Sepak takraw is so much cooler than soccer or volleyball. How come I’ve never heard about this sport before? Alvarrez and I are currently watching the players demonstrate how the game works and Alvarrez, being the sporty nerd that she is, is completely fascinated by it.
Henry, one of the coaches, explains them to us as we watch. I see Alvarrez nod from time to time, her eyes gleaming with curiosity and excitement. “Can I try it later after the interview?” She asks enthusiastically. Henry shoots an uneasy look at one of his companions as if deliberating whether to let Alvarrez play. “Please.” Alvarrez gives him that unnerving, hopeful look that gets me all the time.
Henry didn’t stand a chance. He sighs. “Okay, but you have to be careful. This isn’t just some sport, kid.”
Alvarrez practically jumps in joy. “Yes! Thank you!”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I ask her when she comes close to me.
“Yeah, I used to play sipa a lot as a kid. It’s just like sepak, but instead of a rattan ball, we make use of a coin-like object with a hole in the middle and insert strips of a plastic straw.” She rambles.
Not understanding what she’s talking about, but amused by the way she tells me stories from her childhood, I let her ramble on.
The rest of the interview went really smooth—probably because Alvarrez was compliant and helpful—no doubt because she wants to end it as soon as possible and play.
After the usual interview and filming, Alvarrez finally gets what she wants. I watch from the sidelines as the players teach her the basics.
Another thing I noticed about Alvarrez is that she’s a fast learner. She can do anything as long as you show her the proper way to do it. It’s amazing how easily she absorbs the information that she gets and executes it immediately. Even Henry looks surprised at how easily she understood the game.
When Alvarrez gets the hang of the basic moves, Henry allows her to play one set. I bring out my camera and film her. I love seeing her play. Whether it’s basketball, volleyball, chess—anything. She has this cool, happy expression on her face.
However, when she played with my brother, I barely saw her smile. It’s a rare occurrence for me, considering she always has that mischievous smile playing on her lips. Not to mention she also looks so damn attractive when she’s serious.
Alvarrez scores and her teammates slap her on the back, mouthing ‘nice one’. The opposing team scores back and wins. Alvarrez comes running to Henry. “Come on, I can’t let it end like this! I have to get my revenge!” She pleads. “One more set please.”
Henry sighs. “You’re really consistent, you know? If you lose again, there won’t be any more. Understand?”
Alvarrez nods erratically. “Thank you, thank you! I’ll win this one.” She confidently says and runs back to the court. Halfway through the set, the rain pours down heavily. I faintly remember the news mentioning to expect a heavy rainfall tonight because a storm is coming.
Sure enough, they did win the set after that, making them go into the final set. Whoever wins this one will be considered the winner. It’s obvious the other players are way better than Alvarrez, but she manages to hold out on her own. She does an excellent job of supporting her teammates and minimizing her mistakes.
The current score is 20-19 in favor of Alvarrez’s team. Her teammate passes the ball to her and shouts, “Finish it!”
Alvarrez jumps. For a split second, it looked like she was about to do a backflip. While her left foot was up in the air, she jumps with her right foot and kicks the ball with it. The ball plummets to the other side of the court, leaving the players astounded. They look at Alvarrez with their jaws hanging.
“Did you just do a roll spike?” Her opponent asks.
“Is that what that was called?” Alvarrez asks innocently. “I just copied what you guys were doing.”
Henry laughs beside me. “The losing team does double drills later. You lost to a newbie.”
Alvarrez cheers, grinning from ear-to-ear. “Told you I’d kick your asses.” The players shake hands with each other and Alvarrez runs to me. “Did I do a good job?” She asks.
I don’t have the heart to be a tsundere right now. Alvarrez looks too happy. “You did.”
“Do I get a prize?”
“Will a kiss be okay?”
Alvarrez’s smile widens if that was even possible. She nods enthusiastically.
I try to hide a smile. “Okay. My dogs will give it to you later. That’s six kisses, to be exact.”
Alvarrez’s lips turn upside down and I burst out laughing. “You are such a baby.” I pull out her handkerchief that she keeps on her front left pocket and wipe the sweat off her face. “I’m not that easy, Alvarrez. You need to step up your game.”
Alvarrez tsks. ”Paasa."
My ears perk up. I always get excited whenever Alvarrez speaks in Filipino. I’ve been taking online courses to learn her other language, but I still only know the basics. “What does paasa mean?”
I roll my eyes at her. “Whatever,” I’ll just look it up online. “Let’s go. It’s getting late.”
We thank Henry and the others for everything. Just before we go out the door of the gym, Henry calls out to Alvarrez. “Hey, kid. If you ever want to switch sports, our door’s open.”
“I’ll consider it,” Alvarrez says, her tone making it hard to decipher whether she was serious or joking. “Thanks, Henry.” She waves goodbye.
As we exit the underground parking lot of the gym, we were welcomed by the relentless pouring of rain. “How long has it been raining?” She asks.
“About thirty minutes,” I say. “Were you serious about switching sports?”
“I said I’d consider it,” she clarifies. “But yeah, it seems pretty cool.”
Alvarrez is the type of person to join something on a whim so I wouldn’t put it past her to suddenly have a change of heart and train in sepak takraw.
A hint of a smile plays on Alvarrez’s lips when a nice beat from her stereo fills the air. She starts tapping on the steering wheel in tune with the music’s rhythm. Sometimes, Alvarrez hums, or she lip-syncs with the music—but not this time. This time, she actually sings.
Maybe it’s just me, but as she was singing along the lines,
Moon has never glowed this color
Hearts have never been this close
I have never been more certain
I will love you ’til we’re old
She glances at me, her eyes smiling.
Maybe the night
Holds a little hope for us, dear
Maybe we might
Want to settle down, just be near
Stay together here
When the song ends, I ask her, “What’s the title?”
“Maybe the Night by Ben&Ben.” She says. “It’s nice, right?”
I nod. A couple more songs I don’t know played after that. Alvarrez likes listening to OPM—Original Pinoy Music, as she had told me—during car rides. I don’t mind that I don’t understand the lyrics. I’m happy just seeing her enjoying it.
Alvarrez slows down. The rain was making it hard for her to drive, and it doesn’t help that we were traveling on an unfamiliar road. Which reminds me—“Hey, we passed a road under construction on the way here, right?” I remember only half of the roads were elevated and the other half was still unfinished.
“Right. I think it was around—” The car jerks to the left, followed by a hard thud. Alvarrez’s car tilts sideways. “Fuck!” She turns to me. “Are you okay?”
I manage to nod my head. “What happened?”
Alvarrez peeks on her window. She steps on the gas. I only hear the sound of the engine running, but we weren’t moving. “My tires are hanging on the edge.”
Every time Alvarrez and I go out together, the day always ends on a bad note. First, the night we met Jan. Second, when she saw us kissing. Now, we manage to get ourselves stuck in a ditch in the middle of nowhere, with a storm coming.
“I’ll call for help,” I offer, but Alvarrez wasn’t listening. She’s too busy taking off her shoes. “What are you doing?”
“How deep was this again? About three feet?” She asks, completely ignoring my question.
“You’re not planning on lifting your car up, are you?” I ask. I know it sounds stupid, but it’s exactly the kind of thing I can imagine Alvarrez doing.
She laughs. “If I had the power to do that, I definitely will. But no, I’ll use my brains instead of brawn on this one.” Alvarrez rummages her car’s compartment for a flashlight. “Stay here.”
Before I could stop her, she steps outside in the pouring rain. That idiot. I see her check the situation outside. She examines her car with the flashlight and runs to the back. A minute later and I feel the car’s rear being lifted.
Alvarrez goes back inside, steps on the gas again, but still no luck. “Tangina,” I hear her mutter before going back outside. If I’m not mistaken, that’s a curse word in Filipino. We must be in serious trouble if she’s cursing in Tagalog now.
This time, Alvarrez looks like she’s searching for something on the ground. She checks our surroundings, running in opposite directions. When she comes back, she’s carrying a large rock with her. She disappears once again on the side of the car, and I feel the rear lower.
When she comes back, her hair is dripping wet and her clothes are sticking tight into her body. “You’re soaking wet.”
“That would’ve sounded hot in a different circumstance,” she rubs her hands together for warmth. “Can I turn off the AC? I’m fucking freezing.” She doesn’t wait for my answer before turning it off.
She steps on the gas and the car jerks forward. She turns the steering wheel to the left, making us fall into the other side of the road with a scraping sound that makes her flinch. That is going to look ugly. But on the bright side, we finally got out of our little predicament.
The rest of the ride consisted of Alvarrez complaining how cold it was, and me telling her we should’ve called for help. We got home in no time thanks to her speedy driving and her urge to take a shower as soon as possible.
After greeting my dogs, I lead her to the guest room. “Take a shower. The towels are inside. I’ll go get you some clothes.”
“There’s a bag with my clothes at the back of my car. Can you just get that for me?” She requests.
“Sure.” I turn and leave her.
While Alvarrez was taking a shower, I feed my dogs and cook dinner for us. Asking for delivery would be cruel to the delivery boy in this kind of weather. Once I was done cooking and setting the table, I decided to check on her.
The first thing I saw when I enter? Her abs. Her flat tummy is well-defined by lines that perfectly outline her 4-pack. Alvarrez is in the middle of drying her hair, with a towel slung over her shoulders. All she’s wearing is a black sports bra and boxers. My eyes travel to her well-toned legs, up to her muscled arms, then to her face that is now plastered with a smug look and her signature smirk.
“I’m pretty sure you just checked me out.”
I clear my throat. “Dinner’s ready,” I tell her and stalk out of the room before I get any funny ideas.
Alvarrez follows me shortly after putting on a shirt. I assumed she would put something over that boxer shorts of hers, but it seems she has no plan on wearing something longer. I stare her up and down as she walks toward me, barefooted. Now that she’s not wearing any shoes, her anklet pops out in her otherwise naked feet. She’s always had that anklet, but somehow, being barefooted makes it look sexier.
“Do you always have spare clothes with you?” I ask. I normally don’t start conversations, but the air will feel weird if we don’t talk to each other, especially since we’re alone here.
“Yeah. I end up sleeping over at Kris’ most of the time after taking her home. I have all my essentials packed just in case.” Alvarrez explains.
I glance at the window to check the weather outside. The rain’s still not letting up. “Can you still drive home?”
“It’s not like a have a choice. I mean unless you’ll allow me to sleepover.”
Alvarrez looks at me like I just asked her to strip naked. “I can?”
“Just for tonight,” I say. “It doesn’t look like the rain’s going to stop any time soon.”
Alvarrez almost jumps up from her seat. “Okay! I’ll go call my mom.” She’s such a kid. I stare at her strong back and trace my gaze along the length of her body. At least she can’t see me checking her out.
When she comes back, her smile was so contagious I found myself smiling as well. “You’re really cute when you smile like that. Your dimples show.”
I roll my eyes. “We don’t have many guests stay the night to the room might be a bit dusty, but it should suffice.”
Her face drops. “Wait, I’m sleeping in the guest room?”
“You’re a guest, aren’t you?”
She rubs the back of her neck. “Yeah, but I thought we’d be sleeping in the same room.” She looks away shyly. “Can we? I-I mean, we don’t have to share the same bed. I just don’t want to sleep alone,” she adds. “I don’t mind sleeping on the floor.”
I raise an eyebrow. Nod my head.
She hesitates before answering, “I’m scared of ghosts.”
I burst out laughing. “Seriously?” I can’t believe this. Alvarrez is scared of ghosts. “What are you, five?”
“I said, don’t laugh!” Alvarrez’s face turns red in embarrassment.
“Okay, okay,” I tell her, but I only manage to silence my laugh. It’s hilarious. “You can stay in my room.”
Two hours later and I regret that decision. I let Alvarrez sleep on the couch in my room, fully confident that I will not have to deal with her flirty tendencies and her body close to mine. However, in the middle of the night, I was woken up by her constant shifting and heavy breaths.
I sit up and turn on the bedside lamp. “Alex?” I allow my eyes to adjust to the brightness and see her curled up like a ball. She’s shaking. She’s wearing a hoodie and covered in a comforter and she’s shaking.
“Sorry, did I wake you?” She croaks. “Can I borrow another comforter? It’s really cold.”
I stand up from my bed to check her temperature. She’s burning up. “You have a fever. Hold on, I’ll get your medicine.”
Alvarrez grabs my hand, and the heat almost makes me flinch. “I’m fine. I don’t like relying on meds. This will go away soon. Just please give me a blanket.”
“You’re an idiot, you know that?” I can’t just leave her like this. I know a comforter will barely help at all and the next best thing to help her is body heat. I speak without thinking. “Sleep next to me.”
“No, I’m really fine.” She barely tugs at her hand.
“Alex, please?” I plead. “Your fever will only get worse if you keep this up.”
She looks at me, then nods her head. I help her settle into the bed before laying down with my back to her. “Your bed smells nice,” she says. “It smells like you.”
“Go to sleep.”
I feel her scoot closer to me, the heat from her body strangely welcome. “You’re so warm,” her breath tickles the back of my neck. “Can I hug you?”
Alvarrez stretches an arm under my neck and snakes another on my waist, resting on my stomach. She tugs lightly, pulling me closer to her. She inhales deeply. “You never got to give me that kiss.”
I totally forgot about that. “You can have it tomorrow.”
“I want it now.”
“I wanna kiss you so bad.” It’s the desperation in her voice—the ache, the unmistakable desire—that tugs on my gut. It makes me want to turn around and kiss the fuck out of her. I remember that time from the office. How she managed to take over my lips and how I realized I wanted more before I gathered up all the self-control in my body and pushed her away.
If I take her right now, I won’t be satisfied with just a kiss. My body is screaming for her and I can’t deny it. I also know Alvarrez feels the same because her hand is grabbing my shirt like she’s about to tear it off any second.
I take hold of her hand. She slowly eases her grip on my shirt and intertwines her fingers with mine. I feel her erratic heartbeat return to its normal rhythm.
“But this much is enough for me,” she whispers softly. “For now.”
Yes, for now. My body relaxes into hers. The heat emanating from her body is the perfect remedy for this cold weather. “Good night, Al.”
“Good night, baby.”
It didn’t take long for me to fall asleep, and I had no doubt that was the best sleep I had in my entire life. I felt safer in her arms than any other place in this world.
At the last moment where my consciousness was flitting between awake and asleep, I hear her whisper, “Mahal kita.”
Paasa is someone who gives false hopes. In this context, Alvarrez says it as a joke and it translates to ‘tease’.
As for mahal kita... well, you guys can figure it out :))