although she really didn’t make the effo rt of d ressing up, all sh e has on was a short skirt and a nice shirt. Yet she looked ecstatic. And then came her witty reply, “And you still look the sa me, you still have your scrub pants on .” He felt himself flushed and then she laughed, “I… I’m so rry. I didn’t have time to change. If I did, you would be suffering hypoglycemia when I arrived.” “Yes, I think so too.” *** Julia had been here fo r ten full minutes already and she has not eaten anything decent sin ce this mo rning. Her appetite was totally suppressed. Excited? More like nervous. Sh e didn’t now what to expect tonight. She didn’t even want to think. ‘Let this get this dinner over with and get on with ou r lives’. She found him different today. Is this really JM? He is so kind, so sweet and so… charming? Well, she saw these qualities when he deals with his patients but he never sho wed these attitudes to her. He was always rude on her. Now she wonders if she should be scared. She looked at the flowers and admired the arrangemen t. He bothered to d rop by the flo wer shop and bought her one. ‘You are just overwhelmed, Julia’. She closed her eyes briefly and wished tha t this evening will b e over before her imagination will drive too hard again. “How was your day?” she asked him. They were silent for a long while, and she was getting uncomfo rtable with the quietness in their table. She needed to speak or h e needs to, but looking at him, he didn’t know wh ere to begin. He smiled, and it almost left her breathless. That wa s the smile that would make her hea rt flu tter. “I had a good day. Same old boring routine. Joshua was discharged this afternoon and he was looking for you…” She smirked, “He always does…” “He asked for your cell phone number. But no one gave i t to him, he wanted to thro w everything that he could find in the station…” “No w that one is exaggeration!” He shook his head, “No… He was really fond of you… Looks like he’s in love with you. Maybe you put love potions in your syringes.” ‘Maybe. But I would have tried it on you first’. “I wish . Joshua is a nice guy. Misunderstood. But I have no intentions of giving him my personal number. I still believe in a strict nurses-pa tient rela tionship thingie.” She could tell he beco me uncomfortable, “I’m so rry—“ “It’s okay. Stop saying you’re so rry, okay? Apology has been accep ted. After all, this is a nice dinner we have here, and you bought me nice flowers.” She smiled at him just to assure him he doesn ’t need to tell her the word ‘so rry’ again. “Maybe… maybe…” “What?” “Can we still go out after tonight?” *** “Why in the wo rld are you smiling like a crazy girl?” Michelle asked her while she was on her way back to the nurse’s station. She has been waiting for her to go out from the patient’s room. It has been one whole week since the dinner and everything just changed abruptly. And she was happy. She was a bit scared of the feeling. “And what in the world is going on with you two? Why is h e bringing you lunch? And smiling at you as if you two have secrets?” again, here friend demanded.
Julia can’t help but grin. She hasn’t told anyone about their dinner, no t even her close friend Michelle. Tha t is why everyone is in their curiosity mode the moment JM arrived in th e nurse’s station last Monday bringin g her lunch. At first, she was also surprised. But she found the act endearing, and she was lu rking in dangerous water with her heart at stake. “Nothing. Nothing is going on. The only difference is tha t we a re friends no w.” She replied nonchalantly. “Are you sure? He looks like a dumb puppy every time he brings you lunch.” “Dumb puppy?” “Don’t you think he likes you as well?” She almost bumped into their lo ckers wh en she hea rd what Mich elle said, “No. He do esn’t. Stop it Mitch. I don’t even want to think about it.” Michelle’s shoulders shrugged, “Why not?” “Because first, he has a girlfriend…” “Which I don’t see around.” She sighed, “It would be a little complicated, so I better think h e’s doing this because the two of us we are friends.” “You can’t be happy all the time if you don’t take risks.” Her friend told her. “I can’t be happy either if I’m broken hearted.” “You have been in love with him sin ce you don’t have you’re cap on.” She rolled her eye balls and smiled, “I beg to disagree, Mich. I had my cap on already.” *** “You know how to cook?” Julia seemed very surp rise when JM brought her to his apartment and cooked for her. “What can I say, I am a talented man.” Th ey were supposed to have another dinner tonight but his off was around 11:00 pm, and hers was at 12:00 am, no decent dinner was available in restauran t not unless you want to get drunk. So , he took his lu ck in inviting her to his apartment and promised her a superb ho me-cook meal. He felt relief when she agreed. Here he is now, standing in front of the stove, trying not to sing and burn his recipe. She went inside the kitchen with her hair out of bun. All he could do was to stare at her, at ogle a little bit. “What are you cooking?” a question that brought him out from his fan tasy wo rld. “I’m cooking spaghetti and my own version of garlic b read…” “Smells good…” “I smell good?” Julia laughed and went near him, he could feel her b ehind him, smelling his hair? “What a re you doing?” “You’re right. You still smell good.” She whispered. “And the food too.” It’s good she decided to ba ck off before he could make her his dinner. Go away goose bumps. But it didn’t. It stayed there and he felt very uncomfortable. ‘How could a simple dinner turned out to be to rtu re?’ Sh e seemed to sense his stillness, finally she decided to go out, “I’ll set the table…” When he went back to his small dining room, Julia was already sitting down in the chair and curren tly reading one of his books that perhaps she found somewhere in his bookshelves. The table was already set, “Dinner’s ready… or is this early breakfast?” She smiled and put water on his glass while he put some of the pasta in her plate. “Can I ask you something?” she asked seriously. “Shoot.” “Why is it that I can’t see any pictures of your girlfriend?” He fell silent fo r a few minutes, trying to think if he should answer the question or pretend he didn’t hea r. But he chose the first one; there is no harm in being honest. “Chalise and I broke up.” *** Julia sat by the seats in the information. Sh e was waiting for JM’s off. It was almost midnight and she was quite sleepy. What she hates most on being alone is her thoughts. When she’s with her friends, at least it could be
diverted or when she has other things on her hands. Bu t for now, all she has are her unhealthy thoughts. What is going on with the both of them? How many people have asked her th e question? Question she did not da re answer. What is their relationship? Friends? They spen t the whole day of their free time togeth er. They enjoy ea ch other’s co mpany. They talk on the phone for a very long time. They always send SMS messages. He would drop her home if she was on either afternoon or night shift. They kiss, they cuddle… do friends do that? Friends with benefits? How… ho w stupid could that be? He has always b een special to her, but is she sp ecial to him? Did he ever mention how much she meant to him or if she really mattered? Even though how mu ch she tries not to think of reality, it always co mes out from nowhere, invading her thoughts and questioning her actions. The theo ry may be right, being in love could cloud your judgmen t and you usually make a fool out of yourself. She massaged her temples lightly, ‘here comes headache again’. A sardonic smile plastered on her face, ‘I may be head over heels in love with you, JM. But I’m not d esperate’. She sighed, ‘what time is it?’ When she looked at h er watch and frowned . ‘His off was suppose to be at midnight!’ Just then she caught the site of one of his friends, “Harry!” “Hey Julia ! Why are you still here?” he asked while removing his white coat. She hesitated for a while but she has to ask befo re sh e will wait till sunrise fo r nothing, “Is…Is JM still around?” His brows met, “He took an early off. Didn’t he tell you?” “Early off?” ‘He told me to wait for him! He told me we will go home together’. On the other hand, maybe something was wrong. Perhaps he was in trouble o r sick? She gathered her wits and smiled, “Okay. Thank you so much, Harry. I guess I better go home.” “Would you like me to bring you home?” th e young doctor offered. Julia shook her head, “Thank you for th e offer, but I have to pass. I will just take a taxi.” “You sure?” She nodded. Julia made up her mind. Sh e was going to his apartment. Just to see ho w he is… His apartment was open, the door was not lock. Tha t was good for her and she can’t help but wonder. JM never fo rgets to secure his door. She tip toed inside, ‘I feel like a thief.’ Julia could smell cigarette in the air and alcohol. ‘What is going on here?’ The center table in the living room is filled with liquor for a whole group of ten ra ther than one. She sa t down on the sofa and started to gather all the empty bottles and fix th e other things on th e table. Then sh e saw the opened envelop, at first she hesitated because it was not her attitude to pry on other person’s belongings. Bu t it was open as if inviting to be read. A wedding invitation of… ‘Dr. Chalise Za ragoza and …someone else’. Is this what all these topsy-turvy all about? Because his ex-girlfriend was g etting married? “What are you doing here?” She was ala rmed hearing the unstable voice of JM behind her. He snatch ed the invitation away from here hands, “Who th e hell told you to check on my mails?” “I…I was… I was…” ‘I was wrong.’ Looking at his eyes, stabbing her soul with anger. Why? Ju st because she opened the invitation? But it was already open wh en she en tered his apartmen t. “What are you doing here?” once again he demanded. “I… I… I just wanted to… to be sure… that you are alright…” he gave her th e fea r mo re than her heart can handle. This was a different JM now. She never saw this side of him befo re. A sid e the scare th e hell out of her and made her speechless. “You have no right to be here, to enter my house without my permission and search through my things.” He spoke in a low dangerous voice that almost broke her heart, “We are just my friend, Julia . No t my girlfriend.” Her eyes widened in disbelief. Unable to move for a while, truth was slapped right in to her fa ce. JM must’ve awaken from his trance and suddenly realized the effect of wha t he just said. “Julia…” She stood up, “I guess you’re right.” ‘Be brave, girl. Don’t cry in front of him. Don’t even let your voice quiver.’ “Julia…” She smiled sadly, “Goodbye, JM.” And th e moment sh e went out the door, sh e swo re sh e had enough of JM to last her a hundred lifetime. ***
“Can I talk to you, Julia?” JM has been a wreck whole day. He has a terrible hang -over from his splurge of alcohol. God! He hurt her so bad; h e wanted to explain wha t happened yesterday. Why in the wo rld did he say those terrible words to her? God. He was too miserable. He was wasted and his sen ior residen t was thro wing spears at his side, afraid for him to screw up and kill a patien t. So he told him to walk around and talk to th e person he needed to talk to. But it seems Julia didn’t hear a wo rd of what h e said. She passed th rough him as if he wa s a ghost. Her beautiful face was void of any emo tions, none of which betrayed her. Cold, that was the very word tha t could describe her attitude towards him. No mo re mischievous smile or a hint of something naughty. She was entering the linen room to dispose some the u sed bed sheet, h e silen tly thank God fo r the opportunity presented to him. He went inside after her and locked the doo r. “Julia, we need to talk...” he started in a low voice. Unable to hide the anguish in his voice, he was very near to desperation. “I understand.” Julia murmured. Then she quietly moved away from him, crea ting a safe d istan ce in between them. “I don’t need your explanation. I a m sma rt, I understood what you said yesterday. Co mpletely. So I don’t want you to bother elaborating what you mean.” “I didn’t mean what I said…” “But you already said those words to me. And you can never take it back.” “You’re special.” Finally, he confessed. Praying that it would be enough to ea rn her sympathy. Julia released a sarcastic laugh, “Special… bu t not you’re girlfriend. Let me give you a wo rd fro m my vocabulary that described what you feel fo r me these past few days.” She looked a t him in tently, those da rk bro wn eyes that are silently shouting of pain, “A mere scapegoat.” *** As much as possible, Julia avoided him like a plague. She needed to until h er two weeks notice was over. She was resigning as a staff nurse from the hospital. Because another hospital was offering her g reen er pastu re. And yes, she hated to admit that JM was one of the reasons. Sh e hated another dra ma, it was not her fo rte and she was too tired of looking straight into his eyes p retending that sh e was super okay wh en she was in too mu ch pain. She needed this space, badly. Needed it like air, and to maintain her sanity. *** “Did you just hear me, Juan Miguel?” JM inhaled all the air that could fit in his l ungs, plastered a smile on his lips and face his favorite aunt. “Yes, but how can I find her? I don’t even know her e name!” His Tita Elizabeth has been asking him to haunt a certain nurse from the Intensive Care Unit. And she doesn’t even know the name. Since she was discharged from the ICU two days ago, she had regained strength and has been pestering him on finding out who the nurse is. “Juan Miguel, she’s very nice. I could hear her voice and it made me feel at peace. She was very kind. I just wanted to thank her!” looking at his aunt now, he’s not sure if she has been inside the ICU for three months unconscious. She looks so healthy, robust and same old self. “Okay, I try to ask a staff in the ICU, just hope I have some friends there!” Elizabeth laughed and urge him to come closer, “I think the both of you will suit.” “Tita!!” “I can feel it in my gut.” Then she added, “You had no girlfriend since Chalise. I think its time you find a new one.” He sighed and wished he never heard what his aunt said, I already found her, tita. And I lost her. ***
JM was almost a step closer to being enrage. No one could tell him who the nurse was. One of his friends, who was the resident-doctor assigned to the ICU told him to see his aunt’s chart and get the nam e of the nurse since the latter was no longer working in the hospital. In short, she resigned. Where in the world will he find her? Just to satisfy his beloved aunt’s whims? Well, he just had to tell her that ther e was no way he could find the nurse she was looking for. He was near his aunt’s door when he heard voices laughing. He stopped, tried to decipher the female voices that he was hearing. Both voices are familiar. One was his aunt and the other one… He rushed inside the room without even knocking and found the girl who stole his heart, talking to her aunt animatedly. “Julia…” *** Julia fell silent. She could not believe her eyes, there he was again. A pigment of her imagination? She should really see the psychiatrist; she has been having hallucinations of him. “By the way this is my favorite nephew, Dr. Juan Miguel Antonio. JM! Her e is Julia, the nurse I keep on telling you about…” So this is not a pigment of her overstressed imagination. This was reality. He was really here, in front of her. Staring as if she too was part of his subconscious. He slowly took a step towards her, with his eyes fixed on her face. She did not dare move. This moment is long over due. She was getting tired of playing games, of telling herself that everything wa s fine and she doesn’t need him. For in reality, she missed him so. The moment her judgment wasn’t clouded anymore with anger, she realized that she needed to hear his explanation. But it was too late, pride already engulf her heart. He wasn’t calling her, nor asking her whereabouts, so she tried to toss her memory of him on the other side of her mind. A poorly calculated action that brought misery during times of solitude. JM gently cupped her face with his palms, tears struggling to get out from its duc ts but he managed to control them, “Forgive me, Julia. I am a mess without you…I need you, badly.” “Why?” she asked. “Because I love you. I loved you then, I love you still. And nothing could change the way I feel for you. I just don’t know how to tell you this in the past. I was confused, partly scared.” JM hugged her tight, yet giving her enough space to breath. She missed his smell, she missed his warmth, and she missed him. “Everything that I have in the past is left behind. You are my now, my forever. I love you Julia…” he said emotionally. Julia was almost running out of breath, overwhelmed with emotions and happiness. Unable to find her words, she hugged him in return. Unable to resist her urge, she kissed him on his lips. “Excuse me…” Blushing, she moved away from his embrace when she heard Elizabeth spoke, “He’s… He’s the one…” The older woman giggled, “I thought so… I have this inkling that you wer e talking about him. He was telling me things about you too…” Her eyes widened and she threw him a questioning look, “What exactly did he tell you, tita?” JM grinned and once more embraced her, “That I love you and I was miserable without you.” All that she could do was laugh at his boyish antics, “Julia, you still haven’t told me you love me…” he mur mured on her ears. “My heart always belonged to you, Juan Miguel. I love you…” what more can she asked for? This guy had given her the best love story she could ever tell.
JM has a girlfriend, Shine. Christine has a boyfriend, Jan. JM is a doctor. Christine is a nurse. The both of them are just plain friends. Not even best of friends. It’s just that there are a lot of activities where they end up working together and plus the fact that both of their families are too close to be apart. They almost knew each other since childbirth and have been friends since then. They are the kind of friends who often doesn’t see each other but when they do, they always end up laughing. They are not the best of friends because they don’t tell secrets to each other, preferring to keep it all to themselves. Loving to tease each other, they are the life of family gatherings. “You know what?” JM’s aunt said one time, “I always thought the two of you would end up together.” They looked at each other and burst ou t laughing, “Uggghhh…” moaned Christine, “The peace of the earth will soon disappear if it will happen.” JM placed his arms around her shoulders and pulled her close, “Oh Tin, is that your hea rt going on tachycardic right now? And take note tita, we still have clothes on!” She elbowed his stomach, “I will never take my clothes off with you.” “Ouch.” He pretended hurt and clutched his hea rt. Then he winked and told her, “You’ll n ever kno w.” “The two of you really look very good together.” Innuendoes started firing every now and then, of course without their partners. Shine and Jan don’t understand that what they have is a relationship with nothing on it. It doesn’t mean that they are joking, they are flirting. They don’t. It is just the way how they treated each other. Old habits are hard to die. After all, why leave each other’s company when they’re not doing anything wrong? *** Isn’t she lucky? Christine looked at Jan while he was driving his red Adventure car. They have been together for almost two years. Jan never cheated on her, and likewise. He always finds time for her despite their busy schedules. What more can she wish for? That his parents would like me. The only drawback they have on their relationship – his parents. Okay, they both knew she isn’t Chinese and Jan is a “full-blooded” one. But is that something to worry? Cut th e crap, Jan is th e eldest, h e is expected to marry a Chinese girl. She hangs on to his love and faith, like what JM said, Who knows? Maybe everything will turn out pretty well at the end of the road and his parents will soon realize that love is more important than traditions. “I love you, Jan.” He took her hands, held it against his and kissed it softly. “I love you more, Tin.” *** “You wer e looking at her!” Shine burst out. JM’s brows met, where? He wanted to ask. This is one of the r easons why he doesn’t like going out with Shine. She throws accusations like a pile of thorns and it is not even real! Whereas, if they stay on his or her room, the only thing they get is pleasure. Ultimate pleasure and not fight. He’s not getting bored. Five years? Or is it six? He couldn’t remember. He couldn’t leave her or else her family will haunt him down and push him into a firing squads. A family of military men – top caliber military men. Will he live for 24 hours after he call it quits? He doubted it. He will just wait for her to be the one to leave him, it will save his ass. Not that he didn’t love Shine. He still loves her. But he’s not happy anymore. She needed someone to boss around and he needed a girlfriend. A real one. Someone who will love him, take care of him and be there. Someone who will trust him the way he will trust her. “Can we go home now?” he asked her nonchalantly. He was not in the mood to stroll anymore. “Why?”
Because I am already pissed off. But he didn’t say that, instead he smiled and told her, “I still have a duty in three hours.” If liars are being burnt in hell, I’m su re I’m already in ashes because of Shine. *** Christine was grinning from ear to ear when she arrived at the hospital which made his brows arched. What is she so happy about? “Did you just reach, finally, a multiple orgasm?” Jan commented when he enter ed the nurse’s station. She rolled her eyes and slapped hi m lightly on the cheeks, “Yes, and I didn’t get it from you. Thank God!” Christine laughed when his brows formed a straight line already, “No, silly! What’s wrong with being just happy?” I wish I could be as happy as her. Why can’t I be? “Well… I don’t know. It’s just that you look different. Are you sure you didn’t have sex?” He knew how prude Christine is. No matter how hot her boyfriend maybe, she wouldn’t do it unless after marriage. That is what he liked about her, she may speak about it freely but her values are intact. He wonders if how intimate could she and Jan get? Uuugghhh…. He shook his head to erase the thoughts. If you are not that prude and we are not friends… *** “You expect as to be more than friends?” JM wanted to laugh as he put on his white coat. Gilda, his fellow post graduate intern, was doing the same. They just did it inside the doctor’s lounge. Talk about raging hormones. “Do you know who my girlfriend is?” he reminded. “You don’t have to be blunt about it.” After a great orgasm, here goes the problem with women. Do they really expect if they bed a man, he will fall in love with them? You don’t exchange body fluids for love. It is just out of this world. They are two consenting adults who have human needs that can’t wai t. Yes, I a m ruled by my id. I have to do something about it befo re I bed the whole IM department. What’s with the drama? “I have to Gilda, we are friends. And we should remain that way. Yes, we have a good sex every now and then but it doesn’t mean I will leave my girlfriend for you. I cannot do that.” He told her truthfully. He didn’t want any lies to come between them, after all, they work together. It wouldn’t be healthy. I should’ve thought about it before I lure h er to bed. The next day, Gilda quitted the hospital. *** Christine placed her cup of coffee in the table where JM was seated. He invited her to have a coffee after duty and she ended up paying for her own. “I heard Dr. Gilda quitted.” She started, knowing that this guy was one of the major reasons why the lady doctor was running away from the hospital. A lot of talks were roaming around. “So?” he answered coolly. “What did you do to her?” “Nothing!!” “You are such a pervert!” Irritation rushed through her. She can’t believe this guy! Although she knew for a fact how things work for him. How can he pretend that he had nothing to do with it? “You know what, Tin?” he started. “What?” “Really…” Her brow was hooked up, “What?” One more what and I a m going to thro w this coffee at him. th He flashed his most dashing smile that never worked on her, “You look like my 8 girlfriend.” She mentally counted his girlfriends and stared at him unbelievably, “But you only had seven.” “Exactly!”
I’m his next victim? Ooohhh… scary. She wanted to laugh out loud. They both knew he can’t touch her. Their families will start a new civil war. “You think you will be married five years from now?” she decided to change the topic. “Yes?” he answered so unsurely. “That’s near the end of my residency.” “That’s almost near. A lot of things could happen.” She said while sipping her cup. He grinned, “Yeah. Like if I see you naked now. It could change everything.” Christine almost dropped her cup when she heard what he said. Oh God! He sounded so serious. Stop it Tin. This is JM, he’ll do everything to get anyone to bed. She had to get out of his web gracefully. Instead of getting affected, she chose to smile and answer, “Asus, I told you before, you’re the last person I’d kiss more so, to go to bed with.” But he proved to be the best in the industry when he didn’t falter, “It would be our first and your last.” He laughed. “Well, if nobody else existed.” “And all you are going to give me is a kiss?” “Well, since you are the last one on earth…. I might reconsider going to bed with you.” Christine was laughing. So this is how flirting is. Quite fun. “And that’s how we’ll populate the world again.” “Good genes.” She said, “Bring it on.” JM was laughing as well. “But I do hope there some laboratories somewhere; I’ll have your blood tested first.” She added seriously. He did fell for it, she just knew, the moment he frowned, “You are mean.” She winked and grinned. This is one grea t day. “No!” Denying the accusation thrown to her instantly, “I just want to stay healthy before I commit my ultimate sin—having to be laid by you.” “If I am infected then perhaps I will not last until that day.” He r ested his head on his palms, “They said sinful things are the most pleasurable and you’re calling that experience ‘ultimate.’ So perhaps it is paired with ultimate pleasure.” “Bring it on.” She said again. He looked at her intently and said, “You think I am joking, Christine Gellada?” *** “Hello…” It is four o’clock in the morning and she is going to kill whoever disturbed her sleep. She was in the middle of a wonderful dream. “You have a very sexy voice.” “Gago ka, JM!” she cursed. When did he learn to call her at this kind of hour? If her mom will caught him calling, he can never step inside thei r house again. “Gwapo, not gago.” He corrected. “I can smell you from here…” “Perver t.” “You smell like cum. Did you wash?” though his tone was quite serious, she knew it was a joke. However, this was not the proper time for any jokes. Not when she’s half-awake. “One more and I’ll call your mom.” She warned. “I passed.” He told her. It took her a couple of seconds before she digested what he said. She suppressed a shout and finally wide awake she said, “Congratulations, JM!!!” He laughed on the other side of the line, “So, you want to go grab a bite?” “I’m not that cheap, you know…” and she won’t go out at this godforsaken hour. Her father will wring her neck. “I know. You’re a china doll…” the connotation was far more obvious that it intended to be. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow at 3 in the hospital, okay? Wet dreams dear… dream of me.” “Perve!” ***
They just finished eating in one of the most expensive restaurants in the city. Not nearly a date and the both of them won’t consider it as one. His wallet was almost empty when the waiter gave him the bill, he was halfscared he’d end up washing the dishes after (or doing the manager – who’s gay). He’ll prefer the first one though. Nevertheless, he enjoyed every single moment. They were talking a bout his exams and his triumph. On his plans now that he was a real doctor and anything at all. They were the noisiest table inside the restaurant. “You smell good.” JM smiled instantly hearing the compliment from Christine. “I know. It’s your favorite.” “Ar mani white!!” she exclaimed “Do I smell better than your boyfriend?” he tested. “Is that a trick question?” He laughed and hugged her, she flinched, “What in the world are you doing?” “I’ll hug you, so that my scent will transfer to you…” She tried to break away but his hug was too tight, funny it didn’t feel like she was being harassed or abused. It’s just that --- I couldn’t explain. “JM, get off me… I still need to go to Jan’s.” Like a magic word spoken, he was suddenly 5 meters away, “What will you be doing there?” “It’s his birthday today, JM.” “Ar e you invited?” This was the first time he heard her going to Jan’s place. She was not yet introduced to the parents, yes, the tradition stuff that even he was not really sure of. All he knew wa s that there is a minute chance that Jan and she will end up together. Poor Tin-tin. “Yes!” it was on a defensive tone and he understood. Nevertheless he hugged her snugly and kissed her forehead, something he never did with either of his friends or girlfriends, “Don’t hurt yourself there, okay?” *** Is this a wise decision to go to Jan’s place and meet his fa mily? Did his fa mily wanted to meet her? Confusion flooded her mind the moment she stepped in into her boyfriend’s gigantic house. Jan held her cold hands tightly as they transferred from one table to the other. She was introduced to every member of the family and was nauseated with their names and the company they are affiliated with. Owner of this and that, member of this and that. She felt she didn’t belong her e. “So you are the girlfriend?” his mother was cold as she expected, inspecting her from toes to the tip of her hair. “Good evening ma’am.” She gr eeted politely. “She’s not Chinese, Jan.” Her hands held Jan’s more tightly. Wishing he’ll say something to ease whatever unlikely feeling she has right now. “Not now, mama.” “Here’s my favorite girl!” the older woman exclaimed looking at the door. When her gaze followed, she wanted to go home when she saw Ria, Jan’s ex -girlfriend coming towards them. As if she was not there, Ria tiptoed and placed a smack on her boyfriend’s lips. She went pale. What the?! The moment she saw the reaction of his mom, she wanted to vomit. I wanna go home. It was too obvious that she still wanted Ria and Jan to end up together. A merge of two Chinese families, of wealth and tradition. “Happy birthday, Jan.” Ria greeted, then fixing her eyes on her she said, “Oh, I see you brought her along. Good luck dear.” I needed that. Christine asked Jan if she can be excused so that she can go to the lady’s room. The truth is that her urge to escape was too strong that she wanted to call JM. She didn’t know if it was just her or if his family wanted her to feel out of place. If he can’t bring me home, I’ll catch a cab o r call JM. Either way, I a m getting out of here. She returned to the party and tried to look for Jan, only to find him with his cousins and friends. “So is it really her, cuz?” the petite Chinese girl asked, the one who owned one of the famous food chain in the city if she’s not mistaken. She halted and remained like a posted sentinel to hear Jan’s reply, “I really don’t know. We all know she’s not one of us.”
His cousins laughed ridiculously. That was all she needed to get herself out of this hell. *** “Where?” JM was zipping his pants, his mobile phone was clipped between his head and his shoulders. He was trying to find his shirt. Where in the world is my shirt? When he finally found it on Shine’s desk, he put it on. The next one is his car keys. “Stay there and don’t leave, okay? I’ll be there.” “Where are you going?” Shine has nothing but a towel on. “You can’t go!” He released an exasperated air out, “Yes, I can. Tin-tin called up and no one will pick her up. It’s almost two in the morning. I can’t let her ride a cab.” “Yes, you can!” “No, Shine. I am going to get her .” He was losing his patience with his girlfriend. Can’t she think logically for even a second? His friend needed him. “When I said no, I mean it.” It was a threat. A strong one. JM didn’t really care if her family would put his life in peril right now. All he wanted to do was to pick up his friend and bring her home, “I thought you’re a smart girl, Shine. Hear this, I am going to say this just once.” He said in a low, well-modulated voice, “I am going to get her whatever you say. I’ll be back after and bang you until tomorrow. I am not asking for your permission. She is my responsibility.” Now that was no t true. No one mad e Christine my responsibility. I just want to. Before Shine could open her mouth he rushed towards the door and towards his car and accelerated it. *** Christine’s eyes were puffy, “You look terrible.” He commented when he arrived at the 24 -hour coffee shop. “Did you just have sex?” she threw him an accusing look. “I am a healthy human being with healthy needs.” He r easoned out. “What happened, Tin -tin?” he was more concerned about what transpire at Jan’s place rather than his sexcapade. She told him what happened, “It was just terrible hearing it from him. It was okay if it came from his mom or the rest of his cousins. But he said it.” “So what if you are not one of them. If he really loves you, he wouldn’t give a damn about it. Tradition is a lame reason for a guy to get rid of a girl.” Then, he looked at her seriously, “Do you have the inkling that by the end of your relationship he will have to choose? And his choice may not be you?” She nodded sadly, “I was hoping it will not come to that.” “But it is now. So what’re your plans?” “What do you think?” Christine asked him. If this was any ordinary day he would’ve laughed and throw a punch for a stupid question asked, “Do you want to continue your relationship with Jan?” “We don’t have a future.” Finally, an insight. *** “You didn’t say goodbye. Mama was surprised.” The nex t evening Jan went to their house with a bunch of chocolates on his hands. She was a sucker for caffeine inside a chocolate bar, but even her favorite Hershey won’t give her the comfort she needed. Christine sat in front of him with shoulders shrugged, “Nobody wanted me there.” “That’s not true!” he disagreed immediately. “I heard you talking to your cousins. You told them that you are not sure if I will be in your future.” She told him calmly and retorted, “Because for chrissake--- I am not Chinese!” “Tin-tin ---“ “I never wanted you to choose between me and your family. I don’t even want to hear your choice.” She was on the edge of her seat, not wanting to br eak a tear in front of this guy as what JM advised yesterday. “It’s devastating. I love you Jan. But we both know this will end up both ways. And because I love you, I am letting you go.”
Jan’s face fell, she saw how much he wanted to take her into his arms but she was cautious. She had to do this or else it will just delay everything. A complete waste of time. “Don’t do this, Tin.” He beseeched. “Give me more time.” “How much do you love me, Jan?” she challenged. “I love you so much.” He r eplied immediately with ardor. “Enough to fight for me?” When he didn’t speak up, she knew what the answer was. It was like a rush of valium in her system, too incapacitating. “Then this is goodbye.” *** JM was whistling a happy tune when he parked his car outside Christine’s house. However, the moment he enter ed the gate, a familiar face brought him to a halt. “What are you doing here?” Jan instantly asked. He wanted to knock his head off for making his friend cry, “I am a family friend and I have a free access here.” JM just reminded him. “Stop seeing her.” “I’m not doing her any harm.” he replied defensively. Why should he do that? Tin -tin still wanted his company and as long as she wanted him to stay, he will. She needed a friend right now. “She is my girlfriend.” “You should’ve thought of it before you made her cry.” He wasn’t bad enough to slap him a rude rebuttal. She didn’t break up with him yet? Does she want me to do it for h er? *** The both of them were inside his car. Christine was half-asleep from her duty and he was driving and singing to himself. He made it his task to take her home and pick her up when her duty hours are way beyond safe zone. Jan was already off limits to their house. Christopher, Christine’s father, was too angry for him to step inside the house without being (probably) shot. He slowly stopped his car in front of their gate. Not wanting to wake her up, JM stared at her for a couple of seconds. Damn hormones. She looked so peaceful, so innocent. So untouchable, so please JM, keep your hands off her. Yet, he can’t. He took his seatbelts off and moved closer. JM traced her face with his palms, his heart kept on beating rapidly, more faster and he’s going to get a heart attack. It was when Christine opened her eyes. “What are you doing, JM?” she whispered. “I want to kiss you.” He r eplied in low voice, “Just say stop and I will.” He cupped her chin and moved his face closer to hers. He waited for her to say the word but he didn’t hear it. In a mili-second, he placed a soft, chaste kiss on her lips. They kissed and the world didn’t even move. *** JM is in love with her. JM is in love with Christine. BIG PROBLEM. *** Why do guys do that? Kiss and run away like crazy little kids caught by their mom snooping around the kitchen. JM didn’t show up after the stunt he pulled two nights ago in his car. Christine can’t believe she let him kissed her. She liked the way he did kiss her. But remembering how good he is with girls, she frowned. Was he toying with her? He was, wasn’t he? Because if not, he would be brave enough to face her right now and tell her what the heck is going on. “I haven’t seen JM these past few days. Did the two of you fight?” her dad asked. He kissed me, tay! She wanted to tell her father, but decided to stop herself. “No.” she answered cur tly, wishing thoughtfully that her father would just drop the subject.
Her thoughts had been filled with that short, uncorrupted (if such thing exists with JM) kiss they shared on his car. It made her stomach distend with colorful butterflies. Shit. Am I in love with him? No!!!! *** At last, JM knew what to do. After days of hibernating in his room, he is filled with renewed energy that needed to be wasted before it goes away. His itinerary for today had been carefully laid down. “I want to leave your daughter but I don’t want to die.” JM’s palms were sweating but he stood still. One more day with Shine and he’ll end up in a psychiatric ward. He didn’t want to end in a memorial park either. So with all his guts grouped together, he went to see Shine’s father. Shine’s father, Colonel Felizarta, was just staring at him blankly. He was sitting straight behind a wide mahogany table in his uniform that was well decorated with medals. A couple more minutes of that stare and he would have needed an ambulance to the hospital, “Sir?” “Do you know how brave you are coming here right now?” he said. Yes. I am trying to hold the urge to mictu rate in my pants right now, sir. So please g et on with your decision. He stood up from his table and went near him, “I admire you for it. But don’t ask me per mission if you want to leave Shine. You tell her. It is your relationship and whatever you do with it is your business. She is not my little girl anymore. Where did you get the idea I will have you assassinated when you leave her?” he was almost laughing. From her. *** “Shine, I don’t love you anymore.” JM explained. She’s a sma rt girl. Why can’t she dig est what I just said? She frowned, “I will tell daddy ----“ “I just told him.” Her jaws dropped in surprise. “You did?” He smiled triumphantly, “Yes, I did.” Yet, when he saw the tears that were about to fall from her eyes, he hugged her, “Shine, it is not healthy for the both of us to stay in this relationship. You make me miserable and I make you miserable as well. If we push this further, we are going to loose our minds.” He wanted to make her understand these things to avoid more complications. They may not part ways as best of friends, but at least he won’t make an enemy. “Am I not good enough?” Oh you’re so good in bed. He wanted to console but now was not the time to say that. He needed to finish this business before he can go on with his life, and this time a reformed life. If he wanted Tin -tin, his acts of lasciviousness should definitely disappear from the face of the earth. “I didn’t say that you are not. But Shine, this relationship has been on the rocks for years. Sex isn’t enough to save it. Save yourself some pride, Shine. You’re beautiful, sexy, rich and smart. Let me go.” She released herself from his embrace and kissed him fast on the lips, “But promise me when friends asked who broke up with who --- I broke up with you, okay?” “With pleasure.” Some pride this girl has. *** “Can I have breakfast there?” Mr. Sandman rushed off from the top of her head hearing the voice. How long has it been? Three weeks and two days. Now he’s back again? “Go away, JM!” “You don’t miss me?” JM asked sweetly, as if nothing happened at all.
Gago talaga. “You know what time is it?” she asked tetchily. “You’r e so cranky.” He noticed, “Either you have your period or you just miss me.” Christine decided to answer his question before she compel to the strong persuasion inside her brain to put the phone down, “You cannot have breakfast here, JM. ” “Why not? I’m going to send Manang Juling ther e.” He was talking about their cook who can make the best ox tongue she ever tasted (second to her mom). “Breakfast is too early here. Hindi ka na nahiya. You’ll be disturbing people early in the morning!” “Okay, lunch then. I’ll send Manang Juling to the market and buy ingredients for the ox tongue, then I’ll take my lunch there.” She resigned, knowing this guy, she wouldn’t win a single battle when he’s too eager to win it, “Whatever.” “I miss you, Tin.” She fell silent for a while. How can you tell me you miss me when you don’t show up after you smooch me in your car? “I know I have a lot of explaining to do. We will have time for that, meanwhile, sleep and dream of me.” In a jiffy, all she heard was the dial tone. Christine lay awake till the crack of dawn. *** “What is Manang Juling doing here?” Christopher asked Christine when he found the old lady on their kitchen. True to his word, he sent their cook to her house at ten in the morning, complete with the necessary ingredient to cook her favorite menu. She smiled at her dad and explained, “She’s cooking ox tongue for me.” “Did JM send her?” he asked. “Yes.” “Why?” her father was quite curious with what the younger man was up to. “Tay, he’s going to join us for lunch.” She informed. “He is?” Christine nodded gently. She didn’t want to appear excited in front of her father. It will feed him different information. “Is there any problem, tay?” “I’m just a little worried, Tin. Anyway we are not sure yet. W e’ll have to see, won’t we?” She was almost sure what her father was afraid of. She was scared for herself as well. *** Another joyride around town was scheduled after the lunch. JM asked permission from Christine’s father if he’ll allow them. He told her he’d be taking her home late. Actually, he didn’t know where to take her, all he knew is that he wanted her alone. So, they just drove around until his gas went almost empty. Eventually, he decided to take her to his house. They were on his favorite spot, in the gazebo at the middle of the garden. They were sitting on two opposite sides. “We broke up.” He managed to tell her. She thr ew him an unbelievable glance at him, “And you are still alive?” “Just don’t believe whatever gossip you heard around. Anything bad came from her.” JM reminded. He really didn’t care whatever lies Shine will spread. As long as Christine knew what the truth was. “It is what you get from breaking hearts.” I’m not going to break yours. He wanted to say but didn’t know how to sound truthful that it wouldn’t foster doubt once it escaped his lips. “I can still smell you from here.” She said. He laughed softly and offered, “You just want me to hug you until my scent clung on you?”
This was the only time in his life where he r egretted all his escapades and his womanizing stints. How is he going to tell this girl what he felt without sounding like she was ‘one’ of them? “Can I kiss you again?” before he could stop himself from asking, the words were out of his mouth already. “If I say ‘no’?” “I will just have to step away and pretended it wasn’t asked.” Then tentatively, she asked once again, “And if I say ‘yes’?” He smiled, stood up from his place and approached her slowly, “That would just be wonderful.” He went in between her legs and placed his arms on each side of her legs and bent over for a kiss. It was supposed to be a short one but when his lips touched hers, magic erupted from every corner. He kissed her hungrily and fiercely that almost made her whole body turned jelly. She put her arms over her shoulders for support. This is different. Far more different experience than what she and Jan had. It was more --- passionate and feisty. Like a fire being ignited over and over again. Soon his arms didn’t settle on her face, it moved down to her neck and down to her breast. She heard herself moan she he started to touch it. “Da mn it, Tin! Tell me to stop.” He ordered between his kisses. But instead of telling him to stop, she reached for h is nape and kissed him. His hands found the end of her shirt and she felt his cold hands cautiously move. His lips traced the arch of her jaw down to her neck, leaving a small bite along the way. *** Christine felt the cold breeze. The moment she opened her eyes, she saw him staring at her with his eyes filled with complete desperation, “I’m sorry.” He told her. Her eyes widened with surprise, “What did you just say?” “It’s not what I meant, Tin.” “You wer e sorry you kissed me?” More than angry, she was ashamed of herself for reaching that point with him, now she’s just one of those girls. He shook his head fiercely, “No! I shouldn’t be doing this with you!” Her face turned crimson, “Now that is complimenting!” She pushed her way passed him and f ixed her shirt, “Take me home.” “Tin, I can’t take you home when you are mad.” “I am mad but you have to take me home!” she demanded. For the first time since her break up with Jan, she wanted to just curl up in bed and cry herself to sleep. This was the lowest, the lowest she ever got herself into. “If you won’t, I’ll call tatay to pick me up.” She didn’t leave him any choice. *** CONFIRMED. Christine is in love with JM. Her world peace fell apart. Darn. *** Christine hid herself behind the wall adjacent to the living room where JM was sitting. He was wearing a long-sleeved polo and black slacks – not to mention a pair of black shoes. Where did he come from? A doctor’s convention? “Please tell him, I am not here.” She pleaded to the maid. The old woman threw her a confusing look, “Ummm… He’s not looking for you, Tin -tin.” “He’s not?” She replied dumbly. “He asked for your father.” It was her turn to get confused, tatay? Why? ***
“I want to court your Christine, Tito Chris.” JM saw how Christopher’s features tensed when he delivered his speech. This was scarier than JM’s meeting with the colonel. Christine had not been speaking to him since the gazebo incident. He didn’t mean it that way. He wanted to court her formally before he kissed her, but things happened too fast. She didn’t deserve to just be ‘one’ of his girls. He wanted her to be his last. And she will be once her father agrees. “Did I hear you right, JM?” He nodded, “Yes.” “You want to court my daughter?” he reiterated his word with emphasis, as if digesting every syllable. “I know you, JM. I know how you are with women.” JM smiled politely, “If you know me well enough, Tito, I wouldn’t be her e in front of you asking your permission.” “How sure I am you wouldn’t hurt her? You are such a womanizer.” This is your fault he can’t trust you. Now, deal with it. “You can kill me if I make her cry.” And he meant it. Christopher fell silent for a moment and contemplated on his words, “Do you love her?” “Yes. I love Tin-tin, Tito. I will do anything for her. I am sure I have changed and I will not look for anyone because everything I need, everything I wanted is her.” “You have my blessings.” He finally stated. “But I am hanging on to your word. I will wring your neck if yo u make her cry.” “Okay, tay!” *** “I can’t believe you proposed to tatay first!” Christine didn’t know if she should be irritated or get excited when she heard the conversation between his father and JM. At least she knew what is going on now. He grinned, “At least, he will help me convince you.” “Convince me what?” He turned pale and speechless. Something he was not accustomed to. “Tin!” he complained. She smiled widely, “You wer e too brave in front of tatay. Now tell me what you told him!” “But you heard it already.” JM reasoned out. “You make tatay your girlfriend then.” She was about to walk out when he grabbed her arms and pulled her close. “I can’t make him my girlfriend.” He consoled smoothly, “Ang bilis mo namang magta mpo.” “So?” She impatiently waited, “Tagal.” “I love you Tin-tin. Will you be my girlfriend?” “We’ll have sex?” Christine asked him timidly. “Is that all you want from me?” She laughed and hugged him once more, “Gago ka talaga.” “Gwapo, Tin.” He corrected. “Now th e answer to my question?” “I love you, JM. Yes, I will be your girlfriend.”
“If you cheat on me, just tell me. I may or may not take you back but I want you to tell me.” Christine trusted JM so much that it will cause her intense pain the moment he will cheat on her. But will he? Her friends have been ambivalent the moment she introduced JM as her boyfriend. They were divided into two sides, (1) The Consentidoras (Charise, Ruth and Leonne) and (2) The Contrabidas (Yvonne, Tina and Jenna). The infamous argument goes: The Contrabidas (1) He has been a pervert his entire life: so either he’ll make you a sex slave or you’ll find him screwing some girl on his apartment suite (2) He’s hurt other girls before. What made you so sure you’re different from anybody else? (3) He just wanted you because he knew you were a virgin and maybe he forgot what it felt like ripping off a hymen. (4) Maybe he’s too bor ed with his life and he decided to date a prude girl like you. (Hay! Salamat sa mo ral support! Mga kaibigan ko talaga kayo!) (5) You’re still on the rebound. You fell in love with him because he was there the moment Jan left. The Consentidoras (1) People change. Maybe he had fucked enough girls and finally found the right one for him --HER (yey!) (2) Your father promised to kill him (JM requested it himself) the moment he cheats on you (3) He never invited you to have sex with him, right? (He didn’t, right? Uhhh… No?) (4) He’s not bored with his life. He’s preoccupied with his work and patients besides hindi ka prude. (5) Jan didn’t leave you, you did. Isa pa, you’re smart enough to know if it’s love or just pampalipas oras lang.
Both parties have a point and it sometimes make her think. Fidelity is a big issue for her. And one wrong move, everything will just fall apart in a jiffy. STOP NEGATIVE THO UGHTS! JUST STOP! JM loves me and I love him. It is all that there is. JM and Christine were lying side by side on the former’s bed. They’r e fully clothed, arms wrapped around each other, but br eathing normally and staring into thin air. “Tin, what are you doing?” JM flinched when he felt her hands were inside his shirt. She giggled, and started to kiss his neck, “You.” He laughed out loud and pinned her beneath him. “I.am.crazy.in.love.with.you.” Each word accompanied butterfly kisses all over her face. Then he kissed her full on the lips, stood up and went directly to the comfort room. With full clothes on, he started to shower and let his hormones cool down a bit. Christine was behind the door in less than a minute, “JM, what’s wrong?” JM chuckled and shook his head. Wrong? Technically, there is nothing. A year later, the both of them are peaceful, blissful and in complete celibacy. He could not possibly believe that he --- the man ruled by his id and hormones – can go into a no-sex-relationship with someone. But Christine is not just someone, she is his soul mate. She is everything to him and he loves her in all possible way that he can ever imagine. It freaks most of his friends, but who the heck care? He’s perfectly happy. They started out rough, especially with the rumors that his ex girlfriend was spreading. Petty, actually, like for instance he had an incurable STI (yeah, that’s sexually transmitted infection)… But LO GIC: he was doing her --- if his or her friends are THAT intelligent – won’t she have an STI as well? There are issues that he was into drugs, steroids and a lot more that he could not remember. He did not mind it actually, it was quite disturbing at first, but when his superiors in the hospital didn’t believe it, he put it aside. After all he’s too smart to get himself a stupid disease. This was not an uncommon scenario in their synchronized day off. Christine will unconsciously seduce him and he will end up under the shower. “Such a coward JM!” “Shut-up, Tin.” SILENCE, then a hurtful, “Why?”
He wanted to bump his head in the concrete wall of his bathroom while he was changing into his fresh clothes. He didn’t bother to put on his shirt because he was worried with the sudden change of mood. When he opened the door, he saw her playing with his PSP, lips all pouting, Patay na. Bad Trip. He sat across her and waited for a few moments. He was staring at her and reminded himself how lucky he is to have Tintin beside him. When 10 minutes lapsed, he took the PSP out of her hands, moved a little closer and hugged her. JM felt so at ease smelling her hair’s usual scent, all his stress, his tiredness, his anxieties just disappears. “What’s wrong with me, John Michael?” “Nothing. You are perfect.” “There must be something! You don’t find me attractive?” He laughed softly and placed a light kiss on her lips, “Where did you get that idea? You are the pr ettiest girl in the world!” Her expression told him that he didn’t believe on any syllable of his sentenc e, “Then why aren’t we having sex? We have been together for one year!” JM burst out laughing. He knew it. He just knew it. “Katawan ko lang yata habol mo sakin eh .” “I’m serious.” He breathed in deeply to control his laughter. JM cupped her face with both his palms, “Tin, I have been telling you this but I want you to listen to me carefully this time.” He ordered, “I am so in love with you. I have never felt this my entire life. It’s not that I don’t want to do it with you. I wanted it too, badly. But I don’t want you to be just some other girls. I want your first to be special, I want it legal. I want it to be perfect, and not is not the perfect time.” “Ha?” Ayan, na-confuse pa tuloy. “Why are you doing it with other girls?” “Ask me when was the last time I had sex?” She shook her head and covered both her ears, “I don’t want to hear it.” “Com’on, ask me.” He repeated the phrases over and over again until she lost her temper. “Ok fine, when?” He looked at her straight in the eye and answered, “One year and seven months ago.” Her jaws dropped, “Sinungaling!” “I’m not lying! Talaga! Promise! Wala na after.” “Promise?” He nodded. “Talaga?” “Oo.” “Talagang-talaga?” “Yes!” “Really?” “Kulit talaga ng Tin tin ko.” Befor e she could say anything else, he kissed her again. *** Insecurity should be the last thing that Christine should feel. She was reprimanding herself. JM was always assuring her she was the most beautiful girl in his eyes and never did his eyes wander when the two of them are together. Her boyfriend isn’t doing anything to make her feel that way. Or perhaps that is the whole part…. Or he isn’t doing her at all? On the other hand, there were a lot of questions flying inside her brain. Mind boggling ones: (1) Am I ready to do this? (2) Do I really want to do this with him? (3) Is he doing it with anoth er girl because he doesn ’t want to compro mise me? Ugggghhhhhh…. She wanted to laugh. Why weave problems out of nothing? At least their relationship is based on love and not human urges. She remembered the night she told her dad that JM was her boyfriend already, Christopher felt so worried. He even told her, “In less than one day? Aba anak, hindi ka man lang ba nagpakipot?” “Tay, I love him. Do I need to? I knew him my entire life. Alam ko ang lahat ng kagaguhan nun.”
“That’s what I am afraid of.” But because she loves JM and her dad loves her, he can’t do anything but to accept the r elationship. *** JM came from a 24-hour duty, but instead of going home, he went straight to Christine’s house. “Tay!” he immediately greeted the old man the moment his car enter ed the gate. He was busy washing his own car. “Did you have breakfast already?” “I had coffee befor e I went out. Is Tintin here, tay?” “Yes. She’s in her room. I think she’s sleeping. Just knock.” He almost hit the breaks the moment he digested what Christopher just said. Ok. Was it just a pass to his daughter’s room? Finally a sense of trust for him? In their one year relationship, Christopher never allowed him to go beyond the living room or the dining room. He didn’t mind it actually. He was honestly glad that there are people around them – it’s enough to control his hormones. He found his girlfriend on the beanbag slouching, listening to the sound of her Ipod. She didn’t even notice that he entered her room. He looked at her for a while and told himself his the luckiest guy in the planet because Christine is all his. He grinned at his mushiness. He never realized he has the capability of being SOOOOO corny until her. He could think of anything just to make her happy – even bringing to life scenes from movies and love stories. JM bent down to kiss her forehead. She smiled at him, stood up and hugged him tightly. Now this is heaven. The tiredness and fatigue just flew out of him. “I miss you.” He inhaled the scent of her hair and kissed her neck, “I miss you so much.” “Let’s lock the door?” “Ayan ka na naman Tin-tin eh!” he r eleased her from his embrace and placed a smack on her lips. “What kind of sublimation are you doing?!” “The kind that you deserve.” *** BIG NEWS FLASH: (fro m the contrabidas) JAN IS BACK. (And, oh, did we tell you he’s right ou tside your gate?) *** If Christine was not patient enough, she could wring her friends’ necks. What in the wor ld is Jan doing outside their house? Did he forget he is banned? Like forever? She knew JM will be coming to her house soon after his seminar. What if the two of them saw each other? What alibi is she going to give JM? The last news she heard about Jan is that he went to the US for further schooling. She didn’t ask any details. After all, he didn’t bother have the farewell formalities, so why waste time? Now ther e he is, in all his glory, standing at their red gate with bouquet of yellow tulips (her favorite) in his arms. He looked good. He always looked good since then. An air of maturity seems to be surrounding him, like those mystical lights she often sees on anime. So what do you do when exes arrived and your boyfriend will be arriving shortly? (1) Sh ould I get out and tell him to back off? (2) Pretend you didn’t see him out there carrying your favorite flowers. (3) Let them have a face off. (4) Ummmmm….. Anymor e ideas? “Let him in.” It was Christopher’s voice that brought her back to reality. “But tatay! JM will be coming over in a while.” “I know. But we are not bastos, he came to us human, so we would accept him as one. Sige na.” Her friends were trailing behind her when she went outside, “Is there anything I can do for you?” she asked when Jan’s proximity enter ed her social zone already. “I just came home from US. I wanted to see you.”
“I am here now. What do you want?” Oh yes, he’s definitely more handsome than he left and he looked more refr eshed and it seemed r ealization already flushed through his system, but hello!!! It’s almost 2 years too late. “Ano ba, Tintin. Don’t be rude nga.” Jenna scolded. “You.” Her friends gasped out loud. Shit. *** JM arrived and saw him. Jan was surprised. She was caught in between. Her friends left. (In less than five seconds) WHAT NOW? *** Christopher was the one who mediated and let the two guys in. She tried to hold JM’s hand but he wouldn’t let her. “What’s he doing here?” “Malay ko.” Which is true. She didn’t know the reason why Jan was here. “Don’t tell me, he’ll be courting you again?” “You smell so, so good.” JM frowned. “Stop it.” “Walang rason para magselos.” She told him. Indeed, there was no reason her boyfriend should be jealous of her ex-boyfriend. There was a thin chance (yes, like super thin) of her and Jan to be an item again. She would just make the biggest mistake of giving up this former gigolo for a walang-paninindigan guy. “I love you.” “Lakasan mo naman…” She grinned and elbowed him. He finally took her hand and held it tightly. Christine knew that time they were okay. She saw Jan turned around and frowned. Bahala ka sa buhay mo. *** Her tatay decided to play with JM a chess game at their garden to leave her and Jan to talk. She knew it was hard for JM to just let the two of them be alone in the living room, but he had no choice but to trust her to make things right. They wer e sitting miles in between. He was staring at her, and she was staring back coolly. “So?” “I want you back.” Oh, that was fast. She almost fell to her buttocks when he spoke. A direct quote from him, so… so… unlike him. “So, your family is okay with me now?” “I don’t care about them anymore. I can live my life without them.” He told her bravely. What have you been eating in US? A hundred Big Macs? “And I don’t care about you anymore, Jan. I can live my life without you.” “Ar e you happy with him, Tin?” “Yes.” And that is without second thoughts. “Even though he slept with half of the med school’s population?” “Yes. That’s in the past. At least, he was brave enough to fight for me.” “Pero ako ang mahal mo nun, hindi ba?” “That’s the point, noon.” “If I fought for you and haven’t left, would there be a chance that we would still be together now?” ***
“You are loosing, JM. Give me a fair game here.” Christopher complained. His daughter’s boyfriend was too agitated to concentrate on their chess play. He wanted to laugh because he knew his future son -in-law was just pretending to look at the chess board. If looks could burn, the board will be in ashes by this time. “She loves you.” “Ha?” “Ang sabi ko, mahal ka ng anak ko.” His uneasiness tame down a bit. “Its just that, Jan was her first boyfriend. Girls have this all sorts of firstlove-never-dies-kinds of stuff.” “She can’t be bought with a bouquet of tulips, so don’t worry.” He smiled, “I know. She loves me. It is all that I have to think about.” He zealously repeated to himself. “And our game. So please, don’t let me be a run-away winner?” He never thought that her daughter would be this happy when he allowed the relationship. He never saw her cry. JM was always here to prove not only to him but to the r est of his family that he is sincere with Christine. He is proud that so far, JM didn’t ruin any of their trusts. *** JM didn’t have any violent instincts of whatsoever. But at this moment, he wanted to kill Jan. BADLY. *** “I want your shirt.” Christine pouted at the black shirt JM is wearing. They were on the gazebo of his house, sitting at opposite ends. “You can smell me from there?” “Tell me, does your perfume have pheromones on it?” JM laughed animatedly and made his way to her, “I think it’s just me.” “Can I have your shirt?” she asked once again. “Why?” “Because you’ll be leaving for Bohol soon for a week and I will miss you.” “Why don’t I just hug you to transfer my scent?” “Nah. Wouldn’t be enough.” “You want this shirt or a clean one?” “A clean one sprayed with your Armani white.” “Can I just buy you a bottle?” Tintin shook her head, “It is more expensive.” She pulled him closer and placed both her arms on his shoulders. He will be leaving for an annual convention for a week and she’s going to miss him badly. He promised her that he would call often. “Later. Just promise me one thing.” He said when he r ested his forehead against hers. “Hmmmmmm?” “Never entertain Jan.” She laughed at his jealousy. “Why would I do that?” “He’s at your house everyday.” “I told him I love you.” “You did?” And like a child given his favorite chocolate, his face lightens up and she was glad. She will never loose him. “Yes.” *** Instead of just a shirt, JM gave her a big teddy bear that was wearing his favorite blue shirt. He dropped by the nurse's station before he went to the airport. She was left with a humungous stuffed animal to carry home later. It was almost 4’5 feet tall. So, how will I b ring this home later without looking like a kindergarten kid? ***
If there is one thing JM hated about this convention is seeing old flames that used to stir his loins. Like the doctor from Manila, who was one of his best partner and who is still overwhelmingly clinging over him? She’s too hot, but he loved Christine to do something stupid behind her back. “So it’s true.” A ‘too’ familiar voice appeared behind him. He almost heard himself say a crispy SHIT out of his mouth. Gilda. The infamous Gilda. Isn’t she going to specialize in oncology? Why is she here in the convention for cardiologists? “You’r e her e. How is the best lover in town?” she sat beside him, showing her wonderfully shaved legs that are almost stretching to her vaginal walls. “Amazingly tamed.” I am not feeling any regret that I have a very beautiful girlfriend and I have been celibate for almost two years. “My room is 1762, just in case you feel alone tonight.” *** Christine sat down and hugged Peter Pan tightly. It’s the name she baptized the almost five feet bear. The smell reminded her so much of her very own Peter Pan who is in Bohol right now. “How can you trust him?” Jan asked her. He was always at her house everyday and didn’t mind her nonchalant a cceptance of him, “I love him.” “Does he love you?” “Do you know the reason why I stayed away even though I was in the brink of fighting for you?” “No.” “Because I knew you’ll never fight with me. You love your family too mu ch. And I didn’t fall in love with JM because I am on the rebound. I rise in love with him because he loves me as well and he makes happy.” She knew this was the time that she needed to tell Jan to stop his coming over to her house and trying to win her back, no matter what he does; the ending will always be th e same. She will always choose JM over Jan. Jan was her past. JM is her now and will be her future. “Can you just let me go?” she pleaded faintly. The next two days were her day off. Hmmmmm… What if? A flush bulb lit at the top of her head. She carried Peter Pan with her to the laptop sitting at the middle of her room and purchased something. *** This was his fourth night at Bohol. JM wa s worried because he couldn’t contact Tintin on her phone. When he called in their land line, he was told that she was out. Where did she go? Did she go out with Jan? A lot of troubled thoughts crossed his mind. One more day and I’ll take the first flight home. The sound of knocking woke his thoughts and pulled it back to reality. The moment he opened the door, he saw Gilda, the bitch, wearing his favorite teddy. She pushed him way past the door and closed it. The next thing he knew, she was kissing him. *** Christine paid the taxi driver and hurried her way inside the hotel. All she had is a backpack, her credit cards and some money. Tintin didn’t tell her dad she’ll be going after JM or else, she knew her tatay will freak out. I didn’t do this because I don’t trust him; I just miss him a lot. She asked for JM’s room number and told the receptionist that she doesn’t need to call the doctor because she’s here to surprise him. She knocked softly and waited for an answer, when no one seemed to bother to go to the door she tried to open the knob. It wasn’t locked. And behold the surprise that was right in front of her: A GIRL SADDLING O N TOP OF HER BOYFRIEND, ALMOST NAKED. Her mind went blank. She stood there, just staring at the two pigs mating on bed.
*** Christine didn’t know what happened next. She just found herself on a plane back home. JM CAN GO TO HELL WITH GILDA. *** “Tin!” JM pushed Gilda off his groin and made his way to Ch ristine who was just standing on his hotel doorstep, looking at him with bland emotion. It hit him real, real hard. Mo re than his hard on. He looked at Gilda who was taking her time fixing herself, “Get the h ell out of my room!” He ord ered, enough to give her the goose bumps and hurry herself out of his hotel suite. “Tin!” “I…. I can’t believe you cheated on me…” she wa s shaking in anger and frustration. He hurriedly closed the door before they g et any attention, “Tin it’s not what you think ----“ “Then what was it, JM? What the hell was it?” “Gilda came ----“ A slap crossed his face, THANK GOD, HE DESERVED IT, “You were having sex with her, while I a m freely offering myself to you?” “It is not it.” “Then what, JM? What?!’ “Tin-tin, I love you.” “But you managed to lure someone in to bed behind my back.” Sh e rest ed her ba ck on the fo r quite sometime, “I always knew how gago you are. Bu t I never imagined you will do this to me. I thought I was enough. Hindi pa pala.” “I did not cheat on you Tin.” He wanted to hold her tightly, to get some senses into her head, but her pain was too much that it pained him as well. She wa sn’t crying. It was as if sh e was numb . “ I don’t want to see you again.” She left him, and he didn’t follow her. The tor menting scene flew inside his thoughts over and over and over again. JM knew Tintin needed time. The scenario she saw was too much for emotional digestion. He didn’t cheat on her. Gilda came, kissed him and they fell into his bed. He didn’t kiss her back. He didn’t even touch her. But will Tintin believe him? What will make her believe him? A great herculean task was waiting upon his return. Not to mention, Christopher’s shot-gun on his head the moment he saw his daughter cry. *** Christine decided to stay in a hotel the moment her plane landed home. She didn’t want her ta tay seeing her as if she had been raped by 20 maniacs. She called her friends which added more to her confusion. Six of them came to her aid and promised not to breathe a word to her family. The arguments were as follows: CONTRABIDAS – YOU SHOULD BREAK UP WITH HIM: why? 1. You just caught him having sex with another girl. 2. He didn’t call or run after you. 3. You think this is the first time he ever cheated on you? 4. Are you doing it? (umm… no?) So maybe that’s why naghahanap sa iba. 5. Kung gago ka dati, gago ka na talaga. Are you going to wait for another scenario? 6. NO SECO ND THOUGHTS: leave him. CONSENTIDORAS – THINK TIN. 1. Is he naked? Is she naked? 2. Who was on top? Are you sure he’s kissing her back? 3. Maybe he didn’t want it, she was the one who wanted it badly. 4. He just proved that sex is not all there is in a relationship. He managed to stay with you for almost 2 years without it.
People change. He did. We saw how much he loved you. Think twice Tin. Follow your heart. Hindi namin sinasabing magpakatanga ka, ang sabi lang, pag-isipan mo. a. Do you love him? b. Do you really think he will cheat on you? c. How much do you think does he love you? (Sobra, di ba? Kahit nga itu tulog lang nun, pinupunta pa sa’yo eh.) d. Can you imagine life without him?
Is she going to have him back? What if his presence would just mean a rush of nausea and worry? Everyday asking herself if he’s cheating on her or not? *** “Will I clean my gun, Tin?” Christopher asked her when he found her sitting in front of their grand piano and touching the keys without playing them. “What are you talking about, tatay?” Christine never told her dad what happened. She didn’t want any trouble arising between the two. She kept the whole painful ordeal to herself for quite sometime. How many days nd is it? Two weeks? Two weeks mor e and it’s supposed to be their 2 year anniversary. Her father sat beside her and started to play some keys, “He is not showing his ass on my doorstep, hadn’t hear his voice or called. You look terrible already. What did he do?” “Nothing tay. I’m okay. I’m a big girl, remember?” she tried to deny that her heart was continuously breaking and she didn’t know what to do with it. “Ar e you sure?” She nodded. When he’s about to go, she stopped her father and asked, “Do you think he lov es me?” “What do you think?” a non-stop volleying of question was about to start. “I don’t know.” “If you have problems, talk. Don’t let apprehensions and what if’s swallow you. JM loves you, he proved it several times. If you can’t see him around, maybe because he’s giving you sometime to think. I will not say he’s perfect, but no one else. Try and talk to him, Tin. Then decide if I will kill him or not for making you cry.” *** A girl was answering his phone telling her: THE NUMBER YO U HAVE DIALLED IS EITHER O UT OF SERVICE OR OUT OF COVERAGE REACH. How in the world will she talk to him? *** September 1, 2009: It’s supposed to be their second year anniversary and yet she still wasn’t able to reach JM. Something is either wrong with his phone or he didn’t want to talk to her anymore. She decided to give him a chance to explain. After all, she gave him her words: “If you chea t on me, just tell me. I may or may not take you back but I want you to tell me.” But NADA. Nothing happened. He wasn’t calling her, texting her. She felt like an idiot sitting here and knitting nostalgic thoughts into thin air. Why in the world he isn’t calling or greeting her happy anniversary? Then sickening thoughts came into her mind telling her that she just told the guy to get the hell out of her life and forget that she ever existed because she’s going to the same thing. Problem is that she didn’t keep her word – how can she forget he ever existed when her room smells of him? Damn the shirt won by Peter Pan. Maybe I should give it back na lang. ***
Christine just came from a patient’s room when she was called by the head nurse, “Is there any problem, Ma’am?” The old nurse handed her a small lavender envelop and a stem of a yellow tulip. She curiously stared at it for quite sometime before getting it out of the old lady’s hand. She was immediately dismissed before she could ask who is it from. Although she wanted to pry, she decided to open the envelop during lunch time – that will be 3 hours away. However, confusion s tarted to arise again when two mor e flowers with the same small lavender envelop showed up befor e lunch time handed by nurses from different departments. So, she forgot about the whole lunch thing and opened it. A computerized note was inserted: I love you and even I couldn’t decide how much. But what I know is that I will never stop. Is this from Jan? Sweet naman. But heck! Can’t he understand the word stop? Ta ma na? *** The second card: To the most beautiful girl in the world - if you don’t know how much you mean to me – then let me show you how much I love you in every way I can. The third card: I didn’t know when I started to love you --- perhaps it was the day when I kissed you out of hormones or the day I saw your puffy little eyes wet with tears. *** LUNCH. 6 yellow tulips were carried by the pizza delivery guy. Pizzas none of them ordered and were paid for in advance. Yey! Free lunch! The lavender card this time states: You make me crazy with your insecurities – but I want you to know you’re the most beautiful girl in the world – all the rest remain a blur of s moke the mo ment you step into the room or in my thoughts. Let me borrow an old cliché: ONE SMILE and I M ELT. *** Christine started to feel uncomfortable. She went to the Cardiology department to ask if JM was sending it but he wasn’t around. She called his phone next, same answer. *** OFF. 3 p.m. The security guard handed her another set of 6 tulips. She asked him to call for a cab or else she’ll be burning red of embarrassment carrying 15 tulips on her hands. As expected, another card was present. This time, she was more than half sure from whom all of this is from: I wouldn’t do it for the sake of urges. I want your first and my last (figuratively) to be some thing ext ra special – with blessings of legit imacy and matrimony. *** She wanted to cry when her dad handed her the next set of tulips the moment she arrived home with an I-told-you-so-look written all over his face.
“Tatay!!” she said helplessly. Christine loved JM and hated him at the same time. What is this all about? Why can’t he just show up at the front door (so that ta tay can shot him). “Basahin mo na. Or do you want me to read it?” Loving the solitude privacy of her love life, she got out of her father’s embrace and moved away before she opened the envelop. I swear, I’d never slept with anyone for 24 months, I kept my hormones hibernating at 00 I wouldn’t betray your trust nor hurt you intentionally. *** “Tintin, you go down. Your fri ends are here.” Christopher ordered. Yes, definitely an order. Perhaps her tatay was too sick with her nostalgia moments. Just when her boyfriend (or ex na ba?) became his father’s favorite chess mate, the two of them are in a complicated situation and she was in a wreck. She fixed herself and wore her favorite dress (it’s JM’s favorite as well). She rushed downstairs and was disappointed when she saw that neither of her friends was holding a yellow tulip. (She’s drea ming again, and this is really hopeless). What if dito na lang kaya ako sa bahay? Maybe he’ll come here and find me missing? (and what if you just have fun? --- if he wanted to see you, he’ll find you.) “Cinnamon Rolls, Tin. Your favorite!” Yvonne offer ed. Comfort food!!! She gladly took it out of her friend’s hands and stopped herself from munching it instantly. “Where are we going?” she asked directly when her friends were almost dragging her out of her house. “We are having fun.” Ruth simply answered. *** They stopped by at their favorite pizza and pasta restaurant. One by one her friends went out Leonne’s car and told her to stay behind with Charise. They had to check if ther e were any available tables in there or they had to move to somewhere else. Five minutes passed, “I think I better see what’s going on inside.” Charise told her. “Huh? You’re leaving me here?” Don’t her friends kno w she belonged to those with suicidal precautions? Why are they leaving me? “If you go with me, and the door isn’t lock, Leonne will kill us before you kill yourself.. Oh well, she has a point. So she let Charise out of the car half-heartedly. She’ll be back in a jiffy. She found herself alone inside the car and wondering. I’ll listen this time and decipher then if should believe him o r not. Another five minutes passed and she received a text message from Ruth: Gt purse frm dashbord. Mwah! Thn go insyd. A loud gasped escaped her lips when she opened it, two stems of yellow tulips, cut to fit the compartment. Then ther e goes the same lavender envelope again, only this time, it wasn’t computerized. It was handwritten. If there is one person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I wouldn’t have second thoughts, it will only be YOU. I love you now and way beyond my last breath. *** “ I don’t look stupid, do I?” JM asked Christine’s friends over and over again. He was wearing a brown pair of slacks and a long-sleeved white polo both sleeves rolled on each side – almost the same thing he wore when he proposed to Christine’s dad. “No. Just don’t br eak her heart, ok?” Jenna reminded again. It took him two weeks to convince Christine’s friends to help him in planning and doing this. He had to explain what happen a dozen more times than he did with Christopher.
He called Tin’s father first the moment he was home and before deciding to go to their house to explain. He wanted to be heard first rather than shot. So after two weeks of courting her friends, and over finding tulips and closing a well -visited restaurant for the night --- here go es nothing. On the dashboard were the 22 and 23 tulips. There was one more left, one last lavender envelope and a special gift on his pocket. He saw Tintin approaching the restaurant, wearing his favorite ( yes, his favo rite) short, white dress and some strappy sandals. She looked more like his Tinkerbell this time. Like a fairy. Only a little bigger, enough for him to hug and not crushed into his hands. She smiled at him when she was almost within his reach, certainly a good sign. “Surprised?” was all that he could ask her. “Maybe if you hadn’t hand-written the last one, I would be.” She looked at the tulip that he was holding, th “I think that is my 24 tulip…” “Ummm.. Yeah…” he was about to hand it to her when he remembered something, “I want to explain first. What you saw, why I didn’t call ---“ She crossed the space between them and kissed him fast on the lips, “I think explanations can wait. Read it.” He felt this throat tighten, and his palpitations started. “You know na man how to r ead, right? You read it na lang.” “No. You read it.” He knew what he wrote inside, memorized it by heart and meant it so much that it gives him the creeps if he won’t get the expected r esponse from this kulit girl. He slowly opened the envelope while she waits for it, looking at him with those innocent puppy-like eyes (or he could compare it p robably with puss in boots in sh rek 2). “Will you marry me?” *** SHIT. NO REACTION. JM waited for a few more br eaths. Can he still breathe? Or his hypothalamus forgot to send signals? He wanted to faint. She was just looking at him, no nothing. No emotion, no feeling, he is not sure what was running inside her brain. “Yes.” “Huh?” did he hear it right? Or was it his own auditory hallucinations speaking to him again? Nah, it sounded like her o wn voice. “When?” “Did you just answer yes?” “I asked when…” “You answered yes.” “When, JM?” “We can take our time, if you are not ready yet, I’m okay with long engagements. As long as you say yes, we have all the time in the world.” He stepped back and waited for eternity. For anything actually, a smile, a loud YES or whatever positive stuffs that she can offer. “So?” “Didn’t you hear me the first time? It’s a yes.”