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SERIAL STORY: Mimi Turns Pretty

Chapter 1



"We hope you have a pleasant stay. Thank you for flying Skylight Airlines. Mabuhay at salamat."


"We're here," giliw na giliw na sabi ni Kuya Marky habang tinatanggal ang seatbelt niya.

Napabuntong-hininga lang ako. "God, I hope I can get some decent sleep tonight."

Natawa si Kuya. "Right, like you get any sleep when we were in New York."

I roll my eyes.

If I'm being honest, I think I’m going to have a harder time sleeping now because I’m really nervous coming back to Manila. It’s been years since we came home, but when family calls, we come running.

Kuya and I have been living in New York for the past six years. Pagka-graduate ko ng high hchool nagdesisyon ang magulng namin na doon na kami magtapos ng pag-aaral at mula noon wala kaming naging rason para umuwi. Pero ngayon, dahil 70th birthday ng Lola namin, uuwi kaming lahat para sa sa kanya.

"I'll get our bags," aniya.

Typical Kuya Marky, always the doting big brother. Kuya has been my number one everything since I was little. He's dependable, supportive and protective even though, he’s just two years older. He’s always been that way. Pero siyempre dahil kapatid na lalaki at dalawa lang kami, lagi niya akong inaasar noong bata kami, mas lumala pa noong high school na kami.

Ang dami niyang nicknames sa akin dati na minsan gusto ko pa rin siyang umbagin dahil sa sobrang sama ng mga tawag niya sa akin: Mimi-gsa, Mimi-yatot, Mimi-hukot, Mimi-ling at Mimi-bantot. I hated that last one.

Well, that was before. He can't do that to me now.

You'd never think with me looking the way I do now that I was bullied before. Now I look, well, like Marky's Galvez' sister. He’s around 6’0”, and I’m tall for a girl because I’m 5’7”. Pareho kaming may Spanish features, matangos ang ilong, maputi at mahaba ang mga pilik-mata.

Back then I was considered the ugly duckling. What other people say about me were partly true that I couldn’t even call them insults. Sa sobrang dami ng taghiyawat ko wala na mapaglagyan sa mukha ko kaya pati batok ko nagkaroon. Ubod ng oily ang mukha ko kaya lagi akong may bitbit na dalawang panyo. I also had dry, brittle hair.

Puberty came early for me too, so I had a growth spurt and towered over most of my classmates. I used to feel ashamed by being taller than everyone else so I hunched a little so they wouldn’t notice, but that just made it worse because they noticed me more. While other girls looked regal or statuette for being tall, I was the opposite - I was lanky and awkward.

While all of that was fine and I accepted it all, the only thing I absolutely hated was when people said that I didn't look like Marky's sister. They used to ask if I was adopted or maybe borne out of my mother’s frustrations and resentment.

Si Kuya naman ang golden boy at napakaswerteng nilalang mula nang ipanganak siya. Ni minsan hindi pa siya nakaranas na matawag na pangit. Feeling ko siguro ako ang sumalo ng lahat ng kapangitan noon sa aming dalawa. Dati kapag pinagtabi kami sa pictures ni Kuya mukhang ako iyong alalay, tapos siya iyong amo. Pero hindi ko ikinasama ng loob iyon, hindi naman niya iyon kasalanan.

He used to defend me when he hears something bad being said about me, that’s the rule – he’s the only one who can tease me, not other people. Pero nakiusap na lang ako na 'wag na niyang pansinin iyong mga nang-bu-bully sa akin kasi mas lumalala ang problema ko dahil iyong mga nang-bu-bully sa akin, crush na crush siya.

There was that one girl, I will never forget that girl, Steph. She was the bane of my existence until graduation. She was so mean, and I didn’t even understand why. She just picked on me for some reason.

I wonder how she's doing right now.

"Mi, look, nag-post na si Mom, nasa airport na rin sila." Kuya shows me his cellphone, it's Mom sitting at the Airport lounge with her feet propped up her luggage.

Sumilip ako sa cellphone ni Kuya. "Ano na naman iyang pose na iyan?”

Ngumiti lang siya. "Ayaw mo kasi mag-create ng account. Usong pose iyan sa IG. Cool talaga kasi si Mom."

Siguro dahil sa mga pinagdaanan ko noong bata ako ang naka-apekto sa kung paano ako mag-isip ngayon. I don't have any social media accounts because I don't feel safe with it. I feel like I'm giving people reasons to look at me, be curious about me and how I look. I've never been a fan of pictures either.

He puts his phone up for a selfie and I cover my face with my hand.

Hinampas niya ang kamay ko. "Ano ba, Mi? Para kina lola 'to para alam nilang nandito na tayo."

Umirap ako. "Malalaman talaga nilang nandito tayo kasi pupuntahan natin siya, tigilan mo nga iyan."

He sends the picture anyway.



***

I look around the airport while waiting for our ride. I missed being home even if I’m a bit nervous, but the only thing that I can surely say I haven’t missed is the heat.

“Grabe! Ang init!” I wipe the sweat off my forehead. I’m wearing a sleeveless black shirt, cropped jeans and white sneakers. Sana nag-shorts na lang ako.

Pagtingin ko kay Kuya hinuhubad na rin niya ang jacket niya, napalingon ako sa likod niya at napansin ko ang mga babaeng grabe kung makatingin kay Kuya. Napailing na lang ako.

Kuya’s wearing his typical plain white t-shirt, faded jeans and sunglasses. Pero dahil maputi, matangkad – I guess pansinin talaga.

Naupo si Kuya sa maleta niyang malaki nang may biglang dumaan na babae sa gilid niya at binangga siya ng bahagya. Dahil naka-sunglasses rin ako hindi nakita ng babae nang umikot ang mata ko sa pag-irap. Hindi naman masikip ang daanan, ang laki-laki ng pagitan nila binangga pa talaga si Kuya para magpapansin.

She smirks and apologizes to Kuya but Kuya barely glances at her and automatically says, “it’s okay.”

I couldn’t help it, so I say, “some people are unbelievable.”

Kumunot ang noo ni Kuya. “What do you mean?”

I scoff. “That girl who deliberately bumped you just to catch your attention. I don’t get it.”

Lumingon si Kuya sa direksyon kung saan nagpunta iyong babae. He just shrugs. “Why? What’s the big deal?”

Syempre maliit na bagay lang iyon sa kanya, normal niya na ‘yan eh. Madalas may makahulog ng kung anu-ano sa harapan niya, mababangga siya habang naglalakad, makipag-patintero sa kanya tapos hahagikgik na parang bata – ano ba sila naghahanap ng “meet-cute” starring ang kapatid ko?

I huff. “I mean if you find someone attractive then you should say something, right? Do you do that? Do you bump into girls on purpose if you like them? It’s just looks desperate!”

He removes his sunglasses and looks right at me, eyes wide. “Wow! Where the hell did that come from, Mi?”

I immediately feel my cheeks burn. “Wa- wala. I just get annoyed with it. That’s all.”

He wraps his arm around me, and he sighs. “Naiinis ka kasi hindi ka kagaya nila. Hindi ka papansin. You don’t like putting yourself out there and take a chance, so you’ll meet the person you will spend the rest of your forever with.”

“Pfft. Forever? Wala noon. Hindi totoo iyon.” I cross my arms over my chest.

Binitiwan niya ako pero ginulo niya ang buhok ko bago siya maupo ulit sa maleta niya, “You’ll see. One day magiging natural na sa ‘yo magpapansin sa lalaking gusto mo. You’ll be the annoying one.”

I roll my eyes. “Don’t hold your breath.”

My brother reads me like a book, he knows all of my issues so it’s hard for me to pretend around him. What really bothers me about this is that I envy girls like that because Kuya’s right, I don’t put myself out there. I can’t make the first move. Hindi ko kayang magpapansin sa lalaking gusto ko. I never had the courage – that’s the downside to having baggage.

Sinilip ko ang oras para ibahin ang usapan. “Nasaan na ba ang sundo natin? Ang tagal naman.”

Kuya checks his phone. “He’s almost here. Na-traffic lang daw.”

Binulsa niya ang phone niya. “Alam mo naman si Ollie, laging late.”

Wait.

What?


I try to swallow while feeling a lump in my throat. “Ollie? As in Oliver?”

Tumango siya at may kakaibang ngiti, “Yup. I asked him to pick us up.”

Oliver De Luna = Kuya’s best friend and the one person I hoped I won’t see on this trip.

Nakita siguro ni Kuya that I’m breathing hard, so he puts his hands up, “Oh, Mimi. Don’t be mad, no one was available to pick us up, so I called in a favor.”

I remove my sunglasses so he can see the fire in my eyes. I poked him on the chest. “How can you do this to me? How can you not tell me? Sana nag-taxi na lang tayo.”

I grab my suitcase and start walking away. “Mag-tataxi ako.”

Hinatak ni Kuya ang maleta ko at hinatak ko papunta sa akin ang handle. “Let go, you jerk!”

“Stop it, Mimi. Kung anong nangyari sa inyo before we left was a long time ago na.” He yanks my suitcase back and because he’s stronger than me he pulls it back to where our other bags were placed.

He sighs and faces me while pursing his lips. Kilala ko ang mukhang ito, ito ang mukha na ginagamit niya kapag nagpapaka-Kuya siya sa akin. “What the hell happened before, Mi? Did Oliver do something? Kailangan ko ba na bugbugin ang best friend ko?”

This is not the first time he’s asked me this question. I’m guessint it won’t be the last either. But like before I brush it off like it’s nothing. I roll my eyes and put my sunglasses back on, “Don’t be so dramatic, Kuya.”

“Ako? Ako ang dramatic ikaw ang may pag-walk out diyan!” he’s teasing but he’s still assessing my reaction.

I just don’t want to see him.

Before I can answer a white Jeep Wrangler stopped in front of us.
 

sakura07

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Chapter 13

We get back to the beach after a few hours, nagkwentuhan pa kami sa boat niya. It was his speedboat as I’ve come to find out. He told me about his family, how he was chosen to step in after his father retired. He was never the favorite pero he was the son who was available kaya siya ang pinaghawak ng Company.

I’ve opened up to him a little bit, about my plans to take up masters in New York. He said he goes there sometimes and if I choose to leave, maybe we’ll meet there. I don’t know why he thinks I’m not going to leave after my time is up here pero parang ganoon ang ibig niyang sabihin. I might like it here more he says.

We head to the restaurant dahil pareho kaming gutom at sinalubong kami ni Ollie. He’s holding a towel, “Why didn’t you bring your phone?”

Nauna na si Chase sa restaurant and he says, “I’ll go ahead and save us a seat.”

Tumango lang ako sa kanya.

Ibinaling ko ang tingin ko kay Ollie, “Good morning to you too.”

He looks at my wet clothes, I’ve put on my shirt and shorts back on and wraps the towel around my shoulders, “Bakit hindi ka nagdala ng towel? Wala bang tuwalya sa boat niyang si Chase?”

Ngumiti ako, “Wala eh. Tsaka sanay naman ako sa lamig.”

Pumalatak siya, “Hindi ka pa rin yata nag-breakfast.”

I believe he really wants me to live a new life, a life na talagang pwede kong i-enjoy. Pero bakit parang may pagpigil sa mga kilos niya, like he wants me to enjoy but not too much?

“I’m confused.” I tell him.

Namulsa siya, “Why?”

I cross my arms over my chest, “you said last night na it’s not too late for me to live a normal life, so here I am. Pero I don’t understand why you’re suddenly questioning me. Are you not serious about what you said last night?”

Napabuntonghininga siya, “No. It’s not like that, Mi. I’m just worried, you don’t know him that well…”

Ayon. So si Chase ang problema.

“The only way I can know someone is if I spend time with them. I spend time with you, I trust you and I know you’re a good guy, maybe if I spend time with Chase, I’ll find that he’s a good guy too.”

He sighs, “Yeah. Sure.”

Hinawakan ko siya sa braso, “And if he’s not, I know you and Kuya will be there for me, right?”

He gives me sad smile, “Of course.”

I look back sa restaurant and Chase is sitting there waiting for me.

“Tara kain tayo.” Pagyaya ko kay Ollie.

He shakes his head, “Kumain na ‘ko.”

I sigh, “Si Kuya gising na?”

“Hindi pa yata. I looked for you when I got here.” Aniya.

“Saan ka ba galing?”

“May pinuntahan lang.” he gives me another vague answer.

“Sige, kakain muna ako.”

I walk away without saying another word.

Pagdating ko sa restaurant, sakto ang dating ng kape namin ni Chase. May pagkain na sa table namin, ikinuha na niya ako, I smile as I sit.

“How do you take your coffee?”

Kinuha ko ang sugar pero pinigilan niya ako, “Let me.”

Ngumiti ako, “One teaspoon lang.”

He smiles and puts the sugar in, “Cream?”

Umiling ako, “Nope.”

“Hey guys, nag-enjoy ba kayo kanina?” Steph says as she sits with us.

I don’t look at her as Chase hands me my coffee.

Chase says, “Yeah. The water’s great. You should take out the boat with the girls later, I can tell Kuya Dex.”

Nangalumbaba si Steph at kay Chase lang nakatingin, “Akala ko nga yayayain mo kami kanina, pero itong si Mia lang pala ang invited.”

Ibinaling ni Chase ang tingin niya sa akin, “Kain na, Mia.”

Steph places a hand on her chest, “Oh, sorry. Am I disturbing you guys?”

Tumingin sa kanya si Chase, “Medyo lang.”

Umirap si Steph, “Fine. I’ll go. Enjoy your breakfast.”

Chase doesn’t even answer and looks at me, “Okay ka lang?”

I nod at kumuha ng isang strip ng bacon, “Ang dami naman nitong kinuha mo. Hindi ko ito mauubos.”

Bago makasagot si Chase, biglang naupo sa tabi ko si Kuya, “Uy, sakto gutom na ako.”

He takes a bacon off my plate, “Kuha mo ako ng rice, Mimi.”

Pumalatak ako, “Ikaw kumuha, ikaw ang kakain eh.”

Ibinaling ni Kuya ang tingin niya kay Chase habang ngumunguya ng bacon, “Sino ka nga?”

“Kuya.” May diin kong sabi.

Ngumiti lang sa akin si Chase at tumingin kay Kuya in-offer pa niya ang kamay niya, “Chase Cruz.”

Inilagay lang ni Kuya ang kamay niya sa backrest ng upuan ko, “Madumi kamay ko, pre.”

Siniko ko si Kuya, “You’re being rude.”

Dumating naman si Ollie at tumayo sa likod ni Kuya, napalingon si Kuya, “Uy Ollie. Sabay ka sa amin kumain.”

Umupo si Ollie sa kabilang side ko and I want to disappear. Ito ba ‘yong gusto nilang magka-normal life ako?

I sigh, “Ang daming libreng upuan, bakit hindi kayo doon pumuwesto.”

Sumingit si Chase, “It’s fine, Mia.”

I glare at Kuya, “Kuya, lipat kayo, we’re talking here.”

He raises his eyebrows, “Oh. Ayaw mo kaming kasama kumain?”

Nakahalukipkip lang si Ollie.

I look at Kuya, “’Wag ka rude sa kaibigan ko, we’re just talking.”

Nakipagtitigan sa akin si Kuya at pinaningkitan ko siya.

He sighs, “Fine.”

Humarap siya kay Chase inalok ang kamay niya, “Marky Galvez, Kuya ni Mimi.”

They shake hands pero hindi tumayo si Kuya sa kinauupuan niya.

I start to eat.

“So…” si Kuya.

“You know we’re just staying here temporarily ‘di ba? Did Mia tell you? We’re just visiting.” Sabi niya kay Chase.

Chase nods, “She told me.”

Kumuha ulit ng isang strip ng bacon si Kuya and I fight the urge to swat his hand away.

He chews and says, “So, anong pakay mo sa kapatid ko? What do you want with my sister?”

Napabuntonghininga lang ako. He always does this.

Damn it, Kuya.

Chase looks at me and says, “I like her. I’d like to know her better if she’ll let me.

I bite the inside of my cheek.

Kuya nods, “I don’t mind Mia having friends, but I want to make it clear that she’s not someone to toy with.”

Kumalansing ang tinidor ko nang nilapag ko sa pinggan ko and I glare at the back of my brother’s head.

“I’m just having a hard time understanding if you know she’s leaving in a few weeks what’s the sense of getting to know her better now?” Kuya asks and I look at Chase, waiting for his answer.

Chase shrugs, “Hindi naman nasusukat sa tagal ng pagkakakilala if you’re going to get along with someone or not. If I met Mia years ago, I still would’ve wanted us to be friends.”

He looks at me, “I think I did try to get to know you better before, right Mia?”

I thought he was friendly enough, pero dahil allergic ako sa mga tao lalo na mga friends ni Steph I never gave anyone a chance.

I nod, “You were friendly back in High School.”

Kuya butts in, “I still think the timing’s a bit convenient.”

I stand up and Chase stands up too, tumingin lang sa akin si Kuya at si Ollie.

“Please excuse us, Chase. I need to talk to my brother.” I glared at Kuya and walked back to our room.

Pagpasok ni Kuya sa kwarto I hit him in the chest, “Ow! What was that for, Mimi?”

Hinampas ko siya ulit, “What was that for? Ha? Seryoso ka? You were so rude! I can’t believe you!”

Kinapitan niya ako sa kamay, “Masakit! Tigilan mo.”

Napaupo ako sa kama and tears form in my eyes, I wipe at them, “Paano ako magkaka-normal na buhay kung parati kang makikielam?”

He pulls a chair and sits in front of me, “Bakit ka umiiyak? I’m just doing what I’ve always done, which is to protect you.”

I sigh, “Ollie told me last night that it’s not too late for me to start living my life. Do you believe that?”

Minasahe niya ang sentido niya, “You’re my only sister, Mi.”

I look at him with tears in my eyes, “Do you think I’m stupid?”

He sighs, “Of course not.”

“Then prove it,” humalukipkip ako, “I’m not a teenager, Kuya. I’m 22, I should be making my own decisions now and you have to trust me enough to make them.”

Tinitigan niya lang ako at nakakunot ang noo.

I lean forward, pleading, “Kuya, I appreciate you trying to protect me all the time. I feel really blessed dahil may Kuya akong best friend ko na rin. Pero magkapatid tayo, you’re smart and so am I. I wouldn’t put myself in a position na dehado ako.”

I shake my head, “I can’t live like this anymore. I need this, to experience things on my own.”

He sighs, “What if you get your heart broken?”

I smile, “Then you’ll be there with ice cream and listen to breakup songs with me, like a best friend should.”

He rolls his eyes, “While you’re out looking for a boyfriend, pakidamay na rin ang best friend. ‘Di ko yata kaya ‘yong ipapagawa mo sa akin.”

I laugh and give him a hug, “I love you, Kuya.”

He hugs me back, “But if someone hurts you, I mean really, intentionally hurts you or plays with your feelings I want you to tell me immediately,” he pushes me away and holds me by the arms, “I’m serious. Don’t hide anything from me.”

I nod, “I promise.”
 

sakura07

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Chapter 14

“Your Kuya hates my guts.” Chase says.

Nginitian ko lang siya, “Kuya’s very protective of me kaya gano’n siya but he’s a good guy. He’s my bestfriend.”

We’re lounging sa ilalim ng puno sa beach, naglatag doon ng sapin si Chase at nagbitbit naman ako ng librong mababasa. Ang mga batchmates namin busy sa volleyball. Hindi pinasali si Chase kahit marunong siya, lugi raw agad ‘yong kalaban. Kahit na matangkad ako hindi ako marunong sa kahit anong sport, I tried volleyball once namaga ang arms ko at nagpasa. Kahit na sabi nilang normal lang daw ‘yon ‘pag first time pero hindi na ako umulit, ang sakit kaya.

“And Oliver? What’s his deal?” Humarap sa akin si Chase.

Kumunot ang noo ko, “What do you mean? He’s Kuya’s bestfriend and my childhood friend rin.”

He rests his elbows sa knees niya at ngumiti siya, “When is your birthday?”

Isinara ko ang libro kong binabasa and I give him my full attention, “Why?”

His grin grows wider, “Reregaluhan kita ng salamin, ‘yong malaking malaki para makikita mo itsura mo. So, you can see yourself and see how beautiful you are.”

Bago pa ako makapagsalita may tumikhim sa likuran ko, “Hindi ba mainit diyan, Mi?”

I looked up and squinted at a shirtless Ollie na nakatingin sa akin. I might have looked a tad long dahil may mabagal siyang ngumiti. Umismid ako at ibinalik ang tingin sa dagat.

Nasa beach naman kami so it’s natural to wear swimsuits and to be shirtless, pero bakit parang pinagpapawisan ako dito kay Ollie?

Parang hindi siya nakaramdam ng pagkailang dahil bigla siyang naglatag ng beach towel sa tabi ko sa bandang kaliwa at nahiga in all his shirtless glory. He puts his hands under his nape at pumikit.

Kapag tumingin ako sa kaliwa nakatambad ang katawan ni Ollie, kapag sa kanan naman ang gwapong mukha ni Chase. Chase is looking at Ollie with a confused look on his face, probably thinking what the heck he’s doing here with us. Eavesdropping maybe?

Tumikhim ako at ibinaling ko ang tingin kay Ollie, sa mukha na lang ako tumingin para hindi ako ma-distract. Hinampas ko siya sa hita, “Hoy. Bakit diyan ka natutulog, baka ma-heatstroke ka diyan. Doon ka na lang sa room magpahinga.”

Nakapikit pa rin siya nang sumagot, “Ayoko ro’n mas masarap dito sa beach.”

Ibinaling ko ulit ang tingin ko sa dagat and I see a bikini clad Steph running towards us, she’s wearing a white bikini with skimpy white shorts.

“Hey guys!”

I’m assuming ‘guys’ lang talaga ang kausap niya, kung gaano niya ako kapansin no’ng high school ganoon rin niya ako ini-ignore ngayon.

Lumingon si Chase sa kanya, “Yes?”

Steph puts her sunglasses up her head, “Kulang kami ng players, pagod na sila eh. Can you guys play?”

Ngumisi si Chase, “Akala ko ba bawal akong maglaro?”

Namaywang si Steph, “Kulang na nga kami sa players, kaya sumali ka na. You’re on my team.”

Ibinaling ni Steph ang tingin niya kay Ollie, “Ollie, sali ka rin. Kulang pa ‘yong kabilang team.”

Bumangon si Ollie and looks at Chase, “Lalaro ka?”

Kumunot ang noo ko habang salitang tinitingnan silang dalawa. Walang sagot si Chase but he stands up and takes his shirt off. Tumayo na rin si Ollie at naglakad kasama si Steph papunta kung saan sila naglalaro, he stops and looks back at us. Si Chase naman inilapag ang shirt niya sa tabi ko at lumuhod sa harap ko napaatras ako ng bahagya.

“Are you okay here, Mia? Okay ka lang mag-isa dito?”

I smile at him and his thoughtfulness. I lift my book up, “May libro ako, pwede niyo akong iwan kahit hanggang bukas.”

He grins, “Nope. Saglit lang ‘to. I’ll be back before you know it.”

I squint up at him nang tumayo siya, “Yabang ah.”

He just smiles and runs to where the other players are.

Ollie turns his back to me and joins the game.

***

I tried to read, I seriously did. Pero talagang nagpapapansin ang mga lalaking naglalaro sa harapan namin. Tyler and Chase were on one team, Kuya and Ollie on the other. After one game with the girls dumating si Kuya at nagkahamunan sila for a game of beach volleyball.

Halos lahat ng babae naupo na lang sa sidelines and just watched the game. Leigh and some of our batchmates sat with me habang ‘yong ibang mga babae naman nandoon mismo sa tabi ng court para lang close up ang pictures sa mga abs.

My book sat beside me, forgotten.

“Oh my God, I don’t know what I did to deserve this, pero…” tumingala si Leigh sa langit, “Thank you, Lord.”

Natawa ako sa kanya but I understand how she feels. It’s not every day na makapanood ka ng spectacle na ganito. Well for me though, minus my brother.

It’s a close match, pareho silang mabibilis kumilos at malalakas maglaro. Parang ang sakit na nga ng katawan ko kakapanood sa kanila kasi kung saan saan tumatama ‘yong bola. Kanina noong nag-spike si Chase muntik nang matamaan sa mukha si Ollie, buti mabilis siyang nakailag. I don’t even know kung kanino ako kakampi, pareho kasi silang magaling.

Nagtitilian ang mga nanonood dahil medyo mahaba na ang rally, hindi tumitigil sila Kuya sa pagtalon at pag-block and spike. It’s turning serious kasi wala nang nakangiti sa kanila. Kanina parang nagbibiruan pa, ngayon parang nanlilisik na ang mga mata.

Lamang sila Kuya and it’s the last set. They still need two points para manalo.

I bite my lip dahil mag-se-serve na si Ollie. He throws the ball to the air and jumps, eksakto ang pagpalo niya at tumama sa bola. Humalik sa net ang bola and it plummets down the sand pero nahabol ni Chase nang nag-dive siya. Naibalik ni Tyler ang bola kina Kuya pero madali itong pinalo ni Kuya when he jumped near the net.

One point down, one more to go.

Bumangon si Chase pero parang ngumiwi, he nods lang to Tyler and resumes his position.

Ollie throws the ball again and strikes it perfectly. Nagtilian ang mga tao nang makitang ni-receive iyon ni Tyler, Chase waits for it at iti-noss pataas, Tyler jumps up and spikes. What they don’t know is that nakaaban na si Kuya at Ollie na parang mga pader sa kabilang side to block it. It bounces back to Chase pero hindi na niya nahabol sa bandang unahan ng net, and the ball falls to the ground.

Napahiyaw kaming lahat nang lumapag ang bola sa buhangin.

Chase kneels and punches the sand habang umiiling. It’s hard to be competitive siguro, I can’t imagine being that passionate about something and losing. He must be angry now or a bit disappointed in himself.

I look at Ollie and Kuya and I see Ollie looking at me while he’s trying to catch his breath. Iniiwas niya ang tingin sa akin and he offers his hand to Chase, kinuha naman ‘yon ni Chase at nag-usap sila ng sandali. Lumapit rin si Kuya para kamayan sila ni Tyler, sabay sabay silang naglakad papunta sa amin.

“Girl, kailangan ko ng malamig na tubig. Uhaw na uhaw ako sa napanood ko.” natatawang umalis sila Leigh sa tabi ko and I stand up.

I smile at Kuya and Ollie, “Congratulations! Galing niyo ah, kahit mga matatanda na kayo.”

Kuya smirks, “Excuse me. ‘Yon ba ang matanda? Wala ngang challenge.”

Pinandilatan ko si Kuya dahil nasa likod lang nila si Chase at Tyler. Ngumiti sa kanila si Kuya, “Joke lang guys. Good game.”

Umiling si Tyler, “No, totoo ‘yon. Ang lakas niyong dalawa. Respect.”

Humarap si Kuya kay Tyler, “Let’s play ball next week, if free kayo.”

Tyler nods, “Sure. I’ll message you, bro.”

Nag-fistbump sila at umalis na si Tyler, si Kuya naman hiniram ang towel ko para magpunas. Ollie’s back sa towel niya lying down.

Kinuha ko ang shirt ni Chase and iniabot ko sa kanya. Before I could say anything I notice na parang may scratches sa bandang collarbone niya, “Hey, anong nangyari diyan?”

Lumapit ako sa kanya at tiningnan ito nang malapitan, “It looks like it’s bleeding.”

I use my hand to lightly touch the scratches at napangiwi ako parang maraming maliliit na gasgas sa itaas ng dibdib niya, “Ang dami. Napano ‘to? Nung nag-dive ka?”

Tumingala ako sa kanya and he’s just looking at me smiling, “It’s nothing. Gasgas lang.”

I realize sobrang lapit ko na pala sa kanya so I step back and hand him his shirt, “Here.”

He grins, “Thanks.”

Tumalikod ako at paglingon ko wala na doon si Ollie, si Kuya naman inirapan ako bago tumalikod.

Anong ginawa ko?
 

sakura07

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Chapter 15

Nagpaalam na kami sa mga batchmates ko. I give Leigh a tight hug and promised her I’ll look for her sa Facebook kapag nakapag-create na ako ng account.

Bitbit na namin ang bags namin papuntang sasakyan when I hear Chase call out my name.

Umikot ako at nakita ko siyang tumatakbo papunta sa amin, “Hey Mia. Wait.”

He stops right in front of me and grin, “Can I visit you when we get to Manila?”

I smile, “Sure.”

Kinuha niya ang cellphone niya, “Can I have your number?”

Ngumiwi ako, “Ah, hindi ko kabisado number ko eh.” I pull out my phone, “Why don’t you give me yours instead?”

Medyo kumunot ang noo niya, “Are you sure you’re going to call me?”

I grin. Napaka-sigurista.

“Oo nga. I’ll call. Promise.”

He crosses his arms over his chest, “Talaga?”

“Oo nga raw! Tatawagan ka! Bigay mo na number mo nang makaalis na kami.” Napairap ako sa lakas ng boses ni Kuya galing sa likod ko.

I look at Chase pero parang natatawa lang siya, I hand him my phone and he puts his number in.

Iniabot niya iyon ulit sa akin and he whispered, “Call me.”

I smile as he walks away. Pumihit ako at pagtingin ko kay Kuya nakataas ang kilay ko. I stomp over to the car and get in the backseat.

“Mag-girlfriend ka na nga Kuya para ‘di ‘yong buhay ko ang pinagdidiskitahan mo.”

He turns to me, “Ayoko mag-girlfriend dito kasi babalik rin tayo sa US in a few weeks, so anong sense?”

Ollie gets in the car and we start our journey back home.

***



Ang haba ng biyahe namin pero hindi ako makatulog, hindi kagaya ni Kuya kanina pa tulog. I just stare outside and see the cars pass by.

“Okay ka lang diyan, Mi?”

Napatingin ako kay Ollie, “Okay lang naman. Ikaw pagod ka na?”

He smiles, “I’m fine. Gutom ka na?”

Bigla akong nakaramdam ng gutom nang banggitin niya, “Medyo. May madadaanan tayo?”

“There’s a gas station near here.” Aniya.

“Okay. Mag-drive thru na lang tayo kung okay lang.”

He nods, “Sure.”

I scoot over sa gitna ng upuan nila ni Kuya, sumandal ako sa upuan ni Kuya para nakaharap ako kay Ollie, “Did you have fun? Sa beach?”

He shrugs, “It was okay.”

“May mga nakausap kang batchmates niyo?”

He keeps his eyes on the road, “Oo. Pero karamihan naman sa kanila nakakausap ko pa talaga so it was sort of normal for me to see them. Itong si Marky ang nag-enjoy talaga.”

I look over at Kuya at nakanganga pa rin siya. Ngumiwi ako at mahinang nagtanong, “Nakipag-hookup nga siya sa ex niya?”

Ngumiti si Ollie, “Don’t tell him I told you.”

I bite the inside of my cheek, “Eh ikaw? Wala kang nakitang ex mo doon?”

He sighs, “Wala naman akong naging girlfriend no’ng High School.”

I raise an eyebrow.

Wala nga ba? Parang wala nga akong matandaan but I didn’t know everything about him back then. Siguro nga wala.

“Bakit wala? Bakit hindi mo sinabayan ‘tong best friend mong maging serial dater?”

He grins, “Hindi naman serial dater si Marky no’n, iilan lang rin naging girlfriend niya. Matatagal pa.”

Umirap ako dahil hindi niya sinagot ang tanong ko, tinapik ko ang braso niya, “Don’t deflect. Ano nga? Bakit ‘di ka nagka-girlfriend no’n?”

Huminga siya nang malalim, “May nagustuhan ako pero hindi pwede kaya ayon.”

Kumunot ang noo ko, “Paanong hindi pwede? Strict ang parents niya?”

He smiles, “Medyo.”

“Nagsabi ka ba? Nagpaalam ka sa parents hindi ka pinayagan?”

He sighs, “What’s with all the questions, Mi?”

Lumabi ako, “Bakit? Bawal ba magtanong? Sabi mo gusto mo akong kakwentuhan.”

He looks at me and quickly looks back at the road ahead, “Gusto nga. Pero sana tungkol sa New York, kung anong mga nangyari sa ‘yo do’n kasi hindi naman tayo nakakapag-usap dati.”

Pinaningkitan ko siya ng mata, “So tungkol sa akin lang? Hindi tungkol sa ‘yo?”

He laughs lightly, “That’s not what I mean.”

Huminga ako ng malalim, “So let’s talk. Really talk. No deflecting, no answering questions with another question.”

There’s a smile forming on his lips, “Are you sure?”

Ewan ko kung saan nanggagaling ang lakas ng loob ko pero I say, “Yes.”

He breathes in and says, “Let’s get something to eat first.”

He points to our right at nandoon na nga kami sa gas station.



***

Bumaba ako ng kotse para mag-CR dahil medyo malayo pa raw kami at baka ma-traffic pa. Pagbalik ko ng kotse I see Kuya sitting in the rear passenger seat.

Pumunta ako sa unahan ng kotse para silipin si Ollie, “Bakit lumipat si Kuya?”

Tumingin siya sa akin, “You said you wanted to talk so pinalipat ko siya sa likod. Don’t worry, he’s still sleeping.”

Napalunok ako.

He grins, “Sakay na, Mi. Para makauwi tayo agad.”

I get in and put my seatbelt on, I feel Ollie’s eyes on me and I look at him. Nakatingin nga.

“What?” I ask.

He smiles, pero parang may kakaiba sa ngiti niya, “Nothing.”

He starts the car and we drive off. I suddenly have nothing to say.

I rack my brain for something to say pero wala akong maisip, nginangatngat ko ang kuko ko when he puts my hand down, “Stop biting your nails.”

I put my hand down pero imbis na bawiin na niya ang kamay niya his hand lingers a little bit and he puts it back on the steering wheel.

My brain turns into mush.

Tumikhim si Ollie, “Uhm Mi, can you hand me a burger? Medyo gutom na ako eh.”

“Ah, sure.” I look inside paperbag at kinuha ko ang burger niya mula ro’n. Kinuha ko rin ang fries at ipinatong ‘yon sa lap ko.

I opened the burger wrapper at iaabot ko na sana sa kanya pero I think mahihirapan siyang mag-drive while holding it. Tsaka baka maaksidente pa kami so I put the burger in front of his mouth, “Kagat ka na.”

Napatingin siya sa akin at medyo nagtititigan na kami when I remember he’s driving, “Uhm… Eyes on the road, Ollie.”

His mouth twitches but he says nothing, he opens his mouth and takes a bite off the burger. May dressing na napunta sa gilid ng lips niya and without thinking about it I use my thumb to wipe it off. Natigilan ako when I realize how intimate this must feel like, I did the worst thing I could think of and I look up at his eyes.

He’s intensely looking at me with his brown eyes.

Napalunok ako.

He licks his lips.

Tumikhim ako, “Uhm. May dumi kasi.”

Bumalik ako sa upuan ko and I try to calm the erratic beating of my heart.
 

sakura07

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Chapter 16

“Isa pa.”

Lumingon ako kay Ollie at sinubuan ulit siya ng fries.

After ng mga pagpahid na naganap iniabot ko na lang sa kanya ang burger kahit na alam kong medyo mahihirapan siya. Matagal pa bago nawala ang nginig sa kamay ko kaya naiilang pa rin ako magsubo sa kanya.

“So, pwede na tayo ulit mag-usap? Really talk like you wanted?” tanong niya.

Parang ayaw ko na.

I bite my lip, “Ikaw. Kung hindi ka pa pagod.”

Natawa siya ng mahina, “Ikaw naghamon kanina, Mi ah. Parang umaatras ka na ngayon.”

Matalim ko siyang tiningnan, “Hindi ah. Iniisip ko lang baka pagod ka na.”

He grins, “I’m fine. Let’s talk.”

Lumingon ulit ako sa likod at si Kuya nakahiga doon nakanganga pa.

“Natatakot kang magising Kuya mo?” aniya.

I shake my head, “Hindi naman.”

Tumahimik kaming pareho at gusto kong sumigaw ng “awkward!”. Ano bang gusto kong malaman sa kanya? Actually marami pero natatakot akong magtanong.

“So…” he starts, “first question.”

I brace myself.

“Bakit ang awkward natin?”

Natawa ako at napailing, “Hindi ko rin alam. I know you’re still the Ollie I remember pero parang ang dami nang nagbago.”

His smile fades, “Like the fact that you don’t want to talk to me anymore.”

I sigh, “Hindi naman sa gano’n.”

“Then what?” he asks.

I cross my arms over my chest, “It’s not like you answer my questions too. Lagi ka kayang vague sumagot.”

“I’m not talking about that Mi. Bakit no’ng nasa New York ka ayaw mo akong kausapin?”

I don’t like where this is going.

“I just didn’t.”

He laughs sarcastically, “I thought you wanted to talk. But you won’t give me answers.”

Hindi ako nakasagot.

“So it’s okay to talk about generic stuff? What have I been doing these past years? Where have I been? What’s changed? What’s new? Gano’n? But I can’t ask about the things that have been bothering me since you left?” he says.

The air suddenly feels thick. I’m uncomfortable because he called me out on it. I can’t answer his questions with Kuya sleeping sa likod. Baka marinig pa kami.

“Maybe you’re right. I’m not ready to talk.” I say.

He sighs, “Yeah.”

He speaks again, “Just so you know, Mi. I can be as honest as you want me to be. Ask me anything and I’ll tell you. I’m not keeping secrets anymore.”

He sighs, “Just tell me when you’re ready to hear me out.”

Ang lakas ng kabog ng dibdib ko. There’s so many things I want to know but I’m scared to ask.

“I thought we were okay, Mi.” mahina niyang sinabi.

I take a deep breath and prepare myself to speak but then Kuya woke up.

“Saan na tayo?”

Umurong siya palapit at dumungaw sa pagitan namin ni Ollie. Feeling ko tuloy may narinig siya sa usapan namin. Maigi na rin siguro, hindi naman kami dapat mag-usap nang nandito si Kuya.

“Mga thirty minutes pa.” sagot ni Ollie.

Tinapik ni Kuya ang balikat ni Ollie, “Thanks bro.”

Tinuro ni Kuya ang paperbag sa paanan ko, “Pahingi naman niyan gutom na ‘ko.”

Hindi ka na nakatiis tsismoso ka.

Iniabot ko sa kanya ang burger at fries pero hindi na siya bumalik sa dati niyang pagkakaupo.

We were quiet the rest of the way home.





+++

When we get home umuna na ako kina Kuya but when I look back magkausap sila ni Ollie sa harap ng sasakyan.

I ignore them, and went to my room. Noon ko pa lang naramdaman ang pagod ng byahe at humiga sa kama ko. I close my eyes for a minute then open it again. Nakatingin lang ako sa kisame and I can’t get Ollie out of my mind.

Sh*t.

I checked my phone and look up Chase’s number. I sent him a quick text that we got home safely.

I just sent the message nang may biglang kumatok sa pinto.

I drag myself out of bed at binuksan ang pinto. I can’t help the napahinga ako nang malalim nang makita ang mukha ni Ollie. He’s carrying my bag.

Inialok ko ang kamay ko, “Thanks.”

He moves away and shakes his head, “No. I’ll bring it inside.”

Kumunot ang noo ko, “Uh, no. I got it Ollie. Thanks.”

I step outside at sinubukang kunin sa kanya ang bag ko but he raises his arm para hindi ko maabot. I’m tall but I’m not that tall, at kapag sinubukan kong kunin ‘yon I’ll need to hold on to him or kailangan kong dumikit sa kanya. I step back and cross my arms over my chest, “Fine. Eh ‘di sa ‘yo na ‘yan.”

I turn around and go back to my room pero nakasunod siya. He walks inside at napaatras ako sa expression sa mukha niya. Parang galit na hindi ko malaman.

“Hey. Who told you you can get in here?” sinilip ko ang pinto at isinara niya ito.

He keeps walking to me at sa sobrang atras ko, tumama ang likod ng hita ko sa kama. I almost fell pero I catch myself.

Ollie is too close so I push at his chest, “Hoy, Ollie.”

He steps back a little and takes a deep breath. He puts my bag down.

“Bakit ba ganyan ka makatingin?” I ask.

His eyes are intense and I feel – I have no idea how I feel. He’s making me all confused.

He puts his impressive arms over his chest, “I changed my mind. I want to talk now.”

I scoff, “The hell, Ollie. I’m tired.”

My phone rings.

Oh, thank God.

Napatingin ako and it’s Chase, he’s calling. I look up at Ollie’s face at nakatingin rin siya sa phone kong nag-ri-ring.

I bite the inside of my cheek. Kapag sinagot ko ‘to maririnig ni Ollie ang usapan namin, hindi ko nga alam kung anong sasabihin ko dito kay Chase. What do I say?

Before I can answer the phone he says, “Don’t answer that.”

Tumingin ako sa kanya and he just stares at me and says it again, “Don’t answer it, Mi.”

I laugh a little, “It’s just a call Ollie.”

Parang nagtiim ang panga niya, “Are you going to date him?”

Nanlaki ang mata ko, “What? It’s just a call Ollie it doesn’t mean anything.”

“If he asks you out, will you go with him?”

What the hell?

I cross my arms over my chest, the call forgotten, “That is none of your business.”

Naningkit siya, “It is.”

I scoff, “You’ve got some nerve, Oliver.”

Nagtiim ang panga niya, “Are you going to give him a chance?”

Napairap ako and I’m trying so hard not to yell at him, “Bakit ba nakikialam ka? I don’t need another brother.”

Yumuko siya ng kaunti so we’re at eye level, “I don’t want to be your brother, Mia.”

Napalunok ako.

I clear my throat and stare back at him, “Then what?”

He stands straight, “If you’re going to give him a chance I think that I should get that chance too.”

Kumunot ang noo ko.

What?

I shake my head, “What the hell did you just say to me?”

He takes in a deep breath before saying, “Date me.”



He looks at me with those intense eyes and he repeats, “Date me, Mia.”
 

sakura07

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Chapter 17

9 Years Ago

Nakaupo ako sa harap ng pinto ng bahay namin, parang ayaw ko pumasok sa loob. Tatanungin ako nila Mom kung anong nangyari sa school. Sasabihin ko syempre wala kasi ayaw kong nag-aalala sila sa akin, hindi ko naman pwede isumbong na na-corner na naman ako nila Steph kanina sa hallway. Pinagtawanan na naman ang dry kong buhok at ang mga pimples ko na natutuyo na.

Natuwa pa naman ako, akala ko magtutuloy-tuloy na ang paggaling ng mukha ko, kaya lang may mga tumutubong bago. Kainis.

Okay lang naman eh, sanay na akong mapagtawanan at ma-bully. Wala na sa akin ‘yon. Kaya lang nakakainis dahil ang daming pautot ng school namin, may pa-party pa. Acquaintance party raw, ano kaya ‘yon? Kilala ko naman lahat ng kaklase ko may pa-gano’n pa. Kailangan pa raw may escort or date, mukhang tanga.

Inasar ako nila Steph na wala raw maglalakas ng loob samahan ako doon dahil baka mahawa raw sa tigidig ko. Mas nakakahawa kaya sakit niya tsaka walang cure - ‘yong sama ng ugali.

Narinig kong bumukas ang pinto namin pero hindi ako lumingon, malamang si Kuya lang ‘yan.

Naupo ang taong lumabas sa tabi ko.

Inabutan ako ng ice cream, chocolate, ‘yong favorite ko.

“What happened, Mi?”

Si Ollie pa talaga. Hay.

Binunot ko ang damo sa tapat ko, “Wala.”

Iginiya niya ang ice cream sa akin, “Kunin mo na ‘to oh, natutunaw.”

Umiling ako, “Ayoko.”

Pumalatak siya, “Ano ba ‘yan, binili ko pa naman ‘to para sa ‘yo talaga.”

Tumingin ako sa kanya, “Binili mo?”

Tumango siya, “Oo. Napadaan ako sa convenience store kanina, nakita ko ‘to naalala kong favorite mo.”

Lumabi ako at kinuha ang ice cream, “Thank you.”

Binangga niya nang marahan ng balikat niya ang balikat ko, “Huy. Kwento naman diyan. Bakit ka nagmumukmok?”

Sumubo lang ako ng ice cream imbis na sumagot.

Nagbuntonghininga lang siya pero hindi umalis.

Nakaupo lang kami ro’n hanggang maubos ko na ang ice cream.

Tumikhim si Ollie, “Oh, tapos ka na kumain. Pwede na tayo mag-usap?”

Kinagat ko ang labi ko. Ayaw ko mapahiya kay Ollie kaya ayaw ko magsabi. Ayaw kong malaman niyang malungkot ako kasi wala naman ako mayayaya sa Acquaintance party namin. Siguro magpe-pretend na lang akong hindi papasok, may sakit gano’n.

Binangga ulit ako ni Ollie nang marahan, “Mi, ako ba hindi mo tatanungin kung bakit tahimik rin ako?”

Dahil mukhang hindi niya ako tatantanan ngayon bumaling ako sa kanya, “Bakit ka tahimik, Ollie?”

Nagpipigil siya ng ngiti nang humarap sa akin, “May pupuntahan kasi ako pero wala akong makasama. Pwede mo ako samahan?”

Kumunot ang noo ko, “Saan?”

“May pinapapuntahan sa akin si Mama this weekend, eh hindi pwede si Marky. Ayaw ko pumunta do’n mag-isa, kaya samahan mo ako, pwede?”

Lumabi ako. Bakit naman ako ang gusto nitong kasama?

Ngumiti siya, “May mga ipapamigay kasi kaming gamit sa orphanage malapit dito, maraming bitbit kaya baka pwede tulungan mo ako.”

Laging namimigay ng mga gamit ang pamilya ni Ollie sa mga nasa orphanages at sa mga kapos sa buhay. Nakasama na ako minsan pero hindi pa iyon nauulit.

Napangiti ako, “Oo sige. Magbe-bake ako ng cookies para may maibigay sa mga bata.”

Lumapad ang ngiti niya, “Ayos.”

Tumahimik ulit kami at after a while nagsalita ulit si Ollie, “Oh, dahil sasamahan mo ako sa orphanage this weekend, next weekend ikaw naman ang sasamahan ko. Kahit saan mo gusto pumunta, samahan kita.”

Sumimangot ako, next weekend ‘yong Acquaintance party namin so hindi kami pwedeng…

Napalingon ako kay Ollie, kalmado ang mukha niya, nakatingin sa malayo. Like he knew kung ano ang nagpapa-worry sa akin. Paano niya nalaman?

Huminga lang ako nang malalim, “Actually, may pupuntahan rin sana ako next weekend. Baka pwede mo rin ako samahan do’n.”

Ibinaling niya ang tingin niya sa akin, “It would be my pleasure, Mi.”

After two weeks magkasama kami ni Ollie na pumunta sa Acquaintance party ko.

***



Present Day


What the hell did he just say?

Umiling ako, “Ano? Anong sabi mo?”

Kahit na wala nang masyadong space sa pagitan namin he stepped closer, “I know you heard me, Mi.”

Hindi pa rin ako makapaniwala sa naririnig ko. I don’t know why he’s doing this, ganoon ba siya ka-diskumpyado kay Chase na he will try to date me para lang hindi ko i-date si Chase?

I push at his chest, “Why are you doing this?”

I scoff, “Ganyan na ba kayo ka-desperado ni Kuya para pakielaman ako para hindi ko i-date si Chase?”

He just looks at me intensely, he doesn’t answer my question.

I don’t want a pity date.

I have had enough of that from him.

Para akong nahimasmasan at ang galit ko napalitan ng lungkot. What he’s doing comes from a good place alam ko, gusto niya akong tulungan in some way, lagi naman siyang gano’n. Pero hindi ko na ‘yan kailangan, ang kailangan ko ‘yong tunay. Something that I can say na talagang naranasan ko ng totoo.

I hang my head down.

“Get out.” I say quietly.

He steps forward again at pinigilan kong maiyak, “Please.”

I look up at him and he must have seen the tears forming in my eyes. He backs off.

He quietly leaves as I sit on the bed and allow myself to cry.

It’s been six years and I’m still crying because of the same guy.

My phone rings again and I look at Chase’s name. Huminga ako nang malalim and I wipe at my eyes.

“Hello?”

My voice must have sounded weird because he sounds worried when he asks, “Mia? What’s wrong?”

I take a deep breath before answering, “It’s nothing. Don’t worry.”

He doesn’t say anything so sinubukan kong baguhin ang topic, “Nakauwi ka na?”

He sighs, “Yup. Just got here.”

Natawa ako ng kaunti, “Sorry, naistorbo ko yata ang pahinga mo.”

There’s a smile in his voice, “No. I was happy nga when I saw your text, I didn’t think you’d text me to be honest.”

Humiga ako sa kama, “Ha? Bakit naman? Kinuha ko ang number mo ‘di ba? So I was really going to text naman.”

He laughs lightly, “Most people don’t always do what they say they’d do.”

I smile, “Well, I’m not like most people.”

“No, you’re definitely not.”

Pareho kaming natahimik for a few seconds, “Uhm, still there?” I ask.

Tumikhim siya, “Yup, still here. I’m just thinking.”

Kumunot ang noo ko, “About?”

He was quiet again, but he cleared his throat before he said, “I’m just thinking if it’s too soon to ask you out.”

Napabangon ako sa kama, “Like now?”

He sighs, “I just want to see you again, even if I just saw you earlier. Is that weird?”

Biglang pumasok sa isip ko si Ollie, anong sasabihin niya if I go out with Chase now?

I shake my head, I’m being unfair to Chase.

He says, “Sorry, I’m being weird. Forget I said that.”

Umiling ako, “No. Uhm… I just don’t know what to say to that.”

He laughs lightly, “You can’t decide if you’re going to agree that it’s weird or if you don’t think it’s weird?”

Napangiti ako, “No. I’m just not used to it.”

“Used to what?”

I sigh, “The attention.”

He sighs, “Well, I apologize in advance because I think you’re going to get a lot of it from me.”

I smile.

“So, can I see you?” he asks again.

I bite my lip, it’s almost three PM. I have nothing to do today and I feel like I need to leave the house. Hindi ko yata kayang makita muna si Ollie after ng pag-uusap namin kanina.

So I say, “Uhm… Dinner?”

There’s a smile in his voice when he says, “Perfect.”
 

panjo

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sakura07

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Chapter 18



“Mom, okay lang ba ‘to? Hindi ba ako overdressed?” I tilt my head from side to side assessing kung masyado bang effort ito for a first date?

OMG. First date.

I try not to flip out.

Hinawi ni Mom ang buhok ko at inilagay sa balikat ko, “You look lovely, anak.”

I look myself up and down sa mirror. I’m wearing a long-sleeved black and red floral dress. Kahit na long sleeves, I’m showing a lot of leg naman. It ends mid-thigh. Hinahatak ko pababa ang laylayan ng dress ko.

I scrunch up my nose, “Mag-jeans na lang kaya ako, Mom? Parang OA ‘tong suot ko.”

Pinalo ni Mom ang pwet ko, “Ano ba? You’ve got great legs anak, hindi naman masyadong scandalous ang length. Sabi mo sa magandang restaurant kayo kakain ni Chase ‘di ba? You should dress appropriately.”

Ngumiwi ako, I didn’t tell Chase that I’ve never really dated before. Hindi ko yata kayang tawaging date ang mga nakasama kong kumain before, kasi nandoon lagi si Kuya nakabantay na parang body guard.

I face Mom, “Sure ka po? Hindi masyadong maikli?”

“Maikli!” sigaw ni Kuya nang pumasok sa kwarto ko.

Hinatak niya ang laylayan ng dress ko, “Ano to? Kinapos sa tela?”

Inirapan ko siya, “Magde-date kami ni Chase Kuya ha, at ngayon pa lang binabalaan na kita, ‘wag kang magkakamaling sundan kami.”

Tumayo siya nang tuwid at pinanlisikan ako ng mata, “At bakit?”

Hindi na ako nakasagot nang kurutin siya sa tagiliran ni Mom, “Tigilan mo, Marky!”

Napangiwi sa sakit si Kuya, minasahe niya ang tagiliran niya, “Mom! Ang sakit no’n ah!”

Humalukipkip si Mom at tumayo sa harap ni Kuya, shielding me, “Your sister is a grown woman and capable to make her own decisions. You should trust her.”

Ibinaling ni Kuya sa akin ang tingin niya, binelatan ko siya sa likod ni Mom.

Huminga siya nang malalim, “Sa baba na ako, antayin ko dumating ang date mo.”

Sinundan siya ng sigaw ni Mom, “Kausapin mo lang! ‘Wag mo tatakutin!”

I sigh. Mukha namang hindi madadaan sa pananakot si Chase.

Nag-ring ang phone ko and I walk over to the bed to get it. Tumatawag si Chase.

“Hello?”

“Hey. I’m already here… wait, your brother’s coming over.”

Napairap ako, sinalubong talaga ni Kuya, “Sorry, he’s being an overbearing jackass. I’m on my way down.”

He laughs, “It’s okay. Take your time.”

“Bye.”

Pagtalikod ko nakita ko si Mom na nakangiti sa akin, I go over to her at yumapos, “Love you Mom.”

She squeezes back, “Love you anak. Have fun.”

She lets me go, “I’ll go downstairs para salubungin ang date mo, baka kung ano nang sinabi ni Marky eh.”

I laugh, “Okay po.”

She leaves the room at siniilp ko pa ng isang beses ang itsura ko sa salamin. I sigh and walk out of the room.

I close the door to my room nang bigla namang bumukas ang kwarto nila Kuya at Ollie.

I’m rooted to the spot when Ollie looks me over.

He leisurely looks at me from my shoes to the top of my head. It’s weird, parang naramdaman ko ang paghagod ng tingin niya sa akin, I’m tingly all over.

I bite the inside of my cheek and pull at the hem of my dress again, “Okay lang ba? Hindi masagwa?”

He steps forward and holds my right hand, “Don’t fidget.”

Napuyo ako, nakahawak pa pala ang kamay ko sa laylayan ng dress ko and I’m playing with the hem.

I ball my hand into a fist, “Right. No fidgeting.”

Ngumiti siya, “Don’t tap your foot.”

Noon ko lang napansin na kanina pa nga ako nagta-tap ng foot ko, “Shit. Right. No tapping.”

His smile widens and I bite my lip.

He turns serious and uses his thumb to release my lip from my teeth, “And don’t do that.”

His thumb lingers on my chin and I’m having a hard time breathing.

He pulls his hand back and steps back.

“Mi, nasa baba na ‘yong date mo.”

Napalingon ako kay Kuya na nasa hallway na pala with his arms over his chest. He was looking at me but then he shifts his eyes to Ollie and it’s weird kasi he looks at Olllie the way he looks at Chase. Parang gusto niyang kutusan gano’n.

Ollie doesn’t take his eyes off me, “Have fun, Mi.”

He walks back to his room without another word.

Kailangan ng will power para makaalis ako sa pagkakatayo ko doon sa hallway kasi talagang nanlalambot ako, it doesn’t help na parang nakita yata ni Kuya ang interaction namin ni Ollie kanina.

I tilt my chin up and walk towards Kuya pero he steps in front of me.

Pinilit kong ‘wag mag-fidget ulit and I look at his face, “Yes?”

Nagsukatan kami ng tingin but he relents, “Ingat ka.”

Nanlaki ang mata ko at hinawakan ko ang noo niya, “May sakit ka?”

Hinataw niya ang braso ko, “Ayaw mo? Gusto mo sundan kita?”

Ngumiti ako, “Hindi. Joke lang.”

I kiss his cheek, “Thank you Kuya.”

Ngumiwi siya, “Oo na. Ayusin mo upo mo ha.”

Lumapad ang ngiti ko, “Opo.”

Nilampasan ko na siya at bumaba ng hagdanan. Nawala ang ngiti ko nang makita kong pinapalibutan ng pamilya ko si Chase, katabi niya si Mom, si Dad naman nasa katapat na sofa.

Chase looks comfortable naman smiling while talking to Auntie Baby.

“So mapapadalas ka ng dalaw dito sa amin kasi nanliligaw ka kay Mimi?”

Nanlaki ang mata ko at napasigaw, “Auntie Baby!”

Lahat sila naglingunan sa akin and it’s hard not to fidget so I just smile, “’Wag niyo naman po pressure-in si Chase.”

Pinandilatan ko si Auntie Baby pero parang wala siyang pake kasi ngumiti lang siya sa akin, “Naku, ang ganda naman ng Mimi namin.”

I look at their faces and they’re all smiling in agreement.

I am mortified.

Tumayo si Chase and his smile is the brightest of them all. My heart works over time while looking at him.

Naka suit jacket siya na blue and underneath is a dark grey shirt tucked inside his dark blue jeans.

Napangiti lang ako, “Hi.”

Huminga siya nang malalim, “Hi.”

Mom breaks the silence, “Parang kailangan na natin kumain, nagugutom na ako Baby. Maghain ka na.”

Unti unting nagtayuan ang mga Auntie at Uncles ko. Nagpahuli si Mom at Dad.

Ibinaling ni Chase ang tingin niya sa kanila, “It was nice to meet you po. I’ll make sure I bring Mia home safe.”

Ngumiti lang si Mom kay Chase, “You kids have fun at dinner.”

Lumapit sa akin si Mom at bumeso, “Ingat ha.”

I nod, “Opo.”

Dad taps Chase on the arm, “Ingat kayo.”

“Yes Sir.” Chase says.

Nakaalis na sila Mom at Dad at kami na lang ni Chase ang naiwan sa living room. I walk over to Chase, “Hi. Sorry sa family ko ha. Madami bang tinanong sa ‘yo?”

He smiles, “No it’s okay. I’m used to it, marami rin kasi akong mga Tito and Tita kaya sanayan na sa reunions.”

He looks down at my dress at hindi ko na napigilan hatakin ang laylayan, “Sorry. Maikli ba masyado?”

He smiles, “It’s perfect. You look perfect.”

I smile back.

“Pare, ‘yong pinag-usapan natin ha.” Napangiwi ako nang marinig ang boses ni Kuya galing sa likod ko.

Chase looks over my shoulder and smiles, “Yes Sir.”

Chase looks back at me, “Let’s go?”

I nod.

We walk out of the house at malaking pasasalamat ko dahil hindi SUV ang kotse ni Chase. It’s a dark blue luxury car, by the looks of it.

He opens the door for me at ingat na ingat akong maupo para hindi masilipan.

He closes the door and walks over papunta sa driver’s side. Pagpasok niya sa kotse he looks behind him sa rear seat and he takes a large bouquet of white tulips and gives it to me, nanlaki ang mata ko.

He smiles, “Sorry, nakalimutan kong bitbitin ‘yan kanina kasi palapit na dito sa kotse ang Kuya mo hindi ko pa napapatay ang makina.”

I feel like such a girl but I love how he’s turning this into a great first date.

I smile up at him, “Thanks.”

He looks down on my exposed legs. Nag-hike up nga ang laylayan dahil maikli.

He casually removes his jacket and places it on top of my legs he looks over at me, “There. Better?”

I bite my lip and hug the flowers tigher, “Yes. Thank you.”

He smiles back and starts the engine.

I feel comfortable and happy with Chase. Tingin ko it’s just the start of something special. He’s an absolute gentleman and I’m sure this is going to be a great date.

But I still feel a pang of sadness when I see Ollie standing by the front door watching us leave.
 

sakura07

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Chapter 19

The Valet opened the car door for me pero Chase waved him away, “Wait Mia. I’ll help you out.”

Sinunod ko lang si Chase at naghintay na makaikot siya hanggang siya ang naghawak ng pinto for me and offered his hand para makalabas ako ng kotse. I gave him his jacket when I’m sure my skirt did not hike up my thighs.

I smile at him, “Thanks.”

He puts on his jacket and offers his arm and I take it. Naglakad kami papasok ng hotel, we’re going to have dinner in a five-star restaurant in one of the hotels in Manila. I’ve never been here at mahilig akong mag-try ng different kinds of food so I’m pretty excited.

The hotel lobby is opulent and open, the walls are lined up with carved marble columns and at the center is a massive crystal chandelier surrounded by wood-beamed ceilings.

I bite my lip, I’m pretty sure expensive kumain dito, “You didn’t have to take me here, I’d be happy with just a simple dinner.”

He looks at me and smiles, “It’s our first date, Mia. I want to make it special.”

I don’t know what to say to that so I just keep quiet, after a while he stops walking and faces me, “Hey. Are you uncomfortable? Is this too much?”

I touch his arm, “Uy hindi. Uhm, I just feel…”

Undeserving.

Like you’re wasting your effort for me.


I shake my head, “it’s nothing. I’m being weird again. Sorry.”

He takes my hand, “Mia, I want to make a good impression. I want you to like me too.”

My eyebrows shoot up, “What?”

He sighs, “Sorry, I said I’ll take it easy.”

He takes both of my hands in his and takes a deep breath before saying, “I like you. I know we haven’t spent that much time together pero I want to change that sana. So I’m making an effort to make sure hindi ka magda-doubt sa intentions ko.”

Feeling ko ang pula pula na ng mukha ko so I let go of his hands and touch my cheeks, “Feeling ko nagba-blush ako.”

He chuckles, “I want to make you blush. I want to make you smile.”

Napangiwi ako at itinakip ang kamay ko sa mukha niya, “Stop saying things like that. I told you hindi ako sanay.”

He takes my hands again, “I already told you I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to help saying things when I’m around you. Pero kung hindi ka kumportable I’ll try to be a bit more normal about it.”

I bite the inside of my cheek. I can’t help but think about how candid Chase is, how open. Samantalang si Ollie can’t even tell me if he likes how I look or not. Pwede ba ‘yon? You’re happy on one side and the other may ache pa rin para sa magkaibang dahilan? Para sa magkaibang tao?

Ngumiti si Chase, “Ganito, when I smile at you it means I think you’re pretty. When I hold your hand it means I want to let you know I like you.”

Tinaasan ko siya ng kilay, “I’m not used to things like this, pero ang pagkakaalam ko wala dapat holding hands.”

He laughs and lets my hands go, medyo nag-blush rin siya, “You’re right. Sorry.”

Nagbuntonghininga ako, “I’m sorry I’m making this date weird. Pinag-eexplain pa kita. I’m comfortable naman Chase, I just want to let you know that you don’t need to do too much para sa akin. I’m just… me.”

Kumunot ang noo niya, “And I promise I’ll just be ‘me’ too. I don’t do this often pero it’s nice to be able to go on dates like this with the girl I like.”

He smiles, “I promise I won’t try too hard. Pero if I appear to be, gano’n lang talaga ako. What you see now is what I’ll always be with you.”

If that’s the case then I should feel lucky. Kung may checklist siguro sa isang babae ang perfect guy nila malamang Chase ticks all the right boxes. That’s why I decided to give him a chance right? That and the fact that he’s seen me before but didn’t get disgusted and he never bullied me.

I smile and take his arm, “Thank you for taking me here. Let’s go? I’m sure I’ve wasted our time na standing here.”

He touches my hand, “Time spent with you is never a waste.”

Wala na akong masabi so I just nod.

We walk through the lobby and into the restaurant on the far side.

“Good Evening Mr. Cruz, your table is ready,” the waiter says and we follow him inside.

Kumunot ang noo ko and I look up at Chase, I pull on his arm a little at ibinaling niya sa akin ang ulo niya, “Bakit kilala ka no’n? Madalas ka rito?”

Ngumiti lang si Chase and I can’t help but think na baka madalas makipag-date dito si Chase kaya kilala na siya. Or baka nga dahil sabi niya ma-effort talaga siya kaya he’s been here before bago niya ako dalhin? Parang imposible naman.

While walking I see the wait staff greet us at parang tumitigil sila sa mga ginagawa nila just to say “good evening” or ‘yong iba yumuyuko lang. My eyes roam around the room and see na lahat halos ng wait staff nakatingin sa amin. I feel conscious so ibinabaling ko ang tingin ko sa mga tables sa paligid para hindi nila makita ang mukha ko.

Bigla kaming tumigil at napatingin ako in front of us. A big guy in a Chef’s uniform is walking towards us, smiling.

I look up at Chase and he’s grinning. He extends his hand to the Chef when he’s close enough, “Hi Chef. Good evening.”

The Chef shakes his hand, “Mr. Cruz, I was told you’ll be joining us this evening.”

May French accent siya at parang I’ve seen him before I’m just not sure where.

The Chef looks at me and I think I recognize him. Chase makes the introductions, “Chef Garmond, this is Mia Galvez. Mia, this is Chef Garmond.”

Nanlaki ang mata ko at hindi ko napigilang mapanganga. Chef Garmond extends his hand to me and I take it, “Oh my God, Chef G-Garmond? It’s an honor to meet you Sir.”

He gives me a soft smile.

Chef Allen Garmond’s restaurant in London is a Michelin star winner, we’ve discussed him briefly in some of my classes before. Pero dahil sa libro ko lang siya nakikita, I didn’t recognize him immediately.

He shakes my hand, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mia.”

Chase grins, “Chef, Mia here studied Culinary Arts in New York.”

I flinch a little, nakakahiya sabihin sa isang decorated Chef ‘yon. Baka isipin magaling akong magluto.

But Chef just smiles, “That’s good, we both have a passion for cooking, yes?”

I smile up at him, “Yes. Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon...”

He continues, “or not at all,” he smiles, “Harriet Van Horne”.

He claps his hands, “Well, I will be your Chef for tonight, I hope you both enjoy.”

Chase responds, “Thank you for this, Chef.”

Ngumiti ulit si Chef at pumihit na pabalik sa kitchen at nakatingin pa rin ako sa kanya habang naglalakad kami ni Chase papunta sa isang private room sa bandang kanan ng restaurant.

The waiters open the doors and I’m awestruck again.

The room is not that big pero I’m sure hindi iisang table lang ang laman nito before. The lights are dim inside and there’s a single table in the middle of the room, the windows are open at kita ang infinity pool sa labas. The huge chandelier in the middle of the room provides the light while there are also candles on top of the table.

I turn to Chase at nagkamot lang siya ng batok, “Too much?”

I laugh, “Medyo.”

He offers his hand at we walk towards the table, he helps me to my seat and when he’s seated na he smiles, “I promise this is the last of these dates unless it’s a special occasion.”

A waiter comes in at ipinakita ang wine kay Chase. Chase just nods, “Thank you.”

The waiter pours the wine at naghintay ako na umalis siya bago nagsalita, “Bakit parang kilala ka nila, madalas ka rito?”

Bago makasagot si Chase may isang babaeng naka-suit na pumasok sa room pero tumayo lang sa bandang pinto, Chase looks at her and sighs, “Wait lang Mia ha, excuse me.”

He walks over to the girl and she hands him a document, he looks it over at parang pinirmahan niya. The girl leaves and Chase walks back to me, “Sorry, hopefully no more distractions tonight.”

He must see the confusion on my face so he just smiles, “I should have brought you to another restaurant pero I knew na pupunta tonight si Chef Garmond so I thought mas special kung dito tayo mag-dinner. We booked him months ago, perfect timing rin kasi pumayag ka makipag-dinner sa akin tonight.”

I put two and two together, “So, you own this restaurant?”

He bites his lip and he says, “Uhm, the hotel, Mia. We own the hotel.”
 

sakura07

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Sana makagawa rin ako ng ganito. Daming idea. Salamat sa share.
Di pala ako naka-reply dito. hehe
Salamat, Panjo. *giggle*
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Chapter 20

Siguro bumabawi sa akin ang pagkakataon, because Chase is the perfect catch. Kahit na galing sa mayamang pamilya, he never appears arrogant, if anything he’s almost embarrassed about it. He says it’s because he feels like he hasn’t worked hard enough to feel na deserving na siyang maging may-ari ng kumpanya ng pamilya niya.

“I was a bad kid, I mean I wasn’t like mean but I feel like I glided through life when I was younger.” Chase says as he pours the wine.

“What do you mean ‘glided’? You think you had it easy?” I ask.

He nods, “Oo. Feeling ko I should have had some kind of hardship nung bata ako. Back in High School I was part of the varsity team so I was treated nicely. I didn’t get any flak for not getting to class on time or if I miss deadlines to school projects.”

Napaisip ako, parang hindi naman siya bumabagsak dati nung High School kami, “Did you get special treatment sa academics?”

He shrugs, “I don’t think so. Well I hope not, badtrip ‘yon if they gave me special recognition dahil they liked me and not because I studied hard.”

Then I remember, he was one of the awardees nung graduation. Even back then he was good looking, smart and athletic but I don’t think he had a girlfriend, “Teka. Bakit nga pala parang wala akong nabalitaang naging girlfriend mo back in High School?”

He smiles, “I had a girlfriend but we kept it a secret, si Chessie? You know Franchesca?”

Kumunot ang noo ko then when I remember who he’s talking about nanlaki ang mata ko, “Franchesca Dizon? ‘yong valedictorian ng batch natin?”

He grins, “Kita mo na? Hindi mo alam no? Her parents were super strict so we had to keep it a secret. Para ngang hindi kami no’n kasi we were just talking over the phone, chat gano’n. I didn’t even get the chance to date her properly or go to their house. Ayaw niya.”

Franchesca was pretty pero hindi gaya ng pretty nila Steph and she was the type na hindi mo pwedeng i-bully dahil babarahin ka talaga. She was the type who wouldn’t keep her mouth shut if she sees some form of injustice. She’s helped me out a few times dati kapag binu-bully ako nila Steph. Hindi siya in-attempt manlang i-bully ni Steph dahil for sure mapapahiya siya, she’s that smart.

“Wow. Grabe, I feel like I just won the chismis lottery with this info, but I don’t spread chismis so…”

He laughs, “I don’t think it would be that big of a deal kasi ang tagal na no’n.”

Dahil nagkukwento naman siya I ask na rin, “When did you guys break up? And why did you break up?”

He shrugs, “Right after graduation nakipag-break na siya sa akin, I was hoping nga na pagdating ng College we would be able to date for real na pero she said na malamang doon rin ang punta namin dahil hindi niya maipapangakong makakasama ako sa priorities niya. She was determined to graduate top of her class ulit so hindi naman para hadlangan ko ang goals niya sa buhay.”

I bite my lip before asking, “Did you… love her?”

He scrunches up his nose, “That’s how it looks like no? That I didn’t care enough for her na I just followed what she wanted. She didn’t want us to date for real back in High School and I let her. She wanted to break up right after graduation and I let her rin. I didn’t even fight for it.”

He looks at me intently, “I just believe that things happen for a reason and there’s a time and place for everything – cliché as that sounds. I was not her priority then but who was I to ask her to consider otherwise? Sino ako para magdikta ng mas malaking importansya sa buhay niya?”

I grin, “You didn’t answer my question.”

He thinks about it for a second, “Did I love her? Maybe. I’m not sure. That was a long time ago.”

He sighs, “You want to know about my other exes? Are we going to do that now?”

I look down at my wine glass, “It’s my first date so I don’t really know what to ask or what to talk about.”

I look up at him and he just smiles, “I’m just kidding, we can talk about anything.”

He clears his throat before speaking, “Can I ask you something?”

I nod then take a sip of my wine.

“Bakit nasa bahay niyo si Oliver kanina?”

Muntik ko nang maibuga ang wine pero I end up choking on it.

I have a coughing fit at napatayo si Chase at hinagod ang likod ko, “Sorry, Mia. Are you okay?”

Pinangtakip ko sa bibig ko ang napkin and I make an ‘okay’ sign using my hand. Pero hindi talaga ako okay, oh my God it’s so embarrassing.

The waiter comes over at tinanong si Chase kung may dapat silang gawin, parang nagpa-panic na silang lahat. ‘yong ubo ko parang tunog pang-mamamatay na.

Chase pulls his chair next to me, inaabangan niyang matapos ang pag-ubo ko at may hawak siyang baso ng tubig. At last the coughing subsides and I sip the water he gave me slowly.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry.”

Malat na ako nang matapos ang pag-ubo. Nilingon ko pa ang waiter at nag-sorry ulit.

Chase chuckles, “Why are you apologizing?”

Lumabi ako, “Nakakahiya kasi.”

He smirks, “Nakakahiya dahil inubo ka? Or ‘yong fact na naubo ka dahil may nabanggit akong pangalan?”

Kumunot ang noo ko, “Si Ollie? Hindi ah. I just wasn’t expecting the question.”

He nods, “So do I get an answer?”

I clear my throat, “He’s a family friend tsaka birthday ni Lola next week and he’s invited.”

Tumango lang siya at naisip ko lang rin na hindi ko pala na-invite si Chase sa birthday ni Lola. I mean he should be invited right? We’re dating… yata?

I bite my lip, “Are you doing anything next Saturday? Maybe you can come sa birthday ni Lola…”

Then I realize I just invited him sa 70th birthday ng Lola ko. Siguro nasa 70% ng bisita doon puro senior citizens, the other 30% are our relatives.

I backpedal, “Pero kung busy ka, I understand.”

He looks at me intently, “You mean it? You’re inviting me?”

I nod, “Oo naman.”

He smiles, “I would love to go.”

Tumango lang ako ulit, “Okay.”

Tumayo siya at bumalik sa pagkakaupo niya sa kabilang side ng table and I’m already thinking of how to tell Kuya and Ollie about my inviting Chase.

At parang narinig ni Kuyang naisip ko siya nung moment na ‘yon my phone starts ringing. I look down on it, si Kuya.

I force a smile for Chase, “Sorry. It’s Kuya, I need to take this.”

He smiles, “Sure.”

I answer the phone, “Kuya?”

“How’s the date?”

I try not to roll my eyes, “Okay naman. Why did you call?”

He sighs, “I’m craving for some fries. Daan kayong McDo bago ka umuwi ha. Gusto ko ‘yong mainit pa.”

Huminga ako nang malalim, “I hope that’s not the only reason for this call.”

Tumawa siya, “Of course not. Sabihan lang kita na ‘wag mo i-iinvite ‘yang si Chase sa birthday ni Lola.”

Nanlaki ang mata ko, “What? Why?”

He huffs, “Hay naku. Na-invite mo na no?”

I bite the inside of my cheek and look at Chase, he has a soft smile on his face. Sinagot ko si Kuya, “Oo. Bakit? Hindi naman bawal ah.”

Kahit nasa phone I can imagine him rolling his eyes, “Tsk. Eh we can’t take it back now, bahala ka nga. O sige na, umuwi ka nang maaga. Bye.”

I wonder why Kuya didn’t want Chase to be there.

Chase looks at his watch, “It’s getting late, I better take you home.”

I check the time on my phone, it’s almost nine na pala. I nod and Chase helps me out of my seat.

I wrap my arm around his as we walk outside the restaurant pero imbes na sa exit kami pumunta, we walk towards the kitchen. Bigla akong nahiya nang lumabas si Chef Garmond with a smile on his face.

“Dinner was satisfactory?” he asks.

At pinigilan kong mag-fangirl, I just smile at him, “Everything was spectacular, Chef. Thank you so much.”

Chase offers his hand to Chef, “Chef, it’s an honor to meet you Sir. I hope you visit us again soon.”

Chef shakes his hand, “Definitely. I will be back.”

He turns to me, “Keep cooking, yes?”

Tumango lang ako, “Yes, I will Chef. Thank you.”

A man with a camera comes over to us and says something to Chase.

Chase turns to us, “Let’s take a picture?”

Bigla akong na-conscious at napayuko pero bago pa ako tuluyang mag-panic lumapit sa akin si Chase at bumulong, “You look lovely, Mia.”

I look up at him and he just smiles at me.

Pumagitna sa amin si Chef and we look at the camera just as the guy clicks.
 
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sakura07

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Time Stone
Power Stone
Soul Stone
Mind Stone
Space Stone
Chapter 21

We leave the hotel at Chase gives me his jacket again when we enter his car.

“Wala ka bang chauffer? ‘Di ba kapag heredero gano’n dapat?”

He laughs, “Ah, nang-aasar ka? I can drive myself so hindi ko naman kailangan.”

I smile, “Siguro you’re a difficult boss.”

Kumunot noo niya, “Why do you say that?”

I grin, “Kasi you drive yourself, tapos wala kang dalang bodyguard, siguro you make your own coffee sa office, you don’t let anyone pay for your meals, ikaw rin mismo siguro bumibili ng lunch mo…”

He laughs then pinches my cheek, “Kulit!”

He puts his hands back on the steering wheel, “Dad was like that, he had drivers, bodyguards, the works. Pero my Mom taught me to be a normal kid, she made me help with chores sa bahay. May yaya kami pero hindi ko masasabing spoiled kami, lalo na ako. I was the least favorite of Dad pero ako naman ang favorite ni Mom. She always told me na ang pera hindi forever ‘yan, kaya dapat matuto ako sa buhay. Huwag raw umasa na may mag-se-serve sa akin palagi. So nasanay ako na gano’n, kahit ngayon sa office, they think it’s weird pero that’s how I was raised.”

I ask him honestly, “Why don’t you have a girlfriend?”

He shrugs, “Too busy?”

Kumunot ang noo ko, “You asked me out so I think that’s not the reason. I’m pretty sure before I came back here there were plenty of girls that you can date.”

He keeps his eyes on the road, “I’ve only had a few girlfriends, one back in High School, one in College and one when I was working. ‘yong mga friends ko keep telling me ang pihikan ko, pero I just want someone that I feel will stay with me, you know? I don’t want to date too many girls then have to break up after a few months. I just feel like I’m wasting their time and they’re just wasting mine.”

I don’t want to burst his bubble and state the obvious – that I’m not staying. Pero I let it slide since I don’t want to ruin our date – my first date.

I look at him as he drives and try to change the subject, “If pwede kang pumili, anong negosyo or trabaho mo ngayon?”

He shrugs, “A sports shop or something? Nanghihinayang ako kasi hindi na ako masyado makapaglaro ng basketball and other sports. I was always good in sports but after College I didn’t have time to play na. It would be fitting if I had a business that I can relate to, but I guess things end, that part of my life siguro is over.”

“Why not have a side business related to sports? Pwede naman ‘di ba?”

He smiles sadly, “Running this business takes a lot of my time, hindi na nga ako masyado nakakalabas. Kaya no’ng nasa Subic tayo sinabihan ko ang staff ko not to bother me at bakasyon ko ‘yon.”

Kumunot ang noo ko. He’s a busy guy pero he spends time with me, kahit no’ng nasa Subic pwede namang hindi, pwede namang samahan niya na lang ‘yong friends niya pero he chose to spend it with me. Kahit ngayon, dapat yata ipinahinga na lang niya muna ang oras na kasama niya ako. Ihahatid pa niya ako sa bahay, hassle sa kanya.

He glances at me, “What are you thinking?”

Bago pa ako makasagot he says, “Let me guess, you’re thinking kung limited lang ang oras ko para sa sarili ko, why am I spending it with you? Naiisip mo siguro na I should probably rest kaysa ngayon na pinag-da-drive pa kita.”

Napanganga ako, “Ano ka telepathic? Should I be worried that you can read my mind?”

He grins, “The way you talk about yourself kasi, parang you always feel like you’re not worth spending time with. Let me tell you now, you’re wrong. I like talking to you, I like spending time with you and getting to know you better. If anything, you’re doing me a favor by going out with me.”

I bite my lip. He’s just too nice. Even back in High School, he’s the nicest popular guy I know, well, sa batch namin at least. Kuya and Ollie were the ones from theirs.

We get home at tinulungan akong bumaba ni Chase sa kotse, he puts his jacket on my shoulders, “Medyo malamig na.”

I smile kahit na hindi naman ako giniginaw, nasanay na ako sa weather sa US.

Pagtingin ko sa tapat ng bahay I was expecting Kuya to be waiting there, hindi ko siya binili ng McDo dahil inistorbo niya ang date namin for something na wala namang kwenta. Pero Kuya wasn’t there, wala na rin masyadong ilaw sa livingroom, I turn to Chase, “Tulog na yata sila.”

I don’t want to invite him in dahil… well, I don’t exactly know what to do now. We’re supposed to kiss na ba? I mean that’s what happens at the end of a good date right?

He looks at me and smiles, “Thanks for giving me the honor of being your first date.”

We just stand there and smile at each other, he laughs, “Oh my God. I don’t date that much pero I don’t think I’ve ever been this awkward before.”

Sumimangot ako, “Siguro because of me? I’m making it awkward.”

He looks at me intently, “No. It’s me, I just don’t know what to say to you or how to act. I’m second guessing myself.”

I playfully roll my eyes, “Akala ko pa naman you’re going to teach me how to date, hindi pala.”

He chuckles, “I just want to make sure I make a good impression sa ‘yo, so I don’t want to do or say things that will make you turn me down if I ask for another date. Like how I want to hold your hand but I have to respect your wishes – I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, like how I want to kiss you right now but I don’t want that to be your first kiss.”

Napalunok ako, I don’t have the heart to tell him even though I’ve never dated before, he will not be my first kiss.

I smile, “Sorry, this is just all new for me. Give me a few dates siguro magiging mas comfortable na ako. But I have to say that this date was amazing, definitely worth waiting for for 22 years.”

He laughs, “Well thank you and I’m glad you liked it.”

I bite my lip before saying, “But next time can we go on maybe a more informal date? Movies? Something like that?”

Lumapad ang ngiti niya, “So, you’re saying there’s a second date? Officially?”

I nod, “Ayaw mo na?”

He laughs, “Gusto.”

I smile, “Okay. You should go, para makapagpahinga ka.”

He nods, “Okay. I’ll text you, good night.”

Nakalakad na siya nang maalala ko ang jacket niya na nasa balikat ko, I remove it, “Hey, your jacket.”

Naglakad siya pabalik, sinalubong ko siya at iniabot ang jacket. When he gets close I feel like it’s a lame way to end a date so I hold on to his arm and stand on my tip toes to give him a kiss on the cheek. Pero dahil nagulat siguro siya he moves his face that I kiss his lips instead.

It’s just a smack on the lips pero my cheeks are burning.

We pull away at kinamot niya lang ang batok niya, “Well, at least we’re consistent sa awkwardness.”

I bite my lip, “Sorry. Nagulat kita.”

He walks backward, “I’m gonna go. Sorry. I’ll call you? Yeah? Good night.”

Kinawayan ko lang siya nang nakasakay na siya sa kotse at umalis.

Pumasok ako sa loob ng bahay at napatigil sa may livingroom when I see Ollie sitting on the stairs facing the door.

Nakita niya kaya ang kiss namin ni Chase?

Did it look as awkward as it was?

I clear my throat, “Why are you still up?”

“I was waiting for you,” he said simply.

Tumango lang ako, “I’m here na. So…”

I walk towards him and he gets up, “Turn on your alarm ng 7:00 AM tomorrow, may pupuntahan tayo.”

Kumunot ang noo ko, “Saan tayo pupunta?”

“May ibinilin sa akin si Lola Conchita kanina, she told me to take you.”

Baka para sa birthday niya, I haven’t done anything to help pa doon so I nod, “Okay.”

It’s so unlike Ollie pero he turns around and walks up the stairs, “Good night, Mimi.”

Wala na akong naisagot as I watch him leave.
 
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