You Under the Moonlight

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First

Insult

Mahihibang na yata ako.

Bagot na bagot ako kakascroll sa IG. Even those funny memes did nothing, my boredom was just beyond extreme. Dalawang araw akong nasa kwarto, at wala na akong maisip na pagdiskitahan maliban sa Netflix at social medias. Magdamag na wala sa bahay ang magkapatid. Even my parents are nowhere. Nakumbinsi ko sila na masama ang pakiramdam ko. (ulit, coz I gave them that excuse already) At hindi ko alam kung tatanggapin pa ba nila ang rason kong ito bukas! Dahil sa akala ko’y mai-enjoy ko ang limang araw na bakasyon dito sa New York, hindi na ako nag abala na bitbitin ang makakapal na nobela sa kwarto. Kung alam ko lang! Nakakaimbyerna!

Ang itinerary na nakalista sa phone ko ay kagabi ko pa binura.

Kanina pa naka-alis si Kate at Kuya Jet. Mabuti sana kung sila lang dalawa. Kasi yun ang plano. Kaming tatlo ang mamamasyal sa syudad. But unfortunately, that stupid vicious filth, Ysmael, invited himself to accompany us. My cousins didn’t decline his damn offer. Nakakahiya namang mag-inarte, ayos lang kasi sa magkapatid na kasama siya.

Tumikhim ako. Mabilis na nagkalat ang inis kahit na ini-isip lang ang lalakeng iyon! He’s just sooooo conceited!

“Magkakilala kayo?” Tanong ni Kate. Hindi sigurado kung para kanino ang tanong. Siya lang ang naglakas-loob pakatapos mag-salita ni Ysmael. Pabalik-balik ang tingin niya sa akin, kay Ysmael at sa mga kamay naming magka-hawak pa rin.

Malakas kong binawi ang kamay ko at tinago sa likod.

I was still surprised. He was that annoying boy at mall! Luminga ako sa mga kasama namin at lahat ng ito ay nag-hihintay ng sagot ko. Dad and Mom’s curious eyes are visible.

“Hindi.” “Yes.”

Bakas ang pagkalito sa mga mukha nila. Ano bang ‘yes’ ang sinasabi ng abnormal na to? Well, yes! We saw each other. We had that little chitchat. But I never know him since today!

Kung nakakapaso lang ang tingin ko ay baka nagaapoy na ang mayabang na lalakeng ito!

“Well, technically magkakilala na tayo. We introduced. You’re Leanne something Lopez, right?” ang kaninang magaalab na tingin ko ay nagaapoy na. The filthy conceited scumbag looked so amused.

‘Am I a fucking clown to you?’

And I am what?!

‘Leanne Something Lopez’

Wow!

Just damn wow!

Nagtawanan sila Mommy at Tita. Pati na din ang mga lalake. Like what the hell is so funny? That wasn’t funny at all!

Meanwhile, Kate’s chinky eyes are searching for something I don’t know. I beamed half-heartedly.

“Anyway, enough for introductions.” Said Tito Jaime merrily. “Mabuti pa ay sumabay na kayo sa amin, Andres.”

Oh no!

Siguro’y hindi talaga para sa akin ang araw na ito. Tito André and Paulo’s eyes shined. The invitation must be the reason of it.

“Yes. Yes. The more the merrier! We shall celebrate, I daresay.” Humalakhak pa ito sa galak.

“Si tito talaga.” Natatawa pang puna ni Ysmael. I rolled my eyes lazily. This is so annoying.

Hindi ako pinalaking bastos ng mga magulang ko. They taught me good values and manners. Hindi rin sila nag-kulang sa pag-payo at pag-paalala sa akin. I am not rude. I know how to socialize. I have so many friends. At hindi ko maintindihan kung saan nanggagaling ang pagkairita ko kay Ysmael. There is something about him na hindi ko gusto.

True enough. We had that not-so-okay convo. I was pissed. Siguro ay siya din. But was it enough to be so irritated and annoyed at him? To dislike him?

Coz the small voice over my head’s telling me it isn’t, and I am overreacting.

‘Or your just so mad that he didn’t know our second name?’

Umiling ako. Bigo. I guess it’s wrong to entertain my stupid subconscious. Mali din kasi ang interpretation nito. Why would I be mad over that petty and invalid reason?

‘Coz you think it is unfair. Na ikaw, i mean, tayo, we remember his sexy names, at sya hindi. Coz he just knew us as Leanne Something Lopez’

And I can imagine that lil me rolling her eyes. Jusko naman. Bakit po parang ibang subconscious ang naririnig ko? And ano daw? I what? Sexy, who?

‘Vince Ysmael, bitch.’

Damn. At sumasagot ka pa? Pilit kong inabala ang sarili sa mga pagkaing nasa mahabang mesa. Kate was on my left. Sa harap ko naman ay si Kuya Jet, and Ysmael’s beside him. Paulo was near his Dad. Hindi ko masundan ang topic dahil sa maharot na subconscious.

“Well, I’m glad that I finished my MBA in such time, Tito. Sa La salle ko po natapos ang degree ko.”

Halos mahulog ang panga ko sa narinig. Napasulyap ako sa Kate na ngayon ay pareho ko ding mangha sa mga narinig.

‘So, he’s a degree holder.’

MBA na nga eh.

‘Did I heard it right? How old is he? Twenty-three? Twenty-four?’

Pakealam ko ba.

Patuloy ako sa pagkain while my ears are on them.

“Ysmael and I decided to do business, Dad.”

Tito Jaime looks so proud. Even Tita Victoria leaned and whispered something to him. What is it with this Ysmael? God. Lahat yata ay gusto ito.

“Is it a partnership, hijo?” Si Daddy.

“Oh. Hindi po, Tito. I have to study how our company works. And Jetro too. So, we decided to buy stocks and play along with it, habang inaaral pa namin ang kanya kanyang kompanya. Kung okay lang po sainyo?” The way he said it, akala mo ay sigurado na magtatagumpay ito. Like, he’s just being humble to ask them.

‘How conceited!’

Tito and Dad nodded. With admiration in their eyes. I’d never been this keen to listen to a business talk. Kahit wala akong maintindihan, I can see how possionate this Vince Ysmael is.

‘Well, he’s old. That’s it.’

Frustration and anger ate me like a wildfire. Salubong ang kilay ko habang kumakain. Gusto ko nalang matapos ang salo-salong ito. They are laughing so hard. I’m fighting the urge to cover my ears because it’s really annoying. Kung saan-saan pa napunta ang usapan nila at ayaw kon nang intindihin ang alin man sa mga iyon.

Mabilis ang pagsubo at pagnguya ko sa pagkain. Mom watched me curiously so I smiled a bit.

“What are you doing! Look at your plate?! It’s disgusting!” Mariing bulong ni Mommy sa akin. Makalat kasi ang pagkain ko sa plato. Tumuwid ako ng upo at saka umayos. My eyes drifted to the other tables. The fancy restaurant was now full of customers. Pilit kong binalik ang sarili sa usapan.

“And with your help, my son closed the deal with the Valencias. I should thank you, hijo.”

“It’s nothing, Tito.” mahanging sagot naman ni Ysmael.

‘Oh, this daft!’

I throw a peek to the person infront of me. Kuya looks okay though. He’s not faking his smiles. God! Mas mukhang constipated ako kesa sa kanya ah.

Hindi ba na-i-inis si Kuya Jet sa pagpapansin nito? Ysmael is stealing his spotlight! He should have know it! Or at least feel it. Damn.

I cleared my throat importanly.

Kung hindi nila makita ang ginagawang pang-uuto ng lalakeng ito, then I won’t allow them to be fooled. Ysmael’s achievement blinded them! Can’t they see? They’re being played! Oh God!

“Kuya Jet did his part well, Tito. You should know that.” Pagtangis ko.

Natahimik sila sa biglang magsali ko sa usapan. Tito Andres drank his own glass of water. Ysmael’s bored eyes surveyed me with a smirk plastered in his face. Paulo and Kate was confused.

“I am very aware of that, hija. I just want to acknowledge Ysmael’s help. That’s all.” Tito explained like I was a toddler having a tantrums.

I sighed heavily. My face reddened, I felt humilated big time! Galit man at umuusok ang ilong, nagawa ko pang ngumiti sa kanila.

“But he’s stealing Kuya Jet’s spotlight, Tito!”

I almost screamed it. Napatayo din ako while my forefinger is pointed at Ysmael. Naalerto ang mga kasama ko sa mesa. I even heard that git, chuckled. I was mad and disappointed. Bakit hindi nila maintindihan ang point ko?!

“Leanne!” Mommy’s offended voice boomed like a firecracker.

Mabilis ang pagtaas at baba ng dibdib ko dahil sa paghinga. I should apologise. God knows I want to do it right away. Hindi ko talaga maipaliwanag ang sakit. Parang pinupunit ang puso ko. My pride can’t take it. I was humilated!

“Pasensya na hijo. She didn’t mean it.” My Mom’s angry eyes bore at me.

“Enough, both of you. Lourencia!” Bulong naman ni Dad kay Mommy.

The awkward silence seems like forever. At hindi ko na kayang tumagal pa ng ilang segundo dito.

“Excuse me.” My voice cracked.

“Eanne.”

Kate stopped me. Nangingilid na ang luha ay mabilis kong tinahak ang daan patungo sa banyo. This is so petty. Ano na lang ang sasabihin ng mga iyon! I bit my lower lip to stop my tears from coming down. My eyes and cheeks reddened. I waited long enough to compose my havoc self. I keep on reminding myself that I should apologize.

What I did back there was mean. I should acknowledge my mistakes and rudeness. Would they think ill of me and judge me wrongly? God. I hope not.

But apologizing won’t imply alliance. Hell to that!

‘Constant vigilance, self.’ Humagikhik ako sa naisip. Nababaliw na nga ako. Kanina lang ay halos sumabog ako sa galit.

That thought busied me. When I was sane, I decided to go out of the powder room. My breathing hitched when I saw Ysmael. His sleeves rolled up to his forearms, both hands were inside his slack’s side pockets, along with his dagger eyes, furrowed brows, and clenching jaw, all were screaming power. He looked perfectly odd leaning against the solid wall of the deserted hallway.

I walked silently towards him, like a prey hoping not to be seen or noticed. My eyes roam around the narrow corridor. To the ornate-gold frames fixed on the sidewalls, to the crystal chandelier hanged on the ceiling, and to the thick but implausibly neat carpet. It’s impossible that our eyes would meet yet I speeded up. I want to curse so badly dahil feeling ko ay ang haba ng lalakaran bago malampasan siya!

Doubling my effort to walk faster, I almost fainted when he stood up straight and surveyed me head to toe. His mouth was half-opened when I stopped and faced him. Obscene and lewd thoughts rushed in like wild waves. It was a brief moment before he grimaced. And that was my cue. Parang bumalik ako sa sarili at halos masuka. Nagmamadali kong tinalikuran ang lalake.

“Not so fast, young miss.”

In a snap, our position switched. I was now leaning against the cold wall, his both hands cornered me. This is so cliché! Nevertheless, I was caught off guard. He grinned arrogantly. Maybe he’s enjoying how easy he got me huh?

“You’re crushing your cousin, aren’t you?” He asked acidly. Nanunuya itong tumawa. Like he’s aware how insulting his question is. I want to vomit. His inquiry is full of crudity!

“Are you crazy?! He’s my cousin.” --you deceitful ruddy evil!

“Is it me then?” he narrowed his eyes.

I glance at him with my cold angry eyes. Tumaas ang isang kilay nito. I pushed him away with my full force but my attempt was futile. He stood there firmly.

“Why so mad? Hm.” his soft baritone voice sent shivers down my spine. Halos makiliti ako sa lambot nito. I even forgot that I should be furious. Damn!

“Cause’ you are so full of yourself! You foul evil conceited dirt!” ...the corners of his lips rose.

I planned to preach him his arrogance. A back to back parchment list of his vanity was ready over my head. Mas dumaloy ang iritasyon sa akin dahil sa kakatiting na pang-iinsulto ko dito. Lalo na ng makita kung hindi man lang natinag ang kaharap ko. Para bang bigong-bigo siya sa mga insultong binato ko. Mabilis ang pagbitiw ng mga kamay niya sa pagkakakulong sa akin. Without stepping back, he crouched. Halos mapaso ako ng maramdaman ko ang mainit na paghinga niya. My heart jumped so high that I gasped and waited for it to come down. It pounded so fast that it hurts. My face heated when I saw him so close. I can’t take it. Mariin kong pumikit.

Is he going to kiss me?

“And just that. I don’t kiss whom I babysit.”

I can almost see my heart fall and break into million pieces. Gusto kong lamunin nalang ng lupa at maglaho ng parang bula. Why did I think even for one second that we’re gonna kiss? This is ridiculous! Still, with my eyes closed, I heard his footsteps marched away from where I stand.

My strong urge to say sorry earlier was gone to oblivion. And it’s my greatest pleasure to demand warfare!

The remain hours of the night after that embarrassing talk was blur. Though, I remember Paulo kissed me goodbye and told me that his going back to Philippines right after the dinner. I went straight to my room when we got home. Hindi na naligo at nagpalit ng damit. I felt so tired and exhausted. Kinatok ako ni Kate, asked if I’m okay. Hindi ko rin ito pinagbuksan. I will lie if I tell her that I am. My dreams weren’t helping too. I dreamt of myself kissing the same cold wall. Well, I’d rather kiss that damn wall than--- don’t. Leave it.

Last day, I was lucky that destiny sided me this time. I was able to pursue my parents to tour some places alone. I visited the well known Times Square, Broadway Street, Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building. Entered cozy shops and tried some sweets. There’s alot of pastel colered bakery. Their pastries are superb! The locals are all friendly and helpful too. My efforts on strolling along the big city was paying off. I had been uploaded a photo --- the busy and crowded street of SoHo.

xxxylisse, pauloreed and 984 others liked your post.

xxxylisse mentioned you in a comment: @leeaannee blimey! I waited for nothing! u tc tho. :*

___.queenj commented: OOTD, pleaseeee.

pauloreed commented: nice shot

My phone’s keeps on buzzing in every second. Undoubtedly, those are from the photo I just posted. People on my socials are indeed waiting for some update. I couldn’t blame them. I haven’t posted for four consecutive days because of... oh come on! Shut it!

“Is there something you ought to tell me?” Kate asked maliciously.

A week passed by lazily after that ridiculous adventure in the west. And here she is, pestering the hell out of me. She was lying down on the other side of my king-size bed while reclining her head on the fluffy pillow.

I was sitting in front of my vanity with my bathrobe on, combing my wet hair. I looked at her in the mirror.

“Oh. Is there? What is it?”

Sabado at walang pasok. Makiki-chismis lang yata ang isang to. I get my hair blower and work my hair on.

“I don’t know. You tell me. What is it?” She said, meanly.

I rolled my eyes and continued to dry my hair. Ano naman kaya ang gustong sabihin nito. Well, confusing naman talaga yung asta ko dun.

“What d’you want me to tell you ba?”

Napabalikwas ng bangon si Kate. She looked at me curiously. Halos matawa ako sa reaksyon niya. Halatang gustong-gusto may malaman eh. I’m done drying my hair and walked towards my walk-in closet. Nasa loob na ako ng marinig ko ang sigaw ni Kate.

“So, ano na? What is it?” She said eagerly.

I grab my loose t-shirt and wear it. Ilang segundo lang ay tapos na din akong magbihis. The scorching sun touched my soft skin as I drew the heavy curtains on my window. My shadowy and sumptuous room was now immaculate. Kung nakakagalaw lang ang mga gamit na nasa kwarto ay matagal na yata nila akong iniwan.

My phone vibrates and saw Xy’s text. Lumapit ako sa side table at kinuha iyon.

‘hey, babes! paulo told me what u did? damn humiliating. xx’

I rolled my eyes. Napaka naman talaga. I typed my reply with gritted teeth. Umuusok na ang ilong ko kakaisip kung ano-anong tsismis ang nakarating sa bruhang to! Kairita!

“Hoy, ano na?” sigaw ni Kate.

‘Eksaherada naman. Bawal madelay?’

“Well, I met that guy once. D’you remember the last time we go malling? That was that time. Pikon na talaga ako dun. Kung matagal pa kitang nakita ay umalis na ako sa inis. And that was because of that Ysmael.” Dirediretso kong sabi sa kanya.

Kate gave me a wary looked.

“Wait! Wait! Wait!”

And that’s it.... ano ba kasi tinatanong nito?

Damn!

Would it be Paulo she’s up to?

I’m bloody sure, my face looks so crimson right now. I cleared my throat, slightly ashamed of what I just said.

“Hoy babae! Anong-”

“Uhm, I m-mean.. P-Paulo never said a word of.. uhmm.. his trip. Hindi ko din alam na kilala niya pala yung.. Uhmm, what I mean is hindi ko din alam na pupunta siya.” Paliwanag ko.

I avoided to met her wary gaze.

‘Bat ka ba nauutal kasi?’

“So, you and Ysmael met? Kaya ganun na lang yung arte mo?”

Pumikit ako ng mariin. My cousin won’t let it slide this time.

“Yep.”

“Pero wala akong pake. Si Paulo, Leanne, si Paulo. May gusto ka ba kay Paulo?!”

And all my worries just fade off with that silly question. Hindi ko lang magawang matawa dahil sa kaba.

“Of course.” Her dreary face was obvious. Tila pinagbagsakan ng langit at lupa ang bruha. I looked at the big forward-looking window as I tried to conceal my laughter.

“Of course, wala.” Ulit ko pa. Ang kaninang mangiyak ngiyak na mukha nito ay lumiwanag ng husto. Mas maliwanag pa sa poste ng meralco. A hoarse bark of laughter escaped my lips, futile to resist it.

She pursed her lips in a pout and looked at me angrily. Tumabi ako sa kanya habang tumatawa parin. Ilang beses na niya akong tinanong tungkol dyan at pareho lang din ang sagot ko. Paulo likes her, but it’s not my business to tell. Bahala sila sa lovelife nila. Really, not my thing. Isa rin tong Amerikanong hilaw na to eh. Torpe masyado. Kung hindi ko napagsasabihan tong si Kate ay matagal na yatang inamin na may pagtingin siya sa lalake.

“Nakakainis ka din eh.” Pagmamataktol pa niya. “Okay, saan ko nalang pwedeng puntahan yung kabit niya?” Humalakhak ako. Konti nalang babatukan ko na ito.

‘Kabit daw? May sanib ka couz?’

“Okay ka lang, Kate?” Pang aasar ko. “Just tell him na you like him kaya. Wag ako yung pine-perwisyo mo!” Mabilis akong umalis sa kama. Ang ingay-ingay, gusto ko lang ng katahimikan.. Lord..

‘Nagiging moody na yata ako?’

“Kaibigan mo yun eh, I need source! Wala ka namang sinasabi.” Malungkot kunyaring sabi nito. Nagpaikot-ikot ito sa kama habang kinakanta ang pangalan ni Paulo. Gusto ko matawa ng hard! Kung hindi lang ako badtrip ngayon.

Gusot-gusot na ang beddings ko! Oh God. What did I do wrong to deserve her?

“Hoy! Baba na tayo.” I pushed her off the bed.

“Ayaw.”

“Bilis na. Umuwi ka na. Magpapahinga ako, Kate.” Matalim ang tingin habang matamlay na bumangon sa kama. Dire-diretso siyang lumabas ng kwarto. Inayos ko muna ang magulong bedsheet bago sumunod sa kanya sa baba. Wala na si Kate sa sala, kaya naman mabilis kong tinungo ang garahe. Her car was still there. Nasaan na ba iyon?

“Ewan ko dun, Tita! kahit ako sinusungitan eh.” Narinig kong sumbong ni Kate kay Mommy. Mommy raised her eyebrows at her. She just shrugged. Manang put two wine glass on the island bar table. Tumingin ito sa banda ko. I stopped and hid myself to eavesdrop.

“She seems not herself since your brother’s graduation. Hindi ko alam kung ano bang problema niyan. Palaging mainit ang ulo. Wala ding ginawa sa US.” Mahabang saad ni Mommy. Kinuha niya ang wine glass at sinalinan ng wine. She offered one for Kate. The latter shook her head with a bothered face.

“Tita, she mentioned about Ys--”

“Oh there you are. Akala ko ay umalis ka na, couz? I was looking for you.” Mabilis na pagsali ko sa usapan. I squeezed in beside her and Mom.

I just don’t like Kate to tell my Mom about that unimportant person. And I’m not being mean, am I?

“Hija.” Mommy’s firm voice filled my ears. Binaba nito ang wine glass sa mesa bago humarap sa akin.

“Yes, Mom.” I flashed my fake sweet smile.

‘Oh God, this is all Ysmael’s fault.’

“Sinusungitan mo daw tong pinsan mo?” I tried to meet her stinging stare but my eyes just couldn’t. Pwede ko din kasing sabihin na ayaw ko sa Ysmael na iyon. But they will ask tons of question!

“Oh God, no! I was just joking!” I laughed hysterically.

‘Kulang pa ba yung acting? Hehe’

“Kasi eh, ginusot niya yung beddings ko, Mom. You know me. I hate it. But I’m no masungit to her.” I pathetically explained.

I looked to the both of them. And Kate’s sharp gaze could kill.

“Oh honey.” Mahinang natawa si Mom. “Then I leave you two here.” She bid us goodbye and kissed our cheeks. “-but Leanne, bawasan ang init ng ulo. I don’t like it.” Mabilis na nakaalis si Mommy sa kitchen. Kate watched me with displease.

“Kate, look. I’m sorry kanina. You know, woke up in a wrong side of the bed?” I was hopeful that she would understand.

“Yeah. I understand. Uwi na ko.” Walang ganang sambit nito.

“Are we cool?” I asked. Ayoko na kahit kami ni Kate ay maapektuhan dahil lang pikon ako sa isang lalake.

“Yes, Leanne.”

“Then dito ka na maglunch. Tapos nood tayo movie after?”

‘Pero mukhang malabo.’

“Thanks. Wag na ngayon. Pareho mainit ulo natin eh. Maybe next week?” I nodded.

She swayed off our mansion. Mabigat ang loob ko sa nangyari. We rarely fight. Kaya ganito ako kabothered. Minsan lang kami magkasamaan ng loob at hindi maganda ang mga iyon.

The grown ups were mad and disappointed the last time we had fight. We almost ruin Tito Ron’s party just because I’ve noticed her slutty dress. She is my bestfriend at the same time worse enemy.

“Why do you always have something to say?!” She shouted. Mabuti nalang at abala ang mga tao sa party.

“Then don’t mind anything that I’ve said. Para kang bata.” Seryosong sabi ko.

She narrowed her eyes. The coldness in her eyes gave me chill but I ignored it. Umismid ito at tumalikod sa akin. I sighed my relief. I sipped again on my glass and she pushed me. I thought she was fine! Oh God! Basang-basa na ako.

“Oh my God! Kate, what did you do?!” I screamed.

“Childish nga diba?” pilosopong saad nito. The music literally stopped. Nasa amin rin nakaplaster ang mga mata ng mga bisita.

Halos mabingi kami sa dami ng pangaral na natanggap matapos ang party.

Weekend went fast. I have seen the dawn swallowed by the morning twilight and the sunset turned into dark night. It’s a miracle to witnessed these phenomena. It’s telling me that even though my days ended bad, life continues and never stops. I texted Kate my apology. And it was genuine. She sent her sorry, too.

Maaga pa pero halos nagkalat na ang mga estudyante sa campus. They are everywhere. Palinga-linga ako habang naglalakad. Malalakas na sigaw at kalampag ng bola ang sumalubong sa akin. Siguradong ang mga varsity players iyon ng school. Nasa gym para sa daily practice. I wonder where is he?

“Hey Leanne!” A baritone voice called. My heart skipped a beat when I heard that voice. Kung nakakamatay ang kilig ilang beses na akong nabuhay ulit.

Chris’ stupid grin was plastered when I turned back. He’s so tall that even there’s a lot of student passing by, he would standout. Mabilis niyang tinakbo ang pagitan namin.

People are watching as he run towards me. My heart is pumping so much blood that I could feel my heated face. I bit my lower lip to hide my smile, I will never get used to it. He’s just too much.

“H-hey.” I grinned back. Nervous and don’t know what to do, I moved backward. Umihip ang preskong hangin galing sa kawalan. All I could hear is my beating heart and the whispering wind. He’s wearing his basketball jersey with a towel on his shoulder. He’s sweating but I could smell his aftershave and manly perfume. Yumuko ito habang hinahabol ang paghinga.

‘Oh God. Thank you for this.’

He’s my first crush. At naniniwala din ako sa first crush never die. I knew him since time immemorial. Childhood sweetheart. Magkasama na kami halos sa lahat ng oras. I was there when his Mom died of cancer. He was there on my first contest. I never try to look for someone because he’s for me. At ganoon rin siya. I dream of family because of him. I believe in destiny because of him. We are soulmates. Our story was written long time ago. And we both know that.

“I missed you.” Tumingala siya sa akin ng nakangiti. Hinihingal parin dahil sa pagod. Umayos siya ng tayo at inabot ang kamay sa akin. Kasing tingkad ng sinag ng araw ang ngiting pinakawalan ko bago magpatangay sakanya. Umiling siya habang natatawa.

‘love, this is heaven.’

“You’re blushing.” Pang-aasar pa niya. Tumawa ako at bahagyang tinapik ang braso niya. Kinuha niya ang bag ko at walang kahirap-hirap na binitbit. Kinalas ko naman ang magkahawak na mga kamay namin. Huminto ako sa paglalakad at kinuha ko ang phone sa bulsa. Pasimple ko siyang kinunan ng litrato. He look so cute with his jersey uniform and my shoulder bag. I smiled secretly. Ang gwapo gwapo niya dito. Luminga ako sa paligid at halos lahat ng estudyante ay nakatingin parin sa amin.

“Chris, wait!” Natatawang tawag ko sa kanya. Kunot-noo niya akong nilingon. Nagtataka kung bakit hindi ako nakasunod. He stayed where he was and waited for me to get near him. As I sashaying my way towards him, I could imagine myself holding a bouquet, wearing a beautiful white dress and a veil. I could hear the birds singing and the wild waves crushing onto the shore. And him, waiting patiently. My heart warmed as I looked at him.

Chris snapped, knocking me out of my reverie. Nag-init ang pisngi ko sa hiya.

“Stop it, woman.” Humalakhak ito ng malakas. Napabaling sa amin ang mga kasama niya sa team. Some of them are still wearing their jersey, some are already with our school uniform. All of them are 5-6 feet tall and handsome. Makukulit at payat nga lang. Jusko, sa buto na yata napupunta ang lahat ng sustansya sa kinakain nila.

“Chris!”

“Hanep tol, ang aga ah?”

“Wew! Lovebirds.” si Devi.

“Naks, kaya pala nawala sa practice eh.”

“Leanne, pasalubong namin?” Si Lyzander, team mate at kaibigan ni Chris.

“Lagot ka DeSilva! May ten laps ka kay Coach bukas!”

“Wala eh, namiss ko.”

Nagtaas ako ng kilay at saka pabirong umirap. Mas lalong lumakas ang pang-aasar nila sa amin. Kinuha ko ang bag kay Chris at pabato kong ibinigay kay Lyzander ang ilang supot ng chocolates.

“I really forgot to visit some boutique. Sa airport na namin yan binili.” sabi ko. “I know that look! Pati si Chris ay wala din.” --because of that Ysmael! Kainis.

Maingay ang grupo habang sinusuyod ang daan papunta sa kanya kanyang classroom. I wriggled my hand out to Chris’ hold.

“Hey, Chris.” he glanced at me. “I should go.” Turo ko pa sa corridor kung saan ang classroom ko. Konti na ang tao sa labas dahil ilang minuto nalang para sa first subject. He nodded and mouthed ‘miss me’. My face heated as I shamelessly nodded too!

‘Okay, seriously?’

Tumikhim ang isa sa mga team mate ni Chris kaya nagsimula nanaman ang pang-aasar nila sakanya. I pouted my lips to suppressed a smile.

Nasa silid-aralan na sila Xy at Paulo pagdating ko. And like the usual, nagkwentuhan muna kami. Mabilis na natapos iyon dahil sa pagdating ng guro.

Paulo literally told her everything what happened. At hindi kagaya ni Kate, Xy’s a good listener. Magaling din mag-assume ng mga bagay bagay.

“Crush mo no?” pang-kukulit niya sa akin. Hinihilot ko ang sentido ko sa sakit ng ulo at frustration. Kanina niya pa ito paulit-ulit na tina-tanong. Naiirita na ako!

‘Why can’t my life return back to normal? Iyong walang Ysmael!’

Nasa cafeteria na kami. Tapos na ang klase sa maghapon. Hinihintay namin ang ibang kaklase para sa group report.

“With Chris Paxton in my life?” Mayabang na sambit ko. Hindi ko ma-imagine na magkakagusto ako sa lalakeng iyon. No way.

“Well.” Untag ni Xy. But I could sense her ghost smile. Sumipsip ito sa juice niya at nakakalokong umiling.

“Sino ba yan? Pogi ba?” si Mariae, classmate namin.

Buntong hininga ang pinakawalan ko. What’s with them and handsome men?! Kung gwapo ay gusto na kaagad? Nakakasuka ang paniniwalang ito ng karamihan. Seriously, this mindset should be stop. I don’t understand why attractive people have always been judged favorably and treated like royalty. Really, why?

And those people gifted with an average appearance condemned their own. It’s pathetically atrocious!

Kung pangit ang ugali ni Chris ay hindi ko siya matatagalan. Bonus nalang na gwapo siya, no.

“He’s self-centered, Mariae. Can we start the report?”

She mouthed ‘ooh’ at humagikhik ng mahina. Matunog kong binuklat ang libro sa History. Bulungan at halinghing ang naririnig ko galing sa dalawa.

Ilang sandali pa nang umingay ang banda namin.

You can’t expect our year to be tame. Pagkatapos ng taon na ito ay kolehiyo na kami. Hangga’t nasa high school ay pupwede pang magbulakbol. Gawain ng lahat iyon. Once we’re on college, there’s no turning back. We need to face the bigger and rougher world.

“Oh, nandyan na ang knight in shining armor mo.”

Ang maninipis na ulap ay kulay kahel na. Pansamantalang naagaw ang atensyon ko galing sa bagong dating. With his curly hair and boyish face, Chris looked so dashing on his school uniform.

“Blooming si DeSilva.” Humalakhak si Xy sa pang-aasar ni Paulo. Maski ako ay natawa dahil sa matigas na tagalog nito.

“Bro.” Natatawang bati rin ni Chris.

He pulled the chair beside me.

“Can I drive you home?” he asked instead of greetings.

“Wag na. Matagal pa to.” I smiled cutely.

“Then, I’ll wait.”

“Oh, get a room! Fucking cringe.” Halakhak ni Kim, kaklase ko.

Umirap ako. “Let’s call it a day. Uwi na tayo.” sambit ni Xy habang nagliligpit ng gamit. “Sa Wednesday pa naman ito.”

Kaagad ring nagtayuan sila Kim, Mariae at Paulo. Chris helped to tidy up the table. Itim na ang langit ng lumabas kami sa paaralan. I texted Kuya Hulyo to go back home. The girls went off first to their cars. Chris open the passenger seat for me. Umikot ito saka pinatunog ang sasakyan.

Nasa labas parin si Paulo. I rolled down the car window. Sumilip muna ito kay Chris bago sa akin.

“Why, Pau?” I asked softly.

“Uhmm.” pag-aalangan pa niya.

“Flat tire?” si Chris.

“No, pre.” Tumingin ito sa akin. “Kuya Vince asked for your number.” he whispered.

“Okay?”

I really hope na wala na siyang sasabihin pa. I smiled nervously and he reciprocate.

“and I gave it?”

“Oh.” ...you didn’t!!!!!!′ Nangangapa kong sabi. Afraid, Paulo run towards his car. Naka-alis na ito ng bumalik ako sa wisyo. I was so furious. At hindi ko alam kung may kalalagyan pa ang inis na nararamdaman ko.

‘What in the actual fuck?!’

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