I wake up to the face of the most beautiful girl I’ve laid my eyes on. She’s sleeping soundly with my arm still under her neck. I don’t know how she ended facing me, but I’m grateful she did. This way, I get the perfect close-up view of her flawless, unblemished skin. High cheekbones. Sharp, pointy nose. Full lips. I could get used to this.
I love her. I know I’m a wimp for telling her in a language she doesn’t understand—while she’s asleep, I might add—but it’s the only way I’m prepared to tell her. She doesn’t have to know. It’s enough that I know and I’m sure, and I’m going to make her feel it.
She shifts a little, her eyebrows drawn together. She snuggles closer to me, burying her face in the crook of my neck and snaking an arm around my waist. I hold her tight against me, my hand finding itself tangled in her hair.
I glance at the clock. 9:30 am. It’s way too early for me to get up. Plus, it’s a Sunday. I don’t function before noon on Sundays. I did the only logical thing to do in this situation: go back to sleep.
The next time I open my eyes, Julia’s gone and I’m feeling so damn cold again. I bring the covers up to my neck, shivering. I look around her room. I was so out of it last night I didn’t get the chance to explore.
Julia’s room is big. One king-size bed. One study table. One bedside table. A bathroom. And, of course, a walk-in closet. On the wall in front of her study table, there are Instax pictures of her with her dogs. The floor-to-ceiling window that occupies one side of the wall is shrouded by baby blue curtains. Judging by the way the sunlight hit her this morning when I woke up, the window is angled so that the sun shines on her in the morning.
A bark startles me. I turn around to see Sammy sitting on the floor, his tongue out and he looks like he’s smiling. He barks again.
“Hi, Sammy,” I make a gesture with my hand and he obliges. I scoot over to the edge of the bed and let him lick my hand.
The door swings open. “You’re awake.” Julia greets as she walks inside.
“Good morning, baby,” I give her a lazy smile.
“Hi, baby,” she smiles. “Come here.”
I was ready to jump from the bed and throw myself at her, but she kneels with one knee on the floor, and Sammy runs to her, licking every inch of her face.
Julia must’ve seen the look on my face because she laughs and rises. She walks towards me and sits on the edge of the bed. “Good morning to you too, Al. How are you feeling?” She touches my face with the back of her hands, probably checking my temperature.
I hoist myself up with my elbows. “Better, I guess?”
“You still have a slight fever,” she says. “Do you usually wake up at noon?”
I bite my lip. “Actually, I woke up this morning while you were wrapped all around my body,” Julia’s face turns red. “You looked really comfortable sleeping in my arms,” I smirk.
She snorts. “Coming from the girl who still has drool on her face,” she smirks back. “Slept well?”
My hands automatically fly to my face, feeling around my mouth for drool. “Fuck.” I run to the washroom inside Julia’s room.
“Come downstairs after you’re done washing up, I made lunch.” She says, heading for the door with Sammy right behind her.
“Oh, wait,” I call out before going inside the bathroom. “What does Al stand for, Alex or Alvarrez? It’s kind of a big deal for me.”
“It stands for alpaca,” she says with a straight face before shutting the door behind her.
As I was going down the stairs after fixing myself, the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafts under my nose. It’s the same smell as the one in the office. “Coffee at noon?” I ask as soon as I see Julia.
“Coffee is for any time of the day.” She counters.
It’s no use arguing about coffee with her. “What’s for lunch except for you?” I grab a glass of water and gulp it down.
“I’m for any time of the day, too.”
I nearly choke on my water. Did she really just say that? Are we in the level of intimacy where we make sexual jokes now? “Then I’ll have you for lunch,” I reply but it didn’t sound the way I wanted it to, thanks to the droplets of water trailing down my lips.
She smiles. A teasing, provocative smile that matches her sultry cat eyes. “Unfortunately, I’m not on the menu,” she places a bowl on the table. “Although, I made you soup. I guarantee it tastes much better than me.”
“I doubt that.” I take a seat. Julia sits in front of me. “Will you give me a tour around the house now? Since we’re, you know...” I trail off, not knowing where I stand in our relationship. Are we friends? Lovers? Or just people who like each other?
“Friends. Let’s leave it at friends.” She supplies, seeing my hesitation.
“Not dating.” She laughs. “Do you really move this fast? How long did it take you to ask Diane to be your girlfriend?”
“Actually, she’s the one who asked me.”
Julia raises an eyebrow. “Really? That’s news to me. Your past girlfriends, then.”
“She’s the first.”
“Swear. I had zero dating experience before going here. All my crushes are either straight or don’t like me.”
Julia looked like a hard math problem was just presented in front of her, and she forgot the formula needed to solve it. “Why do I find that hard to believe? I know you’re not lying, but seriously? Zero? Are they blind?”
This makes me smile. “Hm. So you find me attractive?”
She rolls her eyes. “Of course, I do—along with the entire student body. Someone would have to be blind to deny that fact. I mean, look at you,” she points her fork at me. “Your jawline could cut steak.”
We both stop and stare at each other. That might be the first explicit compliment she ever gave me since we started talking. I waited for her to take back what she said, or say something that negates it, but it doesn’t come. This is definitely progress. “I’m honored to have passed your standards.”
“Don’t let it get to your head.”
I eye the fried chicken on her plate. “Can I have a bite?”
She takes out a chunk of chicken and feeds me like it was completely normal. “You’re being awfully nice to me today. Something good happened?”
Julia looks at me, the corners of her lips turning up as if remembering something. “Something like that.”
After we finished eating, Julia washed the dishes. I did volunteer for the sake of volunteering, but as expected, she insisted on doing it herself. To be honest, I hate doing the dishes—or any household chore for that matter—but if she let me, I’d wash the dishes for her.
“Let’s go, I’ll give you a tour.” She says after she’s done.
I follow behind her as she walks around the house. She leads me to a door at the back. This one is different, I notice. The door has the same design as all the other doors, but this one has a hole in the bottom. Not a hole, actually, but it looks like the door was cut in half.
“This is my babies’ room.” Julia pushes the upper part of the door, revealing a portal to doggy heaven. The walls are plastered with baby blue wallpapers with bone designs on them. Six dog beds are placed on the floor, each with their own names engraved on it. Stuffed toys, chew toys, and other dog toys are scattered all over the floor.
Julia leads me upstairs. On the second floor, there’s another receiving area, also with plush couches and a flat-screen TV. Behind the couches is an indoor balcony looking over the living room on the first floor. Perpendicular to it is another balcony, but this one is facing outside in the same direction as their front gate. I walk towards the clear sliding doors, heading outside where Janelle’s own balcony is facing this way.
I can only imagine all the romantic things they did here when they were kids—throwing paper airplanes, writing notes on a board for the other one to see, or even better, just walking across the street to be in each other’s arms. How can I compete with all that?
I shake my head. It’s no use thinking about the past. I’m here now, and I’m going to do everything I can to make Julia feel how much I love her. I don’t care who I have to compete with.
Connected to the area is a door that leads to a room with a pool table. The walls are lined with shelves with rows filled with countless trophies, certificates, and medals.
“Now I see why you’re so good.”
“They’re mostly dad’s,” Julia explains.
I notice another door that leads to another room. This time, the room was filled with musical instruments. They have all sorts of musical instruments here from a guitar to a full drum set. “Do you play?” I ask Julia.
“A little bit of piano,” she says. “And violin. You?”
“I know how to play the drums, but on one song only,” I tell her, remembering the days I spent all my time mastering the drumline of Kamikazee’s Huling Sayaw. “And the guitar, but I only know Filipino songs. Will you play for me?”
“If you beat me in pool, sure.”
I roll my eyes at her impossible condition. I can’t even beat Kris. How am I supposed to win against her? “Fine, then,” I say, feigning confidence.
“If you lose, you’re the one who’s going to play,” she adds.
“That’s unfair, I’m not even good at this.”
“Not my problem,” she says casually.
We go back to the previous room. Julia goes into the corner, and that’s when I notice she’s wearing my t-shirt. The one I lent her when she spilled coffee on hers. “You’re wearing my shirt.” I blurt out.
Julia shrugs. “You told me I can keep it.”
“I did,” I chuckle. “It really does look good on you.” She likes wearing big shirts at home.
She gets a cue from the rack and hands me one. She sets up the triangle carefully and positions herself on the edge of the table. “Who’s going to break?”
“You do it. I told you I’m not good at this.”
Julia smirks. I stare at her as she slowly ties her hair up in a bun. “Don’t blame me if you don’t get the chance to play.”
And boy did I get the chance. She won two straight games without letting me play even once. On the third one, I was able to sink one ball, and she went on to finish it. I don’t really mind losing to her. It’s the teasing I can’t stand.
I thought it was just me being too full of myself thinking she was doing it to get my attention, but no. Every time she sinks a ball that should’ve been impossible to sink, she looks at me, her eyebrow raised in challenge as if asking, “You thought I couldn’t sink something as basic as that?”
Another thing is her shirt—or my shirt. While she was playing, it gets in the way. Wanna know how she solved that problem? She tied a knot on the shirt behind her back, making it fit on her stomach while showing a handful of skin on her torso. I was basically drooling the entire game.
She knows what it does to me. She knows how much I want her and she enjoys teasing me.
As promised, I played for her after losing three times. It’s been so long since I last played the guitar, and the only songs I know how to play are Tagalog. Julia didn’t mind. If anything, she looked even more thrilled when I played. It’s something I noticed about her—how her face lights up upon hearing a Tagalog word. I find it cute.
“What time do you plan on going home?” She asks as we were resting in the living room.
“I told my mom I’d be home before dinner.”
She turns on the TV and browses for a movie to watch on Netflix. “Pick a movie. No romance, please.”
“Why? Afraid it will make you cling to me and realize you love me?”
Julia mutters something under her breath that I wasn’t able to hear. “Just pick already. I’ll go get us something to munch on.” She stands up and goes downstairs. After a minute, she returns with the promised items on her arms. She places them on the table and runs to her room, coming back with a comforter on her arms. Just one. Perfect.
“Have you watched Coco?” I ask her.
“No. Is it good?” She sits next to me, tucking one foot under her thigh.
“Yeah,” I tell her, not mentioning how I cried after watching it. “Let’s just watch this.”
Julia fixes the couch so that the pieces are placed together and can be used as a bed. We both ease into our positions on the couch as the movie starts. She drapes the blanket over our legs. She opens the chips, and I start on the ice cream.
“Feed me.” I request as I open my mouth.
“You have hands. Use them.”
“I don’t want the powder to get on my fingers,” I say sheepishly. “Come on, I’ll feed you ice cream in return.”
She rolls her eyes but obliges.
At some point in the movie, she rests her head on my shoulder. We’re basically a couple now. A cute couple watching a cute movie while cuddling under the blanket while she’s feeding me Cheetos, and I’m feeding her Ben & Jerry’s.
As expected, she cried at the last part where they sang Remember Me. Julia was bawling like a baby, wiping her tears with her hands. “I’m fresh out of hankies,” I laugh as she cries and I use the sleeve of my shirt to wipe her tears away.
“I have a soft spot for old people,” she says, her eyes still swollen.
“I know.” I pet her head.
She checks the time. It’s almost five. “Don’t you have to go?”
“I don’t want to,” I groan.
She stands up from the couch. “Are you feeling better now? Can you drive?”
“Will you drive me home if I can’t?”
I have no intention of letting her drive me home since it’s going to be a hassle for her, but it’s good to know she’s willing to. “No, I’m fine.”
As soon as I got my things, I make my way to my car. “Thanks for letting me stay over. I’ll see you tomorrow.” As I turn my back on her, I thought of something. “Oh, wait.”
“Where’s my kiss?”
Julia rolls her eyes—something I saw coming from a mile away. What I didn’t expect was when she leaned in gave me a quick peck on the cheek. “I’m not paasa," she says, her tone playful. Then, with a smile that melts my heart, she adds, “Take care, Al.”
Hi guys, happy holidays! This is the last update for the year. I'm a graduating student and I'm in the middle of completing my thesis, so please bear with the slow updates. Thank you so much for your support and ily all ❤