1 - Introducing Ethan
The wind suddenly blew hard but both Betina and Ethan didn’t budge. Their gazes were still intact, refusing to avert their eye contact with each other. Betina tucked stray hairs behind her ear after that strong wind.
After few minutes of silence, she spoke. “So it all came to this point. I never thought that this day would come.”
“Believe me but also I. This day, we both didn’t see this coming. I’m sorry that it all came to this.”
Betina nodded. “This is too sudden. I’m still shocked. After six years, this us will end.”
“Too soon, huh?”
“Yeah,” she sighed.
“No hard feelings?”
It was Ethan’s turn to nod. He bit his lip hard that it caused him pain but nothing beat the magnitude of pain he was feeling in his heart. He said, “Thank you.”
She smiled, “For everything we’ve been through, it’s the least I can do. Be happy for me, Ethan.”
“You too, Betina, be happy for me. Be the best that you can ever be not for me or for everybody else, but for you.”
Everybody Betina knew said that it’s easy to be in a relationship but it was hard to let go. She didn’t know why. But experiencing it firsthand, she finally understood. It’s hard to let go because of the memories, the time and feelings she invested, all the efforts she wasted. But when she looked at his eyes, she realized it was time to grow. Her time with Ethan was sure fun but it was childish. They needed to grow away from each other. They had many more things to learn. That’s why after six years of being in a relationship, they put it in halt.
It was a mutual decision so there was no hard feelings on both sides.
But where did Betina go after that? Oh, she decided to go home since she wasn’t fond of drinking in bars. She had her own stacks of alcohol but those weren’t fancy. It were all local liquors that can be bought cheaply. She and Ethan really loved to drink those while watching random movies they downloaded via torrent, laughing if the movie they got was pure shit, crying together if what they downloaded was a good tearjerker.
Well, shit. After remembering what they did while drinking those liquors made her want to throw all them away and buy drinks they haven’t tried before.
She’ll do that the next day, she noted mentally. That night, she wanted to reevaluate her priorities, to think about her life from that night on, to know what to do from that point forward. She tried to hard to do those all but all her mind could think about was the happiness she felt when she’s with Ethan, the contentment, the memories, his name. Every sentence she had in mind consisted of his name.
She loved his first name. He loved how she pronounced it. Ethan loved her. Betina loved him.
Breaking up with him felt wrong. But at that point of their lives, it was the right thing to do. They had so many things in their hands: their career, their own lives, their own families, decisions. It was toxic so they had to give one up. She understood that completely but it felt different. She thought she could deal with it, but she was wrong. Betina was always wrong that she thought that Ethan was the most right that she had. She was perfect in his eyes. She felt flawless within his touch. She felt right in his arms. With him, she was all the things she never thought she would be.
She thought of all what they’d been through, how their relationship started, the ups and downs of their relationship.
Their story started way back since they were in college. She was in College of Arts and Sciences while Ethan was in College of Engineering. Back then she had a boyfriend named Nick who was in a band. One night, after the band’s performance in one of their gigs, Betina saw Nick kissing another girl. It was her high heels’ fault that Nick noticed her staring at them with her mouth fell agape. Nick panicked that he uncontrollably pushed the woman he’s kissing.
Nick tried to explain, of course. He was following her but she acted like she didn’t hear him at all. She ran around the corner and saw Ethan hopping off his motorcycle while taking his helmet off. Since Betina knew Ethan since kindergarten, she hid behind him that made him so startled.
“Ethan, make him go away, please,” she said almost inaudibly. Her hands that were gripping Ethan’s jacket firmly were shaking, so as her voice.
“Betina, please, listen to me.” Nick stopped when he saw Ethan instead of Betina. “Get away from her, dude.”
“You’re the one who needs to stay away from Betina.”
Nick was about to step towards Betina but Ethan extended his arm to block his path.
“Didn’t you hear what I said, cheating bastard? Stay away from Betina. You touch her, and I swear you’ll regret it.”
Nick clicked his tongue, glaring at him but he didn’t budge. Ethan’s gaze squared off against his until Nick turned his back to walk away. Betina released a sigh of relief when Nick backed off.
“Thank you,” she murmured.
“Whew! I thought he’s going to beat me to pulp,” Ethan exclaimed chuckling. “I’ve never been so nervous in my entire life.”
“Thank you, Ethan, really. I owe you this one.”
“You’re always welcome, Betina.” Ethan smiled at her. “But before I go, I have to say that you need to break up with that guy.”
Ethan laughed. “Why the heck did you choose that guy? He’s an air-head, you know?”
“He’s hot plus he’s in a band.”
“Band guys are not-so-lowkey fuckers. You should stick that to your mind, miss. Next time you choose a guy, choose someone who would rather spend time reading with you, someone who would spout weird facts rather than egoistic remarks.”
“You know him, huh?” Betina raised a brow at Ethan.
“He’s my classmate in Thermodynamics. I heard it’s his 3rd take in that subject.” He shrugged. “In case you don’t know, I am also a BS Civil Engineering student. Status? Regular. Plus, in dean’s list for 5 consecutive semesters.”
“Wow! You’re proud of that, aren’t you?”
“Yes. Yes, I am.”
If Betina had to describe Ethan, she would say he is good at everything he does, he has heart for the needy, and he despises going to gym because he likes to eat more than to build muscles. Quoting Ethan, “Building muscles is for a man who has no brain. It is to compensate for being too stupid.” Of course, she opposed that. Working out has no correlation with being completely stupid.
His eyes were the ones she loved the most. It’s still a wonder for her how he manages to express himself through his eyes, though it was tantalizing. His small scar beneath his right eye made him look badass though he didn’t get that in a fight. Ethan dislikes violence, with that reason he doesn’t watch wrestling entertainment or even mixed martial arts shows that are airing on television.
Ethan also smiles a lot. He doesn’t show that he has problems. He is so carefree that she almost thought that he’s so happy with everything, but no. After she hid behind him, they hung out a lot. They even met up during their free time, usually in the university canteen where they sing songs in karaoke, never minding other students in there. He would laugh at her every time she was off-tune or off-key. Sorry, she wasn’t musically inclined like he was.
Ethan plays guitar, organ, and drums. He also knows a bit in playing violin. She heard him played flute back in high school but he said he didn’t really play flute, that he only studied one song, which was what he played for their music subject in MAPEH. Plus, his voice is good, too! He wasn’t part of any band, though, even though she told him he should join a band. He said, “I’m an engineering student, Betina. I have so many things to prioritize. I want to graduate on time and with Latin honor.”
Ethan is optimistic and ambitious. He always sees the good in bad, except that time when he criticized her boyfriend — ex-boyfriend — Nick. He seriously hated that guy to the bones! Betina just laughed at that time because it was new for her to see Ethan like that. After a while, Ethan laughed with her then said, “I’m sorry for bad-mouthing your ex. I just hate his guts. I mean, he’s shameless!”
“Nick is not that bad, you know?”
“What?” Ethan shrieked. “He’s all the bad things — wait, no! He is all the worst.”
The thing about Ethan is that when he dislikes a person, he just dislikes them. He wouldn’t dare to talk to the people he doesn’t want, even if he needs something from them. Betina said he was too prideful but he dismissed that quickly. So she was shocked to see Ethan talking to Nick during the university’s annual Summer Festival. It was in the university pool where she saw him laughing with Nick, alongside Briana, her ex’s new girlfriend.
Well, who would’ve thought that he will be friends with Nick? Ethan smiled at her when their eyes met. Ethan kindly dismissed himself to find a way to her. Betina raised her right brow.
“What was that, Ethan Carlo?”
Ethan laughed. “What? Am I not supposed to be friends with him?”
“It’s not that. It’s just you didn’t seem to like him at first. What changed?”
“Well, I just realized that also I have to move on. I’m just hating him for no reason.” Ethan shrugged his shoulders, pouting. “Wait a minute! You’re the ex here. Why don’t you have any hard feelings on him?”
Betina rolled her eyes. “Duh? From the start, I know that he’s a jackass. Why would I waste my tears on a jerk whose intentions are vivid? I’m not stupid. So I have no hard feelings on him. He’s still a fucker, though. I hope he’d changed before the karma hit him.”
“So, you really don’t have any hard feelings towards your ex?” Ethan crossed his arms then eyed her suspiciously. She shook her head no. “Oh, really?”
“Why am I not convinced?”
“I don’t know. Duh?”
That night, water was splashed everywhere, leaving them wet, while the band was playing a famous song from the 90s. Ethan was laughing hard because someone from the crowd threw water balloon at them in which she screamed loud. Betina hit him on his chest but he kept on laughing. She tried to hit him again for the second time but Ethan caught her hand.
She looked up and her eyes met his. Ethan’s face was now serious, the trace of laughter wasn’t evident on his face. His chinky eyes bore onto her as if his gaze was burning her soul.
"Magkahawak ang ating kamay at walang kamalay-malay
Na tinuruan mo ang puso ko na umibig nang tunay.”
Her breathing pattern became short as his hand squeezed hers. He slowly put her palm against his chest were his heart rests. She can feel the beat of the music against his chest but the beat of his heart was much greater. It was fast... real. Her eyes dropped into where their bodies intersect. His hand was warm against her forehand.
“La la la la la la... la la la la la...”
“Betina, I like you.”
She wiped the tears rolling down her face violently as she sat on one corner of her room. Everything was sinking down her brain, the memories, the feelings, everything. It was all at once. She couldn’t take too much. Ethan was so perfect for her.
Betina also wanted that break up. So why was she feeling that way? Why did it hurt so much? She thought she can handle the pain since the decision was mutual, but no. She was moping. She was crying. She was alone.
She fished her phone out her pocket and dialed a number. After few rings, her mother said hello.
“Mom, can I go home? I want to take a vacation.”
She was trying so hard not to sob, to not make her mother worry. She covered her mouth with her hand as tears continuously fell.
“What about your work?” Her mother's voice soothing, calm, and it made her feel more homesick.
“My vacation leave is effective tomorrow.”
“Okay, is Ethan coming with you?”
Hearing his name made her sob continuously. Her heart constricted with the sound of his name. Emotions flowed more. “Ma... Ethan and I... We broke up.”
“I’m sorry, honey. It must’ve been hard,” her mother said empathetically.
“I never knew it would be this hard, Mom,” she sobbed. “It felt like all my dreams shattered, like all of my plans for us became futile all of a sudden.”
“Hush, now. Come home. It’s not okay right now but eventually it will be. It has to be.”