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All Over Again ayreezh All Over Again


"Believe me..."

"I believe you."

I've read somewhere that the length of time

a person should be able to move on from a "break up"

is 1/3 of the time that the couple was together.

But what does "together" mean?

Is it the time when you start having feelings for the person?

Is it the time when you start just being with the person?

What if the person was forcefully taken away?

What if the person never cared?

Does science or society set up any rules for those kinds of situations?

When is it okay to care for someone again?

When is it okay to fall in love without the guilt?

When is it okay to be with someone again?

When is it okay to find solace in someone else?

When is it okay to be okay?

This is what happened after the Terminal.

This is the continuation of life.

...... .. ......


Dead & Gone


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

Oh great.. I'm lost..

I've been driving around the same neighborhood for about an hour now.. and I sti
ll can't figure out
where I'm supposed to turn.. Seeing this cemetery for about the nth time is alre
ady giving me the
creeps.. It's like seeing death over and over and over again..

and the number of cars parked on the side of the street.....

Someone's burial....

I knew I should have just taken a cab instead of renting this car.. -__-

It's been ten years since I last came home from the States..

I should've listened to my parents when they "offered" to pick me up..

*sigh* But who am I kidding? They're too busy to actually consider picking me up
. It's just part of their
whole "good parents" facade.

I parked my rented car a few feet away from the cemetery's entrance -- just behi
nd the last car that's
probably there for the burial.. I know I shouldn't crash some person's burial -it's not like I'm actually
crashing the burial, I'm just parking with them..... But I don't want to drive a
round for another hour!

I took out the new phone I got just before my flight from LA, and dialed my pare
nts' house number..
Technology today.. it does wonders -- allowing me to call whenever, wherever -using a phone from
another part of the world.

two rings.. three.. four..


Oh my gosh, she's home.. O_O

Ako: Mom? It's Jerwin.

Mom: Jerwin! Where are you?!? Kanina ka pa dapat nakarating dito sa bahay ah!

Ako: I know, but I'm lost. I think I'm somewhere near the neighborhood.. but I c
an't remember where to

Mom: Where are you? Ipapasundo na lang kita sa driver.

Ako: No, it's ok, mom.. Just tell me where to go. I'm at the.. cemetery..

Mom: The front entrance?

Napatingin ako dun sa entrance nung sementeryo.. Guards, a huge gate.. and a mod
erately sized board
that bears the name, "Garden of Lilies"..

Is that supposed to be associated with the term "heavenly garden"? -___-

Mom: Jerwin?

Ako: Yea.. I think I'm at the front entrance.

I took out a receipt from something I bought from the airport earlier, then star
ted writing the directions
my mom was throwing at me..

After a few minutes of making sure I got it, I hang up.. I looked at the directi
ons and frowned..

and here I thought I was near our house already.. Turns out I need to make at le
ast 5 more rights and

Just when I'm about to pull out from the side of the street, people started pour
ing out of the cemetery's
gates.. The service must be finished.. Man.. I might as well wait until they all
clear up -- I don't want the
problem of running someone over on my first day home..

People started to go into their own cars, while others stood on the corner stree
t still talking -- or crying..
Most of the people look young.. Probably around the same age as me..

I wonder if they buried a teacher.. or a principal?

I was still looking at the rush of people when my eyes fell on a certain group - well, more like on a
certain someone in that group.. They approached the parked cars, probably saying
their "thanks for

coming" kind of thing.. The family? or.. uh, siblings? cousins? They all look to
o young to be parents..
unless they buried an infant. -__- But then again, what's with the number of the
teenagers scurrying

Anyway, I stared at the girl..

She, like most of everyone else, was wearing white.. Her hair was wind-blown.. a
nd, although she was
following the girl and the boy, who were peering into cars' windows, she was jus
t staring into space,
frequently led to the next car by another girl and a very.. uh.. feminine-lookin
g guy..

I should just leave..

It would feel odd kung pati ako bigla nilang lapitan.. I shouldn't intrude on th
eir grief..

O_O Wait, why are they walking towards me!??

Oh crap! They probably think I attended the burial too..

The group stopped right next to my car, and the guy and the girl (who, I notice
now, must be siblings
considering how much alike they look) did their thing..

Girl 1: Thank you for coming.

Ako: I'm sorry for your lost.

Boy 1: Yes. Thank you.

These people look exhausted.

Their eyes are red -- probably from crying or lack of sleep or both.. Their shou
lders are slumped, as if
they just want to go back and mourn again..

My gaze fell again on the girl I was staring at earlier.. She was standing behin
d the siblings now, still
staring into space.. She certainly emanates a different kind of aura from the ot
her grief-stricken people..
But she wasn't crying.. Her face wasn't tear-stricken nor her eyes show any trac
e of redness..

The two people on each of her side appear to be supporting her..

Although, I can't seem to understand why..

She couldn't be family since she's not the one peering or talking to people who
attended the service..
She doesn't resemble the siblings in any way.. She doesn't seem to be in grief..

Yet people glance at her with sympathy.. the two people beside her are holding h
er arms as if she'll
break into pieces if they let go...

Suddenly, the girl turned and met my gaze.. She stared as I stared back..

..and I froze..

No.. she doesn't look exhausted.. She doesn't look grief-stricken..

She looks deprived of life..

She.. She looks dead...

Just then, the girl and the boy, who talked to me earlier, turned to go to this
lifeless girl..

No wonder they're all hovering around this being..

Girl 1: Let's go..

Girl 2: Halika na, best friend.. You've been through enough today..

I thought she wouldn't answer.. I mean really, come on, when someone is like tha
t, nagsasalita pa ba

But... The lifeless girl can talk.. or mumble, at least..

Lifeless Girl: You're done?

Her voice was steady, barely a whisper, but it was steady..

It would have been a sweet, perfectly-toned voice... if it wasn't so stressed wi

th pain..

Girl 1: Oo.. We're done, Venice..

They led her away to where they probably parked.. I followed them with my eyes f
or some time, then
shook my head.. Lots of bad things really happen in this world..

I pulled out of the side of the street and started to drive away..

But for some reason, I couldn't help but replay the expression on that girl's fa

May kung anong curse siguro ung sementeryo na un.. It plays tricks on your mind.


::Chapter 1::



about 2 years later...

(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

"Today, something will come along your way that is bound to change your life.

Do not try to avoid the inevitable."

It's another one of those usual bland, early mornings before I go to work and my
sister, Jeanette, would
set off for school.. And like always, the dining room is populated by just the t
wo of us and the
housekeeper, who would set our breakfast on the table and then go back to the ki

Don't bother asking where my parents are.. Maagang umaalis for who knows what, a
nd then come back
whenever they feel like they should -- which could be days or weeks at a time..

Part of the whole morning ritual is Jean's weird habit of reading the horoscope
section of the
newspaper, katulad ng ginagawa nya ngayon..

Ako: Horoscope mo today?

Jean: No, kuya.. This one's yours. Nabasa ko na ung akin, di ka ba nakikinig?

Ako: Not really.

Jean: Jeez.. But anyway.. Kuya! Something is bound to change your life daw!

Ako: That'd be nice.

Jean: You can at least pretend to be more excited, you know?

She folded the newspaper and set it next to her plate, still scanning the front
page article as she finishes
up her pancakes. I don't usually mind what she reads, pero... -___-

seeing my picture on the front page, and knowing the article is something about
me... it makes me feel
uneasy watching my sister read it..

Jean: Kuya.. (reading the article) Sabi dito, nag-multi-platinum nanaman daw ung
CD mo.. It's safe to call
you the Prince of the Music Industry for decades raw.. (giggles) Prince.. heehee

Ako: What's so funny about that??

Jean: If only they know how "un-princely" you are.. I doubt they'd dub you that

Sabi na nga ba.. Kaya ayokong may naririnig tohng batang toh tungkol sa'kin eh..
Laging may
pangontra... -___-

By the way, my name is Jerwin Santos. I'm 22 years old, and I've been working as
a recording artist
under a major record label for about two years now -- and yes, I can say I've be
en successful so far.. My
songs often debut at the top -- which is good since it shows that people like he
aring me sing (I guess).. I
appear in TV shows, commercials, billboards, gigs.. Name it, I've done it.

It's been a rollercoaster ride of fame for two years since I've come back from t
he States... Two years

Ako: If you're done eating, shouldn't you be leaving? You're going to be late.

Jean: Fine fine.. Seriously, kuya, learn to take a joke.. Masyado kang serious..
Panget ka na nga, mas lalo
ka pang papanget.. Abah--

Ako: Little brat. -___-

Tinawanan nya lang ako then went out of the dining room to look for the driver w
ho'll take her to
school.. I finished my breakfast and then stood up as well.. I might as well get
this day done and over

Something that will change my life, huh...

Won't that be interesting...

::Chapter 2::

The Day We Met


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

Ughhh.. Long day.. long day... -___-

I just finished taping a music video (finally wrapped that one up after weeks of
hard labor).. And before
that, there was that meeting with the sponsors, a guest appearance for a talk sh
ow, and lunch with my
manager, discussing work again..

Man, it's just work, work, work -- all day, every day..

Even now..

Well.. at least this is the final task for today...

Last trip before going home: the music arena, which is to be the venue for my co
ncert next week.. The
manager said they're supposed to be doing all the finishing touches sa set.. Per
o syempre, dahil late na
ko natapos sa lahat, nag-uwian na ung mga crew nung dumating ako..


Or so I thought..

Some of the lights are still on.. and there, at the center of the stage, a girl
wearing a school uniform is
standing, staring at the ceiling and at the production lights hanging up around
the stage..

Ghost? Multo? -___- Should I run away now?

I probably should.......

Ano naman magiging laban ko sa multo!??[/i][/color]


For some reason, I realized kung anong iniisip ko -- at kung gano ka-ridiculous
ung iniisip ko..

I mean come on, why would a student haunt this music hall? Shouldn't she be haun
ting school grounds?

So, even as my heart pounded twice as hard sa dibdib ko, I still cautiously star
ted to walk towards the
stage to see what she is -- I mean, to see what she wants..

Ehto na.. konti na lang.. Ilang steps na lang, mahahawakan ko na ung stage--

Just then, the girl suddenly let out a huge sigh and then turned around, facing
me.. O__O








Ghost: Hoy! Bakit mas malakas ka pa sa'kin sumigaw?!?!?

Ako: Are you kidding me!??! You scared the hell out of me!!

Ghost: Anoh!??!?! Anong tingin mo sa'kin!?!? Multo!??!?

Oh.. so she's human. O___O

Ako: What are you doing here anyway?? Pano ka nakapasok?

Girl: (jumped off the stage) I have my connections. (tingin sa'kin) Sinoh ka ba?


Ako: You don't know who I am?

Girl: Tatanungin ko ba naman kung sinoh ka kung kilala kita?! Gunggong.

Ako: Aish.. You wanna die!??

Girl: Only if you die first.

What is wrong with this girl!??

Ako: (clears throat) Anyway, my name is---

Girl: Nevermind. I don't really care who you are.

Really.... -__-

I should calm down.. Wala akong mapapala kung makikipagtalo ako dito.. I don't k
now her.. And as long
as she's not a ghost, then I'm okay.

I should just check everything as fast as I can and then leave. Yea, that's righ
t.. Good plan.

Girl: I used to dream of performing on this very stage....

The ghost girl turned her gaze back at the stage with a serene look plastered on
her face -- a far cry from
the pasaway, carefree mask she was wearing just a few moments ago.. O_O

Ako: Eh? So you're a performer?

A back-up singer? or a dancer? Is she one of my crew? How come I've never seen h
er before? Is she

She let out a soft sigh, then umikot para tumingin uhlet sa'kin..

Ah! There's the carefree face again. O_O

Ang galing.. It's like she can switch her idiotic expression on and off in momen

Girl: A performer, ha... (smiles) Yea.. I guess you can say that..

She took a quick glance at the stage again.. pero this time, it was like she was
staring at something more
distant.. I wonder.... kung may nakikita na syang multo.. -___-

Girl: The stage used to be my life.... until my life was taken away on stage.. F
rom then on, performing
just wasn't the same anymore..

"Life taken away"?? HER life?!??

Could she be a real ghost after all? T-T

Bago pa ko makapag-process, she suddenly jumped after checking the time on her w

Girl: Whoy! It's late! I gotta go! (biglang tingin sa'kin) Nice meeting you,-- u
h.. what's your name again??
er, nevermind! Bye!

I watched her run out of the hall.. Di man lang naghintay na mag-bye din ako, or
mag-wave man lang..
And she didn't even introduce herself! Psh.. Creepy ghost.

Weird.. Rude..

I looked back at the stage, and the girl's contemplative face flashed in my mind

And now that I think about it..

Have we met before??

She looks so familiar...

--- .. ---

(Venice's POV)

---------------- .


And of course, dahil malayo pa lang, nakikita na ang beauty ko, tumigil naman un
g tinatawag kong taxi..

I gave the driver my destination, and nung nalinaw na kung saan un, nilabas ko k
agad ung cellphone ko - ang naghihingalo kong cellphone -- and tinawagan si Ate Marian..


Ako: Ate! Haller!

Ate Marian: Oh, Venice.. Napatawag ka..

Ako: Makikipag-chikkahan sana ako kaya lang low batt na ko.. So anyway, straight
to the point na lang..
Napuntahan ko na ung pinapapuntahan mo.. It looks like the crew is pretty much d
one with everything..

Ate Marian: Ay talaga? Nako, buti naman.. Di kaseh ako nakapunta today dahil sa
meeting.. Pati ba ung
mga lights nakasabit na?

Ako: Yep, yep.. At least, I think everything is all set up.. Pupunta ka naman bu
kas di ba?

Ate Marian: Uhmmm.. Late afternoon pa siguro, after nung mga meeting at lunch da

Amazing na production assistant toh eh noh? Inuna pa ung lunch dates kesa dun sa
concert project nung
company nila..

Ako: Oh well, you can check na lang tomorrow kung may na-miss ako.. alam mo nama
n ako, malay ko ba
kung anong ginagawa nyo dun sa stage na un.. Dami-dami mong alalay dyan, ako pa
pinapunta mo para

Ate Marian: Ehhhh, pagbigyan mo na ko, Venice.. Baka pag nag-utos ako sa mga min
ions ko, baka mahuli
pa ko ni bossing eh.. Lab mo naman ako di vah?

Ako: Che! Abusado! Anyway, I gotta go..

Ate Marian: Eh? Already? Ah.. Nandyan ka nanaman....

Ako: Syempre naman, ate.. Ma-mmiss ko ba naman ang pagpunta dito? hahaha And bes
ides, anoh vah..
Mamamatay na nga cellpone kowh.. Kaya sige na.. bye bye, ate!

Ate Marian: *sigh* Okay.. Ingat ka.

I hang up the phone and looked out of the window..

Just one more place to go bago ako umuwi..

It didn't take long bago lumitaw ang white-washed walls nung cemetery.. Binaba a
ko nung taxi dun
mismo sa entrance, and after kong bayaran at mag-thank you kay manong, kinolekta
ko na lahat ng
gamit ko para makababa na..

The guards waved as I passed their booth dun sa entrance.. Suki na ko dito na ka
hit sinong guard at kahit
anong shift pa yan, kilala na ko..

I continued to walk dun sa loob nung cemetery.. Even as the sun starts to set, o
k lang din.. Sa tagal ko na
ba namang naglalakad dito, pati ung mga multo at bangkay, kilala na rin ko..

and just like any other day, I stopped in front of the well-kept grave.. I sat o
n the grass, and gently
touched the grave stone..

Ako: Sorry, I'm late.. Si Ate Mars kaseh eh, may pinadaanan pa.. But I'm here no
w... G...

::Chapter 3::

Just For One Night


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

Three hours.. She's three hours late...

After making sure that everything was going well in the concert venue, I drove s
traight to Seis, a barslash-nightclub dyan sa Makati.. I was supposed to meet her here before she leav
es early tomorrow
morning for a fashion show in Paris.. but...

Tatlong oras na kong nandito, and wala pa rin.. No text.. no call..

Maybe she's being held up at work again.......?

I looked through the one-way mirror nung window at the wall separating the VIP r
oom from the rest of
the nightclub.. The chaos outside is brightly lit by the laser-disco lights..

Samantalang ako, nandito, mag-isa, halos maubos na ung pang-ilan ko na bang bote
ng beer kakahintay..

We always meet up in this place.. Aside from the fact na it's close to impossibl
e to spot us among the
number of heads that come in to party every night, Seis has one of the most priv
ate VIP rooms any
nightclub can offer.. We don't have to worry about our "meeting" being leaked to
the press -- which is
just the way she wanted..


Napatalon ako nung biglang nagtutunog at nag-vibrate ung cellphone kong nakapato
ng dun sa maliit na
table in front of me.. I reached for it, half knowing what the text message woul
d say, and half hoping I'd
be wrong..

"Jerwin, I'm sorry.. We just finished with the rehearsal and I'm so tired. I don
't think I'd be able to meet
you up tonight. I'll see you when I get back? xx, Geena."

Well... I knew she was gonna ditch me again..

I should've known better than to hope otherwise..

*sigh* Wala na kong dahilan mag-stay dito.. Sayang lang oras ko.. I threw a few
bills on the table then
sinalpak ung cellphone ko in my pocket.. but then, just as I stood up, the door
to the VIP room suddenly
swung open, and a girl literally stumbled inside..O_O

I froze on the spot as she squinted her beady, drunk eyes at me, and then looked
around the room..

Girl: What? Izn't thizz the bathroom? =___=

Ako: Uh, no.. The bathroom is on the other side of the building.. O_O

Girl: Eh? That's weird.. I was so sure na dito un.. Ikaw! (pointed a shaky finge
r at me) Take me to the



Oh well.. I might as well walk her there since palabas na rin naman ako..

Oh gawd, I hope she doesn't throw up or anything..

Ako: O-okay...

I walked over to her carefully, watching her body as she sways dangerously from
side to side..

and when I finally reached her, when her face was finally close enough to see in
the poorly lit VIP room,
mahulog-hulog ang puso ko! O_O

Ako: You! Weren't you the girl from the music arena?!?!?!

Girl: (squints her eyes at me) Kuya.. Arena? Adik ka baaa? Nightclub toh! Bar! A
nd the best bartenders
and margaritas in townnn!

She doesn't remember me..

Which is not a surprise considering how much her breath reeks of alcohol.. Psh,
alcoholic. Is she trying to
kill herself?!?

Ako: Okay.. Wala ka bang kasama?

Girl: Nope! I'm alone! Alone! All aloooonnneeee!! So let's go to the bathroom-ro
om! Oh-kie!

I offered her my hand kaseh nga baka biglang bumagsak habang naglalakad kame.. N
akakahiya naman..
And that would attract a lot of attention..

She thrusts her hand in front of her, trying to take my hand -- only to fail.. ___- I can just imagine kung
ilang kamay ang talagang nakikita nya as she grabs halos each and every space na
malapit sa kamay ko..


After the third try, although it's amusing to watch her trying to figure out whe
re my hand is, ako na ung
kumuha nung kamay nya para lang mapadali kami..

Girl: Ooohhh!!! Ahyun pala ung kamay moh! I waz starting to wonder kung bakit an
g damiiii mong
kamay! Kuya, are yoouu humann?

Just then she looked up at my face again, and then swayed -- as in SWAYED -- lef
t and right.. And before
I could even react, she passed out. collapsed. fainted. right there. with me.

Is this my unlucky night or something!!?!??

I caught her just a few inches before she hit the floor -- much to HER luck. And
then, repositioned her so
that I can scoop her up without breaking my back.. Surprisingly, she's not that
heavy to carry -- much to
HER luck again, dahil kung mabigat sya, I would've dragged her to the booth inst
ead of carrying her.

I looked up at the door, still ajar from when she barged in, and noticed a few p
eople starting to look..
Guys who seem to have followed her drunken footsteps to this room.. Guys who are
emitting an aura of
doing something not good. -___-

Well.. there goes the plan of just leaving her in this room..

I took a deep breath and pagkatapos kong magdasal sa lahat ng santo na naaalala
ko, I walked briskly
out of the VIP room with the idiot ghost girl in my arms.. I ignored the looks a
nd the whispers hanggang
sa makalabas ako nung building and dashed straight to my truck..

It took me at least half an hour to get my keys out, figure out how to open the
passenger door with her
still in my arms, get her inside, make sure she doesn't fall over and hit her he
ad on the dashboard (for
the second time.. hehe malay ko bang babagsak syang paharap.. and besides, it wo
uld've been just my
luck if that impact would wake her up), fasten her seatbelt, and finally, sittin
g myself in the driver seat..

After catching my breath, I reached out to the purse na naka-swung around her sh
oulder.. I looked
through her wallet searching for an ID..

I found one, an ID with her home address.......

A street name I've never seen before.. at ung barangay na I didn't even know exi
sted.. -__-

How the hell am I supposed to bring her to a place na hindi ko naman alam kung s
aan?!? Nasa Luzon pa
ba un!?!

Cellphone! That's right, I can call someone and tell them to pick her up..

Rummage through the purse again, found it!

It's off.. Who turns off their phones when they're in a bar?

I tried to turn it on..


Maybe I'm pressing too lightly.. Try it again..

The screen flashed an image of a battery dying out...

Low batt.. O.O

Something.. Something is definitely messing with my luck here...

I slumped on my seat, speechless.. I can't believe it.. I'm stuck with this drun
k girl, not knowing where to
throw her out or who to call.. I should've just left her in that nightclub!!!

"Kuya... O_O Is this what you had in mind when your horoscope said something wil
l change your life??!"

I stared at my sister's shocked face as she absorbs the image of me in the doorw
ay, carrying a disheveled
girl inside our house..

I know.. I got so hopeless that I ended up just taking the ghost girl back home
with me..

Ako: Shut up. It's not what it looks like.

Jean: (stared at the girl) You're picking up drunk girls now? O_O

Ako: It's not like I wanted to! *sigh* Look, just close the door and help me lie
her down or something.

Jean: Why? O_O Is she a guest?

Ako: Jean.. I'll tell you the whole story in a while, okay? Now, will you just h
elp me get her settled in your
room? Coz it's tiring to just stand here, carrying her.

Sinarado ni Jean ung main door, but then she stopped to look at me nung sinabi k
ong sa kwarto nya
dadalhin ung bitbit ko..

Jean: Uh, she is NOT going in my room.

Ako: What?? Why not!?

Jean: One, I have a twin bed. We're not gonna fit kung magtatabi kami. Two, she
smells like alcohol.
Even if I sponge her down, she'd still smell like some sort of drink.. Put her i
n YOUR room! Your bed is
big enough and you don't care for alcohol-smell....

Ako: WHAT?!? NO!

Jean: Why'd you bring her home then?!? We don't have a spare room! Unless you wa
nna put her in
mom and dad's room.....

Ako: Ugh, don't even go there.. Look.. She's a GIRL! It's only proper that she u
ses YOUR room since
you're a GIRL too!

Jean: No! You are not putting her in my room! Unless...

She smiled.... a cunning smile.. I hate it when she smiles like that... -___- It
signals my defeat. T-T

Jean: You want me to tell mom that you refused a concert in the States last mont

Ako: You WOULDN'T! You know she'd freak out if she hears that!

Jean: Well, your room it is then!

Ako: Little brat.

Tumawa lang si Jean as she led the way papunta sa kwarto ko.. All the while ratt
ling on about how we
should probably clean up the stranger and change her clothes.. It's a good thing
my parents aren't
home, or else.. They'd probably kill me for bringing home a drunk, passed out gi

*sigh* Let's hope my bad luck stops here..

I slowly put down the unconscious girl sa kama ko and then turned to look at Jea
n, na naghahalungkat
naman sa closet ko..

Ako: What do you think are you doing?

Jean: She's borrowing one of your shirts.

Ako: WHAT?!? WHY!??

Jean: We can't just leave her with the same clothes on.. That's just icky. And b
esides, I bet she's been
wearing that uniform the whooleeee day...

Napatingin ako dun sa babaeng tulog sa kama ko.. What Jean said might be true..
I mean, surely, umaga
ung klase nya, then she went to the music hall in the afternoon.. afterwards, sh
e left but didn't go
home.. and ngayon, ung uniform nya pa rin ang suot nya..

"This would do."

Bumalik ung tingin ko kay Jean na nag-pull out nung isa sa mga red shirts ko.. S
he examined the size,
then nung naisip nya sigurong it's good enough, she folded it and put it at the
night table beside my

Ako: Why can't she just borrow one of your clothes?

Jean: Duh. My clothes are too small for her.. Anyway, I'm gonna go get a face to
wel and a basin of water
to clean her up.. You should get a shower, kuya.. You look terrible..

Ako: Oh, thanks. -__-

Jean: heehee I'll change her clothes as well.. I'll be done by the time you get
out of the shower.. THEN,
you'll tell me why she's here.

I watched as Jean left the room para kunin ung portable cleaning utensils nya..
Jean has always been this
responsible.. kahit na gulo ko ung nililinis nya.. Ha.. It's hard to believe she
's just 12..

I looked at the unconscious girl on my bed again..

Well.. one night of sleeping next to a stranger can't possibly hurt..

::Chapter 4::

Start of Something


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

yaaaawwwwwwwnnnnnnnnn... *stretch*

Man, that was the one of the best sleep I've had in a while! -__-

Now, time to roll out of bed and go to school--



Bakit iba ang kulay ng ceiling ng kwarto ko??

Bakit iba ang kulay ng kumot ko?

Bakit may humihilik sa tabi ko??


Dahan-dahan kong inukot ung mukha ko just to look kung anong nangyayari sa world
.. *gulp* May
hotdog pillow sa side ko... pero.. pero.. ung tingin ko napalipad kagad dun sa h
umihilik-hilik na creature
sa other side nung hotdog pillow..O__O

Tao.. Bakit may ibang tao sa kama ko?!?!?

Napatingin akong bigla sa paligid.. Kelan pa naging light brown ang white walls

Kelan pa ko nagkaron ng mahogany-looking na study table dun sa may kama!?!?

Kaninong kwarto toh?!?!?!?! O__O

I must be dreaming.......

that's it..

Pinikit ko uhlet ung mata ko para bumalik sa pagkakatulog ko.. dahil kahit anong
gawin ko, hindi ko
talaga kwarto ito.. at hindi ko talaga alam kung pano ako napunta dito..... at h
indi ko rin ma-take ang

boom-boom-pow ng veins ng head ko.. at hindi ko rin alam kung kaninong ulo tohng
nag-cconcert ng
hilik sa tabi ko...


Siguro paggising ko, white na uhlet ang walls ko.. light blue na uhlet ang kumot
ko.. at wala na tohng
skandalosong tulog na toh sa tabi ko...






Arghhh!!!! I can't take it anymore!

Bigla akong napaupo (whoa! the world is spinning.. O__O ), hinablot ung unan ko
at hinampas with all
my might dun sa mukhang matutulog na nga lang, eh magsskandalo pa! At hindi pa k
o natuwa sa
pagkakahampas ko, diniin ko pa talaga ung unan sa mukha nya, manahimik lang sya!

Ako: Ikaw! Eextra ka na nga lang sa panaginip ko, ayaw mo pa kong patulugin!!!

Sabi yata nung part of the brain ko na nag-ccontrol sa dreams, dapat pag may nag
-ssuffocate syo,
magigising ka.. dahil ung taong sinusuffocate ko ngayon eh biglang nag-iba ang i
ngay at lumipad ung
mga kamay nya dun sa unan sa mukha nya..

Oh di vah, kahit tulog ako, may scientific sense pa rin ung dreams ko..

Nung na-realize ko na malamang eh either patay na sya or gising na sya, tinangga

l ko na ung kamay ko,
and sya tinapon ung unan all the way duuunnn sa dulo nung kama..

Tapos bigla syang tumayo, gasping for breath, and then turned to glare at me..

Skandaloso: Are you trying to kill me!??!!?

Ako: Ang ingay mo kaseh eh!

Tinitigan kong mabuti si kuya.. Familiar ang face.. Hmmmm... Well, ang weird nam
an kung hindi familiar
ang face nya, tapos eextra sya sa dreams ko di ba? Pero.. san ko nga ba sya naki


WAH! Teka!

Ako: (biglang turo sa kanya) Ikaw ung guy dun sa concert hall! Anong ginagawa mo

Skandaloso: WHAT?!? AKO pa ang tinatanong mo kung anong ginagawa KO dito?!?!

Ako: Ahsush.. Iniisip mo ko kagabi bago ka matulog noh? Kaya siguro pati sa pana
ginip ko, nakiki-extra

Skandaloso: What are you talking about?? Anong panaginip??


Ako: But.. this.. O_O

Isn't this a dream?

I reached out to his face, and with all the power na kaya ng muscles ng thumb at
index finger ko, kinurot
ko ung pisngi nya.. ahihihihi

Skandaloso: AWWW!!!! AWWWW!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!!?


Tinulak nya palayo ung kamay ko, then went on with a whole paragraph of profanit
ies as he rubbed his
cheek na namumula sa kurot ko..

Ako naman, wala.. natulala.. nawindang.. natanggalan ng soul..

Ako: It's not a dream.. Where am I??

Skandaloso: Ngayon mo lang na-realize?!? You're in my room.. Long story short, y

ou were so drunk last
night that I had to take you with me.


Inuwi ako ni kuya sa bahay nya?!?!?!?!

Skandaloso: Stop looking dumb.. I didn't do anything.

Ako: Eh bahket tayo nasa iisang kama!??!?!

Skandaloso: Coz my sister didn't want some drunk stranger in her room..

Ako: Bakit di ka sa sahig natulog?!?

Skandaloso: Babaliw ka ba?!? It's my bed! You should be thankful I didn't make Y
OU sleep on the floor!

Ako: Ughh.. My head hurts.. T-T

Skandaloso: Serves you right.. After being so drunk last night, himala kung wala
kang hang-over ngayon..

Tumayo na si kuya from the bed, and I realized na may damit naman pala sya.. San
do at shorts.. hindi
naman mukhang kabastos-bastos.. But still...

Ako: And sure kang walang nangyari..... rite?

Skandaloso: As if I'd waste my time picking up some random drunk girl, when I ca
n just have anyone else
out there -- who's not drunk -- and have my way with her..

Ai.. arogante si kuya.. Malakas ang wind.. -__-


Wah! May sumisigaw!!!

Biglang nanlaki ung mata ni kuya, tapos dinaig pa si Road Runner sa bilis ng tak
bo papunta sa pinto..
kaya lang nabunggo nya ung isang paa dun sa isang leg nung kama.. kaya imbis na
mapadali, eh
nagtatalon si kuya sa sakit at sa panic.. Naaliw ako..

Kasoh lang, biglang tumigil ang puso ko nang bumukas wiiiddeeee open ang pinto n
ung kwarto.. at isang
middle-aged woman ang sumulpot sa doorway, holding a newspaper in her hands..

Skandaloso: M-MOM?!??!?!



Right then and there, nagdasal ako na lamunin na ko nung kama.. tapos lamunin nu
ng sahig ung kama..
at lamunin ng lupa ung sahig..

Na-frozen si kuya dun sa gitna nung kwarto as his mom stared open-mouthed at me.

Dahan-dahan kong tinignan ung sarili ko, pasimpleng silip ba.. I'm wearing a shi
rt.. a boy's shirt..
probably HIS shirt..

no shorts, no PJs.. although mahaba naman ung shirt para ma-cover ang dapat ma-c

and I'm still wearing my underwear.. So, that's one more sign na WALA talagang k

But I don't think his mom realizes that.. She just looked at me and then at Jerw
in.. and then back at me...

Ako: Uh.. hi?

::Chapter 5::



(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Arrghhhh.. Anoh na bang nangyayari dun?!?! Anong pinag-uusapan nila!??!

I paced back and forth dun sa living room kung san tinapon kame ni Jerwin ng mga
nanay namen -- na
nag-uusap naman dun sa dining room sa kabilang side nung bahay..

Ehwan ko ba talaga kung anong nangyayari sa world.. Bastah ang alam ko, kung anu
man ung
nangyayare, maya-maya lang, pag wala nang witness, papatayin na ko ng nanay ko..

Haaayyyyy... I lived a full life. -__-

Everything happened so fast.. o siguro, kaya sya naging fast eh dahel sa sobrang
panic attack ko, nagblur tuloy ang lahat.. Anyway, pagsulpot nung nanay ni Jerwin sa kwarto.. and up
on seeing the ME with
only her son's shirt on.. nakahiga sa kama nung anak nya.. at ang anak nyang bag
ong gising rin....... -___Nagpanic yata si mother.. Kahit na may I compose sya nung facade nya, na kunwari
eh calm sya, ung
mata nya naman eh halos mahulog hulog na sa kakatingin sa'min ni Jerwin...

Pinaligo nya lang si Jerwin, tapos pinaghilamos ako.. Pinakain kami ng very tens
ed at mabilisang almusal,
and then halos kaladkarin kaming dalawa ni Jerwin to her car, at dumiretso dito
sa bahay para kausapin
ang mother ko..

At hanggang ngayon, wala pa ring news kung anong nangyayari sa discussion nila..

"Will you sit down? You're giving me a headache!"

Napatingin ako bigla kay Jerwin, na nakaupo dun sa isa sa mga sofa namen, nagbab
asa nung newspaper
na inabot sa kanya nung nanay nya kanina.. Op corz, ako naman si ever curious, l
umapit ako para makitsismis kung anu bang tinitignan nya dun with all intent..

Ako: Hmmm anoh bang pinagkaka-serious serious mo dyan??

I walked dun sa likod nung inuupuan nya, then peered dun sa newspaper..

Hmmm.. -___-



Bigla kong hinablot ung newspaper sa kamay nya at napatitig sa picture -- full-b
lown picture -- dun sa
front page -- FRONT PAGE!!!

Dun sa picture, although may pagkadilim, mukhang malaki ang megapixels nung came
ra dahel oh so
clear ang picture! Buhat ang unconscious na ako ng so serious na si Jerwin! Kita
ng-kita ung face ni
Jerwin.... I guess the only consolation eh naka-bury ung mukha ko sa chest ni Je
rwin kaya hindi
masyadong kita ung face ko..........

Although, kung nakikita mo ko so often, I'm sure, mapa-overtake ka lang ng 2nd t

ime dun sa picture, marrealize mong ako, AKO talaga un!!!

What is this? T^T

Ako: Ako yan! Ikaw yan! Bahket mo ko buhat!??!?! Kelan toh?!? San toh?!?!?!?

Jerwin: It was from last night. Remember? You were so drunk, you passed out. I h
ad to carry you out.

Ako: Why??! T-T

Jerwin: Eh anong gusto mong gawin ko?? Just leave you there and let those other
guys prey on you?
Though it doesn't seem to be such a bad idea now.

Ako: (sarcastic) Oh. Thanks for the concern.

Binato ko ung newspaper sa kanya, which he barely caught.. hehe..

I can't believe this is happening.. at talagang picture picture pa!

Napaupo ako dun sa tabi ni Jerwin, and let out a huge sigh..

Ako: Anong newspaper ba yan!? And besides, why are they even plastering other pe
ople's lives on the
paper?!? At front page pa!

Jerwin: Coz people are always interested in celebrities' personal lives.

Ako: Celebrity? Sinong celebrity?

Napatingin sa'kin bigla si Jerwin with a big "ehhhh??" on his face.. Then he hel
d up the newspaper and
pointed at the big bold letters of the title nung article:

"Pop Superstar Jerwin Santos: Carrying Mystery Lady"




Tinuro ko ung headline, then tinuro ko sya.. He nodded..

Tinuro ko uhlet ung headline, then tinuro ko uhlet sya.. He nodded again..


Ako: WAAHHH!!! What is this!?!?!? Celebrity ka!?! "Pop Superstar"!?!? Bahket hin
de kita nakilala!??!
Joke ba toh?!?! Is this a prank!?!??!

Jerwin: I don't even know you, why would I play a prank on you? At kasalanan ko
bang you're so dense,
you didn't recognize me?

Ako: Dense? -__-

Jerwin: Yep.

Ako: AKO?!? Dense?!!??

Jerwin: Would you rather I use the term "stupid" then?




Jerwin: Aw! What was that for?!?!?!?

Ako: Anong "stupid"?!? Sinong stupid ha!??!

Jerwin: Hey look! You don't even know me, binabatukan mo na ko!??

Ako: (smiles) Yeaa, baka sakaling magising yang brain cells mo. Di ba?

Jerwin: Why you--!

Ako: Oh anoh!? Magsabunutan tayo dito, ha?!?

Jerwin: Psshh.. Pasalamat ka, babae ka.

Ako: I know, I'm really thankful na maganda ako noh.

He rolled his eyes at me, at ako naman, bumalik sa pag-ppace ko dun sa harap nya
.. Wala pa rin ang mga
magulang namen.. Abah! Hinde ako pumasok sa school dahil dito sa chuchu nila, ta
pos paghihintayin
lang pala nila ako?!

Ako: What's taking them so long??

Jerwin: I don't know. My mom is probably making some ridiculous deal with your m

Ako: Like?

Jerwin: (shrugs) How am I supposed to know? Eh magkasama tayo dito..

Ako: Namumuro ka na ha.. -__-

Jerwin: Yea well, see this?

Tinuro nya uhlet ung picture namen sa newspaper, then he looked at me like he wa
s trying to explain
something very complex to a little kid.. Namumuro na tlaga... -___-

Jerwin: This is gonna cause some major scandal. I don't like any kind of scandal
. It's stressful. It's
annoying. And it's all your fault.

Ako: At kasalanan ko pang nagpaka-hero effect ka dyan??

Jerwin: Yea! If you can't control your drink, then don't drink! Geez.

Nag-slump sya dun sa couch, finally putting the newspaper aside.. Mukha ngang st
ressed out si kuya..
Siguro nga, may point sya......

Pero tama ba namang sa'kin ilagay lahat lahat lahat ng sisi?!?

Ako: Eh anong gusto mong gawin ko?! Hug gusto mo!?

Jerwin: (chuckles) You dare to touch me?

Ai.. kuya.. Porket may star power ka, kala mo di kita ma-ttouch dyan?!

Dahan-dahan akong lumapit kay kuya, papunta uhlet dun sa likod nung inuupuan nya
.. All the while, he
was watching me with a curious expression.. Ako pa ang naisipan nyang i-dare.. A
s if naman di ko sya
mahahawakan.. Anoh ba sya, ginto!?? Don't touch: Fragile?!?

Ako: Of course naman.. Bahket? Sobrang demure mo ba na mahihiya ka pag hinawakan


I ran my finger slowly on his shoulder, smiling at his bewildered expression.. O

h di vah, enjoy~?

Ako: Stressed out ka di ba? Gusto mo, imasahe kita?

I slowly massaged his shoulders, slowly working my way papunta sa leeg nya..

Jerwin: W-What--- O__O


Napatalon kaming dalawa nung may biglang sumulpot dun sa doorway nung living roo

As in 10 feet away ang talon ko from the couch; at buong dugo yata sa katawan ny
a ang nag-rush sa
mukha ni Jerwin.

Napaikot kaming bigla dun sa pinanggalingan nung "ahem".. at josko.. maaga yata
talaga akong mammurder ng nanay ko.. T-T

Ako: M-M-Mom?!?!

Mom: Venice.. Sisilipin ko lang sana kayo, pero mukha namang ok na ok kayong dal

Ako: A-anoh.... O__O

Mom: Sige lang, alagaan mong mabuti ung bisita naten ha.. (tingin kay Jerwin) Se
e you later, Jerwin.

Aii nag-wink.. nag-wink ang nanay ko kay Jerwin... Napapaghalataan talaga kung s
an ko namana ang
kalandian ko.. O___O

She walked out of the room at bumalik dun sa meeting venue nila ng nanay ni Jerw
in.. Napahawak ako
sa dibdib ko.. Masama, masama ang mga ganitong pangyayari sa puso.. My golay..

Jerwin: Geez!

Napalipat ung atensyon ko kay Jerwin, na hanggang ngayon eh namumula pa.. wahaha

Lumapit uhlet ako sa kanya, pero this time, umupo na lang ako dun sa tabi nya..
Ahyan, wala nang
malice yan..

Ako: Ahsush.. Kaw naman.. nahiya pa.. parang di ka pa nahuhuli na may nagmamasah
e syo..

Jerwin: Shut up.

Halos 5 minutes pang nagtuloy-tuloy ung panunukso ko sa kanya.. Natigilan lang a

ko nung nakita naming
pumasok sa living room ung mga nanay namen.. Syempre, kaming dalawa naman, napat
nanahimik... Naghihintay ng kung anong judgment..

Mom: We've decided.

Ako: Decided?

Nagtinginan kame ni Jerwin.. May na-miss ba kame kanina?

Jerwin: Decided what?

Mrs. Santos: You two are going to get married.




Jerwin at Ako: WHAT?!?!?!?!

::Chapter 6::

Diamond Ring


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

There's got to be a mistake.. Siguro nga, may kung sinong nang-ttrip sa'kin.. If
ever man! Anoh vah! Hindi
pah ba time para lumabas?!?! Aatakihin na ko sa puso dito!!!!

Jerwin: M-Marriage.. M-Mom.. What are you talking about?

Mrs. Santos: Well, if you think about it, marriage is the perfect solution for e
verything that's going on, di
ba, kumare?

K-Kumare?!? Kumare na ang tawag nya sa nanay ko?! Mag-kumare na sila?!?!

Jerwin: Solution for what? If this is about the bed-sharing that happened last n
ight, kanina pa namen
sinasabi snyo, nothing happened!

Mrs. Santos: We may choose to believe that nothing happened, but the fact is, yo
u two shared a bed.. a
man and a woman.. on the same bed the entire night.. Kahit anong sabihin nyo, wh
at I saw and what my
maternal instict tells me.......

Ang old-fashioned.. -__- Old-fashioned na pervert ang utak ng mother ni Jerwin..


Ang contradicting...

Mom: And the pictures! Nako, iikot sigurado un sa internet, sa TV! Abah, Venice,
magtatanong ang mga
tao! Baka may mga sumunod pa na ilabas.. Hindi ka matatahimik, anak.

Ako: Pero.. This is all so sudden! I'm only 21........ Mahaba pa ang future ko..
May mga pangarap pa ko sa
life.. Ang mga places to go, mga things to see.. In other words, ayoko pa mag-as
awa.. T-T

Mom: It's not like it's an instant marriage.. Hindi naman kami ganun ka-cruel, d
i ba kumare?

Ai.. hindi ba? T-T

Mrs. Santos: Exactly. How about a long engagement? Di ba? Just think of it as an
arranged marriage.

Jerwin: But, mom--

Mrs. Santos: No "buts", Jerwin. You are doing this! Think of all the positive pu
blicity you're gonna get the
moment we annouce the engagement..

Ako: Publicity? O_O

So publicity stunt lang ako!? Ganon?!?

Mom: Well, sabi ni Mrs. Santos, kung kilala ka ng mga tao, at kung madalas ka ni
lang nakikita, hindi sila
magiging ganon ka-curious syo.. So, they won't mob you as much... probably..

Naramdaman kong napasandal si Jerwin dun sa couch.. Syempre, napalipad ung tingi
n ko sa kanya..
bahket nag-rrelax na toh?!? Nag-ggive up na si kuya?!?!?! Nababaliw ba sya?!?

Ako: (bulong kay Jerwin) What are you doing?!? Back me up here!

Jerwin: (bulong pabalik) But they seem so determined about this engagement thing

Ako: You are killing me!

Jerwin: Oh, it'll be okay. Haven't you heard? (smiles) Parents know best.

Ang--!!! O__O

Ako: Eh kung sabunutan kaya kita dyan?!?!?

Jerwin: They'll probably think it's a show of affection.

Ako: Eh!?

Mrs. Santos: Well, now that's done and over with, let's go to the jewelry store.

Ako: J-Jewelry store?

Mom: Abah, syempre, we need to pick out your engagement ring!

Ako: B-but I have class to go to! And-- And.. Jerwin! Wala ka bang klase? Work?

Jerwin: Nope. I cleared out my entire morning schedule just for you, sweetheart.

"Sweetheart"?!! Ewww... -__-

Mom: Ok lang un, Venice.. We'll be done before noon, makakahabol ka pa sa dalawa
mong klase..

Mrs. Santos: Bakit hindi ka na lang magshower na at magpalit ng uniform, para af

ter naten kumuha ng
ring, we can just drop you off at your school?

Mom: Ai! Perfect plan, kumare!

Oh josko... T^T

Ako: I can't believe na nakikisali ka dito!

Jerwin: Oh relax.. It's just an engagement. We're lucky they didn't propose an i
mmediate wedding.

Ako: But we're getting engaged! I don't even know you!

Jerwin: Oh. (tingin sa'kin) Jerwin Santos. 22 years old. I'm a recording artist.
Nice to meet you.

Ipalamon ko kaya sa kanya lahat ng singsing dito sa harap namen.. Mabubuhay pa k

aya sya? -__-

Anyway, Mrs. Santos and my mom dragged me and Jerwin to this really chic jewelry
store para mag-pick
out ng engagement ring..... Well, actually, they're picking out the ring..

Props lang kame ni Jerwin, as we try to look like a couple para dun sa mga oglin
g na salesclerks and
other people around.. I can't believe he's this famous, and I didn't even recogn
ize him....

Something's probably wrong with my eyes. -_-

"Uh, excuse me poh?"

Napatigil kaming dalawa nang may nag-approach na teenager sa'min, holding a came
ra, at naka-uniform
pa.. High school uniform..

Iha, maaga pa para mawalan ng klaseh ah..

Jerwin: Yes?

Teenager: Pwede poh bang magpa-picture?

Jerwin: Sure.

Okay. Anoh ako? Kasama bah ko? I should probably step out of the way...

Teenager: Ate, pakuha naman nung picture oh!

Ay.. Inabot sa'kin ung camera..

Ako namang si mabait, kinuha ko naman.. Jerwin just shrugged at me as the bubbly
little teenager ran to
his side -- kulang na lang eh mag-bounce bounce sa sobrang excitement.

Jerwin put his arm around the fan's shoulders and then pareho silang ngumiti dun
sa camerang hawak
ko.. Kuya naman, feel na feel ang pagiging star..

Ako: Okay.. Ready? 1.. 2... 3... Smile..


Teenager: Ate, pwede isa pa?

Ako: Uh, sure..

Abusado kang bata ka ha..

I took one more picture.. and another.. and another..

Napapansin ko ngang medyo na-aawkward na si Jerwin, pero tuloy pa rin naman ung
pag-smile nya dun
sa bata.. Mabait na celebrity.. nyahahaha

Finally, nagsawa na rin ung bata, kinuha na ung camera sa'kin..

Teenager: Thank you, ate ha..

Ako: You're welcome..

Lumapit sya sa'kin ng konti tapos nag-signal na may ibubulong sya.. So syempre a
ko naman, as if by
reflex na pag "bulong" ibig sabihin eh "latest chikka", lumapit naman kagad ako.

Teenager: Ate, kaano-ano mo si Jerwin Santos?

Ako: Ha?!? Kaano-ano ko si Jerwin??! O_O

Napatingin ako bigla kay Jerwin, who's looking naman sa'min with an amused look
on his face..

Napalakas yata ung exclamation ko.. Pati ung ibang taong nakapaligid sa'min eh n
akatingin rin.. -__-

Ako: Ah, anoh...

Anoh naman sasabihin ko?! Fianc? Josko, kakilabot! Hinde ko kaya~ T-T

Maya-maya, may naramdaman na lang ako bigla na braso na nag-wrap around sa shoul
der ko, and then
pulled me close to him.. Syempre ako naman, napatingin kung sinoh bah tong bulga
ran ang chansing

*gulp* Si Jerwin....

Jerwin: Ikaw siguro unang makakaalam nito, but this girl right here...

Oh my golay.. Ehto na.. Sasabihin nya.. Sasabihin nya talaga!

Jerwin: This is Venice, my fiance.


Sinabi nya! Sinabi nya talaga! At nakangiti pa si kuya! Nakangiti pa talaga sya!

Ai josko ang puso ko! Ang dugo ko! Ang mukha ko!

Mag-ccommentary sana si teenager, kaya lang biglang may isa pang ate na biglang
lumapit sa'min -mukhang sa sobrang shock ni ate, eh hinde nya na natiis na hinde lumapit..

Ate: Fiance?!?

Jerwin: Yes. We're here to pick out an engagement ring. Our mothers are pretty m
uch going crazy over
the rings right now.

He nodded his head over kung nasan ung mga nanay namen na busy pa rin sa pagpili
nila ng
engagement ring. The Ring. -__-

Nagsimula na ang bulungan sa store.. Ahyan na, kumakalat na ang balita.. Ahyan n

Teenager: Eh di, ate. Pwede pa-picture uhlet? Tayong dalawa naman?

Ai! Picture!

Napatingin ako kay Jerwin who just smiled at me. Hindi ung smile na pang-encoura
ge, instead, ung smile
pa na pang-asar.. Bubwit talaga.

Tapos kinuha nya ung camera uhlet nung high schooler, and lumapit naman sa'kin s
i high schooler..
Syempre, feel na feel ko naman ang pagpapapicture, sige, nag-photo op kami nung
bata -- kunwari di
labag sa kalooban ko ang mga nangyayari.

Pero unlike kay Jerwin, dalawang picture lang ung sa'min ni batang nagccutting n
g klase..

Teenager: (kinuha ung camera kay Jerwin) Ok, kayo namang dalawa!

Lumapit sa'kin si Jerwin, and katulad nung ginawa nya kanina, he wrapped his arm
around my shoulder
again and pulled me a little closer to him..

Ako: (bulong sa kanya) Talagang kailangan mong sabihin sa kanilang lahat noh?!

Jerwin: (bulong pabalik) But it's the truth. You are my fiance. Now, smile.

The little high schooler took about 2 or 3 pictures namin ni Jerwin, hanggang fi
nally, napagod na, nagthank you na sya at tinago na ung camera nya.. at ehto pa ang parting words nya:

Teenager: I can't wait na ipakita toh sa mga kaklase ko!

*Sigh* Wala na talaga akong takas...

After matapos ang impromptu pictorial, hinaltak na ko ni Jerwin papunta dun sa c

ase na tinitignan nung
mga nanay namen.. Malamang kaseh ung mga tao dun sa paligid namen eh parang kont
ing-konti na
lang, eh susugurin na kame ng tanong..

Jerwin: Are you done yet?

Mrs. Santos: Well, we narrowed it to three. Pinapakuha na lang namen dun sa sale
slady ung last one.

Ako: Three?

Mom: Oo, anak.. Para madali kang makapili ng diamong ring mo..

Ako: Diamond?? O_O

Diamonds?! Bakit diamond? Di ba pwedeng pearl? sapphire? ruby? emerald? amethyst

? o kung anoh
mang may kulay na bato dyan sa kalsada?!? Bakit kailangan diamond??

Mrs. Santos: But of course, diamonds are a girl's best friend di ba?

Mom: And engagement rings should be diamonds!

I gave a short laugh and then stepped back.. Bigyan ba naman ako ng diamond?

Siguro betrayal toh to all the females in the world, pero for some reason, hinde
ko bff ang diamond..
Siguro kaseh pag nakakakita ako ng diamond, parang naiisip ko kagad: pwet ng bas
o. wahahaha


"You don't want a diamond ring?"

Napatalon akong bigla nung may bumulong sa tabi ko.. Josko naman tohng si Jerwin
, may pagka-ninja!

Ako: Not really...

Tumingin-tingin ako dun sa kabilang case ng mga rings para pakalmahin ang nagula
ntang kong puso..
Sumunod naman sa'kin si Jerwin as I browse through the expensive displays.. I kn
ow, hinde ako
natutuwa sa engagement.. pero sinong hinde maaaliw pag ganitong binibili ka ng m
amahalin na

Whooaaaa... Wait...

Napatigil ako bigla dun sa isang case display, at halos idikit ko na ung mukha k
o dun sa glass para lang
matitigan ung isang ring..

Jerwin: You know, those aren't really engagement rings...

Ako: But look how pretty that is...

It's a white-gold ring with a center heart-shaped, aquamarine stone and an outli
ne of little diamond
accents around the heart.. It's so pretty~

Jerwin stepped beside me.. Nilapit nya rin ung mukha nya dun sa ring na tinitign
an ko, nakikitingin din..

Jerwin: Do you want that ring?

Ako: Ha?!?

Ay nagising akong bigla dun sa lust ko for the ring! But it's so preeettttyyyy~

Sigh. Pero syempre, hinde naman kaya ng budget ko yan, so I might as well stop t
he dream. Haaayyyy..
Tumayo na lang ako ng ayos and quickly looked somewhere else..

Tumayo na rin ng ayos si Jerwin, pero he's still looking at the ring..

Jerwin: I'm asking if you want that ring.

Ako: H-Hinde ah! I'm just saying it's pretty.. and besides, di ba nga, dapat dia
mond ang center stone ng
engagement ring.. haha Kaw talaga.. Hindi ka nakikinig.. hahahahaha Halika na ng
a dun sa mga nanay
naten at nang makalayas na tayo dito..

I immediately walked over pabalik dun sa mga nanay namen.. Si kuya talaga, shock
ing.. -__- Bigla ba
naman akong tanungin ng ganon.. Bahket, pag sinabe ko bang "oo!" bibilhin nya?!?

.....baka nga.... ayyyy asa!

Just in time nung na-reach ko ung nanay ko, the last of the picked-out rings was
being laid out sa harap
nila.. And my golay! Anoh ba namang pinagpipili ng mga nanay na toh?!?!

Gusto ba nila akong ma-hold up dyan sa tabi-tabi dahel sa singsing?!?

A saleslady proceeded to describe each ring to me.. parang naman hindi pa enough
na nag-ssparkle
sparkle sila sa harap ko..

One is a three-stone ring.. three stone, as in three major diamonds with an outl
ine of little diamonds pa!
The metal is white-gold.. Siguro pag nanuntok ako ng tao, diamond-knuckles ang d
ating ng singsing na

Ung second naman, josko... ung white gold na band eh may nakadikit rin na malili
it na diamonds.. and
ung center diamond, complemented by "pave-set of diamonds" (ehwan ko ibig sabihi
n nun, bastah
ahyun ung sabi nung nagbebenta).. at nakausli ung center diamond.. O_O Ehto ung
tipo na pag
nanuntok ka, magkakaron ng butas ung sinuntok mo..

and the third one.. Siguro ehto na ung pinaka-simple.. Although may diamonds pa
rin ung white-gold
band, maliit lang naman ung center diamond.. The center diamond is round, wala n
ang kung anu-anong
arte.. The classic engagement ring.. Pag nanuntok, parang kagat lang ng lamok un
g singsing..

Ako: I think I'll take the third one.

Mrs. Santos: Sigurado ka? Isn't it the simplest one?

Ako: Yea, that's why I like it.

Mom: Gusto mo, tumingin ka muna ng iba.. Ehto lang kaseh ung nakita namen na pwe
deng bilhin
kagad.. But we can always go back....

Ako: No!! O_O I mean, it's fine. Di ba, Jerwin?

Umikot ako, tama naman na kakatigil lang ni Jerwin sa paglalakad papunta sa liko
d ko.. Anoh bang
pinaggagawa ng taong toh at ang bagal naman sumunod!?

Jerwin: What? Tapos na ba kayo?

Ako: (pointed at the ring I chose) I'm picking the third one.. What do you think

Jerwin: If that's the one you want, then it's fine with me.

Ako: How helpful you are. -__- (tingin uhlet sa mga nanay namen) I'll take the t
hird one.

Although nag-hhesitate ung dalawang atat maghanap ng singsing, they eventually a

greed to take the
ring na pinili ko.. Takot lang nila, baka bigla akong mag-walk out dito..

The saleslady took the ring, put it in a box, and told us to wait.. blah blah bl

Jerwin: How much is it?

Mrs. Santos: Oh honey, don't worry about it.

Jerwin: No, mom. I'll pay for it.

Ai shosyal.. Wa care kung ilang libo ang bayaran ni kuya..

Binayaran na ni Jerwin ung singsing, and, finally, we all walked out of the stor
e pabalik sa parking lot
para makapasok na ko sa school.. at malamang eh makapag-vent out sa mga taong ka
ilangang pag-vent
out-an ko ng mga nangyayari..

Pagpasok namen sa kotse, Jerwin squished beside me sa backseat and carelessly th

rew the plastic bag
nung singsing sa'kin.. Lokong toh, talagang wa care sa ilang thousand pesos na m
erchandise! Abah!
Ingatan nya naman! Pwede ko pang isangla toh!

Jerwin: Here, put it on.

Ako: Anoh? Di ka man lang luluhod?! Wala man lang, "Will you marry me?"

Jerwin: Babaliw ka ba? O_O

Ako: Wala ka talagang ka-romance romance dyan sa buto mo noh? Papayag-payag ka d

ito, tapos di mo
rin pala lulubus-lubusin..

I took out the small navy blue box from the bag and opened it.. Tinignan ko lang
uhlet ung singsing
sandali.. Half wanting to throw it out of the window, pero half knowing na, if I
do that, malamang eh
ipapahanap lang sa'kin ng nanay ko o ni Jerwin ung singsing hanggang sa makita k
o uhlet.. Mga

I slid my new diamond engagement ring on the appropriate finger.... Weh, engagem
ent ring.. kilabot... ___-


And then, as if by reflex, napahawak naman ako dun sa other ring na suot ko sa r
ight hand ko.. Dun sa
ring na I always wear.. A silver wrap ring with pearls on both ends and little d
iamonds on the band.. A
very special ring...

::Chapter 7::

Family Affair


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Haayyy.. It's just one thing after another.. Is it "shock-Venice-out-of-her-mind

" day today? -__-

I looked over at Jerwin, na tahimik na nag-ddrive sa tabi ko.. Parang kanina lan
g, akala ko matatahimik
na ang buhay ko kahit hanggang mamayang gabi na lang.. Pero hindeeee, kailangan
talagang hanggang
sa kadulu-duluhan ng araw ko, maki-extra tohng taong toh.. T-T

Anyway, tulad ng napag-usapan kanina, after ng engagement ring shopping, binaba

ako sa school ni Mrs.
Santos -- ay, TITA Merryl na raw pala ang itawag ko sa kanya.. So, naka-attend p
a ko ng dalawang klase
ko.. at paglabas ko ng last class ko, nahagilap ko pa ang dalawa sa support syst
ematics ko: ang long-time
best friend kong si Sheena, at ang malanding baklang breast friend ko na si Kenn

Tumingin uhlet ako kay Jerwin, who's still silently driving.. Although hinde nam
an masyadong tensed ung
atmosphere....... tensed pa rin.. Haayyy.. I guess, I can't blame my friends for
reacting the way they did
nung nakita nila si Jerwin...

----- . flashback . -----

Sheena: Anoh yan?? Nakaw mo??

Kenny: Pwet ng baso?

Nilapit nila ung mga mukha nila dun sa singsing ko as I tried to explain na it's
the real thing -- real
diamond sya.. As in sparkly shimmering diamonds.. Pero syempre, knowing me at an
g kawawang wallet
ko, hindi naniwala ung dalawa..

Ako: Anoh ba?!? Diamond ring nga yan.. At hinde nyo ba nakikita kung nasaang fin
ger sya nakasuot!??

Sheena: Oh, anoh, you're engaged?


Brrrrr!!! Nakakakilabot talaga marinig ung term na "engaged"!! Ever!

Napansin yata nung dalawa ung sudden silence ko at bigla silang napatigil sa pag
lalakad, with their faces
like this . OoO

Ako: *sigh* Yes, it's true.

Sheena: Oh my golay!!! Kelan pa?!? Saan?!? KANINO?!?!?

Kenny: Naunahan mo pa ko?!?!

Sheena: (tingin kay Kenny) Bakla, kahit sinoh naman, mauuna pa talaga syo noh..
Pero! AKO?!?! (biglang
tingin sa'kin) Naunahan mo pa AKO?!?!

Kenny: At sinoh naman yang lalakeng yan na bigla-bigla na lang nag-aappear!??!

We stepped out of the school gates just as I was summing up all my courage to bl
urt out Jerwin's name..
Pero bago pa ko makasagot, biglang lumipad ung atensyon nung dalawa dun sa shiny
, black expensivelooking pick-up truck na naka-park sa may tabi.... at lalo pang nawala ang atens
yon nila sa'kin nung nagstep out ang driver nung mamahaling sasakyan..

I know.. may ADD ang mga kaibigan ko. Though I can't blame them for getting dist
racted.. Kahit na
natatakpan ng mala-langaw nyang sunglasses ung mukha ni kuya, pagtayo pa lang, n
underwear na si kuya driver.

"Venice, where have you been? Kanina pa ko naghihintay dito."

Ay! Kinakausap ako nung langaw?!?!?

Naramdaman kong bumalik sa'kin ung tingin nung dalawa, as I watch kuya driver wa
lk towards me..
Sinoh ba toh at feeling close? Kanina nya pa raw ako hinihintay.. -___-

Nung sobrang lapit na ni kuya, dun ko lang na-realize na malamang lang talaga, m
ay kung sinong
engkanto dyan na gustong makita kung gano ako katagal bago atakihin ng panic att
ack.. O.O

Kenny: Sinoh yan?? O_O

Tumigil sa harap namen si Kuya, looking at me, and then at Kenny and Sheena.. He
smiled, na parang
nanunukso na: "Sige naa~ Pakilala mo na ko~ "


Ako: Uh, Sheena, Kenny... This is my.. m-my.. (T-T) fianc... Jerwin..

Jerwin: Hi!

Ang mokong, hinde pa natuwa sa shocked expressions ng mga kaibigan ko, talagang
tinanggal nya pa
ung sunglasses nya at dinazzle pa ng mukha nya ung dalawa!

Syempre, starstruck to the bone cells sina Sheena at Kenny, nag-hyperventilate n

ung nakita nilang si
Jerwin Santos -- THE Jerwin Santos -- ang nakatayo sa harap nila.

Hanggang sa nag-bye bye na kame ni Jerwin, tulala at hinde pa rin nakapag-constr

uct ng buong sentence
sina Sheena at Kenny.. Feeling ko lang, bobombahin nila ng tawag ang telepono ko
mamaya.. -___-

----- . end of flashback . -----


Napatingin ako sa labas and dun ko lang na-realize (alam ko, may pagka-slow ako)
, hinde nag-ddrive si
Jerwin papunta sa bahay ko. O_O On the contrary, malayo kame sa kalsada papunta
sa bahay ko...

Ako: San tayo pupunta?

Jerwin: We're going to my house.

Ako: WEH?!? AT BAHKET?!??!

Jerwin: But of course.. My fiance should meet my manager and my sister.

Ako: Feel na feel mo talaga tohng gulo na toh noh?!?

Jerwin: Relax ka lang dyan.. Kung masyado kang stressed, you really won't see th
e irony and amusement
of this situation.

Hindi na ko nagsalita dahel natakot ako na pag nag-react pa ko, baka makapatay a
ko ng tao nang wala sa
oras.. Abah! Hinde bagay ang beauty ko sa kulungan noh! At pano na lang ako mabu
buhay kung
papatayin ko si Jerwin habang nag-ddrive?!? Hinde naman ako marunong mag-drive!

After ilang minutes, we eventually ended up in the house I woke up in that morni

Kasumpa-sumpa dahel dito nagsimula ang lahat! T-T

Jerwin parked in front of the main door, and I saw a middle aged man immediatey
running towards him.
Bumaba kaming dalawa ni Jerwin, and he gave the car keys to the man..

Ako: Sinoh un?

Jerwin: That's the family driver, Mang Ponce.. He's gonna put my truck in the ba
ck.. Now c'mon.. Let's go

Ako: Do I have to? Hintayin na lang kita dito.. T_T

Jerwin: Sira ka ba? Eh ikaw nga ang hinihintay ng mga tao..

Ako: But I don't want tooooo~ T-T

He suddenly grabbed my hand and practically dragged me papasok nung bahay.. At,
trying hard not to
scream and yell, talagang with all my might, kinokontra ko ung paghila nya..

Jerwin: (hila sa'kin) Seriously! How can someone with your size have so much str

Ako: (hila pabalik) It's called adrenaline rush!

Jerwin: Well, tell your adrenaline to cut it out coz we have to go inside!

Ako: Ayokooooo~!!!

"Aren't you two a picture of energy?"

Sa pagkagulantang ko nung may biglang nag-appear sa doorway, napatigil ako bigla

sa pag-oppose ko
kay Jerwin.. Syempre, nung nawala ung opposing pull, paghila ni Jerwin sa'kin -and talagang hinila nya
ko with force! -- lumipad kaming dalawa!

Ako: Aw Aw Aw.. >__<


Jerwin fell on his rear, and I landed. right. on top. of him.

At parang daga na nahuli ng pusang naglalaro sa living room, lightning speed din
ang pag-rolyo ko away
from Jerwin. =__=


Jerwin: AW! What did you do that for?!?!?!

Ako: What in the world were you thinking?!?!

Jerwin: You were the one who suddenly stopped pulling!

Ako: Eh bahket ka pa nanghila?!?

Jerwin: How was I supposed to know you were gonna stop resisting!??!

"Hahahahahaha!! "

Oh geez.. I completely forgot about the girl standing dun sa doorway -- and she'
s now hysterically
laughing at us. -__-

Lalo tuloy akong napapahiya.. Anoh ba namang araw toh?!?

I slowly helped myself up, the same time na tumayo si Jerwin at pinagpag ung pan
talon nya..

I couldn't resist lang naman, so, when he looked up to look at me, I stuck out m
y tongue.

Jerwin: Wha-!? What are you?!? Six?!?

Ako: BEHHH!!!

Jerwin: Aishh.. (turned to the young girl) Jean! When will you stop laughing!?

Jean: Hahahahaha!!! Sorry, kuya.. It's just... You two looked so ridiculous!


Ako: Who is she and why is she still laughing at me? -__-

Jean: Oh! Sorry..

The girl stopped laughing, pero malaki pa rin ung ngiti sa mukha nya.. She walke
d over to where me and
Jerwin were standing..

Jean: I'm your future sister-in-law, ate. My name is Jeanette.. But you can call
me Jean.

Ako: Oh, hi, Jean.


Jean immediately linked her arm around mine, and walked me papasok nung bahay ni
la.. Jerwin
followed us with an unmistakable amused look on his face..

We walked straight to the dining room where I saw Tita Merryl setting out what l
ooks like expensive
plates.. and on the counter, nakaupo ang isang middle-aged man, na aura pa lang,
na.. He seems busy looking at his laptop, hanggang sa narinig nya nang pumasok k

Jean: Hey, dad, look! She's here!

"Dad"!?! Wait!!! Akala ko ba "manager and sister" ang makikilala ko tonight?!

The middle-aged man turned to look at us, and kahit anong gentle nung features n
ya, ai my golay,
panakot pa rin kaseh ang stern nung expression nya nung tinignan nya ko!

Ako: (bulong kay Jerwin) I thought you said I was meeting your manager??!

Jerwin: Yea. Didn't you know?? My manager is my father.

I knew this can still get worse. T-T

Mr. Santos: I see. So you're the girl my wife decided to marry my son off.

Tita Merryl: Ay, anoh ka ba naman, Ray. Don't scare her off like that. Ngumiti k
a naman..

Oo nga! Wag ka naman manakot!

Mr. Santos: I'm not scaring her off.

He looked at me up and down.. examining my every feature..

at hindi raw sya nananakot... T^T

Teka lang!!! If -- IF -- hinde ako magustuhan ni father, hinde ba ibig sabihin n

un, ma-bbreak ang
engagement na itoh?!?

I looked at Mr. Santos again.. Mukha syang strict businessman, walang nonsense-n
onsense.. He might
actually come to my advantage!

Jean: What do you think, dad? Doesn't Venice look perfect for kuya?

Manahimik kang bata ka.. Wag mong kontrahin ang dasal ko!

Mr. Santos: I see... So you've won over Jean..

Ako: Eh?

And then.. And then.. he SMILED!!! He actually smiled!

Na-feel kong biglang nag-crack ang light of hope ko!

Mr. Santos: I'm actually grateful to you.. After more pictures came out from tha
t night, I can't think of
any better way to cover Jerwin's reputation from the harsh speculation of the me

I knew it!!!

There it goes.. ang kaisa-isang ilaw ng pag-asa ko.. namatay dahel lang dun sa s
inabi na un ni Mr.
Santos.. T-T

Wait.. more pictures?!?

Ako: More pictures po?

Mr. Santos: You haven't seen them yet?

He faced the laptop towards me and Jerwin.. Kame naman, napatakbo to look kung a
noh pa bang
skandalo ang lumabas naman ngayon.. and yep, there.. Pictures.. More pictures fr
om the night before,
this time, nasa parking lot na..


Ako: (pointed at one photo) What were you doing?!?!?

In one of the picture, from the angle nung camera, it looks like.... it looks li
ke Jerwin and I were kissing..

Jerwin: Hey! It's not what it looks like, okay?!? This was probably when I was t
rying to open the door....
Although, it really does look like I'm kissing you... ha..

Ako: "Ha"?!? Anong "ha"?!? Do you understand what people will think when they se
e this?!

Jerwin: Yea, sure.. Jerwin Santos, kissing mystery lady.. or something like that

Adik ba sya?!? Bakit ang calmado nya pa rin!?

Tita Merryl: Di ba, Ray? I told you they get along well.

Mr. Santos: Yes, I can see that.

Jean: (talon sa tabi ko) So, ate, are you going to sleep here again tonight?


Baliw ba lahat ng tao sa pamilyang toh?!?!

::Chapter 8::

My Boo


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

9:10 AM..


Ang aga.. Ang aga ko talaga gumising.. Usually, ganitong oras, nagpapaka-hurrica
ne pa lang ako sa
kwarto ko sa pagmamadali para lang hinde ako ma-late..

Pero look at me now.. All calm.. kumakain-kain lang ng almusal.. Nakatunganga du

n sa TV na hinde ko
naman talaga makita dahel nasa kabilang kwarto sya.. Ginagawa lang ng nanay ko n
a radyo ang TV.. kaya
di man namen makita kung anong palabas, pang-boombox naman ang lakas ng volume..


Sa sobrang windang ko yata kagabi, pag-uwi na pag-uwi ko, diretso collapse na ko

sa kama..

Although, hinde naman ganon kasama ung dinner with Jerwin's family.. It was kind
a.. nice, actually...

Jean seems to be ecstatic to have an "older sister".. and Mr. Santos or Tito Ray
seems to be pleased na
hinde ako social-climber... and lalo pa syang na-amused nung narinig nyang hinde
ko nakilala si Jerwin
the first time I met him.. Kasalanan ko ba!?!?

Haaayyyy.. french toast.. buti na lang masarap ka--


Wah! *cough* *cough*

Tubig! *cough*

Mom: Well.. Mukhang nandyan na ang mga suki ng telepono kagabi..

I tried to catch my breath, at the same time, trying to stop myself from further
choking on the piece of
french toast na nag-dire-diretso sa lalamunan ko..

Ako: Ang aga naman!

Mom: Well, what did you expect? Tinulugan mo ung mga tawag nila kagabi? At alam
mo naman si
Kenny, pano na lang matatahimik ang buhay nya kung wala syang sagap?

Maya-maya lang, ahyan na nga.. Lumipad na pabukas ang pinto ng bahay namen.. at
tatlong mokong
ang madapa-dapang tumakbo papunta sa dining room kung san kani-kanina lang eh ta
himik akong

Anthony: Venice! Venice! Is it true!?!? (biglang tingin sa nanay ko) Good mornin
g, Tita Mel! (tingin uhlet
sa'kin) Venice! Is it true!??!?

Meet Anthony.. ang epitome ng taong may Attention Deficit Disorder.. Ehwan ko ba
dyan sa taong yan,
pero for the past two years, bigla syang naging overprotective.. daig pa si Doub
le 07 sa pagbantay

Knowing what exactly he was talking about, I held up my left hand and showed him
the diamond ring..
Mabilis naman syang tumakbo at talagang nilapit ung kamay ko sa mata nya..

Anthony: Totoo nga! Why?!?! Buntis ka ba?!? Ni-rape ka ba?!?

Sheena: *gasp!* Buntis ka?!??

Kenny: Na-rape ka?!?!?! OoO

Ako: Mga gunggong! Mukha ba kong na-rape!??!

Anthony: Then why?!? Kelan pa!? Why!??! T-T

Biglang nalipat ung tingin nya sa tabi ko nung nagsimulang tumawa si mommy.. And
syempre, dahil
A.D.D nga ung loko, 180-degrees bigla ang turn ng mood nya..

Anthony: Wow, tita! French toast? Penge?

Mom: Sige lang, upo na muna kayo.. At mag-ttoast pa ko ng tinapay..

Just then, biglang napunta ung atensyon ko sa TV nang narinig ko ang three magic
words: "Jerwin
Santos' Fiance?"

At wala nang hinga-hinga, sumugod ako kagad sa living room para tignan kung anon
g nangyayare..
Nilabas na ba nina Tito Ray ung balita? Bakit di ko alam?!?

Sumunod sa living room sina Sheena, Kenny, Anton, at ung nanay ko.. narinig rin
yata nila.. o baka
nawindang sila kaseh bigla akong lumipad.. Pero either way, nakatunganga na rin
sila sa TV as new
photos of Jerwin and I linger dun sa screen..

Mom: Wow.. anak, tignan mo nga naman.. Ang bilis naman ng balita! Kahapon lang y
an ah!

Sheena: Kahapon?!

That little high school brat! Anong kalokohan itoh!??!

The pictures from when Jerwin and I were at the jewelry shop continue to appear
dun sa screen.. Ung 3
pictures naming dalawa -- for some reason hinde pinakita ung picture na kasama n
amen ung pasaway na
high schooler na un..

The morning show hosts relay their speculation about the photos naman..

Nag-sspread daw like wildfire ung mga pictures from one online site to another..

At in fairness, may pagka-hyper ang mga hosts na itoh..

Never did they expect raw na ikakasal na pala ang "Prince of the Music Industry"
.. Ni hinde nga raw nila
alam na may girlfriend toh..

Kung alam lang nila ang totoo.. tignan ko lang kung lalo silang hinde maloka.. __-

They even went on to add ung quote sa isa sa mga blog na quote-unquote, si Jerwi
n daw mismo ang
tumawag sa'kin na "soon-to-be bride" nya.. Although di naman un ung exact words
ni Jerwin.. pero..
close enough..

Morning Show Host: Now the main question is, sinoh ba itong mystery girl na ito?

Oh my golay.. they want to know who I am... T-T

Kenny: WAH!!! Breast friend! Sikat ka na!

Sheena: Nasa TV ang picture mo! Nasa TV!!!

Kenny: At gusto pa nilang malaman kung sinoh ka! WAH! Dadami ang stalker mo!

Ako: Che! Tigilan nyo nga ako!

*sigh* But it's probably true.. Lantaran ang mukha ko sa picture na un..

And being the unknown, the media will try to find out kung sinoh ung girl sa tab
i ng "Prince" nila...
Eventually, they'll find me...

Later this afternoon...

This day is just horrible. HORRIBLE, I tell you!

This morning, pagtapak na pagtapak ko pa lang sa school grounds, may mga tao nan
g nagtitinginan,
nagbubulungan... And as the day progresses, lalo silang dumadami! Lalong kumakal
at ang news.. Ehto
na siguro ang karma ko sa lahat ng beses na ako ang nagkakalat ng tsismis.. T^T

Lord, sorry na.. T-T

Ako: Haayyy... -__-

Kenny: Ai, depressed?

Sheena: Relax ka lang dyan, Venice.. Pauwi na tayo.. May 12 hours ka pa uhlet ba
go makakita ng mga
nagbubulungan tungkol syo..

Anthony: Anoh pa bang bago sa mga taong pinagbubulungan ka?

Ako: Haller?!? Ang pinagbubulungan kaya nila ngayon--

Sheena: eh ang lovey-dovey engagement mo sa isang superstar na walang nakakaalam

na lovey-dovey

Ako: I was gonna say something like, it's none of their business... -__-

Naglalakad palang kami malapit sa gate nang bigla na kaming hinarangan ni Manong
Guard.. At ung
mukha pa ni manong!

Napatigil talaga kaming apat.. Wala pa naman kaming sinisira na classroom ah! O_

Manong Guard: Nako, Venice.. Wala ka bang sundo ngayon?

Ako: Eh? bahket poh?

Kelan ba ko nagkaron ng sundo?

Manong Guard: Kanina pa naghihintay ung mga reporters syo.. Nadagdagan na nga ng
habang tumatagal.. Baka matabunan ka habang naglalakad..


Kenny: Ahyan.. magsuot ba naman kaseh ng uniform sa pagpapa-picture.. Nasundan k

a tuloy..

Anthony: Pano yan, Venice? Dito ka na lang matulog?

Sheena: Dalhan ka na lang namen ng sleeping bag..

Ako: Hinde kayo nakakatulong ha..

Nginitian ko si Manong Guard, then slowly, and very carefully, sumilip muna ako
sa labas.. Mas marami
ngang tao than usual.. Although, parang lahat naman sila eh minding their own bu
siness.. Kung may
paparazzi man, parang bilang lang sa kamay ang nakikita ko..

So syempre, malakas ang loob ko na makakatakbo ako, ay sige! Nag-step out ako sa

and then, wham!

Nagsimula silang lahat na magtutok sa'kin ng mga camera! As in more than kalahat
i pala sa mga taong
nandun eh may dalang camera!

20?!? 30?!?

At hinde pa sila natuwa sa flashing lights, nagtakbuhan pa sila papunta sa'kin w

ith their tape recorders
at notebooks at sandamakmak na mga tanong!

Everywhere I look, flash.. At dinudumog nila ako!!!!

Just then, I felt somebody grab my arm and pulled me back papasok nung schoolgat

Nakita ko na lang si Manong Guard na mabilis sinasarado uhlet ung gates..

Anthony: Venice?! Ok ka lang?!?

Sheena: Anoh namang kalokahan mo at lantaran kang lumabas?!?!?

Kenny: Nakakakita ka pa ba?!?

I see dots... At dots talaga! Flashing dots.. sa dami nung camera flash sa harap
ko, ang hirap mag-adjust
ng mata!

Pano ako uuwi?!?!?

Without thinking, nilabas ko ung cellphone ko.. and kahit na trembling ung kamay
ko sa sobrang shock at
panic, na-manage ko naman maka-scroll down sa letter J sa phonebook ko..

It's ringing.. ringing..

Please answer....


Ako: Jerwin!!

I felt all my panic go to another level nung sinagot ni Jerwin ung tawag ko.. I
know! Abnormal.. Pero all
of a sudden, parang nag-ssink in lahat ng nangyayari, at nararamdaman ko nang na
gsisimula ang
hyperventilation ko..

Jerwin: Venice? What's wrong?!? You sound--

Ako: They're everywhere! I can't go out! They have these big cameras and-- and-and-- Jerwin.. I can't
go out...

Jerwin: Crap.. They found you already!??

For some reason, naiiyak ako sa sobrang gulo ng emotions ko.. Di ko alam kung ma
ako sa mga photographer sa labas, and yell at them to leave me alone.. o magpapa
sweetheart, at hahayaan ko silang kumuha ng pictures....

Parang mabubulag yata ako sa latter choice.. -__-

Jerwin: Listen, I'm in the middle of a meeting right now.. But.. Are your friend
s with you?

Ako: Y-Yea..

Waaahhh mas pipiliin mo pa yang meeting mo kesa sa fiance mong nag-ppanic attack?

Jerwin: Let me talk to one of them..

I thrust the phone to Sheena, na nagkataon lang na pinakamalapit sa tabi ko..

She looked surprised but she took the phone and listened to whatever Jerwin was

then after a few quick seconds, she handed me back the phone..

Sheena: Kausapin ka raw nya..

Ako: (took the phone) H-Hello?

Jerwin: Hey... I told her to stay with you for a while.. You'll be alright.. Oka
y? Just take a deep breath.. I'll
be there in 15 minutes..

Ako: Okay...

I hang up, and then did what he told me.. I took a number of deep breaths to cal
m my nerves down..
Naubos ko na yata ung oxygen sa paligid ko.. I tried to block out ang kilig na s
i Sheena na pinagmamalaki
kay Kenny na nakausap nya si Jerwin Santos..

It's gonna be okay.. Jerwin's coming...

... Well, I don't know where that came from, but it'd better be alright when he

Umupo sa tabi ko sina Kenny, Sheena at Anton.. They try to figure out how to get
me out of the school
grounds to the pick-up truck pagdating ni Jerwin.. Pati nga si Manong Guard, nak
iki-plano.. Pero rejected
naman ung idea nya.. Magplano ba naman na mag-fire ng baril nya?!? O__O

Honestly, it felt like the longest 15 minutes ever!

At nung nag-ring uhlet ung cellphone ko, and when I saw it was Jerwin, halos mag
tatalon ako sa tuwa! -hinde dahil sya ang tumatawag noh! Dahil lang sa, at last, makakauwi na ko.. yat

Ako: Hello?

Jerwin: I'm outside.. Run to the car as fast as you can, I'll meet you halfway..

Ako: Okay..

Nag-hang up na ko.. Josko, tatakbuhin ko ung sea of cameras.. @__@

Pumusisyon na sina Sheena at Kenny para makisabay sa pagtakbo.. At least, baka s

akaling mahati ung
atensyon nung mga paparazzi.. Si Anton naman, tumabi na sa'kin.. Sya raw ung mag
iging quarterback na
mag-ppart ng red sea.... Di ko masyadong naintindihan, pero parang ganun..

Manong Guard: Ready na kayo?

We all nodded..

Manong Guard: Okay.. Ehto na.. 1... 2.. 3!!!


As soon as bumukas ung gate, nagtakbuhan kagad kami.. And tulad ng inaasahan nam
en, kahit papano,
nahati nga ung atensyon, as some tried to follow Sheena, and ung iba naman napat
ingin kay Kenny.. I
looked straight ahead.. and I ran as fast as I could.. I can see the black pickup truck...


Ako: Jerwin?

I scanned the crowd pushing all around me, and, finally, I saw him running towar
ds me.. Lalong
nagkagulo ang mga photographers.. Ang lokong superstar naman kaseh, hinde man la
ng nag-suot nung
langaw nyang sunglasses!

Pero adrenaline rush na itoh! I ran faster towards him.. Anthony tried to push t
he people out of my
way.. until at last, I was able to grab Jerwin's hand.

Jerwin: (smiles) Let's go.

He held my hand as tight as he can, as we fought our way pabalik dun sa sasakyan
nya.. Parang lightning
ang bilis ng lahat..

As soon as napaggitnaan kami nung mga paparazzi, he immediately wrapped a protec

tive arm around
me as he tried to shoulder our way out of the crowd of over-ecstatic photographe

Everybody was yelling questions and calling him to look..

It felt like we went through a stampede hanggang sa we reached the pick-up truck
at last..

Binuksan kagad ni Jerwin ung backseat door.. and halos, madapa-dapa naman ako sa
pagsakay.. He
slammed the door behind me, then tumalon na rin sya sa driver's side.

And finally, we were driving away..

Ako: I think I'm gonna be sick.. -__-

I slumped dun sa backseat, na-lowbat bigla dahel naubusan na ng adrenaline rush.

. Hopefully, nakatakas
na rin sina Anthony pauwi..

Jerwin: Just don't throw up in my car, and we're all good.

Ako: Pwede mo naman ipalinis eh..

I threw my book bag sa isang tabi, then crawled towards the passenger seat sa ha
rap.. Alam mo ung
ginagawa nung mga bata na tatawid over from the backseat papunta sa harap? Oo, p
inagsiksikan ko ang
sarili ko habang nag-ddrive si Jerwin..

Jerwin: What are you doing?!?

Ako: Lumilipat ng upuan.

After getting myself comfortable, I fastened my seatbelt and started taking deep
breaths to completely
calm myself down..

Jerwin: Are you okay?

Ako: I was just mobbed! Do you think I'm okay?!?

Natahimik si Jerwin.. -__- It made me feel kinda bad for barking at him.. eh sya
na nga naman itohng
naging escape car ko.. at naging shield ko from all the pushing and pulling kani

Ako: Sorry..

Jerwin: Your life is going to change now.

Ako: *sigh* Pansin ko nga.. T-T I just don't understand.. Why are they following
ME?!?! Eh ikaw ung

Jerwin: After years of being mobbed, nakahanap na ko ng ways para makapagtago..

And besides, people
are always curious about the "unknown factor" -- which, in this case, is you. Pe
ople will be more curious
from now on..

Ako: Eh?!

Jerwin: Well, they'd go into a frenzy after that little incident of me showing u
p to save you from a herd
of hungry tabloid photographers.

Ako: I don't believe this... T-T

Jerwin drove for a few more minutes, and then he entered into a busy restaurant'
s parking lot..

Ngayon pa nya naisipang kumain?!? At sa lantaran na McDo pa! Gusto nya bang pare
ho kaming
masagasaan ng mga taong curious?!?

He parked in the far back, and then turned off the engine.. May balak yata talag
ang kumain si kuya!?!

Ako: Anong--?!

Jerwin: Listen..

Ay, teka.. serious mode ang aura.. O_O

Jerwin: We got ourselves in this situation.. and quite honestly, it's not really
that bad..

Ako: Not that bad?!? We're engaged! (I held up my left hand) ENGAGED!

Jerwin: I know.. But at least our parents aren't rushing us into marriage.. You
know, a lot of
engagements break up over time..

Ako: Are you saying...?

Jerwin: Yes.. Of course, hindi pa pwede ngayon, since we just "started".. But...
. Venice, won't you spare
me a little part of your life?




Jerwin: Be my fiance.. We'll get through this together.. as partners..

Well.. that makes sense.. I mean, it's not like may takas pa ko..

Ako: (smiles) Partners sound nice..

Jerwin: So we're in this together?

Ako: Better than being in this alone.. So, yep! We're in this together.

Jerwin: Great! And Venice..

Really, he's not that bad naman pala eh..

Ako: Yea?

Jerwin: Don't worry... When the time comes, I'll let you go.


I nodded.. kinda hesitant.. kaseh naman, ang lungkot naman.. Kakasimula pa nga l
ang ng engagement
namen.... nyahahaha

Jerwin: But for now -- No, from now on.. I'll take care of you.

::Chapter 9::

If You Can Dream


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

It's been two days since all the hype started.. At tulad ng sinabi ni Jerwin, th
e media (lalo na ung mga
tabloids!!!) just throws random things out there!

Nag-rrange na ang profession ko from mail-order bride, to a bar hostess, to a go

lddigger, at ang pinakafavorite ko, to a prostitute.. Oh di bah?!?! Alam kong malandi ako, pero hinde p
a naman ako ganun kalandi noh! At porket graduating college student ako, akala ba nila ganun na ko k
a-desperada makakuha
ng pang-tuition!?!? Mga ass-u-mers sila!

At ang pinaka-widespread na rumor na kumakalat, kaya lang ako papakasalan eh dah

il sa pregnant ako..
eh mga adik ba sila?!? Ahyon na lang ba ang dahilan ng mga tao ngayon para magpa
kasal?! And besides,
mukha bang malaki ang tyan ko!? Alam kong may bilbil ako, pero hinde naman sya c
ondensed sa harap

Oo, nakaka-high blood talaga.. Buti na lang at nag-truce na kami ni Jerwin... Ha

tid-sundo nya na ko from
school dahel baka masagasaan ako ng mga taong may galit o may kung anong amuseme
nt sa existence
ko.. And at least, kahit anong kalokahan ang nangyayari pag lumalabas man ako ma
g-isa o with my
friendships, kahit anong rant and rave ko, nakikinig sya..

But he'll never be able to calm me down like you did...

I sat on the freshly cut grass, just in front of the gravestone.. Matagal-tagal
na rin since nakadaan ako
dito.. Kaseh naman, ang hirap lumabas noh! Tignan mo, tulad ngayon, kaya lang ak
o nakalabas dahel
tulog na ang halos lahat ng tao sa Pilipinas! 11:00 na ng gabi.

Ako: But I'm here now.. and if you're watching me from wherever you are, you sho
uld know how crazy
my life is right now.. Imagine, halos buong bayan yata ang nag-ttry na mang-ista
lk sa'kin! Abah! Nabbuild up na ang muscles ko kakatakbo noh!

I ran a finger on the cold stone bearing Gerard's name.. his name.. and the date
of his death..

Two years na ang nakakalipas, and I still can't get over the feeling na ang unfa
ir that he never told me....
bastah na lang sya nag-poof out of my life..

Ako: Bubwit ka talaga, G.... If you were here, none of this would have happened.
. You would've taken
care of me.. If you were here......

The next day, masakit man sa puso at sa ulo kong gumising ng maaga, anoh pang ch
oice ko? Eh
tinawagan ako ni Mr. Santos at on the way na raw ung driver nila para sunduin ak
o.. -___-

Sabado.. Sabado ngayon.. it's the only day of the week na pwede akong matulog ha
nggang hapon....
Why are they taking this away from me?! WHYYY?!?

"Ma'am? Ok lang poh ba kayo?"

Eh? -___-

Ako: Ok lang naman poh, Mang Ponce.. Bakit poh?

Mang Ponce: Mukha ho kasi kayong pagod na pagod.. May sakit poh ba kayo?

Ako: Nako, wala poh.. late lang nakatulog kagabi. San poh ba tayo pupunta?

Mang Ponce: Ay, sabi poh ni sir, dalhin ko raw kayo dun sa venue nung concert ni
Sir Jerwin.

Ako: Eh?? Bakit naman?

Mang Ponce: Hindi ko poh alam eh.

Mga bubwit na Santos yan.. Hindi dahel mga morning person sila, kailangan na nil
a gimbalain ang
pagiging night owl ko noh! Haaayyy..

After getting through a horrible traffic jam, nakarating na rin kami sa wakas du
n sa music arena.. Binaba
ako ni Manong Ponce sa front entrance.. After he drove off to park the family va
n, nilabas ko kagad ung
compact mirror ko.. Abah! Syempre, dapat maganda ako for my fianc..... Yak! wahah

Well.. Di ko naman kasalanan na may eyebags ako.. at mukhang bloodshot ung mata
ko.. Haaayyy..
Binalik ko ung salamin ko sa bag ko, then walked papasok sa loob..

Seems like nag-ssoundcheck ang mga people.. I saw Jerwin on stage, nakikinig dun
sa isang manong na
siguro eh part ng sound crew or production crew..... kung ano mang crew yan!


Oh my golay! I completely forgot this girl works here!

Biglang nagising lahat ng cells ng katawan ko nang tinapon ni Ate Marian ung kat
awan nya sa'kin --- her
way of saying hello..

Ako: Ate! Hello!

Ate Marian: Uyy, binibisita mo boylet mo?

Ako: Updated ka rin sa chikka? -__-

Ate Marian: Duh.. Besides sa almost every entertainment news, subukan mong magin
g kapatid si
Anthony, tignan ko lang kung hinde ka ma-shock sa mga tsismis na nalalaman nun..
So, visit the
boyprend ba itoh?

Pinapunta ako dito! Bahket ko naman bibisitahin yan?!? Kabisi-bisita ba yan?!? A

noh yan, preso!?

"Venice, iha!"

Ehto pa ang isang hinde kabisi-bisita..

I slowly plastered a smile on my face as the elder Santos waved me over dun sa k
inatatayuan nya sa
harap nung stage.. Kinuha kagad ni Ate Marian ung braso ko, and parang the all-l
oyal employee, brought
me sa harap ni Mr. Santos..

Tito Ray: Magkakilala kayo ni Marian?

Ako: Ah, opo.. We went to the same college together.. Mas matanda nga lang poh s
ya ng one... two?..

Tito Ray: Well, what a small world! Anyway..

Nag-turn si Tito Ray towards dun sa taas nung stage and called Jerwin na busy-bu
syhan naman sa
pagkaka-popstar nya.. Upon seeing me, Jerwin's face lit up -- feel na feel talag
a mag-act na "happy
boyfriend seeing pretty girlfriend"

May sinabi lang sya dun sa kausap nya, then he finally jumped off the stage papu
nta sa'min..

Upon reaching me, akbay kagad si kuya sa balikat ko and then flashed me his toot
smile.. -__- All-out performance talaga si kuya, tapod dinagdagan pa ng:

Jerwin: Hi, honey..

"Honey"?!?!? "HONEY"?!?! Kakilabot!!!

Ako: Hello..

Napatingin ako kay Ate Marian.. na for some reason, eh abot kilay ang ngiti sa'k
in.. Naniwala naman ang
loka sa mga kalokohan nitong si Jerwin... -___-

Tito Ray: Well, now that you're here.. We can talk about the announcement..

Ako: Announcement?

Jerwin: Dad thinks it's about time to tell the public about me and you.

I should have known.. -__- Di na dapat ako gumising nang araw na toh..

Tito Ray: Yes, you see.. I think this concert will be a perfect event.. We're ju
st trying to figure out how to
squeeze in your appearance for a more dramatic effect.

Ako: Appearance?!?

Tito Ray: Don't you think it's a good idea?

Ate Marian: (thoughtfully) A duet would be nice...

Napatingin ako kay Ate Marian.. teka! teka! Bahket sya kumakampi sa kalaban?!?!?

Tito Ray: A duet? Venice can sing?

Ate Marian: Oh yes, sir! I attest to her talent. One of the most captivating voi
ces I've ever heard.


Anong ginagawa nya?!? Alam nya ba ang ginagawa nya?!?

Tito Ray: I see... I'll trust you on that.. (napaisip) A duet would be good. Per
haps right before the final
number.. We wouldn't need too much choreography or things like that. Just a simp
le ballad, maybe?

Ate Marian: Ay opo! I'll personally take care of the transition!

Ako: W-wa---

Jerwin: That's it then.


Kuya, pati ba naman ikaw?!?

Ako: But--

Before I can speak any further, biglang kinuha ni Jerwin ung arm ko, and led me
away from the
discussion, papunta dun sa small table with drinks and snacks..

Ako: What are you doing?!? O__O

Jerwin: What? I'm thirsty.

I looked back at Mr. Santos and Ate Marian, and they're walking towards the prod
uction manager..
Gagawin talaga nila!!! Tama ba naman un!??!

I grabbed Jerwin's arm, and slightly, firmly, desperately shook him.. wa care na
ko kung umiinom sya.. at
lalong wa care ako nung nag-choke sya sa tubig..

Jerwin: What?! What?!?

Ako: Stop them!!! OoO

Jerwin: Geez, Venice.. Don't kill me over something like that..

Ako: Sira! Hinde ka pa mamamatay sa tubig!

Jerwin: People die from choking you know?

Ako: You're missing the point here!

Jerwin: Eh? I am?

Ako: Hello?!? They are making me sing on stage with you! on a major concert!

Jerwin: Uh-huh?

Ako: Me! On that stage!

Inubos ni Jerwin ung tubig nya and threw away the bottle, and finally, he looked
at me.. To my surprise,
he's smiling..

He gently put his hand on top of me head, and nilapit ung mukha nya sa'kin.. O_O
It took all of me not to
smack him right then and there.

Jerwin: Yes, I know. But, isn't it your dream to perform "on that stage"?

Nag-flash sa mind ko ung first time I met him.. Nung pinasilip ni Ate Marian ung
current project nila,
which coincidentally was actually the stage for Jerwin's concert.. It was just a
few minutes of short
conversation.. and I didn't even recognize him..

But he... O_O He remembered?

Jerwin: If you dared to dream about something like that, then I'm sure, you have
what it takes to
perform there, on that stage.

Tumalikod sya sa'kin and started to walk pabalik dun sa stage to finish whatever
they were doing when I
came in..

Jerwin: I'll be done in a little bit.. Then we'll pick out a song for tomorrow,
okay? Just relax.. I got you.

Well.. I guess I won't smack him after all..


::Chapter 10::

Laughter In The Rain


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Wow... People really do love him... O___O

After a night of tiring last minute rehearsal between Jerwin and moi, an early m
orning production
meeting, an afternoon of final rehearsals, ehto na.. ehto na talaga! The major c
oncert that has been the
most awaited event of the year -- daw -- has finally arrived!

..kahit kakasimula pa lang ng year....

I carefully stepped dun sa hidden side nung stage to watch quietly as Jerwin fin
ished up another highpowered number -- which made the crowd go wild.. In fairness, kahit anong kontra
ko kay kuya, di ko
naman ma-deny na all-out performer talaga sya..

Halos tatlong oras na syang nagkakanta at nagsasayaw dun, pero all smiles pa rin
sya.. basang-basa man
ung mukha nya ng pawis (ewwww.. ).. The crowd loves him. It's really a magical f
eeling pag sumasabay
pa sila dun sa mga kanta nya..

"Miss Venice, it's time to go."

Oh my golay of golays... Ehto na.. T-T

The concert is down to its last two numbers.. meaning, ehto na ung stint ng conc
ert na ilalabas nila ako..
I know the rehearsals went well from the time we started hanggang kaninang hapon
.. Surprisingly, our
voices blended quite well..

Pero......... ilalabas na nila ako.. T-T

I let the crewmember lead me to the entrance point, as I listen to Jerwin's voic
e on stage, working up
the crowd again.. and then I heard the cue..

Jerwin: Ladies and gentlemen, here to sing one of my most favorite ballads of al
l time.. I'm sure, kilala
nyo rin sya.. Please welcome, Venice Zhao!

WAAAHHHHH Teka! hinde pa ko nakakahinga!!!

The gigantic stage prop divided in half right in front of me, and next thing I k
new, lights were
everywhere, there are thousands of people in front of me -- going wild.. Jerwin
stretched out his hand to
me.. as if saying it's alright, come on..

Okay Venice! Mas mapapahiya ka kung ngayon ka pa tatakbo, eh nakatingin na silan

g lahat syo.. Aja!

I took a deep breath and then plastered a bright smile on my face.. then I walke
d towards Jerwin as if I
belong right there on that stage with him.

--- .. ---

(Jerwin's POV)

--------------- .

The back of the stage opened, and it revealed the slender girl whose identity ev
erybody could only
speculate about -- until now..

The big screen at the side of the stage started the slideshow of the pictures of
me and Venice that were
leaked to the press.. and some others that were taken the night before and kanin
ang umaga lang for the
purpose of a "couple's slideshow" during this segment of the concert.. Para kunw
ari tagal na namen
magkasama, di ba?

Paglabas ni Venice, the audience went wild!

Ahyan na ang mga instincts nila na may masasagap silang balita dahel sa pagsulpo
t ni Venice..

I watch Venice as she takes in the sight in front of her. She looks pretty.. Bea
utiful, even.. The light blue
cocktail dress is hugging her body in all the right curves.. Her hair is styled
to fall loosely around her
shoulders.. And her eyes! Her eyes are sparkling from either fear or excitement,
who knows..

Was she this beautiful when I first met her?

I reached out my hand to her, and as if thankful for some sign of support, her f
ace lit up with a smile and
she started to walk towards me.. All of a sudden, the anxiety disappeared, and a
facade of belonging
washed over her whole body..

Ako: (to her) Well, you don't look too bad..

Venice: Ilang oras akong nagpaganda, tapos "you don't look too bad" lang masasab
i mo?

I laughed as I slowly led her to the X mark on stage, where she's supposed to st
and.. And then the music
started.. The cheers gradually decreased at the same time that the stage lights
dimmed.. Natira na lang
ung spotlight na nakatutok pa rin sa'min ni Venice.. I guess this is Marian's id
ea of romantic..

{music: I Finally Found Someone}

Ako: (sings) I finally found someone

That knocks me off my feet

I finally found the one

That makes me feel complete

Venice: (sings) It started over coffee

We started out as friends

It's funny how from simple things

The best things begin...

The audience was captivated...

I know that reaction.. The first time I heard Venice sing, I was enchanted by he
r voice too.. She has this
certain way of making any song sound like she's singing it directly to you and o
nly for you..

Ilang beses man kami nag-practice since last night with the same song, I never g
ot tired of hearing her
sing.. Kahit ngayon..

Ako: Did I keep you waiting?

Venice: I didn't mind

Ako: I apologize

Venice: Baby, that's fine

Ako: I would wait forever just to know

Together: You were mine..

Ako: You know, I love your hair

Venice: Are you sure it looks right?

Ako: I love what you wear

Venice: Isn't it too tight?

Ako: You're exceptional

Together: I can't wait for the rest of my life...

She went through the motions perfectly.. She sang the song perfectly. She hersel
f was perfect.

By the time the last note has finally played, the audience is going wild again..
But I barely noticed coz all I
could do was hold her close to me and smile at her with pride..

Ako: You did wonderful.

Venice: (grins) I thought so too..

I waited for the crowd to hush down a bit, before I finally took Venice's hand a
nd presented her to the
thousands of people gathered in the arena..

Ako: Ladies and gentlemen, I want all of you to meet my fiance.. my future bride.
. my soon-to-be wife..

I felt Venice's grasp tighten.. I loveeee how she freaks out whenever she hears
those words..

Ako: Miss Venice Zhao!

And just like that.. Venice was welcomed with a warm, thunderous applause and wh
istles and cheers..

Just like that... the whole world will know she's my fiance..

I gave my final bow to the audience and finally ran out of the stage to the clos
ing music of the band and
the last bit of applause.. The concert has finally ended..

"Good job, Jerwin!"

"Good concert!"

"Congratulations, Mr. Santos!"

I waved to each and every crew member that greeted me backstage..

until I finally reached my dressing room..

"That wasn't too bad."

Linya ko un eh..

I closed the door behind me and looked at Venice who's quietly sitting on one of
the plush couches..
She's changed to her usual shirt and jeans attire..

Ako: What? You didn't like the dress? And I thought you actually looked human...

Venice: Alam mo bang sobrang itchy nung tela nun?! I changed as soon as I got of
f the stage! And what
do you mean I actually looked human?! Anong tingin mo sa'kin?! Dog?!?

I laughed to myself as I wiped my face with the face towel hanging on my seat..
Dog talaga?

Venice: Ay, oo nga pala.. Sabi ni Jean, sumabay na raw sya sa mga magulang mo pa

Ako: Oh.. How about you? Bakit nandito ka pa?

Venice: Wellll... Ang original plan is ihahatid din ako ng mother mo pauwi.. kay
a lang.... Paglabas ko ng
changing room, iniwan na nila ako.. T-T

Ako: Awwww.. that's too bad.. Mag-taxi ka na lang then..

Venice: Hala! Alam mo ba kung gano kalakas ang ulan sa labas?!?

Ako: Bakit? Matutunaw ka ba pag nabasa ka?

Venice: Anong tingin mo sa'kin?!? Witch?!?

Pikon talaga kahit kelan.. I got up from my chair and then threw the sweaty face
towel aside..

Ako: I'll just take a quick shower.. I'll meet you up in the front door. At wag
kang magpapakabasa, ok?
Mahirap nang biglang mawala ang fiance ko.

--- .. ---

(Venice's POV)

--------------- .

Pumapatak ang ulan sa bubong ng.. arena..

Anoh bang tagalog ng "Arena"?

I watched the crew members cleaning up the stage props from afar.. and then tumi
ngin uhlet ako dun sa
labas.. Ang lakas pa rin ng ulan..

"Yo! So you managed not to melt?"


Mukha ba kong Wicked Witch of the West at matutunaw ako pag naulanan?!!?

Ako: (viciously turned around) At talagang ikaw naman eh inenjoy ang shower mo?!
Ang tagal mo--

Jerwin: Here.

O_O Hm?


Jerwin: I was looking around for an extra umbrella so we won't get soaked. So ar
e you ready?


I opened the door for him, while he fumbled to open the umbrella.. This rain is
crazy!! Mahangin na nga,
uulanan pa ng ganito.. -___- Himala talaga na marami pa ring tao na pumunta dito
amidst the weather..

Jerwin: Ok, got it. Let's run.

Jerwin suddenly grabbed my hand and pulled me under the umbrella with him.. and
then, takboooo!!!

Ako: Gano kalayo ka ba nagpark?!? Ang layo naman!

Jerwin: We just reached the parking lot!

Ako: Dapat ikaw na lang---







Sa sobrang pagmamadali namen, para sana eh di kame masyadong mabasa, hinde ko na

pansin ang isang
malaking butas sa daanan ko.. At dahel magaling ang balance at coordination ko,
yes.. nadapa ako, at full
body down sa isang malaking puddle ng tubig ang kinagbagsakan ko.

Napaatras tuloy bigla si Jerwin sa pagtakbo nya nung namalayan nyang bigla nawal
a ung hawak-hawak
nyang tao..

Jerwin: Venice! Are you ok?!?!

Ikaw kaya ang lunurin ko sa tubig dyan sa parking lot?!

I pulled myself up and looked at the basang-basa na ako.. Well, there goes my ch
ances of getting home
dry.. -___-

Ako: Buo pa naman ako.. -__- (biglang tingin kay Jerwin) At hindi ako natutunaw!

Jerwin blinked about once or twice -- I don't know kung dahil ba ang lakas at an
g laki ng mga raindrops...
and then.. ang kapal ng mukha, bigla ba namang humagakhak ng tawa!

Pinagtawanan pa ko, eh ako na nga tohng basang-basa na ng ulan?!?!

Ako: (stands up) Oh, so you think this is funny ha.. Tatawa tawa ka pa dyan..

Jerwin: Eh kaseh naman.. nakita mo nang malakas ang ulan, and there's a lot of p
uddles around,
talagang nag-swimming ka pa sa isa..

-__- Is he the devil?! Nadapa na nga ako't lahat?!?

I walked over behind him, at dahel busy sya sa kakatawa nya, ehwan ko lang kung
napansin nya ko, o
pinili nya lang na hinde ako pansinin.. And thennnn.. with all my willpower and
arm muscles, tinulak ko
sya nang makapag-swimming rin sya sa maputik na puddle.

Yes.. nanunulak ako..


And down down down Jerwin fell, right in the middle of the puddle na pinagbagsak
an ko.. And dahil
malakas ung hangin, ung payong na dala nya eh nag-fly fly fly away..

Ako: Not so funny now, ha?

Jerwin slowly picked himself up, and then he very slowly turned and looked at me
.. Nakakakilabot nga
eh.. Akala ko sya ung biglang mag-mmelt.. O_O

Jerwin: You pushed me.




Ako: Yea.

Jerwin: You.. pushed me.

*gulp* Teka, may law bang nakasulat na bawal manulak ng mga artista?!? O___O

Ako: I'm sorry.. Ok ka lang ba? Hindi naman ganun kalakas ung tulak ko--




Oh no he did-int!!! Yes he did!!!! OoO

Ang mokong!!! Nangolekta ng tubig nung puddle sa kamay nya, and he actually had
the nerve to throw
the water at my face!!! Paliguan ba ko!??!?!

And then he got up and started running away, all the while laughing at perhaps m
y very surprised
expression.. @__@

Ako: Jerwin Santos! Porket hinde ako nag-shower after the show, mabango naman ak
o!! Bahket mo ko

I kicked a puddle of water towards him.. which he gladly responded with his own
splash of water
towards me..

And yes.. dun nagsimula ang late night pagtatampisaw namen sa malakas na ulan, s
a maduming mga
puddles ng water, at sa paghahabulan sa halos empty na parking lot ng arena..

We didn't stop hanggang sa nahuli na kami ng mga pauwi nang mga stage workers..
nung pinagtitinginan
lang nila kame -- dry and safe under their umbrellas -- kame biglang na-consciou
s ni Jerwin and we
silently trudged towards his truck..

Jerwin: Geez.. Sana pala hinde na ko nag-shower kanina.. mababasa lang din pala
ako ng ulan..

Ako: Hey you started it!

Jerwin: Ako ba ang nadapa?

Ako: Shut up.

Jerwin: I wish I brought some bath towels with me.. Mukhang magbabaha pa sa loob
ng truck ko nito..

Ako: Oh I'll help you clean it tomorrow.

And finally, we pulled out of the parking lot, on to the night as he drove me ba
ck to my house.. Him,
singing along with the radio; Me trying to get water out of my hair -- and both
of us still dripping wet
from our little playtime under the rain.


::Chapter 11::



(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

"SOOO... may tweet-tweet akong narinig kanina tungkol sa most awaited announceme
nt kagabi ah.. "

I slowly looked up from my Psychology assigned reading, half-dreading kung sinon

g makikita ko, pero
half-knowing na si Sheena lang naman un..

The day after the major concert is a school day.. Himala nga na kahit anong late
ko na natulog, nagising
pa rin ako nang maaga.. At lalo pang himala dahel after kong mag-ready, imbis na
ung truck ni Jerwin
ang nasa harap ng bahay, ung family van nila at si Manong Ponce ang naghatid sa'
kin sa school.. Tulog pa
raw kaseh si Jerwin..

The whole day had been a buzz.. Papers are printing out Jerwin's public announce
ment of our
"engagement".. The little duet clip is played by various TV talk shows.. In othe
r words, nawindang sila..

Just like Mr. Santos hoped they would be.. Jerwin's popularity is rising through
the roof..

Anyway, back to the current time, nagtatago ako sa library to avoid the people w
ho seem to suddenly
"appear" out of nowhere to ask for pictures o kaya naman makipagchikkahan -- kah
it di ko naman sila
kilala.. As usual, kahit anong tago ko, nakita pa rin ako ni Sheena..

Ako: And anoh naman sinabi ng tweet-tweet mo?

Sheena: (sits next to me) Shosyal ka na..

Ako: Loka.

Sheena: (natawa) So anong reaction ni fafa Jerwin?

Biglang nag-flash sa utak ko ung events after the concert.. with all the rain an
d the puddles and the
habulan.... ang landi.. And mukha naman masaya si Jerwin..

Sheena: Ay.. ay.. ang smile??! Anong meron?

Biglang napalipad ung kamay ko sa face ko to hide the blush na nag-ccreep papunt
a sa cheeks ko.. O_O
Anoh ba namang kalandian itoh?? Kung anu-ano kaseng iniisip!

Sheena: (pressed herself closer to me) Uyyyy...... may tinatago.. Anoh yan?? May
happening ba kagabi?
Ay, can this be love?!?

Ako: Anong "love" ka dyan?!?! Sinoh naman ma-iinlove dun sa taong un noh?! Halle
r!? Ka-love-love ba
un?! Hahaha!

Sheena: Defensive much?

Napa-shrink ako sa upuan ko, my mind racing to find a neutral answer na walang k
ahit anong bahid ng

Just then biglang nagskandalo ung cellphone sa bulsa nung uniform ko.. And you k
now naman ang
nangyayari pag biglang may nag-vvibrate-vibrate sa pocket mo.. Napatalon akong b
igla at madaliang
inisda ng cellphone..

Si Jean?

Tumingin muna ako sa paligid to make sure na hinde malapit ung librarian, then I
buried my face sa libro
to somehow muffle the sound..

Ako: Hello?

Jean: ATEEEEE!!!!!

O_O Ai josko! Sigawan ang cellphone!?!??!

Ako: Jean, anoh ba? Wag kang sumigaw..

Jean: Ay, sorry.. Bakit ka bumubulong?

Ako: Nasa library ako.. Bakit ka tumawag?

Jean: Ay, oo nga pala! Kaseh, ate, ganito yan eh.. May pupuntahan kami ni mommy
mamaya after school
na social gathering.. Baka bukas na ng umaga kami makabalik.. Si dad naman, hay
nako, lagi namang
early morning na kung umuwi un..

Ako: Uh-huh?

Jean: Ate, baka naman gusto mo dumaan sa bahay after ng school mo? Bantayan mo l
ang si kuya..

Ako: Bantayan?

Watchdog na ko ngayon??!

Jean: Oo, ate.. Ehwan ko ba dun.. Gumising kaninang umaga, masama ang pakiramdam
.. Na-cancel tuloy
ung mga lakad nya today.. Ehhh walang mag-aalaga.. Baka pag-uwi namen, malamig n
a corpse na sya..
Eh di ba mabuti nang nandun ka, at least matatawagan mo kame pag hinde na sya hu

Ako: Iha, kapatid mo tohng pinag-uusapan naten di ba? -___-

Patayin ba?!?

Jean: Yes, ate. Relax ka lang, kaseh sabihin ko man un, I doubt naman na talagan
g ma-ddead si kuya.. Di
ba nga, matagal mamatay ang masamang damo? So dadaan ka mamaya ha! Papasundo kit
a kay Manong
Ponce! Ok? Byeeee!!!

Ako: What?! Wait--!

Binabaan ako.... -___-

Pano ka ba naman makakakontra sa bilis ng bibig nung batang un?!? Tumutungga yat
a ng isang litro ng
kape sa sobrang pagkahyper!

Sheena: Anoh un?

Ako: Kapatid ni Jerwin.. Apparently, magiging asong bantay ako mamaya.

After school, umuwi kagad ako.

Charing! Inuwi muna ako ni Manong Ponce para naman makapagbihis ako into somethi
ng more
comfortable than my school uniform noh.. Kaya ahyun, naka-cotton shorts ako, at
red t-shirt.. at flipflops.. di vah.. casual na casual..

Mom: Oh, san ka pupunta?

Ako: Sisilipin ung son-in-law mo kung humihinga pa.

Mom: Awww.. ang sweet nyo namang dalawa, nagsisilipan na kayo.. Napagod ba sya d
ahel dun sa
concert kagabi?

Ako: (shrugs) Siguro.. And apparently, his family is too busy to take care of hi
m just for one night.

Mom: Walang tao sa bahay nila?

Ako: Late na raw umuuwi si Tito Ray.. So until then, walang tao sa bahay nila ku
ndi sya.. at ako.

Natahimik sandali si mommy, then she slowly walked up to me and grabbed my shoul
ders gently, but
firmly. O_O

Mom: Remember, Venice, I trust you.

Ako: Eh??

Mom: I know you're still somewhat of a teenager.. and I know may mga natural hor
mones na mahirap
ma-control.. But just remember, I trust you.



Ai my golay.. -___-

Ako: Anoh ba naman yang mga pinag-iisip mo, mommy?! Magpapaka-watchdog lang ako
dun noh!

I wriggled out of her grasp and started to walk out of the house.. Pero dahel ma
y pagka-stubborn ang
nanay ko, talagang hinabol nya pa ko hanggang sa pinto, at talagang pinahabulan
pa ng isang
nakakawindang na paalala:

Mom: I trust you, okay, Venice?!

Nanay ko talaga.. Pinasok-pasok ako sa ganitong sitwasyon, tapos magugulantang b


Sumakay na ko dun sa family van ng mga Santos, and Manong Ponce drove me to the
Santos' residence..
Pinapaliwanag nya na nakaalis na nga raw sina Tita Merryl at si Jean papuntang S
ubic for a social party
chuchu.. Si Tito Ray daw, late at night pa dadating dahil na rin sa work.. Ung h
ousekeeper daw, nasa
bahay, pero hanggang 8:00 PM lang..

Di ko nga alam kung parang gusto nya ring sabihin na: "I trust you, Venice! I tr
ust you!"

When we reached the house, totoo nga.. Wala nang tao.. Well si Aling Ligaya, ung
housekeeper, nandun
sa kitchen, as usual.. Pero other than her, wala na nga talaga ung maingay na si
Jean.. Binati ko lang si
Aling Ligaya sandali, para naman malaman nya bago sya magluto ng dinner na nandi
to ako at malamang
eh dito ako kakain..

Then I took the stairs up to Jerwin's room..

Ako: (gently katok sa door) Knock knock knock.. I'm coming in~

Dahan-dahan kong binuksan ung pinto.. It's dark.. nakasarado ung curtains nung b
intana kaya hindi
makapasok ang afternoon sun.. at ni isang lampshade o ilaw, walang nakabukas..

I tiptoed over to the bed where I can hear ragged breathing, and then sinilip ko
ung supposedly sleeping
Jerwin, who has his back turned from me..

Ganito ba sya huminga nung last time na natutulog sya?

Binuksan ko ung lampshade na nandun sa bedside table nya (let there be light!),
and then umupo ako
dun sa kama and gently tugged the blanket off of his face..

I guess may pagka-light sleeper si kuya, kaseh bigla syang nagising.. @_@

Jerwin: What? Venice?

Ako: Hi.. Binibisita lang kita.. Ok ka lang ba?

Now na nakaharap sya sa'kin, I suddenly noticed how pale he looks, and well, ang
lamig-lamig dun sa
kwarto, pinagpapawisan si kuya..?

Jerwin: Yea.. I'm okay.. Don't you have class?

Ako: I'm done for the day.

Jerwin: Oh. Sorry I couldn't pick you up..

Ako: Ai suz naman, ok lang un noh.. Teka nga..

Sa sobrang pagka-bother ko dahel sa unusual appearance nya, I cautiously reached

out my hand, and
then hinawakan ko ung noo nya.....


Ako: Oh my gosh, Jerwin! You're burning up!

Jerwin: Weird.. I actually feel kinda cold.

Ai josko! Ang taas ng lagnat ni kuya!!!

Napatayo akong bigla.. di ko alam kung anong uunahin ko: kukuha ba muna ako ng f
ace towel at tubig, o
dapat ko bang i-adjust ung room temperature, o--

Jerwin: (smiled weakly) Hey, don't panic.. Nobody dies from a slight fever..


Ako: Stupid... You never know when somebody could die.

I turned around and went out of the room.. Bumaba ako nung hagdan to ask Aling L
igaya for a face
towel to mop up Jerwin's sweat and another one to cool down his forehead.. at is
a na ring maliit na
basin ng tubig..

It seems like hinde pala ako asong bantay tonight, instant nurse pala..

::Chapter 12::

You Are My Sunshine


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

Naalimpungatan ako after what seems to be the longest sleep I've ever, ever had.
. It's dark outside, and
the only source of light in my room is the one lampshade at the other side of my
bed.. I gazed at the
digital alarm clock on my nightstand: 11:36 PM.. So, from the time Venice woke m
e up for a soup dinner
up to now, I've been sleeping for about almost five hours..

I turned to my other side, and almost jumped (if only I wasn't feeling so weak)
nung nakita ko si Venice..
She pulled up the office chair from the corner of the room, and positioned it be
side the bed.. I can't
imagine how she managed to sleep on such tight space.. @_@

I wonder how long she's been there...

Tumingin-tingin pa ko sa paligid ko.. There's a small basin of water on a small

stool right beside the night
table.. It was then that I felt the warm, moist towel sliding off of my forehead

She's been taking care of me all this time...

Silly girl.. Dapat sa kama na lang din sya natulog..

I carefully sat myself up -- very much aware of the spots appearing right before
my eyes.. -__- Pero at
least, I don't feel as hellish as I was feeling earlier.. I just managed to get
my legs out of the bed when
Venice suddenly stirred and then glanced at me under droopy eyelids..

Ako: Hey...

Na-realize nya yata bigla na gumagalaw-galaw na ko, coz she suddenly perked up a
nd before I knew it,
she was on her feet trying to make me lie down again.

Venice: Jerwin! What do you think are you doing?!?

Ako: Well, ililipat sana kita sa kama.. That chair doesn't look very comfortable

Venice: Abno ka ba? As if naman kaya mo kong buhatin nang ganyan ang condition m
o.. (tried to push
me gently back to bed) Pwede ba mahiga ka na uhlet?

Ako: Will you lie down with me, then?

Venice: O__O Sabi ng nanay ko, she trusts me raw.



Ako: Ha?

Venice abruptly stopped with her pushing, and her face suddenly turned a color o
f pale pink.. If I wasn't
kinda dizzy, and if I only knew what was going on, it would have seemed cute..

Venice: N-Nothing! Anoh ba! Matulog ka na nga!

Ako: I'm not going back to sleep until you leave that chair and just accept my p
roposal of sleeping in this
same bed. It's not like we didn't do it before..

Venice: H-H-Hoy! It's not like I had a choice noh! O__O

Ako: Oh, don't tell me na ngayon ka pa nahiya.. It's almost midnight and you're
still in my room, you

Napatingin bigla sya dun sa orasan, and she groaned.. I guess she didn't mean to
stay this late.. I creeped
to one side of the bed, and then pulled the covers off the other side to invite
her in..

Ako: Now, c'mon, Miss Pure.. I'm not gonna do anything to you.

Venice looked at me first, and then at the empty side of the bed again.. She pou
ts her lips as if debating
in her mind and continued to stare at the warm~ inviting~ soft~ comfortable~ bed
. Then she let out a
huge sigh, and finally climbed up..

Venice: Oh well.. It's not like you have the energy to do anything weird..

Yeaaa.. okay... As if I'll really do anything weird to her..

I shifted myself, and watched as Venice take the towel that slid off my forehead
from the pillow..
Binabad nya uhlet ung towel dun sa basin, squeezed out most of the water, then t
urned to put it back
on my forehead.

Ako: Ehhhh.....

Venice: What?

Ako: Do I still need that?

Venice: Well, you have a fever, right?

Ako: But I don't feel so warm anymore. And it feels weird having something wet o
n my forehead while
I'm sleeping..

Venice: You weren't having any problem with it earlier..

Pinatong ni Venice ung kamay nya sa noo ko to feel my temperature.. She looked a
t me, tapos parang
nag-pause to think sandali.. She lowered her hand and frowned at me..

Venice: Are you sure?

Ako: Yea.. I think the fever went down.. I just need a good night's sleep, and I
'll be back on my feet.

Venice just looked at me again, hesitating, but then she eventually turned and h
ang the towel on the
side of the basin.. Of course, patients have rights too.

Venice: Okay.. Lie down, and go to sleep then..

She carefully slid under the covers, and tried to make herself comfortable.. Aft
er she stopped squirming,
I laid down and closed my eyes too..

Venice: Jerwin?

Ako: Hm?

Venice: .... Uhmm.. Di ko na pinatay ung ilaw ha..

Ako: I don't mind.


Venice: Jerwin?

Ako: Yea?

I heard her take a deep breath, kaya napabukas tuloy ung mata ko, curious to wha
t's bothering her.. She
was playing with a loose thread nung kumot..

Venice: Anoh.. You said we're partners now, right?

Ako: Uh-huh?

Venice: And partners don't really keep secrets from each other, right?

Ako: Uh, sure..?

She glanced at me quickly, and when she saw I was staring at her, she went back
to staring at the
thread.. Mas gusto nya pang tignan ung sinulid kesa sa'kin..

Ako: You can ask me anything, Venice.

Venice: (took a deep breath) Okay.. Georgina Schmitz. What is she to you?

I blinked in surprise, not just because of her question, but mostly because of t
he mention of the other
girl's name.. Georgina..

Ako: Why are you asking me this?

Venice: Well... Kaseh anoh...

She started to twirl the thread around her fingers faster..

Venice: Kenny mentioned before about constant rumors about you and Georgina Schm
itz, ung model, I
heard she's really successful.. Anyway, sabi ni Kenny wala naman daw na-confirm
kahit isa dun sa mga
rumors tungkol snyo.. just a few sightings na madalas kayong magkasama.. (took a
deep breath) and
then.. kanina, I was just looking around in your room.. and.. anoh.. There's a p
icture on your desk of you
and her.. and, well, you two look.... close..

I see.. So it's because of that picture..

Venice: I didn't mean to pry! Promise! I'm just curious.. and, anoh, if people a
sks or if I see her.. I just
want to know kung anong sasabihin ko. *sigh* I'm sorry.. This is probably a bad
time to ask such a

Tell me about it.. It's the middle of the night, my fever just went down.. and y
ou're asking me a very
stressful question.

I shifted my gaze up the ceiling, thinking to myself.. I guess, she kinda needs
to know.. I don't really
know how to answer though.. Geena and I.. I never really knew what we really wer

Ako: Geena was my very first friend here.

Venice: First friend?

Ako: Yea.. I spent almost all my whole life in the States, so I didn't really kn
ow any people when I arrived.
I met her in a party my mom threw for me. She was.. the same as me back then.

Venice: Same as you?

Ako: Yea.. She was thrust in the fashion industry out of nowhere, and.. She was
all alone.

Venice: Oh..

I caught myself to telling the whole story -- and I don't think I want that..I t
urned to face Venice who has
her face up to me, listening intently.. How can she be so curious about somethin
g that doesn't really
concern her?

I turned to my side to face her, and then smiled..

Ako: She's special to me. But we're just friends. Okay, my fiance?

She jumped from the sound of my little endearment, and her face turned pink agai
n.. Now that's cute.

Venice: "M-My fiance" ka dyan! Geez, and akoh tong all serious sa pakikinig.. Hay

Ako: (natawa) Has anyone ever told you how fun it is to tease you?

She suddenly froze and seems to blink in surprise.. Then she slowly lowered her
gaze and moved a little
bit away from me.. What kind of reaction is that?

Venice: Yes, actually.. Someone has told me that before.

What's up with the solemn atmosphere?

Ako: Well, then, that means may nag-second the motion na.. How about you sing me
to sleep now? You
don't want me to still be sick tomorrow, right?

Venice: (turned to me again) Sing you to sleep?? Anoh ka, baby??!

Ako: I can be your babe.

Venice: Kilabutan ka nga dyan sa pinagsasabi mo.. @__@

I laughed again, and then for some effect, started to massage the side of my hea

Truth is, I just really like hearing her voice.. and maybe, the singing will wip
e off the solemn look off her

Ako: Don't you know that lullabies can bring relaxing sleep to someone? And sinc
e I'm sick, I need a
relaxing sleep right?

Venice: Suz naman.. Parang naman ang taas pa rin ng lagnat mo, noh?

Ako: A fever is still a fever. Sige naaa... And next time that you are not feeli
ng well, I'll be the one to sing
you a lullabye, okay?

Venice: Hay nako, asa ka pa.. Hinde ako katulad mo na naulanan lang, inatake na
ng lagnat noh..

Kokontra pa toh, pero she propped herself up naman.. Bibigay rin pala..

I turned towards her again and closed my eyes, just as she turned to face me as

Then, she started singing....

Venice: (sings) Di kita malilimutan..

Di kita pababayaan...


Napabukas ung mata ko, and I stared at her..

Venice: What?

Ako: May sakit lang ako, hindi pa ko patay.

She laughed and then she pulled herself up.. She propped the pillow behind her a
nd then gently put a
hand on top of my head..

Venice: Okay, okay.. Just kidding.. Close your eyes, and go to sleep now.. I'll
sing you something na

I smiled inspite of myself and, just like she said, closed my eyes.. I was actua
lly kinda feeling tired..

Ako: Hey, Venice..

Venice: Yea?

Ako: Are you still gonna be here when I wake up?

Venice: Hm? Uh, siguro..?

Ako: *yawwnnn* I hope you are...

I felt her fingers gently twirling my hair.. and then the real lullabye started.

{song: You Are My Sunshine}

Venice: (sings) You are my sunshine,

My only sunshine

You make me happy,

when skies are gray

You never know, dear,

How much I love you

Please don't take my sunshine away...

I never realized how pretty that song is, until now.. In less than five minutes,
I felt myself drift off to

::Chapter 13::

Fly Away


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Bzzztttt Bzzzzzzztttt

What? What? -___-

With eyes still closed, kinapa-kapa ko ung nightstand para hablutin ung cellphon
e kong malamang eh
nag-aalarm na kaya ganyan na lang kung makapag-vibrate....

Where is it?!?!

Kapa-kapa uhlet--

Whoopsss! o_o

Dahil sa sobrang kaka-reach out ko for my phone, I literally rolled out of bed a
nd bumagsak sa sabig with

Ako: Awww... -___-

Nahablot ko na rin sa wakas ung cellphone ko, and finally turned the alarm off..
Then, sumandal ako dun
sa kama, trying to wake myself up..

"Hey.. You're still here.."

I turned my head and saw Jerwin peering at me from the bed.. He looks a lot bett
er now.. Thank God..

Ako: Yea, I'm still here.. Good morning, Sunshine.. -__-

Jerwin: (smiles) Good morning.. Nice to see you're not suffocating me with a pil
low this time..

He rolled over and managed to barely miss me when he swung his legs out of the b

Pinanood ko lang sya as he stretches for a little bit.. Energetic na si kuya uhl
et.. I yawned, feeling my
brain cells wake up one by one.. Yes, one by one..

Jerwin: Was that you who fell earlier?

Ako: Yea.. Di mo ba alam, the best na panggising ang mahulog sa kama..

Jerwin: So you do that everyday?

Ako: Do you think I fall off the bed every single day?!?

Jerwin: Well.. if it's you, I don't think I'd be surprised..

Ako: What's that supposed to mean?!??

He just laughed and picked up the basin of water dun sa stool na katabi nung nig
htstand.. Sumunod ako
palabas nung kwarto, combing my hair with my fingers, and trying to fix myself p
ara kung sinoh man
makasalubong namen, kahit papano, mukha naman akong tao kahit bagong gising..

Just before we turned to go to the kitchen, we suddenly heard two voices talking
.. Napatigil kaming bigla
kaseh, aside from Jerwin's mom's voice, nagulantang ako dun sa isa pang boses..

Ang nanay ko!!!

Ako: What's she doing here!??

Jerwin: My mom lives here...

Ako: I don't mean your mom, I meant my mom!

Jerwin: I don't know, let's go ask.

"Ay, oo, Merryl.. Kausap ko nga si Remy kagabi.. Nasabi kong gusto ko nang bumal
ik ng States, at sabi
naman nya, handa naman raw ung bahay na tutuluyan namen dun.."

I suddenly grabbed Jerwin, na muntik-muntikan nang matapon ung tubig na dala nya
sa bigla kong
paghaltak pabalik sa katawan nya..

Jerwin: What are you doing?!?

Ako: Ssshhh!

I turned my ear towards the kitchen again.. Busy na tinatago si Jerwin with me d
un sa likod nung wall
separating the formal dining room and the kitchen..

Tita Merryl: Aba, bakit hindi ka pa lumipad pabalik?

Mom: I would love to go back to the States..

She wants to go back to the States?

Ilang taon na ring nakatira and nagttrabaho si Mommy sa Amerika.. Ilang beses ny
a na rin akong pinipilit
isama, pero dahel mabait akong anak, I refused. Palusot ko na lang, gusto ko mat
apos muna ung
schooling ko chuchu.. Kaya sige, nandun si mommy, nandito ako sa Pinas.. Patawag
-tawag na lang sya..
At sa sobrang tagal nya na dun, nakilala nya si Tito Remy, matandang binata na n
ain-love kay mother.. at
ahyan, parang silang teenager na palovey-dovey.. nakakakilabot mang isipin..

It was about one and half year ago nung umuwi si mom at si Tito Remy dito sa Pin
as.. Totoo lang, di ko
rin alam kung bahket sila biglang napadpad dito.. Pero ahyan na nga sila.. Nagka
sundo naman kame ni
Tito Remy.. A real father figure, lalo na't di ko naman nakilala ang father ko..
After 6 months, he had to
go back to the States para kumayod na uhlet.. Naiwan si mommy..

And now.. she's saying na she wants to go back there....

Mom: Pero, I'm worried about Venice. Nako, kumare, kung alam mo lang, nung una k
ong uwi two years
ago, lantutay yang batang yan!

Tita Merryl: Really? Venice?

Mom: Oo.. Alam kong loka-loka at daig nya pa ang may sugar rush na bata ngayon,
pero dati, parang
pinagsakluban ng langit at lupa! Buti na nga lang at matino na uhlet sya ngayon.

"Parang pinagsakluban ng langit at lupa".... Kung alam nya lang...

Mom: Kaya nga nagdadalawang isip tuloy ako bumalik ng States. Ayoko naman kaseh
maiwan nanaman
syang mag-isa.. Pero, kumare, ang tagal na kong hinihintay ng boyfriend ko dun!
Ay! Sana makilala mo si
Remy minsan!

Nalipat ung topic nung dalawang nanay sa boyprend ni mother.. Oh di vah? Ang lan
di! Feeling teenager
talaga si mother.. Kinikilig pa habang nag-kkwento tungkol sa fafa nya..

Jerwin: Wow.. alagang-alaga ka ng nanay mo ah..

Ako: Oh shut up.

Jerwin: Kaw naman.. Is that how you talk to your sunshine?

Ako: Anoh?!?

Jerwin: (sings) I am your sunshine

Your only sunshine--


Jerwin: Kidding. -__-

I took a deep breath and then grabbed Jerwin para pumasok na dun sa kitchen kasa
ma ko.. Kunwari
bagong dating lang kami, bagong gising, walang narinig, chuchu..

Ako: Mom!?? Anong ginagawa mo dito??

Mom: Ay nako, hinde ka na umuwi kagabi kaya I brought you a change of clothes pa
ra dito ka na
manggaling papasok ng school. (tingin kay Jerwin) Good morning, Jerwin~

Jerwin: Good morning po, tita. (looked at his mom) Good morning, mom. What time
did you guys

Tita Merryl: Around 3 AM..

Ako: 3 AM? Then, where's Jean?

Tita Merryl: Ay, nakapasok na. Bakit?

Pumasok na?!?! Hinde man lang pinatulog?!?

Nakatingin sa'kin si Tita Merryl at si Jerwin, as if they're really wondering ku

ng bakit ko hinahanap si
Jean.. As if normal lang na pumasok na talaga sya, wala nang tulog-tulog.....

Kawawang bata...

Ako: Uh, just wondering lang poh.. Anoh, pwede poh ba makigamit ng bathroom?

Tita Merryl: Ay sure! Jerwin, give Venice a fresh bath towel, at pakita mo na ri
n kung nasan ung banyo..

Jerwin, who just finished pouring the water from the basin dun sa sink, looked a
t me and then frowned..

Jerwin: Can't you just use my towel?

Ako: Abno ka ba?!? Anoh pang virus makuha ko syo noh! (tingin kay Tita Merryl) N
o offense.

Jerwin: Hoy, buti nga pinapagamit ko ung tuwalya ko syo!

Ako: No, thanks. I'd rather use a fresh one.

Kinuha ko ung bag ng damit na dala ng nanay ko, smiled at the older ladies, and
then stomped pabalik sa
taas.. I heard Jerwin putting the basin sa sink, and then following me up the st

We went in his room again, and he walked straight to the closet, looking for a b
ath towel..

Jerwin: Hey..

Ako: Yea?

Jerwin: I'll take you to school today.

Ako: Okay.

After that, he handed me the towel.. Then he walked me to the bathroom at the ot
her side of the
hallway, opened the medicine cabinet, and gave me a new toothbrush..

Jerwin: You can use this one. Siguro, you should just put it with our toothbrush
es since parang
napapadalas na ang overnight mo dito..

Ako: Che! It's not like I drop by and make plans to spend the night here noh!

He laughed at me again, and walked out of the bathroom to eat breakfast while I
closed the door to
start my morning rituals..

I don't know how, and I'm not sure what he did, pero by some miracle, Jerwin man
aged to finish his
shower, get dressed, and all that in less than 20 minutes.. Oh the luck of being
a man.. -___-

Kaya when we left the house, we even had time to drop off my mom sa bahay, and p
agdating sa harap
ng school, I have enough time before my first class.

He parked on the curb again.. and I'm kinda thankful for the tinted windows, kas
eh ganitong oras pala
nag-ppour in ang sandamakmak na students.. Maaga silang gumigising..

Ako: Okie.. Thanks for the ride..

Jerwin: Venice, wait.

My hand stopped dun sa door handle, and I turned to look at Jerwin.. Anoh nanama
n kaya ang hirit ni

Jerwin: You know, I was just thinking about your mom going to the States and all
that.. If it gets to the
point that she really wants to go and live her life.... You-- You can live with




Ako: ANOH?!? Live with you?!? May lagnat ka pa ba o naluto na yang mga brain cel
ls mo kagabi?!?!

Jerwin: Anoh ba, seryoso ako. Didn't I tell you before? I'll take care of you..

Ako: Awww.. how sweet... Ulol. -__- At san mo naman ako papatulugin snyo ha?!? G

Jerwin: (smiles) Well, if that's the only thing stopping you, then don't worry..
I'll find a way.

Tinitigan ko si Jerwin.. Ehwan ko ba kung seryoso toh, kulang sa tulog, na-over

sa tulog, o talagang nagevaporate ung utak nya kagabi sa sobrang taas nung lagnat nya.. Tinotopak yatang

Ako: *sigh* Bahala ka.. I'm gonna go to my class now.. Ikaw, magtrabaho ka na..

Jerwin: Okay. I'll see you later.

Bumaba na ko nung pick-up truck ni Jerwin, somewhat oblivious of the stares ng m

ga nakakita sa'kin get
out of the shiny truck.. Anoh nga bang gagawin ko eh sa gusto na lumipad pabalik
ng nanay ko sa States?

I can just tell her to go, pero I doubt na ganun-ganun lang un.. After nga naman
ng mala-zombie kong
aura two years ago, eh good luck na lang kung iwanan nya ko uhlet mag-isa...

Haayyyy na koooo...

::Chapter 14::

One Moment In Time


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

I stared at Kenny and Sheena who are busy sa pag-ppreach nila kay Anthony, na,wh
o would've thought,
eh may pagkatorpe pala.. Di ko na maalala kung anong pinag-uusapan namen, bastah
, bigla na lang
nilang nahuli na may unspoken infatuation pala itong si Anton sa isang girl na a
yaw nya naman sabihin
ang name..

Kaya ahyan, naulan tuloy sya ng "You should tell her!", "Maganda ba?", "Kilala k
o ba?", at "Bakit ayaw
mo sabihin kung sinoh?!"

Kawawa naman..

Anthony: Ay nako! Tigilan nyo na nga ako!

Sheena: Eh sabihin mo na kaseh kung sinoh! At bakit ba ayaw mo pang ligawan?

Anthony suddenly blushed at napatingin dun sa sapatos nya.. At dahil dyan sa rea
ction na yan, naintriga
na rin ako.. Abah, ang loko! May pa-blush-blush pang nalalaman!

Ako: Avah, Anton! Kilala namen toh noh?!? Sino ang girl na itoh?!? Kailangan nan
g interviewhin!

Anthony: She's.. You know her quite well... already.

Nagkatinginan kami nina Kenny.. Sinoh ba ang kilala nameng tatlo na pwedeng magi
ng prospect ni

Kenny: As in, know KNOW?

Sheena: Gusto mo ligawan na namen para syo?

Anthony: NO!

Ay?!? Napaatras kaming bigla sa sudden outburst ng usually la-la-la na si Anthon

y.. O___O Bihira lang
yan magkaganyang may pinaninindigan.. Kaya nakakawindang pag lumalabas ang pagka
-lalake nya..

Anthony: I mean, it's alright.. She doesn't have to know.

Ako: Oh ba't why?

Anthony: (smiles) Coz I know na kaibigan lang naman ang tingin nya sa'kin.. Noth
ing more, nothing less..

Lalo kaming nagkatinginan nina Sheena at Kenny.. Avah, pusong sawi pala itong ca
se na toh.. O__O

That afternoon, like always, paglabas ko, nandun na si Jerwin sa pick-up nya, na
ghihintay.. at
nababawasan na rin ung mga paparazzi na umaasang makakuha ng stolen shot naming
dalawa.. I
jumped in the passenger seat and gave Jerwin a quick smile as he pulls out of th
e curb..

Ako: Hey, Jerwin.

Jerwin: Yep?

Ako: Have you ever been in a situation na hindi mo masabi sa isang tao na may gu
sto ka sa kanya?

Napatingin bigla si Jerwin sa'kin, but then he immediately turned to his driving
again.. And I swear,
startled na startled ang expression ni kuya.. O_O Weird.. Affected much?

Jerwin: Why are you asking? (smirks) May gusto ka na sa'kin noh? Okay lang naman
kung gusto mong
sabihin eh.. I understand na it's inevitable na magkakagusto ka sa'kin..

Ako: Hoy. Umiral nanaman yang pagka-electric fan mo. -__-

Tumawa lang sya and he lowered the volume nung radio before glancing at me again
to smile.. Parang

Jerwin: So why are you asking?

Ako: Well, you know Anthony, ung friend ko? Sabi nya he likes this girl daw, per
o hindi nya masabi kaseh
friend lang ung tingin sa kanya nung girl.

Jerwin: Who's the girl?

Ako: Ayaw nga sabihin eh..

Jerwin: Baka ikaw ung girl.

Ako: Tange. Mamamatay muna un bago nya ko pag-interesan noh.

Jerwin: Eh? Really? Ganon ka na lang ba ang level ng pagka-unlikable mo?

Ako: Hay nako. Nevermind na nga lang. Bahket ba ikaw pa ang tinatanong ko?

Jerwin: Coz I'm your sunshine, and I light up the truth.

Ako: Tignan mo lang kung may sense ung sinabi mo ha..

We moved to less serious subjects -- his hair, my hair, his snoring, my falling
off the bed -- and
eventually, we finally reached my neighborhood. Lumiko sya dun sa street and I s
tarted to strap my
book bag around me, when I realize na nag-ppark sya sa side nung bahay namen..

Ako: What are you doing?

Jerwin: Parking.

Ako: Bababa ka?

Jerwin: Why, of course. Isn't it rude not to say hello to my mother-in-law?

Ako: Never stopped you before.

He smiled, and then talagang bumaba sya ng sasakyan. He went around to my side,
and opened the
door for me.

Pa-gentleman effect?? Na-food poisoning kaya toh?

Nung bumababa na ko dahan-dahan, he suddenly leaned over -- pasimple lang naman

-- and pretended
to take my bag, pero in reality, he was whispering something..

Jerwin: Be careful. There's about one or two tabloid reporters who followed us.

Ako: Whe?!? Nasaan!?!

He closed the door behind me, and just in time to answer my question, two men ap
proached us, one
carrying a camera, and the other a notebook and a pen.

Kaya pala nagpaka-gentleman effect si kuya.. may audience pala...

Kuya Reporter: Sorry to intrude on your private time, Mr. Santos. But can we tak
e one or two quick
picture for tomorrow's paper?

Jerwin: For what story?

Kuya Reporter: No story poh, sir. One page lay-out lang poh na nagpapakita sa mg
a celebrities in their
everyday lives.

That doesn't sound so bad.. or harmful. Nagkatinginan kami ni Jerwin, trying to

think kung papayag ba
dahel it's nothing naman talaga.. or mag-rrefuse dahil nasa harap kami ng bahay

In the end, I just shrugged at Jerwin.. bahala na sya.. Sya naman tohng professi
onal pagdating sa mga

Jerwin: (still looking at me) Well.. okay...

Mr. Reporter: Thank you poh, sir! I promise, walang skandalo o kahit anong nakad
ikit sa picture na toh!

Jerwin: Okay.. But can you make sure na walang makikitang significant sa backgro
und? I don't want
other reporters loitering around my fiance's house..

Mr. Photographer: Yes sir.

Jerwin took off his langaw-sunglasses, and followed the photographer to the whit
e wall dun sa side nung
bahay namen.. Pinaupo sya dun sa sidewalk, kunwari nag-rrelax.. Although I can't
imagine sitting on the
sidewalk as part of his "everyday life"..

Mr. Reporter: Miss Venice, umupo na rin poh kayo.

Ako: Eh? Kasama ako?

Mr. Reporter: Opo.

Hinila ako nung photographer, tapos inupo na rin dun sa tabi ni Jerwin.. Sabi ny
a, mag-appear daw na
nag-uusap lang kame, kwentuhan ba.. Isip-isip ko lang, kwentuhan sa kalye? Di ka
ya madumog kami ng
mga tao kung araw-araw naming gawin toh?

After a while na mukha na siguro kaming natural, nag-stepback na ung photographe

r and took a picture.
Just pretend lang raw na wala ung camera, just act naturally.. Kung alam nya lan
g kung pano ang "act
naturally" sa'min ni Jerwin.. Ung mga tipong nagbabatukan ba...

Jerwin: Hey.. Come here, may bubulong ako syo.

Ako: Eh? Now na?

Jerwin: Yea.

He leaned forward na tipong may ibubulong talaga, and syempre, nag-lean forward
din ako para makinig
kung anoh naman tohng topak nya at ngayon pa sya may ibubulong..

Mr. Photographer: Okay, last one!

Just then, Jerwin tilted my face up, and planted a soft kiss on the tip of my no
se.... and the camera
flashed. O.O

Mr. Reporter: That was perfect! Thank you for your time, Mr. Santos, Ms. Venice.

I watched as the two reporters walked away, probably ecstatic to have such an "i
ntimate" and "cute"
moment in their film. Tumayo na rin si Jerwin and started to dust off his jeans.
. I stared at him, wideeyed..

Jerwin: What?

Ako: What was that?

Jerwin: A kiss on the nose.

Ako: And you had to do that??!

Jerwin: (smiles) Don't you know what a kiss on the nose means?

Ako: May meaning pa ba un?!?

Jerwin laughed and helped me up to my feet, then he walked me papasok dun sa gat
e nung bahay
namen.. kasi dumadami na ung mga tao sa paligid.. Ako naman si shocked, sumunod
na lang, still
rambling what a kiss on the nose means..

"Oh, Jerwin? Napadaan ka.."

I stopped my nagging and looked at my mom na picture perfect na housewife ang it

sura: uncombed
hair, oversized t-shirt, and long shorts. Oh di vah, bahay na bahay..

Jerwin: Yes, tita.. I'm just here to say hello.

Ako: Oh ahyan, nakapag-hello ka na, sige na, uwi ka na.

Mom: Venice! Anoh ka ba? Hindi pa nga nakakapasok ng bahay si Jerwin eh.

I turned to look at Jerwin, na nginitian ako pa-innocent effect chuchu.. Natutuw

a talaga si kuya sa pangaasar sa'kin... -___-

Pumasok kaming dalawa, my mom trying to un-puff her puffy short hair.. si Jerwin
, nagtatanggal ng
mamahalin nyang rubber shoes.... O_O

Ako: Oh, tatanggalin mo pa ung sapatos mo?!?

Jerwin: What? Isn't it proper to remove my shoes before going inside?

Ako: Magtatagal ka ba dito?!?

Jerwin: Yes, sweetheart.

Eew. O_O


Ako: Ouch! What??!

Napaikot ako sa nanay kong nakapamewang sa likod ko.. Tama ba namang batukan ako
sa harap ng

Mom: Anoh ba't kakarating nyo pa lang, eh inaaway mo na si Jerwin?! Umakyat ka n

a nga at magbihis ka
na! Kakain na tayo sandali.

I heard na natawa si Jerwin sa likod ko.. He probably thinks it's amusing na bin
abatukan ako at
pinapagalitan pa ng nanay ko sa edad kong toh.. -___- Pahamak talaga.. I glared
at him, and then
stomped up the stairs para nga magbihis na..

Lokong un.. Dadaan-daan dito para lang mang-trip!

--- .. ---

(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

I watched as Venice stalked off to her room. Parang bata talaga..

Tita Mel: Oh, pumasok ka muna sa loob, Jerwin.. Nagluluto pa kaseh ako.. Mabilis
na lang toh..

Ako: It's okay, tita. I'm not in a hurry.. Actually, I'm here to talk to you.

Tita Mel: Sa'kin?

Ako: Opo.. And I was hoping na makausap kayo habang wala pa poh si Venice..

Tita Mel looked at me all curious, but she led me to the kitchen anyways -- wher
e it smells like beef
steak everywhere. Makikain na rin kaya ako mamaya?

Tita Mel: Oh, anoh ba toh? May ginawa ba si Venice?

Ako: Nako, wala poh.. It's just that.. I overheard you and my mom talking.. You
want to go back to the
States, right?

Napatigil si Tita Mel sandali, looked at me, and then smiled.. Bumalik sya dun s
a niluluto nya.. So I guess
it's not a big deal whether I heard or not.

Tita Mel: To be honest, yes, I do want to go back.. Alam mo, pumunta lang ako sa
States para
magtrabaho. Pero dati, iniisip ko na, as soon as possible, gusto ko na sana umuw
i dito and spend time
with Venice.

Ako: Like now?

Tita Mel: Oo, siguro nga, like now.. Pero alam mo, Jerwin.. Tumanda na si Venice
without me.. At minsan
sa buhay mo, dadating ung pagkakataon na ma-rrealize mo na ung isang lugar na da
pat mong puntahan
at ung lugar na sasaya ka, eh dalawang magkaibang lugar pala.

Ako: So... Ung lugar na gusto nyong puntahan eh sa Amerika?

Tita Mel: Well.. not really..


She blushed.. O__O I guess totoo ung sinabi ni Venice na may pagka-"young at hea
rt" pa ang nanay nya..

Tita Mel: Nagkataon lang na nasa Amerika ung "person" na gusto kong puntahan.. a
nd as much as I want
him to come here, hindi nya naman maiiwan ung trabaho at buhay nya dun.

Ako: So you're going to him instead?

Tita Mel: (smiles) I know it sounds somewhat selfish, lalo na't may anak ako..

Tinakpan ni Tita Mel ung niluluto nya, then walked over to where I was sitting..
She smiled at me gently,
cautiously pa nga.. as if telling me to listen carefully..

Tita Mel: Jerwin, alam kong hindi kayo magkakilala ng anak ko.. Siguro ngayon, d
ahel sa mga nangyayari,
naging magkaibigan na kayo -- pero magkaibigan lang.. Jerwin, maybe someday you'
ll find out ung mga
reasons namin ng nanay mo kung bakit namin kayo pinagsama.. Maybe you two will e
ventually break
up, maybe you two will work it out.

Where is this going?

Tita Mel: Pero Jerwin, I can tell you're an amazing guy. Dadating ang araw na ma
y makikilala ka, may
mamahalin ka na, katulad ko, handa mong i-sacrifice ang lahat para dun sa taong
un. It will happen for
just one moment in your life, so when you get it, don't let it go. Maybe you won
't understand my
reasons for now, pero I hope someday, you'll think back on this instant and tell
yourself, "Oh, so that's
what she meant when she said to give up everything for that one person."

I stared at her.. Ehto ba eh isa sa mga pamana ng older generation? It feels...

odd.. coming from
someone else's mom..

But.. I smiled.. I guess she really, really, really wants to go back to her man.

Ako: Tita, when the time comes na kailangan mo na talagang umalis, don't worry a
bout Venice.. I'll take
her in.

Tita Mel: Take her in?

Ako: Yes, tita. I'll take care of her as if she's that person I'd be willing to
sacrifice everything for. So, do
what you must, tita. Venice should be the least of your problems.

::Chapter 15::



(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

"Are you ready to go?"

Hm? -__-

Pinulot ko ung naka-slump kong ulo sa mesa and squinted at Jerwin who finally ap
peared before me..

Haayyyy kung alam nya lang, ready na ready na kong mag-go!

It was another ordinary day.. Sundo, klase, Pepsi, V-Cut.. Then after school, si
nundo ako ni Jerwin, but
instead of taking me home, dumiretso kami dito sa music studio, may tatapusin la
ng raw sila sandali...
eh di oo naman ako, sandali lang raw eh....

...apparently, ang "sandali" pala sa kanila, eh ung mga tipong isa o dalawang or
as.. Natapos ko na ung
mga homework ko, halos nakibasado ko na ung pattern nung wall.. at limang juiceb
ox na ang naubos
ko.. Low batt na low batt na ang energy level ko.. nandun pa rin sila.. -__-

At ngayon... After 34879845 years.. Finally, tapos na sila!!! T^T

Jerwin: Are you ok?

Ako: Are we going home? -__-

Jerwin: Yea.

Ako: Great! Then I'm okay!

Jerwin: You are being weird.. again.

Pinulot nya ung book bag ko sa sahig.. Then, biinuksan nya ung pinto and stepped
out.. Syempre, ako
naman si happy-happy, sunod kagad sa kanya --


Aw >.<

Ako: Why'd you stop all of a sudden?? Geez.

I rubbed my nose na nabunggo dun sa likod nyang bigla-biglang tumitigil.. Si kuy

a naman.. Titigil lang, eh
dun pa mismo sa doorway.. bahket hinde sya dun sa hallway mismo mag-stop?!? at l
east sa hallway,
maiikutan ko sya noh!

Jerwin: We should hide. O_O

Ako: Eh??


Jerwin: Oh no, it's too late! O__O We should run!

Anoh bang pinagsasabi nito?? At sinoh ba ung skandalosang tumatawag sa kanya??

I tried to peek over his shoulder -- pero syempre, dahil nabiyayaan ako ng heigh
t, wala akong makita..
Kaya tinulak ko na lang sya pa-forward para makalabas na rin ako~

As soon as Jerwin stepped into the deserted hallway, isang girlaloo ang mabilis
na lumipad at
lumambitin sa leeg ni kuya.. Na-shock ako. Sinoh naman kaya toh?? O__O

I closed the door behind me, and watched as Jerwin tried to disentangle the girl
's arms from his neck..

In fairness, maganda si ate... in an edgy kind of way. She doesn't look like she
's that much older than
Jerwin.. Probably 24 or 25.

Her hair is cut in a stylish bob... raven black with red streaks.. Heavy eyeline
r, and red -- BRIGHT red
lipstick. O_O

at ang outfit ni ate! Purple corset-styled top, tight fitting jeans.. purple hig
h-heeled shoes...... How can
she walk in those shoes?!?!

Jerwin: N-Nicole!?! What are you doing here?!?

Nicole: I just finished a photoshoot in the other building.. and then I heard na
nandito ka with your girly,
so I decided to drop by!

Oh.. so galing photoshoot si ate.. model?

So that outfit... tinakbo nya? O_O

Nicole: And besides, I really, really, REALLY want to meet my adorable cousin-in



Jerwin suddenly grabbed me and put a firm protective arm around my shoulders.. O
_O Monster ba
tohng si ate na kailangan ko bigla ng protection??

Nicole: Oh, Jerwin, relax. I'm not gonna bite her. I heard a lot of good things
about her from Jean. She's

Jerwin: I don't trust you. -___-

Nicole: (biglang serious) Hey. Is that the way to talk to your "ate"?

I felt Jerwin tensed up.. Kinabahan si kuya.. Kaseh naman ang aura ni ate, bigla
ng toxic!

Lumapit sa'kin si cousin-in-law, and Jerwin finally relaxed his protective stanc
e and let the girl approach
me.. He didn't step away though... as if he's waiting or expecting something fre

But c'mon.. what's to fear? How can someone so pretty be scary?

Nicole: Hi! I'm Nicole, Jerwin's cousin!

Ako: I'm Venice. It's nice to meet you.

Nicole: Oh the pleasure is mine. My, my.. Jean wasn't lying when she said how pr
etty you are.

Ako: Thank---


All of a sudden, Nicole grabbed ang boobs ko!

And she started squeezing -- as if feeling them! OoO

Nicole: You have a pretty nice body too.

Jerwin immediately pulled me behind him, and then glared at his cousin. I don't
think I've ever been
happier to be pulled so roughly away. T-T

S-S-Scary... Cousin-in-law s-scary... T^T

Jerwin: NICOLE!!!

Nicole: What?? I was just seeing if they're real.

Ako: Y-Y-You could've just asked!!! T~T

Jerwin: What were you thinking?!?

Nicole: Hmmm, just wanted to see for myself. (napatingin kay Jerwin) Oh, my, my,
Jerwin.. You're
blushing. Did you want to touch 'em too?

Jerwin's face flared up to a shade of red I never thought was possible. And I th
ink, I'm having a heart
attack...... Hindi ko kaya ang powers ni cousin-in-law!!

Jerwin: Stop being such a perv! Why are you here anyway?!? Aren't you supposed t
o be in Greece or
somewhere not here!??!

Nicole: Yea, well.. I got tired of my boyfriend-of-the-week, so I left him in Gr

eece. Work is so much more
interesting compared to his stories about the stock exchange..

She turned to look at me again, and kahit na nakangiti si ate, I could feel the
hair at the back of neck all
stand up..

Nicole: Yo, Venice, let's hang out tonight! I'll pick you up at 9!

Jerwin: What!?!?

Nicole: What? You wanna come too?

Jerwin: I have things to finish up tonight

Nicole: Oh well, that's too bad. (tingin uhlet sa'kin) It's gonna be a girls' ni
ght out then!

Ako: I'm not sure I can go out tonight...

She looked at her watch and then frowned.. Aalis na ba sya? Aalis na ba? T-T

Nicole: I gotta go.. I'll call you later, Jerwin, for directions to her house. a
nd Venice, I'll see you later!


She just completely ignored what I said, didn't she? Completely ignored what I s

Nicole pivoted on her heel, and before we knew it, she already turned the corner
towards the main hall.
I turned to Jerwin, shocked, panicked, at scared for my own life.....

Ako: Am I going to be raped? T^T

Jerwin: (laughed) Of course not. Nicole is as straight as ruler, I doubt she'd r

ape you. Really, she's a cool
person.... just kinda eccentric. No one ever knows what she'll do next.

Ako: Should I go with her?

Jerwin: Well.. You wouldn't want to get on her bad side...


Jerwin laughed at the "it's the end of the world" expression on my face.. then h
e took my hand, and
stirred me towards the main hall so we can leave the building..

Jerwin: I have to do some work tonight.. But if I get out early, I'll try to cat
ch up with you guys, okay?

Ako: But Nicole scary... Nicole scary... T-T

Jerwin: Oh, I know. I know..

::Chapter 16::

Panic At The Disco


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Ako: Aren't you done with work yet? T-T

Jerwin: Well, I think I'm halfway done... Are you still nervous about going out
with Nicole?

Ako: You know I'm only doing this because you told me not to get on her bad side

I stared at my reflection as I tried to put on my earrings, habang iniipit ung c

ellphone between my ear
and my shoulder.. Multitasking is the best! It's almost 9:00, and I can't believ
e I'm actually dressed up
for this!

ding dong!

Ako: Oh my god, she's here. O_O

Jerwin: Okay, just relax.. You've gone clubbing before... Just don't drink too m
uch, do you understand?

Ako: Define "too much".

I grabbed my clutch purse and ran palabas ng kwarto.. Hinde pa man ako nakakabab
a ng hagdan,
naririnig ko na si mommy na kinakausap si Nicole..

She's really here.. T^T

Ako: I gotta go, Jerwin..

Jerwin: Okay. And Venice?!? Don't get in trouble.

Ako: Do I look like a troublemaker?

Jerwin: Well.. I'm actually more concerned about the person you're with.... -___

Ako: What's that supposed to mean!?? O.O

Jerwin: Oh nothing! Have fun! Bye!

Ako: What?!? Jerwin?! Jerwin?!? Hello?!?

Binabaan ako.. Bubwit na un....

I walked over sa main hall kung san.... nag-ppicturan ang nanay ko at si Nicole.
.. O__O

Ako: Uh... hello?

Nicole: Oh Venice! Hi! Hold on, one last shot.

At one last shot talaga.. pati ang nanay ko, nakiki-pose dun sa camerang hawak n
ya.. O_O

Nagpapaka-teeny bop nanaman si mother...

Ako: What's going on?

Mom: Ay nako, anak! Di mo naman sinabi na si Nicole Suarez pala ang kasama mo lu
mabas ngayon!
(tingin kay Nicole) I'm a big fan of your mom's work!

Nicole: Yep, my mom designs the hippest clothes around..

Model na anak... Fashion Designer na nanay..

Baka ung tatay ang mananahi.

Kamustah naman ang familya... O_O

Ako: Anyyywaaayy.. Let's go, Nicole..

Hinila ko na si Nicole palabas ng bahay, bago pa man makahirit uhlet ang nanay k
o ng isa pang
photoshoot.. Hindi man halata, may pagka-vain din yang si mother.. Dyan ko naman
a ang pagiging adik
sa camera eh..

Nicole: Bye, tita!!

I followed Nicole papunta dun sa black Toyota car nya.. All the while na nag-ffa
sten ako ng seatbelt, ay!
isang nobena ang tumatakbo sa utak ko.

Nicole: Your mom is so much fun!

Ako: Ah ha ha.. Hey.. Are you sure we're not gonna wait for Jerwin?

Nicole: Oh it's alright.. I'll be enough to fend off unwanted guys.

Ha.. ha.. ha.. T-T

"Daaannnnn~ One more shot of Vodka please.."

T-T Oh my golay.. This is like babysitting a drunk 24-year-old girl!! I can bare
ly dance on the dance floor
with her getting hit on by almost each and every crazy guy in the club! We've be
en here for about an
hour and a half.. And ever since dumating kame, sa bar kagad dumiretso si Nicole
.. Kaya hello alcohol.

I have a new appreciation for Sheena, Kenny, and Anthony for all those times na
sila ang nanghaltak
sa'kin paalis sa dance floor tuwing may pasimpleng nananching.. at all those tim
es na rin na pinipigilan
nila ako tuwing nagiging best friends kame ng mga bartenders..

I followed Nicole to the bar again.. She seems pretty popular in this club.. Not
that I should be surprised..
It's a high-end nightclub.. Only the most elite and the richest crowd goes here.
. She's one of them.. Life
of the party..

Ako: Nicole, are you sure you should get another drink? You're drunk already..

Nicole: Oh shush. I'm not drunk.. This is how I normally am..

You mean, you're normally loud, and giggly, and flirty, and hyper?

I ordered myself a virgin pia colada -- dahel mukhang mahirap na kung pareho pa k
ameng malasing..
Nicole, meanwhile, is very much in love with her little shot glass.. -__-

Nicole: You know, Venice, I'm soooooo glad Jerwin ended up with you instead of t
hat slut Geena.

Ako: Eh? Geena?

She drinks from her glass again, and then poked the ice with the little stirrer.
. Tinutunaw pa yata ung
yelo para madagdagan ung iniinom nya.

Nicole: Oh yea! I work with her often for magazine spreads or this and that.. I'
m telling you, if I am not
such a professional, I would have punched her face every time I see her.

Ha.. professional ha..

Nicole: Well, it was also a problem that Jerwin was so protective of his little

Ako: "His little whore"?

First friend is his little whore? anoh??

Nicole: (drinks from her glass again) Oh, what chu ma call that then, when she s
leeps with him and
they're not even together? Friends with benefits? It's the same thing.. Jerwin w
as so obsessed with her,
it's crazy!

Ako: They -- sleep together? You mean, like..... O__O Uh... doing naughty things

Nicole: (natawa) Oh you can say it, you know? I'm not little miss innocent.. and
yes, that's what they do..
or at least, that's what they used to do.. Maybe not anymore.. I mean, you're wa
aayyyy better than the

Astounded from everything na narinig ko, napatayo akong bigla; maybe to drag Nic
ole out of the club
and make her tell me everything, or maybe to get rid of the nauseating feeling n
a nag-rrise up from my

Pero dahil sa pagka-careless ko, I accidentally knocked over my drink.. Ung kata
bi ko tuloy na babae,
nagtitili nung natapunan ng pia colada ung dress nya.. For some reason, ung baso
pa ang una kong
pinagbalingan ng atensyon.. and then, tsaka ko lang kinuha ung towel na patakbon
g inabot sa'kin nung

I started to frantically wipe off the stain from her dress.. Parang bigla tuloy
akong nahila pabalik sa here
and now.

Ako: I-I'm so sorry!

Girl: What were you doing?!? Ugh! How clumsy can you get?!?! And I just bought t
his dress too!

She grabbed the towel from my hand and sya na mismo ung nagtatanggal ung mantsa.
. Though it's not
getting her anywhere either..

Ako: I'm really sorry.. I was.. I was just..

I was just anoh? Shocked? Irritated? SHOCKED?

Jerwin lied to me... and I know it's weird, considering ung foundation at histor
y ng relationship namen...
but somehow, it kinda... hurts..

The girl suddenly faced me, and her hand stopped moving.. Lumapit sya sa mukha k
o, as if trying to see
me better.. What's her problem?

Girl: You're that girl Jerwin Santos is currently dating, aren't you?

Ako: Uh, actually, it's fianc.. We're done with the whole dating thing...

Girl: Ha.. Pathetic. Anoh naman kaya ang iniisip nun at pumatol sya syo?

Ay, may galit si ate!? Ang bitter!

Girl: But then again, a no-talent guy like him needs all the publicity he can ge
t. I'm not surprised he's
stooped down this low para lang lokohin ang mga taong nag-ssupport sa kanya.. He
just used his family's
influence kaya naabot nya whatever it is na naabot nya.. He's such a third-rate--



Oh my golay, I just slapped a stranger!

And ung stranger pa na tinapunan ko na ng pia colada ung bago nyang dress!

Girl: OoO How dare you?!!

Oh well, lubus-lubusin na naten ang pang-aaway..

Ako: Don't talk about him that way! Jerwin is a talented performer and people lo
ve him because of the
music he makes! Anong karapatan mo mang-degrade sa taong di mo naman kilala, ha?
!? At sinoh ka

Girl: You don't know who I am?!?

Nicole, na kanina lang eh nanononood lang sa likod ko, suddenly stepped forward
at gumitna sa'min
nung girl na namumula na sa galit.... or dahil ba sinampal ko sya? O_O Oh no.. g
anun ba kalakas ung
pagkakasampal ko?!?

Nicole: Hiya, Angel.. Don't blame Venice for not recognizing you, she's not real
ly a TV person. And really,
you deserved that slap.

"Angel"? They know each other?

Angel: Your family really has a way of recruiting crazy people, huh?

Nicole: Hey, listen.. I know you just got dumped by your cheap-ass boyfriend and
movie offers aren't as
great as they were back then.. I know you're really pitiable right now.. But you
better watch your mouth,
because I'm not gonna let you off talking crap about my family.

Angel: Oh, should I be worried? What are you gonna do? Call the Mafia on me? Ask
your grandfather to
cancel my shows? See if I care! Ganyan naman ang pamilya mo eh. They take what t
hey want, and when
they don't need it anymore, they throw it away. Mga manggagamit!

Nicole: Okay, that does it.

Ako: Wait, Nicole, what are you--?!?



She punched her!!! She punched her right on the nose!!! SHE. PUNCHED. HER!!!!

Oh my gawd her nose is bleeding!!!

Ako: W-We should go.. We should really go. O__O

Nicole: I guess so. Nasira na ang mood ko.

Kakatalikod pa lang namen nang biglang nag-scream si very very angry girl sa lik
od namen.. and she ran
towards Nicole and grabbed Nicole by the hair!

Next thing I knew they were going at it full force! Nagsasabunutan, nagsasampala
n, nagsisipaan.. Kulang
na lang ung mud, may mud wrestling na.

This is insane!!!

Dumating na rin sa wakas ung security to break up the fight.. Saludo ako sa mga
security na gumitna sa
wrestling match nung dalawa. Two of them pulled Angel and Nicole apart, and two
more were trying to
disperse the crowd that gathered..

Pero full of adrenaline and alcohol ung systems nung dalawa! Hawak na nga sila n
ung dalawang malabundok na security, talagang nagpupumiglas pa!

Nicole: Let go of me!!! That girl needs another foot up her humongous butt!

Ako: Nicole! Tama na! Let's go!

Nicole: I am not going anywhere until I beat the pulp out of her!

Oh for crying out loud!

Angel: Then come here! Let go of me, you big baboon!

Ako: Let's just go.. T-T

Nicole: No!!!


Nicole: Heehee.. You know, Venice..

Ako: Yea? -__-

Nicole: I didn't really plan for this to happen..

Ako: Oh I understand.. Who would plan to end up here, right? -__-

Nicole: Are you mad at me?

Ako: Too tired to be angry, really..

Nicole: Oh that's good. Promise, Venice, I didn't expect us to end the night in
a jail cell.

Ako: And yet, here we are... T-T

Nicole: Well, you were the one who started it anyways..

Ako: Hey, you were the one who punched her.

Nicole: You slapped her first.

Nagkatinginan kami ni Nicole... and then we suddenly burst out laughing -- napat
ingin tuloy ung dalawa
pang manong na nakakulong kasama namen.. Na-conscious kaming bigla, nanahimik ka

Ako: Now that I think about it.. Kawawa naman pala si ate.. Natapunan na nga ung
dress nya, nasampal
na, nasuntok pa..

Nicole: I know! How can someone be so unlucky?

Nagkatinginan uhlet kame nung pareho naming naalala kung nasan kame: Detention j
ail cell dito sa
police station..

We both let out a huge sigh..

Who would've thought na mag-sspend ako ng oras sa kulungan?!

Nasan na ba ung magppyansa sa'min? T_T

::Chapter 17::

No One Is There


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

Police Station! Police Station!

I hastily parked my truck in front of the two-story building, with its crumbling
yellow paint and faded
"District 9 Police Station" sign.. Sa dinami-dami naman ng station na pagtatapun
an, dito pa sila talaga
pinatapon sa mukha ring patapon na presinto -- no offense.. I hope no one's lurk
ing in the shadows
armed with a camera or anything like that.

I ran up the filthy stairs, taking two at a time, until I reached the inside of
the station .. I walked up to the
policeman stationed at the desk and gave him a small smile..

Ako: Hi... Uh, I'm here to bail out two ladies that were picked up from a club e

Policeman: Oh! Mr. Santos? Uh, sandali lang poh..

He went through some papers, discussed the offense charged to my cousin and my f
iance, and then
finally, he took the bail money.. I walked to the jail cell and saw Venice talki
ng to one of the detention
prisoners, and Nicole listening intently.. O_O

Venice: Really?!? Nakulong ka kaseh nagskandalo ka sa harap ng bahay ng ex mo??

Prisoner 1: Oo.. Disturbing the peace daw.

Venice: But they do that in the movies all the time! Pano na lang ang romance?!?



Ako: Uh, ahem.

Napatingin silang lahat sa'kin, and Nicole immediately flew over and grabbed the
bars separating us..

Nicole: Cousinnn!!!

Ako: Hello, Ate.. So what happened to the promise of not getting in trouble toni

Nicole: Well, yea.. about that... Venice slapped her first.

Venice: Hey!

Ako: Venice? O_O

Nicole: Yup.. So technically, it was her who got us in trouble.

Venice: Oh, so now it's my fault?

Ako: *sigh* Nevermind. Just come on and get out.

Binuksan ni Mr. Policeman ung jail cell and the two girls bounced out.. It's goo
d to see they're okay after
spending one or two hours in jail.. And nakapag-bonding pa sila nung preso.

I quickly approached Venice just to make sure she's not traumatized by everythin
g that happened..
Nakaka-traumatize talaga minsan ang pinsan ko..

She doesn't look shaken, but... what's up with that glance she's giving me?

Ako: Are you okay?

Venice: Yea.

Ako: Are you hurt anywhere?

Venice: No.

She's still not looking at me... Venice has always, always looked into my eyes w
hen we talk.. It's one of
the reasons I'm so fascinated with her.. She's not intimidated by the fact that
there's about a thousand
people out there who are screaming my name.. To her, I'm just Jerwin.. just the
boy she suddenly found
herself engaged with..

Nicole: Yo, Jerwin! Can you drop me off at the club? I left my car there.

Ako: Are you sober enough to drive?

Nicole: Are you kidding me? After two hours in there and about two cups of coffe
e that Mr. Policeman
gave me? Yea, I'm sober.

Ako: Well, let's go then..

I followed the two of them out of the police station.. It's amusing how Venice w
on over Nicole that
easily.. and under these circumstances.... Odd..

Nicole helped herself in the backseat, and I was just about to go the driver's s
ide when I noticed Venice
still standing on the sidewalk..

Ako: What are you doing? Get in.

Venice: Uhmmm.. I think... Mag-jjeep na lang ako.. or taxi..

Ako: Are you crazy? It's past midnight. Cmon, I'll just drop off Nicole to her c
ar, and then I'll take you

I moved to take her hand, but to my surprise, she jumped and pulled away. Confus
ed, I stared at her,
not knowing what to say or what to ask.

Venice: I.. I can go home by myself.

She went pass me and said good bye to Nicole, who was watching us from the truck
's window.

After that, without even looking back, dumiretso na sya dun sa may kalye and hai
led a cab.. Syempre,
ako naman, sumakay na sa kotse ko.

Nicole: Why did Venice leave by herself?

Ako: I don't know.

Nicole: Did you two have a fight?

Ako: Not that I know of.

Nicole: Well.. That's weird.

Ako: I know. Tell me about it.

If last night was weird, the next day was even weirder. Halos atakihin si Manage
r sa sobrang galit dahel
sa mga escapades kagabi ni Nicole -- who, by the way, eh hawak nya rin as a tale
nt. Lalo pa syang nahigh blood when he found out na kasama ni Nicole si Venice. Instant pyesta raw s
a media, sabi ni
Manager. And as usual, ako nanaman ang nasisi.. Bakit ko raw iniwan ung dalawa u

Mukha ba kong babysitter?

Anyway, he wanted to meet with the two as soon as possible. Preferably after cla
ss ni Venice... Kaya
ehto ako.. running at least 10 minutes late dahel sa'kin nabaling ung long versi
on nung sermon.. It
doesn't even help na Venice has been acting weird the whole day.

I picked her up that morning and she barely talked to me. Kung may itatanong ako
, ang sagot nya puro
one-syllable lang. Even now na I'm running late, tahimik lang ung cellphone ko..
. Usually, one minute
lang akong na-late, bobombahin nya na ng tawag ang cellphone ko -- not that I ev
er answer her calls
unless I know I'll be more than 15 minutes late.

I parked my truck in the usual spot, and then turned off the engine. I hope she
gets out soon. Manager
hates waiting--

knock knock

I almost jumped out of my skin nung biglang may nag-tap sa bintana sa side ko. K
aka-park ko lang at may
umaatake na kagad!

Nung medyo napakalma ko na ung puso ko, I peered dun sa window knowing na, even
though I can see
the other person, the other person won't be able to see me. It's a safety issue.

Isn't that Venice's friend?

I rolled down the window, and yep, there she is, Sheena, if I remember right, st
anding next to
Anthony......... huh..

Ako: Hi. Where's Venice?

Sheena: That's what we're here for. What are you doing here?

Anthony: Venice left school right after her last class. We thought na maaga mo s
ya susunduin.

Ako: She left? Already? Where did she go?

Nagtinginan silang dalawa, obviously unsure kung anong nangyayari.. So I don't t

hink Venice mentioned
the little escapade to the jail the night before.

Sheena: Well, I doubt she'd go home so early..... and I'm pretty sure she's brok
e so she won't go

Anthony: She might end up in a bar later on.. but.. right now...

Nagtinginan uhlet sila. Anoh ba?? Psychic ba silang dalawa at nag-uusap sila thr
ough looks?!?

Ako: Right now..?

Sheena: Well, we're not really sure. But she's been quiet the whole day, which i
s totally unusual kaseh
palengkera un eh.. Anyway, baka may nag-bbother sa isip nya.. And if that's true
, she should be in that
place right now...

I know this place. It's kinda near my house.... I pass it almost every single da

But.. why would she be here?

After giving me directions, Sheena and Anthony refused to say anything anymore.

This cemetery....

I asked the guards for directions towards the Sheen burial plot.. I walked to th
e west, just like they said.
Sabi nila I wouldn't miss it daw, it's right by a big oak tree.

Ok.. I see the oak tree.. and a few feet to the right, there she is.. Venice.

She has her back turned to me so I don't think she realized that I was there. An
d she seems to be pretty
engrossed with whatever she's doing. She's barely moving, just staring down at t
he piece of marble in
front of her.

I slowly walked over to her, careful not to make any noise.

Venice: I said whatever happens, I'll just go with the flow. Even when this absu
rd engagement came up, I
thought it's okay, it'll be over soon. I was doing okay. I had school to keep me
busy.. and I came to visit
you every day.. So, who cares if life wanted to toy with me by thrusting me in s
ome bizarre situation
with a guy I don't even know?? But... after what I heard... What am I going to d
o now, G?

I froze. Somehow, I suddenly feel like I'm intruding on a private, intimate conv
ersation..... even when
there's nobody else there.

::Chapter 18::

The Past, The Love, The Memories


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Life sucks. Guys suck. Being the other woman sucks.

It's not even like I asked for this. Talagang mahal lang ako ng tadhana kaya nap
adpad ang buhay ko sa

NOT that I should complain, dahil nagpa-"padpad" din naman ako... -__-

Dapat kumontra ako! Magkamatayan na muna bago ko sinurrender ang daliri ko! Pero

Dahil feel na feel ko ang pagiging feather in the wind, wa care kung san ako mad
ala o kung anong
mangyari, ahyan.. o ano ako ngayon? Extra sa buhay ng may buhay..

Sigh... Anoh ba naman talaga tohng pinasok ko? -__-

Mag-mamarathon pa sana uhlet ako ng isa pang speech ng reklamo nang may narinig
akong nag-rustle
sa likod ko. Syempre, napalingon naman ako para lang manigurado na hinde pa tuma
tayo ung mga
bangkay sa likod ko.


I froze when I saw the person standing behind me... Hinde, hinde sya bangkay, pe
ro kasing surprising pa
rin kung bangkay ung nakita ko.

Ako: Jerwin? What are you doing here?

Nakatalikod si kuya.. Mukhang naghahandang tumakas.. Kaya lang, may natapakan ya

ta syang patay na
dahon o kumontra ung mga damo sa kanya, kaya ahyan, narinig ko ung pagtakas nya.

He slowly turned to face me. He looked at the gravestone for a few seconds, and
then flashed me a
discomfited smile.

Jerwin: Uh.. Well, Sheena told me you might be here.. So.. Uh..

He kept glancing at the gravestone.. Si kuya naman, mamatay na sa curiosity, aya

w pa magtanong..

Ako: You don't have to wait for me. I can go home by myself. I won't get mobbed.

Jerwin: Well, about that.. The Manager kinda wants to talk to you and Nicole.

Ako: About last night? O_O

Jerwin: Yea. He was mad when he heard what happened.. But I don't think he'd be
as pissed off as he
was this morning...

Ako: (whispers) I wonder if he'll break off the engagement...

Jerwin: If he'll what?

Ako: Eh?? Nothing! Sige na, give me one more minute.

Binalik ko ung tingin ko dun sa cold and hard na gravestone -- it's soooo unlike
G na warm and... soft?

Well, I gotta go now, G.. I don't know when I'll be back. But I'll try to return
as soon as possible, okay?

I slowly stood up -- Josko, ang likod ko. Ang hirap ng tumatanda -- and glanced
one last time at the
tombstone bearing Gerard's name.

See you later, G. I love you...

Ako: Okay. Let's go.

Dinaanan ko si Jerwin na nakatingin pa rin dun sa gravestone, probably trying to

read kung anong
nakalagay.. Ayaw pa kaseh lumapit.. Pero he reluctantly followed me after a whil
e, anyway.

I waved to the guards dun sa booth nila and then jumped at the passenger seat nu
ng truck ni Jerwin.
Jerwin drove us to Tito Ray's office building.

Jerwin: Uhmm.. so pinapansin mo na ba ko ngayon?

Ako: Eh? Bahket?

Jerwin: You've been ignoring me since last night.

Eh kaseh naman.. Nakakapangilabot pag tinitignan kita tapos maririnig ko ung sin
abi ni Nicole. Parang

Tumingin ako kay Jerwin and Brrrrrr.. Ang fanget ng visual image.. si Jerwin....
shirtless.... sweaty......
breathless.... dark room..... at...


Napatingin sa'kin si Jerwin sandali nung hinde ako sumagot.. Hinahabol ko muna k
aseh ung puso ko..
Masama ang mga ganitong na-iimagine!

Jerwin: See? You're ignoring me again.

Ako: I'm not ignoring you. Can we just talk about something else?

Something-- Anything! Matanggal lang ang nakakapangilabot na shirtless, sweaty,

breathless na picture
ni Jerwin sa utak ko!

Jerwin: Okay... So.. Sinong binibisita mo dun sa cementeryo?

At talagang un pa ung topic na napili nya..

Ako: Someone special.

Jerwin: How special?

Ako: Like, boyfriend-kind-of-special. He was -- is -- very special to me.

Jerwin turned to me in surprise. Then as quickly as he turned, bumalik rin kagad

ung atensyon nya sa

Jerwin: Oh. Sorry.

Ako: Sorry?

Jerwin: I didn't mean to pry.

Ako: Oh no. It's okay. I like talking about G.

Jerwin: G?

Ako: Gerard. I call him G.

I silently laughed nung naalala kong bigla ung weirdness ever nung utak ni Gerar
d kaya I ended up calling
him G, and he started calling me V..

V.... No one has called me that in a while..

Jerwin: How long has it been since he.. uh.. well, passed away?

Ako: Two years and one month..

Jerwin: Oh. And you still visit him?

Ako: I try to come at least every single day.

Jerwin: Tagal nyo siguro nagsama for you to be hang up on him like that...

Ako: Nah. We didn't even get to celebrate an anniversary.

Jerwin glanced at me again with that surprised look on his face. Anoh naman ngay
on kung hinde kami
nagkasama ng ganon katagal? It doesn't mean I loved him any less.

Ka-surprise-surprise ba na binisita ko si G hanggang ngayon?!

Jerwin: So, what did you like best about him?

Ako: Best? Hmmmmm... Anoh nga ba? Ang dami eh! He was an amazing guy. He made me
laugh. He
tried to take care of me. He.. He loved me very much...

Jerwin: How did you know it was love?

Ako: Anoh bah.. Love is love. You can't explain things like that. You just feel
it right here. (turo sa left
side ng dibdib ko) If it's love, the heart will know it.

Tahimik lang si Jerwin. His eyes fixed on the road. Masyadong maka-concentrate s
a pagmamaneho..

Ako: Haven't you felt something like that before? Like... oh I don't know.. with

I saw him clench his jaw. I think I hit a sore spot.

Jerwin: Geena?

Ako: Yea.

Jerwin: There is nothing between Geena and me.

Ako: Are you sure?

Jerwin: Yea.. Geena and I are just friends. That's all she ever wanted for us to

Ako: How about you? Friends lang ba talaga ang gusto mo?

Jerwin: It doesn't matter what I want.

Ai.. ang sad. O_O

Nasa one-sided love si Kuya...

::Chapter 19::



(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Ako: You know... Now that I think about it... Siguro, uuwi na lang ako. O__O

Jerwin: Uh, nah.

Jerwin parked the truck sa usual parking spot nya.. I stared at the building in
front of us.. Parang bigla
syang naging haunted building -- dapat katakutan, dapat iwasan. T-T

Jerwin turned off the engine and then hopped off the truck. I still didn't move.

Nung umikot sya papunta sa side ko, I locked the doors from the inside.

Hinde ako baba dito. H.I.N.D.E.

Jerwin: Venice?! Let's go!

He started knocking on the window, careful na hinde masyadong rough sa uber-love

d nyang truck.. Pero
sinisigawan naman ako.. wahahaha kala nya ba tatalab sa'kin yang sigaw-sigaw na

Ako: NOO!! Ayoko!

I saw him take out his keys. Pumosisyon naman kagad ako, na as soon as he presse
d the unlock button,
binaba ko uhlet ung lock.

Jerwin: Will you stop doing that?!?

Ako: Will you stop forcing me to go?!?

He pressed the unlock button again, and this time, I wasn't fast enough, kaya na
buksan nya ung pinto. I
almost landed on my face nung biglang nawala ung bintana sa harap ko. Good thing
Jerwin caught me.

Ako: I don't wanna go. T-T I slapped somebody.

Jerwin: At least you didn't punch her. And you don't have any scratches or bruis

Ako: Nicole was bruised?!? O_O

Jerwin: Her arms and legs. Now, can we go?

He grabbed my arm and tried to pull me out of the truck.

Jerwin: Do you mind letting go?!?

Mas lalo akong kumapit dun sa side nung truck. Jerwin tried to pry off my finger
s.. Itsura na lang

"Uh.. You two look.. happy."

Napatingin ako sa likod ni Jerwin, and si Jerwin naman, taking advantage of the
distraction, hinaltak ako
and offff I went out of the truck. He immediately slammed the door and locked it

Ang sanctuary ko.. T-T

I turned to glare at the newcomer na nang-distract sa'kin -- only to find Nicole

standing there -- being
her usual fashionable self. -__-

Nicole: Venice! You were called too?

Ako: Yea. Ikaw din?

Nicole: Yea. T-T

She suddenly grabbed my hands and looked into my eyes.

Nicole: We'll get scolded together. Stick with me, and I'll stick with you. T-T

Ako: We shall be punished together. T-T

Jerwin: Kung ayaw nyong madagdagan ang sermon snyo, maybe we should start going

Ako: Should we start praying, Nicole?

Nicole: If we manage to get out of this unscathed, I assure you, I'll offer nove
nas to.... some saints.

Jerwin: Oh for crying out loud.

Sinundan na namin ni Nicole si Jerwin papasok nung building.

Somehow, medyo na-ccomfort akong nandito si Nicole. At least, mahahati ang sermo
n ni Tito Ray.

We stopped in front of Mr. Santos' office as the secretary announced we're here.

Ako: Alam mo.. It's not too late to run

Nicole: He'll hunt us down. Trust me. I've tried.

Pinapasok kami nung secretary, and nagtago kagad kami ni Nicole sa likod ni Jerw
in -- just in case biglang
may flying na kung ano na aimed at either one of us.

Mr. Santos was sitting in his big, comfy chair when we walked in. When he saw us
, he immediately
pointed to the two chairs in front of his desk. Nicole and I dragged ourselves p
aupo, while Jerwin sat on
the couch at the other side of the room.

Mr. Santos: What took you so long?

Jerwin: Traffic.

Nicole: A LOT of traffic.

Mr. Santos: Very well. Nicole.

Ehto na. Magsisimula na ang sermon. T-T

Nicole: Yes, tito? -__-

Mr. Santos: You know why you're here. I know my sister is very lenient in raisin
g you, but to abuse that
freedom and end up in jail?!? Did it occur to you how embarrassing this is for t
he entire family?!?

Nicole: It will never happen again.

Mr. Santos: At naisip mo man lang ba kung anong impact nito sa career mo if ever
the press decided to
run the story?!? It's a good thing I was able to pull a few strings and prevente
d them from publishing
anything! How irresponsible can you get?!?

Wow that's harsh.. O_O

Mr. Santos: At dinamay mo pa si Venice--!

Venice: Hold on, tito! Don't be so harsh on Nicole. I started the whole thing. I
slapped Angel first!

Nicole: Venice!

Venice: The fight wouldn't have happened if I didn't make Angel angry in the fir
st place. So please, don't
be so harsh on Nicole. Yell at me.

Nicole: Wait, tito. Venice was just defending Jerwin.

Jerwin: What? Me?

Nicole: Angel was being a stupid b-- I mean, Angel was drunk and saying mean thi
ngs. Venice just acted
like any other fiance would have.

Mr. Santos stared at us. His face looks thoughtful, which I think suits him bett
er than the angry
expression he had earlier.

I don't know what else to say. Ayoko naman mapahamak si Nicole, pero takot rin n
aman akong
mapahamak. T-T

Ako: Are you.. breaking off the engagement because of what happened?

Jerwin: What?!

Napatayo bigla si Jerwin dun sa inuupuan nya and napatakbo palapit sa'min. Nicol
e looked at Tito Ray

Mr. Santos: And why would you think that?

Venice: Kaseh poh.. Your family is highly respected. Kung ako nga poh na hinde n
aman talaga kasama sa
pamilya nyo eh nag-ccause na ng ganitong kahihiyan..... Then.. maybe..

Jerwin put his hand gently on my shoulder. I stopped talking and looked at him.
He's staring at his

Jerwin: Nothing happened. Can't we just let this one go?

Nicole: Venice didn't do anything wrong, tito. Please don't break off the engage

Napatingin sa'ming tatlo si Tito Ray.. and then he sighed.

Mr. Santos: Nicole.. It's not like Venice is engaged to you.

He smiled. Ai, he smiled!

The tensed atmosphere lifted.

Mr. Santos: I'm not breaking off the engagement between you and my son, Venice.
And I think you and
Nicole have both realized your mistakes.

Nicole: Does that mean we're off the hook?

Mr. Santos: Make sure it doesn't happen again.

Nicole: Yes, sir!

Nalunod ako sa yakap ni Nicole. I was so shaken by everything na hinayaan ko na

lang si Nicole na isuffocate ako.

Tito Ray looked at Jerwin and gave him a smile.

Mr. Santos: I didn't expect you to stand up for her.

Jerwin: (shrugs) Yea, well.. Where else would my amusement come from?

Mr. Santos: Oh by the way, Venice.

I untangled myself from Nicole's grasp and turned to face Tito Ray again.

Mr. Santos: Can you tell your mom that I found cheap tickets for her?

Ako: Tickets?

Mr. Santos: Yes. The tickets for her flight to the US. She wanted to leave as so
on as possible, so it was
somewhat difficult to find inexpensive tickets. She asked me for help.

Ako: I... Uh... O_O

She's leaving?

"You didn't know."

I sank in the passenger seat of Jerwin's truck. After the final exchanges, pinau
wi na kami ni Tito Ray.
Lutang na lutang ako na hinde ko na maalala kung anoh pa nangyari after sinabi n
i Tito na may tickets na
raw ang nanay ko papunta sa US..

Hinayaan ko na lang si Jerwin na i-lead ako pabalik dun sa truck nya.

Ako: That wasn't a question.

Jerwin: Your face said it all. Your mom didn't tell you she's going back?

Ako: I guess... She never had the chance.. Madalas naman na wala ako sa bahay.

Jerwin pulled out of the parking lot as I fastened my seatbelt. I can't believe
my mom didn't tell me.

Jerwin: Hmm.. But you used to live by yourself, right?

Ako: Yea.

Jerwin: So anong pinoproblema mo? If you've done it before, you can do it again.

Ako: But I don't wanna live by myself again.

Jerwin: Ayaw na ayaw?

Ako: Sobrang ayaw na ayaw.

Jerwin: Then you won't mind living with me?

Ako: Shut up.

Jerwin: What? I thought sobrang ayaw na ayaw mong mag-live dun sa bahay by yours

Ako: Yea-ha! But I'm not squeezing myself in your parents' house noh!

Jerwin: That's why I said live with me

Ako: Anoh? What are you talking about? Hay nako! Manahimik ka nga muna dyan. I n
eed to think.

Jerwin: Okayyy...

My mom is going back to the States. She probably expects me to live in the house
again.. alone.. all

I don't really want to be alone again in that big, empty house..

But.. who am I to hinder my mom's wishes?


::Chapter 20::

Invitation To The Blues


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .


I slammed the door behind me, binagsak ung book bag ko sa sahig, at tumakbo papu
nta sa kusina.. sa
living room.. sa dining room.. and finally, I ran up the stairs papunta sa kwart
o ng mother ko.

And there she is, nasa harap ng computer, nag-cchat....

Ako: MOM!!!

Mom: Ai, Venice! Anoh ba!? Indoor voice!

I slowly walked over to her and sinilip kung sinoh naman kaya ang ka-chat ng nan
ay ko.. annnddd I
should have known.. Sinoh pa nga ba?

Ako: Oh.. Si Tito Remy?

I waved dun sa webcam, and Tito Remy waved back.

Mom: Hello raw. Kamustah raw ang engagement?

Ako: Very well, thank you. -__-

Sira ung mic, kaya hanggang type lang dun sa YM window sina mommy. I know, ang o
ld-fashioned, pero
bahket ba? Eh masaya na sila dun eh.

Umupo ako dun sa kama and watched as my mom eagerly talks to her boyfriend (buti
pa nanay ko, may
boyprend. nyahaha)

She looks so happy just talking to him.....

Ako: Hey, mom.

Mom: Oh?

Ako: Tito Ray booked you a flight two weeks from now.

Napatigil sa pag-ttype si mommy. Either guilt-trip sya dahil di nya sinabi sa'ki
n na lilipad na pala sya.. or
natulala sya sa tuwa.

Ako: He got you a ticket. Tawagan mo na lang raw sya.

I stood up and kunwari pinagpag ung uniform ko. Then I started to walk papunta s
a pinto. Drama-drama
yan. I know my mom would call me back.

Mom: Venice.

Oh di vah?!

Mom: Gumaganda ka yata.

Anak ng tipaklong! Anong kinalaman nun sa usapan namen?!?!

Although, totoo naman. wahahaha

Ako: I know na noh.

Mom: Ai, oo nga pala.

Ako: Hm?

Mom: You know you can always come with me to the States.

Ako: *sigh* Mom.. Graduating na ko. I can't just leave. Maybe someday.

Mom: Well... I can wait....

Ako: Mother dear, anoh vah.. Halos dalawang taon ka nang naghihintay. Sige ka, b
aka mapagod na yang
si Tito Remy kakahintay syo, biglang mag-evaporate yan.

Mom: Hoy, anong tingin mo sa'min?! Teenagers?! Yakang-yaka namen ang LDR noh.

LDR? -___- Na-oover na yata ang pagtambay nina Sheena dito sa bahay.. Pati nanay
naiimpluwensyahan na.

Ako: I'll be alright. I don't mind living here by myself. I've done it before, I
can do it again.


Mom: Well, I'm sure you'll be very well taken care of.

Ako: Yea yea.. Pero alam mo, parents don't normally just leave their kids, noh!

Mom: Anong "kid"?! Iha, baka nakakalimutan mo, 21 ka na! Abah, ung iba ngang kae
dad mo na anak
nung mga kapitbahay eh either may anak na o may asawa na!

Ako: Care ko naman?!? Eh di good for them! And besides--

Tinaas ko ung left hand kong kumikinang-kinang.

Ako: I'm engaged.

Mom: Sapilitan pa.

Ako: At least engaged noh.

Kahit for a certain period of time lang.

Ako: Mag-usap na nga uhlet kayo nyang si Tito Remy. Magbibihis na ko.

I walked out of the room and diretso sa kwarto kong makalat. Puno ng drafts ng t
hesis kachuvahan.. I
can't wait to graduate.

Bzzzzzttttt Bzzzzzttttt

Inisda ko ung cellphone ko dun sa bulsa nung uniform ko.

Jerwin's calling. Bakit kaya?

I fell on my bed at the same time na sinagot ko ung cellphone.

Ako: Haller, Sunshine?

Jerwin: Sunshine?

Ako: Di ba, you are my sunshine. My only sunshine. So, bakit ka napatawag, sunsh

Jerwin: I just wanted to check up on you.. kung ok ka lang after your talk with
your mom.

Ako: Let's see.. My mom is leaving in two weeks. I'll be living by myself again.
I have two papers due on
Monday. Oh I'm okay.

Jerwin: I guess, I don't need to cheer you up then.

Ako: At pano mo naman binabalak na i-cheer up ako?

Jerwin: Welllll... I have a photo shoot in Batangas this weekend. I'll be going
to the beach.

Ako: That's good.

Mang-inggit ba?!? Anong ka-cheer-up-cheer up dun?!?

Jerwin: If you're not doing anything... Just bring your schoolwork, come with me


Napaupo akong bigla. Tama ba ung narinig ko?

Ako: Whe?! Di nga?! Sasama mo ko?!

Jerwin: Ayaw mo? It's okay if you don't want to.. I just thought you might need
a little cheering up--

Ako: WHAAA!! Sasama ako! I need cheering up! Sasama ako!

Natawa si Jerwin dun sa kabilang line. Napa-desperate sabit yata ung sound ko.

Jerwin: Okay then. I'll pick you up tomorrow at noon. We'll be there for three d
ays kaya make sure you
pack enough clothes.

Ako: Ang saya saya! Sasama mo talaga ako sa beach? Three days tayo dun?

Jerwin: Yep. Maybe I'll even get a free day during the weekend. I'll take you ou
t on a date.

Ako: Neknek mo. Anong date ka dyan?!?

Jerwin: But, honey, hindi ba normal lang na I take my fiance out on a date?

Ako: Awwww Sunshine..... Kilabutan ka nga. Ulul.

I hang up on Jerwin's laughter. Adik un, saya-saya ko at pupunta ako sa beach, t

apos hihiritan pa ko ng
date kachuchuhan nya.


I jumped off the bed and kinadladkad ung malaking maleta ko out of my closet. I
better start packing
now. Oh what to bring~ what to wear~ what to bring~

Tayo na sa beach

Tayo nang magswimming~


::Chapter 21::

La Villa


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

This is one of those rare days in my life:

maaga akong gumising at nasa good mood pa ko paggising ko.

My bags are packed, my hair is dry, and it's almost time to go to the beaaccchhh
. Pa-bounce-bounce pa
ko as I drag my luggage pababa nung hagdan.



My "bouncing" suddenly came to a halt.

Duuuunnn sa may living room, feeling at home, kumakain ng pandesal, at alive na

alive, ay ang best
prend ko at si Anton.

Nung napansin nila ako, sila pa tong may ganang magpatalbog-talbog papunta sa'ki
n.. O_O

Ako: Anong ginagawa nyo dito?!? and what are those?!?

Minata ko ung mga duffel bags na naka-parada dun sa sahig sa may pinto.

Naglayas sila. Please let it be na naglayas sila. T_T

Sheena: Aww c'mon! Syempre, eh di ung mga damit namen para sa Batangas escapade

Ako: N-Naten?!?!

Anthony: Oo. Sabi nga ng nanay mo, pumunta kami dito as early as possible, binig
yan nya pa kame
pandesal with coco jam oh..

Napalipad ung tingin ko sa nanay ko na tamang-tama naman lumabas ng kusina, may

bitbit na isang
pinggan ng pandesal. Nung napansin nyang nandun na ko AT nakatitig ako sa kanya,
avah ang loka,
biglang ngumit at nag-retreat pabalik ng kusina!


Oh crap. This just keeps on getting better and better. -__-

I walked over to the door para pagbuksan ang kumakatok na Jerwin. He smiled when
he saw me, but
then biglang naging "whoaaaa what's going on?" ung mukha nya nung sumulpot sina
Sheena at si Anton
sa likod ko.

Sheena: Jerwin~

Anthony: We're going to the beach!

Jerwin: Uh.. ha.. ha..


Pinapasok ko si Jerwin as Sheena and Anthony continued to gush about going to th

e beach -- mga sabik
sa buhangin. Nginitian ko na lang si kuya as we follow the two papunta dun sa li
ving room..

Jerwin: Uhmm.. Can I ask what's going on?

Ako: Apparently, my mom decided to invite some people. Sorry. T_T

Jerwin: Well.. I guess it's okay...

Ako: I can tell them na hinde sila pwedeng sumama..?

Jerwin: (natawa) But.. they look so happy. I think I'm gonna feel a tad of guilt
kung di ko pa sila isama.

Anthony suddenly jumped in front of Jerwin and gave him a HUGGGGEEE hug. O_O Nat
ulala tuloy ako
kaseh hinde naman sila close.

Anthony: I love the beach! and I love you, man!

After that, binitawan nya si Jerwin and sumunod kay Sheena papunta sa kitchen pa
ra manghingi pa uhlet
ng pandesal.

Jerwin: Uh.. Anthony.. is he.. uh.. you know.. Kenny.. @_@

Ako: Eh?!? Wahahahahaha No. Anton is as straight as a ruler.

Jerwin: Oh. Good. Well, we should get going.

Ako: Okie. Lemme just call Anton para tulungan kang magbitbit ng mga bag papunta
sa truck mo.

Jerwin: Tulungan?

I absentmindedly glanced at my heavy-looking luggage, kaya napasunod naman ung t

ingin ni Jerwin.

Jerwin: I did mention we're only gonna be staying for three days, right? O_O

Ako: Yea.

Jerwin: Bakit parang pang-isang linggo na yang inimpake mo? O_O

Ako: Buhatin mo na lang, ok? -__-

--- .. ---

(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

Venice: Are we there yet?

Sheena: I'm sleepy.

Anthony: Sleepy?!? Kanina ka pa nga tulog. Nanigas na ung balikat ko, ginawa mon
g unan!

Sheena: Anong klaseng unan ka naman ba?!? Nagising din ako ng paulit-ulit, ang g
alaw-galaw mo kaseh!

Venice: Are we there yet?

I can't believe I'm spending the entire weekend with these three. -__- We've bee
n on the road for at
least an hour, and, somehow, hinde man lang nag-deplete ung energy nung tatlo. M
adaldal pa rin sila.

Ako: We're almost there.

Venice: Kanina mo pa sinasabi yan eh.

Ako: This time I mean it.

I turned in one corner, and the cemented road has become a narrow, dusty path. P
ero di na
nakapagreklamo ung tatlo, coz soon enough, we were able to actually see the ocea
n! The Three Stooges
were happy.

I drove a few more minutes and finally, we reached the villa that the management
rented for me, the
manager &amp; his family, and the other crew members. There were two vans in the
parking lot
already. The shoot doesn't start til tomorrow, but I guess everyone wants to soa
k up some sun before
getting to work.

I parked my truck in between two of the familiar vans. Tapos, dinaig pa nung tat
lo si Flash sa sobrang
bilis nung pagbaba nila.

Venice: Dun ba tayo titira?? Dun ba?!?

She's pointing at the three-story white-washed building. It's a pretty nice-look

ing villa.. it's surrounded
by coconut trees.. the front is facing the beach.. it has a Balcony.. Terrace..
Dalawang bahay kubo sa
likod.. Jacuzzi..

Ako: Yep. We'll be staying there.

Binuksan ko ung harang nung likod nung truck ko.. Anthony and Sheena followed me
para tumulong
ibaba ung mga bags at ung maleta ni Venice. I handed Anthony his bag, and then s
lid the other one to

Anthony: Here, Shee, I'll take that for you.

Sheena: Talaga? Bahhh ang gentleman naman~

Anthony: Oo naman. Baka mapagod ka pa pagbuhat nyan.


I watch silently as Anthony and Sheena starts walking papunta dun sa villa.. Dal
a na nga ni Anton lahat
ng bags, inaalalayan nya pa si Sheena..

Venice: Huy! Anoh pang tinitingin-tingin mo dyan?! Let's go!

Ako: (still looking at the two) That was pretty obvious.

Venice: Eh?

Napatingin ako kay Venice. Di man lang nila napansin... Babae talaga..

I took my own duffel bag, and then slid Venice's luggage bag out of the truck. V
enice bounces with
excitement beside me as she starts listing kung anong pwedeng gawin at kung san
pwedeng pumunta..
Ganyan sya ka-free gumalaw kaseh ako ang may dala nitong mala-10 ton nyang gamit

We stopped in front of the villa where Anthony and Sheena were already joined by
Mr. Gordon, ung
production manager.

Mr. Gordon: Jerwin! I'm so glad you finally made it!

Ako: Yea. It's nice to finally be here. Tagal ko na rin poh hinde nakapunta dito

Venice carefully stepped beside me and then coiled her arms around my right arm.
Nag-practice yata
kagabi maging believable fiance..

Ako: I hope you don't mind. I brought my fiance and a couple of her friends with

Mr. Gordon: Oh no no, I don't mind.

He smiled at Venice and extended his hand. Venice smiled back and took his hand
and shoot it.

Mr. Gordon: Abah, mas maganda ka pala sa personal, Ms. Venice.

Venice: Ay! Thank you poh, sir!

Di man lang nagpaka-demure..

Mr. Gordon: (tingin uhlet sa'kin) I don't mind the extra company, pero we might
have some problems
with the rooms.. Sakto lang kaseh ang kwarto dito sa villa para sa'kin at sa pam
ilya ko.. dun sa mga crew
members.. at para syo, Jerwin.

Venice: Eh? O_O

Mr. Gordon: We can give you the other side of the villa, two rooms un.. The crew
members can
somehow squish themselves in the middle part of the villa, mas malaki naman kase
h un.. (napatingin sya
kay Sheena at Anthony) Dun sa side nyo, ung isang kwarto, may dalawang single be
d, at ung isang
kwarto naman, may queen-size na kama.

Sheena: Ay! Anton and I can take the room with the single bed chuchu! Di ba, Ven

If looks could kill, Sheena would probably be dead by now.

Jerwin: Well, I guess that's that. Venice and I don't really mind sharing one be
d, di ba?

Venice: Eh?!?!? I mean, uh, sure, sweetie.

Yep, if looks could kill, nag-ddecompose na ko.

Mr. Gordon: Okay then. I'll let the other people know. (tingin kay Venice) I'll
see you again later. MagBBQ kame para sa lunch, come and join us.

After that, bumalik na si Mr. Gordon dun sa side nila nung villa..

Anthony and I turned para pulutin na ung mga bags at nang makalarga na rin kame
sa kwarto namen.

Venice: Why do I have to share a room with you?!?

Jerwin: Because I'm your fianc.

Venice: Bahket hinde na lang ganito? Uh.. Sheena and I will take the room na may
queen size bed, tapos,
kayo ni Anton dun sa kabila.

Pinauna ko nang pinapasok sa loob si Sheena tsaka si Anton, then I paused sa may
pinto para kausapin si

Venice: What?

Ako: Are you really gonna rob Anthony of his dream?

Venice: Dream? Na anoh? Matulog sa twin-size bed?!?

Ako: Of getting to sleep with Sheena in the same room.

Venice looked at me confused. Umakyat ako nung hagdan, half-pulling, half-carryi

ng Venice's luggage.
Venice just followed me, her lips pursed together -- probably trying to figure o
ut what I just meant.

Pumasok kami dun sa magiging kwarto namen. It's not too bad. Yea, may queen-size
d bed.. It's kinda
cramped, but at least, it's clean. May aircon naman, so I don't think we'll die
from heat.

Venice: Sunshine.

Napatingin ako kay Venice na nakaupo dun sa kama.

Venice: I don't get it. Anthony's a perv?

Ha! I knew she was still pondering about that.

Ako: Oh, c'mon.. Don't tell me you haven't noticed it yet?

Venice: Na?

Ignorante ba o insenstive?

Ako: Na Anthony likes Sheena!

::Chapter 22::

Hawak Kamay


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .




Jerwin: Keep staring at him like that and I'll start getting jealous.


Napabalikwas akong bigla. Napalipat ung titig ko na kanina lang eh naka-focus ki

na Anton at Sheena dun
sa kabilang side nung table, papunta kay Jerwin na may kung anong pang-asar na n
giti sa mukha nya.
Kung di lang masyadong brutal, pinakilala ko na ung plato sa mukha nya.

Ako: At feeling mo naman may care ako kung magselos ka?

Jerwin: Feeling mo naman magseselos talaga ako?

Ako: Ahsus, nahiya ka pang aminin.

Ilang oras na kaming nasa villa.. Nagluto si Anton at si Jerwin ng lunch, habang
tinatambak namen ni
Sheena ung mga gamit dun sa mga closet sa mga kwarto namen.

Ngayon, dahil sa sinabi ni Jerwin tungkol kay Anton, hindi tuloy ako matahimik t
uwing nakikita kong
magkadikit si Anthony at si Sheena. Bakit nga ba hinde ko napansin dati un? Obvi
ous na obvious nga
naman na iba ang aura ni mokong pag inaasar sya ni Sheena..

Nang napansin kong nawiwindang na ang brain ko, tumayo na ko para hugasan ung pi
nggan ko..
Sumunod naman si Jerwin sa'kin..

Jerwin: Bothered ka?

Ako: Yea. Should I tell Sheena na type sya ni Anton?

Jerwin: Eh? Why would you do that?

Ako: What should I do then?

Jerwin: Hayaan mo lang sila. Let Anthony handle his own affairs.

Ako: Haayy.. I wish nandito si Kenny. I'm sure, if ever, wala pang 5 minutes, al
am na ng buong bayan ang
issue. (tingin kay Jerwin) Akin na nga yang plato mo at natutuwa akong maghugas
ng pinggan pag
stressed ako.

Jerwin: Wow... So pag nasa iisang bahay na tayo, dapat pala lagi kang stressed p
ara lagi ka naghuhugas
ng pinggan.

Ako: Oh shut up.

Kinuha ko ung plato nya as he laughed. Tinungga nya lang ung natitirang tubig du
n sa baso nya then
nilagay nya na rin un sa sink.

Jerwin: I'm just gonna go take a shower and then I'll go out, okay?

Ako: Eh? San ka pupunta?

Jerwin: Hmm.. We passed by a small town earlier, not so far from here. It was ri
ght at the foot of a
mountain. I might go hiking.

Ako: Hiking? Sama ako.

Jerwin: You?

Ako: Yea-ha! Ayoko naman maiwan dito.. Baka maistorbo ko pa ung pantasya ni Anto

Jerwin: Do what you want. But hindi kita hahabulin pag may nanghabol na tutubi s
yo ok??

--- .. ---

(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

The sun is just about to set. I'm walking through a dense forest. It's the perfe
ct time for insects to be out
and crawling. It's wonderful.

I knelt in front of a tree's huge trunk, and focused my camera on a beetle peace
fully chilling on the
wood. It's been a while since I was last able to venture into a wild setting wit
h overgrown tree branches
almost covering the sky, grass growing everywhere, unknown animal sounds piercin
g the silence, all
kinds of odd-looking bugs fluttering their wings in the air...

"Why are you taking a picture of a cockroach?"

Oh. Yea. And Venice.

Ako: It's not a cockroach. It's a beetle.

Venice: Yea, yea.. Cockroach, beetle... Same creepy family.

I took the picture and then stood up to glance at Venice. She's sitting on a fal
len tree trunk. She looks
very comfortable in her gray cotton sweat pants, red shirt, and dirty white snea
kers. Ilang oras na rin
kaming naglalakad kaya ung ponytail nyang buhok eh medyo magulo na. Ilang beses
na sigurong nasabit.

Oh well, at least she's not freaking out every single time na may lumilipad na k
ung ano na malapit sa

She suddenly points at something beside her.

Venice: Ai look! Ang colorful nung insect! Picturan mo! Baka rare species!

Ako: Venice. It's a butterfly.

Venice: What? Hinde ba pwede maging rare ang butterfly?!?

Ako: Haaayy.. Why are you here again?

Venice: Coz I was bored, and you wanted to go to this mountain instead of the be
ach. AND --

She held out the map I gave to her before we left.

Venice: I am the way, the truth, and your lifeline. Without me, you shall lose y
our way.

Ako: Well, way, truth, and lifeline, get your butt off that tree and let's go ba
ck to town. It's almost dark.

Venice: Yes, sir!

She jumped off and pinagpag ung sweatpants nya, and then studied the map. I swun
g my camera
around my neck and waited for her to figure out where we're going.

After a while, she pointed east.

Venice: Okay! This way!

Ako: Are you sure? Didn't we come from the other way?

Venice: But the map said na may shortcut daw dito.

Ako: Okay. You have the map..

Sumugod na kami dun sa direction na sabi nya eh shortcut daw. I grabbed her hand
to make sure she
won't fall down or trip over something again. Going up the mountain with Venice
made me realize that

some people who are ridiculously clumsy do exist. Aba, ang laki-laki na nga nung
bato or a bulging tree
root, pwedeng-pwedeng iwasan, talagang ipag-aacrobatic pa ni Venice ang pagkadap

That's why this time, I made sure I hold her hand.

5... 10.. 15 minutes later..

Venice and I walked through an unfamiliar path. She held the map in one hand, an
d held my hand in the
other. I didn't really mind holding her hand, but...

Ako: Are you sure we're going the right way?

Venice: Of course! Shortcut nga raw!

Ako: You keep on saying that but....

I feel like we're getting further away from where we parked.

30.. 35 minutes..

I helped Venice over a big moss rock boulder.. She gently pulled me toward the "
right way".. I frantically
dragged her away to escape a couple of snakes.. We saw a few weird birds' nests.
. thought we're gonna
run into lions or tigers..

We'd pause for a while.. Venice would look at the map, then she'd grab my hand a
gain.. or Venice would
stop and start moving forward, lost in her own thoughts, and I would gently take
her hand in mine..

40.. 45.. 50 minutes..

Even though I was fascinated by all the wild creatures we had encountered, I am
getting exhausted and
thirsty, and the sky is almost completely dark by now.

Venice suddenly slowed in her tracks.. I can hear cars.. people.. civilization..
I fished in my pockets for my
keys so we can jump into my truck as soon as we're out of the wildlife environme

Venice: Now I'm sure.

Ako: That we're here?

We exited from the trees, and we both froze.


Venice: Now, I'm sure that we really are lost.

We ended up in a town, alright.. A smaller town.. A different town.

::Chapter 23::

Strangers Like Me


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

Venice: Ha... That's so weird..

Tumingin sya dun sa hawak nyang map.. I just stared at the place we ended up in.

It's a somewhat small town, the epitome of rural living. There are no tall build
ings.. There are no
cemented roads.. The "roads" are almost enveloped by the darkness.. The houses a
re small and made of
mostly wood.. There's a stray GOAT over there.. I don't understand how the artif
icial sources of light in
the houses are sufficient enough for a whole family to see in the dark.. Well, a
t least may kuryente sila.. I
guess growing up in a brightly-lit city.. I'm just not used to this kind of sigh
t... It's so.. so.. provincial.....

Venice: I wonder where we are...

Ako: This is like Venice in Wonderland.. We entered some sort of hole in the gro
und, and we ended up in
another world.... O__O

Venice: Eh??

Ako: Honestly, I've never read the story. But I'm thinking it'd be something lik
e this....

Venice: That's nice.. But.. right now... Ihavesomethingreallyimportanttotellyou.

Anoh raw?

Her face is just a few inches away from mine.. Her eyes shine with intensity. Se
ryosong-seryoso ung
mukha nya.

Ako: Uh.. Are you going to apologize for getting us lost?

Venice: Why would I do that? This is much more important. Listen very carefully
dahil matagal ko nang
kinikimkim toh..

I nodded. I wonder what's going on.. My paparazzi ba? It doesn't look like may s
usulpot na paparazzi
dito.. Terorista? May nakita ba syang may baril?!? O_O

Oh crap, maybe we should make a run for it.

Venice: Jerwin...

Ako: Y-yea?

Venice: Naiihi na ko.





Ako: Can't you hold it in?

Venice: What do you think have I been doing the past few hours?!?!


Oh. Crap.

Ako: Well.. Uh.. O__O

Napatingin kagad ako sa paligid. May portable comfort room ba dito!?? Restaurant
?!? Hotel?!?

Ako: Uh.. Dun! Sa likod nung puno na un! Dun na lang!

Venice started doing the wee-wee dance.. and I admit, kahit na medyo napapanic a
ko, I find it amusing
na nagtatalon sya, alternating between her two feet..

Venice: Adik ka ba?!? I'm not peeing behind a tree!

Ako: Ngayon ka pa umarte!

I grabbed her hand and pulled her towards dun sa pinakamalapit na bahay.. I know
this is gonna sound
really rude, not to mention embarrassing, pero anoh pa bang magagawa namen?!?

I knocked on the door a couple of times, and a young kid -- about 6 or 7 -- open
ed it. He looked at me -well, actually, it was more of a stare than a look... Then his face went like th
is . OoO

"Jose! Sino ba iyang nasa pinto?"

An elder man appeared behind the boy. Upon seeing me and Venice, he immediately
ran over to the
door and hid the little boy behind him. I know.. strangers who appear out of now
here, looking like they
just came tumbling out of the woods (which we kinda did... ), and one of them vi
gorously squirming.....
yea, we don't look very reliable.

Ako: We're sooo sorry to intrude.. Pero, my girlfriend here, kailangan nya poh k
asi mag-CR...

Jose: Tay.. Di ga si Jerwin Santos ya-an?

The father squinted at me, and after a while, realization clouded his face. Oh a
ng mga advantages ng
kilala ka ng halos lahat ng tao. He immediately ushered us papasok sa bahay nya,
and the little boy,
whose name is Jose, showed Venice to the bathroom.

The father, who introduced himself as Manong Ben, led me to the small dining roo
m. His wife, Aling
Marie, was just finishing up cooking their dinner.

Manong Ben: Nako, di ko naman akalain na artista pala ung kumakatok sa pinto!

Aling Marie: Bakit naman ho kayo napadpad dito sa baryo namen, Mis-terr Santos?

Ako: Jerwin na lang poh.. Eh, umakyat poh kase kami nung bundok. Binigay ko poh
ung mapa kay Venice,
ung girlfriend ko poh.. Uhmm.. We ended up here..

Manong Ben: Iho, hindi ga naituro sa iyo, wag mong hahayaan na babae ang maghawa
k ng mapa? Aba'y,
mawawala nga talaga kayo nyan!

Aling Marie: At nagsalita naman ang taong laging nawawala..

Napangiti ako sa sagutan nila.

Aling Marie put a glass of water in front of me, at halos tinungga ko un.. Naala
la ko bigla kung gano na
ko ka-uhaw.. Inutusan ni Aling Marie ung asawa nya na kumuha pa ng malunggay dun
daw sa puno sa
likod ng bahay nila. Sumunod naman si Manong.. at naiwan kami ni Aling Marie sa

I took the opportunity to look around. It really is a small house.. Katabi na mi

smo nung dining table ung
stove at ref.. Tapos from where I was sitting, kitang-kita na rin ung maliit na
TV in what seems to be the
living room.. Dun sa isang side nung living room, may pinto, siguro un ung banyo
kaseh dun pumasok si
Venice.. May dalawang pinto dun sa kabilang side nung bahay.. Un siguro ung mga
Everything was a few steps away from everything else.

After a while, Venice emerged from the bathroom, looking relieved and finally at

She smiled at Jose, who's busy doing something dun sa living room.. Venice walke
d over to the dining
room, and stood behind where I was sitting. Aling Marie greeted her.

Aling Marie: Okay ka na?

Venice: Opo. Maraming salamat poh.

Pumasok na rin maya-maya si Manong Ben, dala-dala ung ilang branches ng malungga
y na pinakuha sa
kanya.. He gave those to his wife, and then he sat in front of me.. I felt Venic
e gently squeeze my

Ako: Anoh, Manong Ben, may jeep poh ba dito na pwede naming sakyan papunta sa La

Manong Ben: Ah, dun ga kayo nakatuloy? Aba'y may jeep papunta dun! Kaya nga lang
, gabi na. Bukas na
ulit bbyahe ang mga jeep.

Venice: Eh tricycle poh?

Aling Marie: Ay naku, iha, kalayo ng La Plaiya para sa tricycle.

Nagtinginan kami ni Venice. I think nag-ssink in na sa utak nya ung situation da

hil nakita kong medyo
nag-aalala na rin ung mukha nya..

Manong Ben: Aba'y kung gusto ninyo, eh bakit di muna kayo dito magpalipas ng gab
i? Dito na rin kayo
kumain ng hapunan! Masarap mag-tinola ang misis ko!

Aling Marie: Oo nga! Wala naman kayong ibang tutuluyan na malapit dito. Mabuti n
ang dito na kayo
matulog, at bukas, gumising na lang kayo ng maaga para makasakay kayo dun sa una
ng byahe ng jeep
papunta ng La Plaiya.

Venice: Nako, sigurado poh ba kayo? Ayaw naman poh naming maka-istorbo.

Manong Ben: Ay, ano gang istorbo? Hindi naman araw-araw na may nawawalang artist
a at sa bahay pa
namen kumatok!

Ako: Uh, haha.. kung ganun poh, makikigulo poh muna kami ngayong gabi.

Venice: Maraming salamat poh.

The dinner was.. fun. The husband and wife were constantly bantering with each o
ther. Manong Ben
was poking fun at Venice because she got us really lost. Venice would defend her
self with ridiculous
excuses (really.. I think hearing voices is a sign of some psychological defect.
). Jose stared at me pretty
much the entire time -- until Venice started teasing him about it.

Venice has a knack for making strangers feel oddly at ease.

After dinner, Venice volunteered to wash the dishes. Jose went back to doing his
homework. Aling Marie
took out a bottle of something from the refrigerator, grabbed a couple of small
cups, and set it in front
of me and Manong Ben.

Aling Marie: Ito, oh, makatulong man lang na mag-init ung katawan mo. May pagkalamig dito tuwing
gabi eh.

Ako: Anoh poh toh?

Manong Ben: Lambanog! Nabili ng kumpare ko at binigay sa'kin nung makailan laang

He poured some in his glass, then a little bit in mine. It smells of... coconut?
I took a sip......

WHOA!!! Talk about having a high content of alcohol! O__O

Nararamdaman kong gumuguhit sa lalamunan ko...

Manong Ben: Oh ano? Nagustuhan mo ga?

Ako: WHOA. Grabeh!

Nagtawanan silang mag-asawa. Venice watches me with an amused look on her face.

Aling Marie: Oh, Venice, ikaw? Gusto mo ga ng kaunti?

Ako: Oh no! Wag nyo poh bigyan yan! At baka hindi na kayo makatulog sa sobrang g
ulo nyan paglasing.
Pati mga kapitbahay nyo, masskandalo pa.

Venice: Shut up. Hindi ako ganun kaskandalosa noh.

Ako: Akala mo lang un.

Venice: Che! (tingin kay Aling Marie) Pero wag na poh.. Nagbabawas na ko sa paginom

Ako: Good for you.

I drank again from my glass. It's really strong, pero parang nakakaadik inumin.

Aling Marie: Doon na lamang kayo sa kwarto ni Jose matulog. Mas malinis naman yo
ng kwarto na yon
kesa sa kwarto naming mag-asawa.

Manong Ben: Di ga masyadong maliit ung kwarto na un? Aba'y magkakasya ga silang
dalawa doon?

Ako: No, it's okay. Ayos lang poh kung magkatabi kaming matulog ni Venice.

Venice: Oh shoot.

She almost dropped a plate.

Nagtinginan si Manong Ben tsaka si Aling Marie.

Ako: Don't worry. Wala poh kaming gagawin na kalokohan. Promise.

Venice almost dropped another plate.

Biglang natawa si Manong Ben nung napansin nya yata na I could barely contain my
laughter dahel sa
mga reaksyon ni Venice.

Manong Ben: Hahahaha Sige na nga. Hayaan mo na silang dalawa, Marie. Aba'y sa al
tar rin naman ang
tuloy ng dalawang yaan eh. Di ga nga, Jerwin?

Aling Marie shook her head, smiling, and then she went on to prepare our sleepin
g quarters. Venice
finished up washing the dishes and was drying her hands already.

Ako: Sa altar nga naman poh. Kaya ngayon pa lang siguro, dapat nang pagpraktisan
na masanay sa mga
hilik ni Venice.

Venice: Hoy, at sinoh naman kaya sa'ting dalawa ang humihilik!?

Ako: Defensive?

Manong Ben: Hahahahaha naku, tama nga naman na mag-praktis! Ayan ngang si Marie,
daig pa ang
lindol kung makahilik eh!

Ako: Sana naman ay hindi maging ganon si Venice!

Venice laughed good-naturedly as she walked papunta sa likod ko.

Ako: Kailangan ko ang tulog ko-oowww!! AW!

Venice: Kailangan mo ang tulog mo-oh-oh aw?

Lumipad ung kamay ko sa likod nung left shoulder ko na kinurot nang pagkaaaa-lak
as-lakas ni Venice.
Panggigilan ba ko?!?

Ako: Geezus! Are you trying to pinch my skin off?!?

Venice: Oh, it didn't work?

Tumawa na ng tumawa si Manong Ben. I rubbed the spot where it hurts like hell da
hel sa pamatay na
kurot ni Venice. Sadista talaga. -__-


Napatingin kami dun sa kabilang side nung table.. Nandun si Jose, nakatayo, hold
ing a notebook.

Mahiyaing bata. Parang nung nasa edad yata ako na ganyan, dinaig ko pa ung mga u
nggoy dun sa zoo sa

Jose: May assignment po ako sa English.. Eh, hindi ko naman maintindihan....

Manong Ben: Nako, anak, ako pa ang tinanong mo sa English na yan.

Venice knelt down in front of Jose and smiled at him. I watch with fascination a
s the sadistic amazon
turns to a more civilized picture of a caring woman.

Venice: Gusto mo, ako na lang ang magturo syo?

Jose: Nakakahiya naman po. Bisita ho kayo eh.

Venice: Wahsush, sa'kin ka pa nahiya.

Ako: Oo nga.. Eh wala rin namang hiya yan.

Venice: (tingin sa kin) Jerwin, namumuro ko na ha.. Isa pa, ilalambitin na kita
sa labas.

Ako: See, Manong Ben? Amazona talaga!

Venice: Che!

She went to the living room with Jose. I think they're talking about verb agreem
ent or something along
those lines.. She's patiently teaching him tricks kung pano nya malalaman kung p
lural or singular ung
subject.. and she's trying to teach him kung pano malalaman kung ano ung subject
. Patiently teaching
the little kid...

Manong Ben: Magiging magaling na ina yaang batang yan.

Ako: Huh....

Manong Ben: Ka-swerte mo naman, iho. Maganda na nga, mabait pa. Rumami sana ang
lahi nyo!

I laughed, but I couldn't take my eyes off Venice.

She's going to be a good mother, huh... I wonder if she's going to be a good wif
e too..

::Chapter 24::

Goodnight Goodnight


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

I laid on the bed, silently counting the number of times na nag-tturn si Jerwin.
He's trying to find a
comfortable position. Nakakaasar na kaseh kanina pa sya nag-ttwist and turn, per
o, at the same time, I
guess I kinda understand.

The bed is made from bamboo. It's a little bit smaller than a queen-sized bed. T
he mattress is not the
softest, most comfortable mattress in the world. You can almost feel the hardnes
s of the bamboo
beneath it. It's kinda cold; may mga butas dun sa bintana -- we can even hear th
e wind whistling through
the holes.. We're sharing a blanket that's too small to be shared.. The pillows
are almost flat. It also
doesn't help na the room is really cramped. It's everything a rich kid like him
has never imagined he
would find himself into.

After he turned to his side one more time, umikot na rin ako, and I found myself
face to face with him.
He has his eyes shut closed, pero halata naman na pinipilit nya lang na isarado
ung mata nya. Siguro
iniisip nya baka sakaling makatulog rin sya kung pipikit nya ung mata nya..

Ako: Jerwin...

He opened one eye.

Jerwin: Hm?

Ako: Di ka makatulog?

This time, both eyes opened and even in the darkness, I could almost see him loo
king at me.

Jerwin: *sigh* Yea.. It sucks coz I'm exhausted and we have to wake up early tom

Ako: Relax.. Well, I know, medyo nahihirapan kang mag-relax kaseh kamustah naman
.. Di ka naman
sanay na matulog sa ganito katigas na kama.. But, just stop thinking about tomor
row, ok?

Jerwin: Easy for you to say. Mr. Gordon almost had a panic attack when I called
him and said we'd be
spending the night somewhere else. I better make sure that I'm not late for the
photoshoot daw.

Ako: Well, why didn't you ask him to come and pick us up then?

Jerwin: You crazy? And let him know we got lost.....

Ang pride mo kuya.. Di mo naman kasalanan na nawala tayo..

Ako: Okay.. Well, just don't worry about it. Sabi naman ni Aling Marie, gigising
in nya tayo around 7 AM,
di ba? That's good enough.

Jerwin: *sigh* I know.

Ako: You know, you really interacted well with those people.

Jerwin: Hm?

Ako: Sina Manong Ben.. May sarili ka rin namang kaartehan sa buhay, lam mo? Pero
tonight.. You talked
with Manong Ben na parang ka-level mo sya.. Tapos, di ka pa nagreklamo nung bini
gyan tayo ni Aling
Marie na pamalit na damit, although di mo alam kung anong detergent ung ginamit
panglaba.. I mean,
tinikman mo pa ung lambanog. Samantalang nung dinalhan kita nung minsan ng kwekkwek, halos
mamatay ka na sa intensity ng pagtanggi mo.

He rolled over and looked at the ceiling. Nahiya?

Ako: Tapos, you listened patiently dun sa mga drunk rantings ni Manong Ben tungk
ol sa economy, sa
hirap ng buhay, at chuva-chuva.

Jerwin: Weren't you tutoring Jose during that time?

Ako: Kasalanan ko bang may tenga ako?

Natawa si Jerwin, then he shifted his position and faced me again.

Jerwin: You know, it'd be really cool to stay here for a few more days. Kung pwe
de lang, I would really
want to know how their lives work.. They can barely live through every day with
the little pay Manong
Ben gets from the farm. Tapos, pinag-aaral pa nila si Jose. I just realized how
blessed I am to be born
into the "luckier" level of society.

Natulala ako. Si Jerwin ba itong kausap ko? O_O Bahket parang ang profound ng pi
nagsasabi ni kuya?
Nalasing kaya sya dun sa kakapiranggot na lambanog na ininom nya?

Nagiging profound sya pag lasing? O___O

Jerwin: What? Why are you looking at me like that?

Ako: Wala lang. Ang profound ng mga pinagsasabi mo eh. Gusto mo nang maging phil

Jerwin: Hmmmm... That doesn't sound so bad.

Ako: Really?

Jerwin: Venice, maybe I can help families like this one. I can put aside some of
the money I make, and
then donate them to charities.. or.. or.. maybe help poor kids get to school.

Ay, nagiging santo si kuya.. O__O At na-eexcite sya sa idea nyang maging santo.

Who would've thought na may "good side" din pala tohng taong toh...

Ako: That'd be nice... Pero, for now, how about you get some sleep.. Baka mabugb
og pa ko ni Mr.
Gordon pag umappear ka sa photoshoot na may mala-backpack na eyebags. Ok?

Jerwin: But.. you don't think it's a good idea?

Ako: Adik ka ba? I think it's the best idea you've ever had!

Jerwin: What's that supposed to mean? -___-

I smiled at him, and brushed a stray strand of his hair to the side. He looked k
inda taken aback by the
sudden show of gentleness.. nyahahaha

Ako: Just get some sleep, ok? If you still want to talk about that thing tomorro
w, I'll listen.

Jerwin: Okay...

He shut his eyes. I stared at him for a few moments.. How come people always loo
k so vulnerable and
peaceful when they're sleeping? Kaya maraming pinapatay habang tulog eh..

I rolled over on my side and closed my eyes too. I felt Jerwin shift.. I ignored
it. Baka trip nya lang
humarap dun sa kabilang side.

Then I felt him shift his position again.. and again.. and again.

Pano ka ba naman matutulog ng ganito?!?

Umikot ako and found myself looking at his back. Naka-sleeveless na shirt lang s
ya -- pahiram ni Manong
Ben -- and it was a little loose kaya medyo naka-expose ung muscles dun sa arms
nya and.. parang ang
strong-looking nung likod nya.

I wriggled my hand out of the blanket, and lightly traced shapes on the part jus
t below his shoulders..
then I slowly eased myself palapit dun sa likod nya para ipatong ung ulo ko dun
sa likod nya..

Jerwin: What are you doing?

I stopped.

Ako: O___O Uh.. Nag-cchant ng spell para makatulog ka na.

What kind of excuse is that, Venice!?!?

He turned around and faced me. Napabalik kagad ako dun sa dati kong pwesto, saba
y smile.

Jerwin: Chant? What are you, a witch?

Ako: Bahket ba? You'll never know unless you tried noh.

Jerwin: So, is that why you're drawing weird shapes on my back?

Ako: Yea~ Hay nako, never mind na nga lang.

I turned over to the other side to hide my face from him. My golay, buti na lang
at may pagka-madilim,
kung hinde, kamustah naman ang pula ng face ko. Anoh ba naman tohng pinaggagawa

Jerwin: If you really wanna help me go to sleep... How about a song?

Ako: Anoh?!?

Jerwin: Not too loud though.. I think the walls are kinda thin.

Hay. -__-

Umikot uhlet ako and faced him. Mas mabuti nang rebound toh, kundi, baka asarin
nya pa ko hanggang
bukas tungkol sa pag-cchant ko.

Ako: (sings softly) Rock-a-bye, baby--

Jerwin: Anoh naman yan?

Ako: Sabi mo, kantahan kita?!? Rereklamo ka pa dyan.

Jerwin: Sing the other one.

Ako: Anong "other one"? May iba pa bang rock-a-bye baby?

Jerwin: No. Sing "You Are My Sunshine"

At may special request pa pala talaga.. -___-

Ako: (sings softly again) You are my sunshine

My only sunshine

You make me happy, when skies are gray

You'll never know, dear

How much I love you

Please don't take my sunshine away..

Pagdating ng second verse, I stopped singing.

Jerwin was already snoring lightly.

--- .. ---

(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .


Dammmnnn.. it's cold.

I tried to open my eyes from my slumber, and realized na kaya pala malamig, eh d
ahil nakahilata ako sa
kama without a blanket. I pulled myself up and looked at Venice. Angkinin ba nam
an ung kumot??

And really, konting ikot nya na lang, mahuhulog na sya sa kama.. Her legs are al
l over the place.. And is
her mouth partly open? O_O

How can a lady sleep like that?

*yaawwwwwwnnnn* I wonder what time it is.. It looks like it's still pretty dark

I tried to pull the blanket off of Venice para naman may protection din ako from
the cold.. Then I
scooped her up gently and inusog sya dun sa gitna nung kama.

I slid back down the bed facing her. She looks like an angel deep in her sleep.
I took her arm, and then
gently pulled her closer to me.

Her weight shifted and she sleepily turned towards me. I felt her wrap an arm ar
ound my waist. She
buried her face on my chest, and I buried my face in her hair.

And I went back to my sleep.

::Chapter 25::

Past The Point of No Return


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Ako: Hey, look! Birds!

Tumingala ako dun sa langit where a flock of big birds (malalaking ibon, hinde u
ng Big Bird na yellow) are

I'm riding on the backseat of a bicycle. I have my arms around Jerwin, who is pe
daling the bike through a
narrow path in what seems to be a forest.

We went pass a few more trees and finally, lumabas kami sa isang grassland. It's
a pretty nice day. The
sun is out. The sky is clear. The birds are singing.... There's someone standing
on the side of the path...

Ako: Who's that?

I tried to squint para makita kung sinoh ung taong nakatayo dun sa side.. He's g
etting nearer now..
Parang gusto kong batukan si Jerwin and tell him to pedal faster, pero baka lalo
kaming bumagal..

Just a few feet away now.. I don't know why I'm so focused on this person.. I ca
n see him more clearly
now.. He's wearing faded jeans, a red shirt, khaki jacket, and hair ruffled by t
he wind.

And then... dinaanan na namin sya.. This guy.. This very familiar guy.. He smile
d at me as we pass. He
even waved to me..

G... Gerard...

The bike is still moving but I jumped off. Syempre, dahil hindi naman ako si cat
woman, pagtalon ko, I
tripped and landed on my face. Buti na lang dun ako sa damo rumolyo..

I rolled over and found myself staring at the sky. I couldn't move.. I could hea
r Jerwin running to me... at
least, I think it was Jerwin...

How come G isn't running towards me?


Annnddddd I'm awake. Darn. I knew it was a dream.

I slowly opened my eyes para gumising sa isa nanamang araw sa mundong ibabaw---


Ako: WAH!!!


Why am I hugging Jerwin?!?!?

Oh my golay, hinulog ko sya sa kama. O_O

Napatalon tuloy akong bigla dun sa kabilang side and sinilip si Jerwin na nakahi
lata sa sahig -- with a very
rewarding startled look on his face.

Ako: Hi. Good morning.

Jerwin: Anong good morning ka dyan?!? You just pushed me off the bed, didn't you

Ako: *gasp* Sunshine! I will never do such a horrible thing.

Jerwin: Wag ka nang pakainosente dyan. Di bagay.

He picked himself up and plopped himself back on the bed. Kokontra sana ako sa s
inabi nya.. Parang sya
inosente rin ah.. yakapin nya ba naman ako habang tulog ako! Kaya lang..... baka
anoh pang isipin ni
kuya pag sinabi kong magkayakap kami nung nagising ako... baka ako pala ung nang
yakap.. pwedeng
sya.. pwedeng ako... Ohhh, magkasuyo buong gabi~

BRRRRR... yak. Sinasabi ko pa lang sa sarili ko, kinikilabutan na ko. -___-

Jerwin: What time is it?

Inisda ko ung cellphone kong nandun sa sahig sa other side nung kama.

Ako: 6:38 AM. Tatayo na tayo?

I watched as Jerwin sat up and started stretching. Tatayo na yata talaga si kuya
... Ang aga-aga-aga-aga
pah.. T-T

I wanna go back to sleep... I wanna see G again---

Ako: Okie! Tumayo na tayo!

I jumped off the bed din, and was about to open the door nang may naalala akong
bigla.. I looked at
Jerwin who had just finished grabbing his phone and swinging his camera around h
is neck.

Ako: Gising na kaya sila?

Jerwin: (shrugs) We can check..

Ako: Wouldn't it be rude kung bastah-bastah na lang tayo aalis? And besides, di
naman naten alam kung
san sasakay ng jeep.

Jerwin: That's why I said we can go check if they're awake.

I opened the door, and fortunately for us, nandun na si Aling Marie, nagpprito n
g itlog, pakanta-kanta

Aling Marie: Ay! Gising na kayo! Aba'y ka-aga pa! Bakit di muna kayo matulog ng
konti pa?

Ako: Ok lang poh, di na poh kame makatulog eh.

Jerwin: (bulong) Hinulog kaseh ako sa kama nung isang tao dyan.

I glared at him. Dumiretso kagad ako sa banyo para maghilamos man lang at para n
a rin mag-weewee.. I
can hear Jerwin talking to Aling Marie, maya-maya, narinig ko na rin si Manong B
en.. I used the towel na
binigay ni Aling Marie the night before to dry myself up.

Mamaya na lang sa villa ako talagang maliligo.

I stepped out of the bathroom, and yup, ahyun nga si Manong Ben, may bitbit na k
ung anong bote ng
gatas. Inaalok si Jerwin..

Ako: Anoh poh yan?

Manong Ben: Presh cow's milk, iha. Gusto mo?

Ako: Fresh? As in, galing sa dodo ng cow? O_O

Aling Marie: Ay, uo! May alaga kami diyan sa likod. Naisip namin na baka gusto n
yo ng gatas para sa
almusal, eh pinakuha ko na itong si Ben.

*gulp* In other words, especially for us pa talaga.. O___O

Fresh milk.. galing sa dodo ng cow.......

Jerwin: I guess.. I'll try some.. You wanna share a glass muna, Venice?

Sharing is good. Sharing means I won't have to finish a whole glass of galing sa
dodo ng cow. Sharing is
very good.

Ako: Okay..

Manong Ben poured us some of the fresh milk dun sa glass na nasa harap ni Jerwin
. After he filled the
glass, nagkatinginan kami ni Jerwin..

Ako: Well... go ahead.

Jerwin: Ladies first.

I looked at him and then at the glass.. I'm willing to try anything, pero... thi
s is just too icky... T-T

Na-sense yata ni Jerwin ang hesitation ko, at dahil pinapanood kami ni Manong Be
n, he took the liberty
to take the glass..

Jerwin: I'll try it first then.

Hindi lang pala overnight ang pagiging santo ni kuya.

He drank from the glass, at aba.. natuwa yata.. O_O Ang daming ininom.

Jerwin: Wow, it's actually pretty good.

He gave me the glass, all smiles pa. Di ko tuloy alam kung sarcastic ba sya o an
oh. At ehto ang isa sa mga
dahilan kung bakit first round pa lang ng "Fear Factor", kicked out na kagad ako
. Takot ako sa mga
unknown things.

Jerwin: Really, it's good. Try it.


Jerwin: Believe me.

Napatingin ako kay kuya... Mukha namang honest ang mukha nya.. Mukha namang nagu
stuhan nya
talaga.. At paniwalaan ko pa raw sya..

Kung nagsisinungaling man sya, I guess it's okay. I'll just bury him in the sand
and pretend to forget kung
san ko sya nilibing.

I took the glass.

Well.. Here goes.

I took a sip... and.. heeeyyyyyy... it really is good.

Tinuloy ko na ung pag-inom.

Jerwin: Well?

Ako: Uyyy... Masarap nga. It's warm and mas lasang gatas kesa dun sa ibang paste
urized na milk.

Jerwin: Galing sa dodo ng cow.

Tumawa si Manong Ben na nakaupo dun sa sofa, pinapanood kami..

Manong Ben: Mga batang ito.. Gatas lang eh pinagkakaguluhan nyo na.

Aling Marie: Ay naku, kumain na nga kayo at nang maabutan nyo pa ung jeep na wal
a pang masyadong

Naglagay sya ng tig-isa na plato ng itlog at pandesal sa harap naming dalawa ni

Jerwin.. Lumipat na rin si
Manong Ben dun sa dining table para makikain.

Ako: Oo nga poh pala. Last day na poh namin bukas. Kung gusto nyo poh, pumunta k
ayo sa La Plaiya,
nandun poh kami sa may beach nakatuloy.. Baka poh gusto nyong dumaan.

Manong Ben: Ay iha, gusto man namen eh, marami pang gagawin eh. Kailangan magtra

Ako: Ah.. Ganon pa ba...

Jerwin: Kayo poh, Aling Marie? Baka poh si Jose, gustong pumunta?

Aling Marie: Nako, iho, magtitinda pa kame sa palengke bukas.

Nagtinginan kami ni Jerwin. Parang ang awkward bigla.... Here are people na suma
sabak sa araw-araw
na trabaho.. Samantalang kame... -___-

Nilipat ni Manong Ben ung topic dun sa jeep.. Agahan daw namen kaseh madaling ma
puno ung jeep pag
tanghali na.. baka hapunin kami kakahintay. Ahyan, nagmadali na nga tuloy kami..

Pagkatapos na pagkatapos kumain, lalarga na kame.

We changed back into our own clothes na sinampay ni Aling Marie sa sampayan kaga
bi para matuyo ng
pawis.. Then we checked kung anoh pa ung mga nakakalimutan namin -- not like we
really brought
anything with us.

Lumabas na si Jerwin with Manong Ben.. Ako naman, naiwan muna sa loob para tulun
gan sa
paghuhugas ng pinggan si Aling Marie.

Ako: Aling Marie.. Thank you poh talaga at pinatuloy nyo kami kagabi.

Aling Marie: Ay naku! Wala yun, ano ga? Hindi naman kami madalas nakakatanggap n
g bisita eh, kaya
masaya na rin kami at dito kayo napadaan.

I gave Aling Marie a quick hug, and then lumakad na kami palabas. At aba... naki
ta na lang namen.. si
Manong Ben.. nagpapaka-model dun sa harap ng bahay nila, si Jerwin pa ang photog

Aling Marie: Ano namang ginagawa mo diyan??

Jerwin: Aling Marie, kayo rin poh! Tabi kayo, ppicturan ko kayo!

Hinila ni Manong Ben si Aling Marie sa tabi nya, at lumakad naman ako papunta ka
y Jerwin.. Avah,
naaliw ung mag-asawa at pinipicturan sila.. Todo pose!

Maya-maya, biglang lumabas ang bagong gising na si Jose.. Ang walang kamuwang-mu
wang na bata,
bigla na lang pinulot ni Manong Ben, at sinabihan na mag-smile sa camera. Smile
naman ung bata! Sige,
family picture!

Ako: Jerwin..

Jerwin: Hm?

Ako: Give me the camera and go stand with them.

Jerwin did as I instructed, and I took a couple of shots of the family with Jerw
in Santos. Then Jerwin took
the camera from me, and took a couple of shots of me and the family.

Then, finally, lumayas na raw kame.

Jose: Aalis na kayo, ate?

Ako: Yea. May trabaho pa kasi tohng kuya mo eh.

Aling Marie: Naku, mag-iingat kayo ha. At wag na ulit kayong maliligaw!

Jerwin: Don't worry. Hindi ko na poh hahayaan si Venice ang mag-lead ng way.

Ako: Shut up.

Nag-bye bye na kami kay Aling Marie at Jose, then sumunod kami kay Manong Ben pa
punta dun sa
sakayan ng jeep, which is hindi naman pala ganun kalayo sa bahay nila..

The jeep is there, at halos wala pang tao. Mukhang hindi namin kailangan maghint
ay or makipagsiksikan.
Lumapit si Manong Ben dun sa driver, kinausap nya sandali, then bumalik sa'min..

Manong Ben: Sya, hanggang dito na lamang ako. Hinabilin ko na duon sa driber na
ibaba kayo sa La
Plaiya. Mag-ingat kayong dalawa.

Ako: Maraming salamat poh, Manong Ben.

Jerwin: Salamat poh sa pagkupkop sa'min kagabi.

Manong Ben: Nako'y, wag nyo nang alalahanin un, at natuwa naman kami kagabi.

Ako: Ay, oo nga poh pala..

Kinuha ko ung mapa dun sa bulsa ni Jerwin, and then fished for a pen dun pa uhle
t sa kabila nyang bulsa
-- I know, parang akong magnanakaw -- and then I handed both to Manong Ben..

Ako: Paki sulat naman poh ng address nyo.. Pag napa-develop poh namin ung mga pi
ctures, papadalhan
poh namen kayo ng kopya.

Manong Ben: Ay, sya nga? Oh sige!

He scribbled their address dun sa mapa and then gave it back to me. Sinalpak ko
ulit map and ung pen
pabalik sa pocket ni Jerwin. We said our final farewell to Manong Ben and sumaka
y na kami nung jeep,
which left as soon as we got in.

Later, nagsimula na ang halos veinte minutos naming trip pabalik sa La Plaiya.

Jerwin: That was a nice little family they got there, don't you think so?

Ako: Hmmm... I guess.. Parang nakaka-bother lang kasi.. ang hirap ng buhay nila.

Jerwin: But they're happy. They're living a simple, quiet life.. they're all tog
ether.. They're.. happy..

Well.. that's true.. Simple, quiet life ha...

Ako: I hope we'll see them again..

Inayos ni Jerwin ung baseball cap nya na nag-pprevent "daw" sa mga tao na makila
la sya.. and then he

Jerwin: We can visit them.

Ha! With his schedule??!

Ako: Sana nga..

Jerwin took my hand and gave it a soft squeeze. I just smiled at him and put my
head on his shoulder. I
guess, somehow, this little out-of-the-norm experience has been good for us.

::Chapter 26::

Should've Been A Model


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

Sigh. This is great. Just astoundingly great. -___-

I watch as Mr. Gordon stalks back and forth in front of me. He's yelling at his
phone na parang wala na
syang chance magalit pa bukas.

We're 15 minutes behind schedule. If I knew this was gonna happen, Venice and I
would have stayed a
bit longer dun sa bahay nina Manong Ben.

It was a fifteen-minute jeepney ride from the small, unknown town to the other l
ittle town where I left
my truck. Tapos, about 5 minutes pabalik ng villa. The photoshoot was gonna star
t in 10 minutes. I
quickly parked the truck, ran upstairs, and jumped in the shower.

Paglabas ko ng villa, all fresh and ready to be prepped up, nag-aabang na si Mr.
Gordon para sa'kin. The
crewmembers were carrying the photoshoot equipments papunta sa beach. Mr. Gordon
didn't say
anything naman kaseh, somehow, I'm still on time.

If there's one thing na kinasikatan ni Mr. Gordon, besides sa amazing ability ny

a sa mga advertising
photography nya, ahyun eh ung pagiging extremely punctual nya. If he said the sh
oot will start at this
time, the shoot should definitely start at that time. Kung wala pa ung model, ma
lamang manghahaltak
na lang sya ng kung sinong ka-picture-picture dyan sa tabi-tabi.

That's what he's probably gonna do now. We're supposed to shoot a Guess Swimsuit
ad with two
models.... pero.. missing one pa kame -- ung important one pa.

"Yo! Jerwin!"

I turned around and saw Venice walking towards my special chair -- the one with
"Jerwin Santos" taped
on the back.

It looks like she just got out of the shower (and siguro, tulog pa rin sina Anth
ony at Sheena kaseh hinde
pa umaaligid ung dalawa sa kanya). She's wearing a black see-through tunic over
a red one-piece
swimsuit. Her hair is still damp, and she's treading barefoot on the sand.

Venice: I thought you'd be starting the shoot by now. What's going on?

Ako: Uhmm.. Seems like my partner won't make it.

Venice: Eh?

Ako: May appointment daw kaseh kanina, na-late yata ng labas.. Ahyan, paalis pa
lang ng Manila..

Venice: Ahhhh..

I glanced at her and noticed na nakatitig pala sya sa'kin.. Ung titig pa na para
ng nag-iisip ng malalim..
Bakit? Dahil ba ngayon nya lang ako nakita na naka swimming trunks?

Ako: What are you looking at?

Venice: Lam mo, Sunshine.. Nakaka-distract sana ang mga biceps-triceps-abs mo dy

an.. Kaya lang...

She ran a finger on my arm, tapos hinarap sa'kin ung daliri nya..

Venice: Dinaig mo pa ang hito sa sobrang dulas mo.

Ako: It's oil. It's supposed to make me look good on pictures.

Venice: Magmumukha kang maganda sa picture kung parang kang hito?

Ako: Why are you here? -__-

Venice: (smiles) Manonood sana ako ng shooting nyo, pero parang wala naman nangy
ayare.. sooo..

She briskly turned around, may pa-sway-sway pa ng hips nya..

Venice: I'll just come back pag may kung anong compromise na kayo.. Maglalandi m
una ako somewhere,
ok dah-ling?

Papaka-catwalk pa sya kung maglakad, feeling may runway dun sa buhangin -- tapos
biglang natalisod.

Venice: Aray ko!



Ako: Hey, Venice! Hold on!

She stopped and turned to face me -- namumula -- probably because she knows I sa
w her trip..

Venice: I'm ok! Wala kang nakita!

Ako: Ok, I saw nothing.

I jumped up from my seat, and strode to where she was standing. She's a perfect
height.. She's got a
good body frame.. *grins*

I grabbed her hand and pulled her papunta dun sa sumisigaw na Mr. Gordon. Binaba
an nya na ung
kausap nyang model, wag na raw mag-bother na pumunta dito.

Venice: (bulong) Anong ginagawa naten? O_O

I paused and then umikot para tumingin sa kanya. I grabbed her by the shoulders
para hindi magwander ung mga mata nya kung saan-saan.

Ako: Venice.. Do you trust me?

Venice: Eh?!?

Ako: Well? Do you trust me?

Venice: *gulp* I do.. but you don't look very trustworthy right now. O_O

Ako: Oh well.. as long as you generally trust me... Now, just follow me and don'
t say a word.

I wanted to laugh so hard nung nanlaki ung mata nya -- pure terror. Pero, I'm ki
nda short on time, so I
gotta do this first.

Hinila ko sya papunta kay Mr. Gordon na nag-uutos na dun sa mga staff kung pano
papaganahin ung
concept using just one model (which is just impossible kung ako lang ang model),
or maghanap na sila ng
ma-bbribe nilang mag-model right here, right now.

Nanlalamig ung kamay ni Venice na hawak ko.

Ako: Sir?

Mr. Gordon: We'll be done in a minute, Jerwin.

Ako: Uh, yea.. May I suggest something?

They all stopped and looked at me. Sa ganitong mga pangyayari, they're open to i
deas -- any kind of
idea. Nanigas na ung hawak kong kamay.

Ako: I think Venice can take over the female model's place.

Venice: An--?!?

Pinisil ko ung kamay ni Venice.

Ako: What do you think?

Mr. Gordon: Nag-mmodel ba sya?

Ako: She'll be a natural.

Venice: Eh?!? O__O

Ako: Just tell her what you want her to do.

Venice: Wha?! OoO

Mr. Gordon finally turned his full attention sa'min, tinitignan si Venice from h
ead to foot. Inikutan nya
pa si Venice, parang ineexamine thoroughly.

Mr. Gordon: She has a proportioned body. Tamang-tama naman ung height nya.. Maga
nda ang kutis..
Ngumiti ka nga, iha.

Venice smiled. Medyo pilit, pero okay na rin.

Mr. Gordon: Okay, she'll do! Bea! Nasan ka na ba?! Bea! Ihanap mo ng swimsuit si
ze si Venice dun sa
mga kahon sa villa! Paayusan mo na rin! I want something natural and yet sexy. B
ilisan nyo! Go Go GO!!

Bago tangayin si Venice nung mga assistants, pinisil pa nya ng isang bone-cracki
ng na pisil ung kamay ko.

Venice: Make sure to remind to kill you after all this.

Ako: Ah.. ha.. ha.. ha.. Yes, darling.

One little Two little Three little Indians..

Four little Five little Six little--


Napatigil ako sa pagbibilang ko ng mga Indians (in the form of big fluffy clouds
sa sky) nang may
dalawang tumalon sa tabi nung artist chair ko.. And lo and behold, gising na si
Tweedledee at si
Tweedledum, also known as Sheena and Anthony.

Ako: Good morning, guys.

Sheena: San kayo galing kagabi ni Venice~?

Ako: Dyan lang.. Nothing happened, don't worry.

Sheena: Ay, walang nangyari? Anoh ba naman un? Ang boring naman.

She wanted something to happen? -__-

Anthony: San si Venice?

I filled them in with what's happening.. Naaliw sila sa mga sinasabi ko..

Just then, dumating na -- SA WAKAS -- ung dalawang assistants, may mga bitbit na
high heeled shoes..
And sa likod nila.....


Venice is all suit up for the shoot.. They put her in a halter bikini with leopa
rd prints and black and gold
accents. Gold dangling earrings hang from her ears. Her hair is in natural waves
, and she's trying to walk
in the black high-heeled shoes they made her wear. She looks like a model.

Sheena: Ay, best friend! Ang landi~ May cleavage ka!

Venice: I know! (turo sa chest nya) Parang lumaki ang future ko!


Ako: Uh, ahem.

Venice: What?! You've never seen a cleavage before?!

Oh where was the Venice from earlier na papatayin ako dahil pinasok ko sya dito?

Ako: I think you're bipolar

Venice: Anoh?!?

Mr. Gordon: Kids! Kids! Kids! Mamaya na kayo maglambingan! Let's get going! We'r
e already behind
schedule! And you look wonderful, Venice.

Sheena: Oh, more like, fab-u-lous! ah-mazing! sexay~

I walked in front of the camera -- finally, magsisimula na rin kame, with all th
e oil na pinahid sa katawan
ko, na-pprito na yata ako sa ilalim nung araw kakahintay. Venice stood next to m
e habang ina-adjust
nung mga tao ung lighting, ung camera, at kung anu-ano pa.

Venice: You know... Now that I'm standing here...

Ako: Yea?

Venice: Sunshine, I don't think I can do this. T-T

Napatingin ako sa kanya. Oh, so that's why her eyes look different. Makapal na n
ga ung eyeliner,
pinuruhan pa ng mascara ung eyelashes nya. It looks pretty though.. just differe

Ako: You know, you're the one who's really the "star" of this ad.

Venice: Eh?

Ako: Well, more girls shop in Guess, guys rarely go in unless they're with a gir
lfriend. So, dito sa ad na
toh.. I'm just here because I'm hot and I'm famous.

Venice: In other words, props ka lang. -__-

Ako: You can put it that way, though I like my terminology better.. Anyway, all
the focus is going to be
on you and how you model the swimwear. Look good, and you make the swimwear look

Venice: Great. Now I'm even more scared.

Ako: You can do this. Just pretend this is a scene in a play... Mr. Gordon is th
e director, the camera is the

Venice: And the whole world is a stage..

Ako: Exactly.

She let out a huge sigh. Ehto naman, ilang tao lang ba ang makikita nila ang sar
ili nila na nag-mmodel out
of nowhere para sa isang ad na ipapaskil sa mga billboard kung saan-saan?

Tapos sya, kulang na lang eh tumakbo pasakay ng bus at umuwi na ng Manila.

Ako: Venice, look at me.

Tumingin naman sya.

Ako: I know you can do this.. Just... Believe me.

She looked straight into my eyes. I tried to look as confident as I can, because
I really think she can do
this. And if not, they can always reject the photo and just do another shoot. I
was gonna tell her this, but
then, Venice smile and nodded.

Venice: I believe you.

Ako: Good.

Venice: But really, how can you stand this oil-thing on your body? It feels icky
. -__-

Ako: Well, isipin mo na lang, pareho na tayong hito ngayon.

After that, the photoshoot started. It was hard work coz, let's face it, Venice
is an amateur. But her
pictures turned out better than most amateurs I've worked with.

She listened to directions, she suggested things that might make the photos bett
er, she would try to do
whatever it is that Mr. Gordon asked of her: seductive, fun, flirty, aggressive,
spaced out... She would
constantly ask me for my opinion on her pose or her expression..

She was surprisingly very professional.. kahit na alam kong she'd rather be on t
he water than doing all
this.. She actually did pretty well..

In the end, Mr. Gordon was happy with the results.

Mr. Gordon: We might actually have the perfect picture in this pile. And with th
e two of you in the ad!
This will be huge! People will love this! Have you ever thought of modeling, Ven

Venice: Eh? -__- Hinde poh.. After this, I don't think I ever will..

Bagsak na sya dun sa chair na reserved para sa'kin. Low batt na yata.

Mr. Gordon: That's a shame. Jerwin is right. You're a natural.

Venice: Thank you poh.

I think, nasa autopilot na sya ngayon.. She already has her eyes closed as she f
ans herself. Pagod na

Mr. Gordon smiled at me nung na-realize nyang out there na ung brain ni Venice.
He turned to the staff
to tell them to wrap up. We're finally done.

Ako: Wanna go back to the villa?

Venice: Yea. But these heels are killing me. I don't think I can walk anymore...

Ako: You want a piggyback ride?

Venice: Anoh ba yan? Ang cheap naman. Di ba pwedeng carry me in your arms na lan
g?? Paka-prince
charming effect man lang.

Ako: Hey, it's easier to carry things on my back. Buti nga di kita kinaladkad eh
. I'm tired too.

Venice: You do this all the time. You should be used to it by now. Damot. -___-

I turned around and knelt down so she can put herself on my back. She wrapped he
r arms loosely
around my neck, and I supported her legs so she won't fall off.

"Jerwin! Venice! Smile!"

I felt Venice perk up, and I looked at the photographer, who took a candid shot
of Venice and me.

"Great shot!"

After that, Venice rested her head on my shoulder. She's drained. I started walk
ing back to the villa.

Ako: You did a good job.

Venice: Really?

Ako: Yep.

Venice: I'm glad. I tried my best para di ka naman mapahiya.

Ako: (smiles) Thanks.

We quietly went back to the villa, and I gently put Venice on our bed. She held
up her leg, and smiled. Di
ko alam kung pagod ba o tamad, pero sige na... Tinanggal ko na ung sapatos nya..

She went under the blankets. I turned the airconditioner a little bit higher and
I went to bed as well.

::Chapter 27::

Starry Starry Night


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

I should get up. Isang araw na lang kaming nandito, dapat lang na maglublob man
lang ako bago kami

I opened my eyes nung nag-sink ung thought na un.. I immediately looked at the c
lock.. 5:45... I've been
sleeping for two hours and 45 minutes.

Kakatayo ko pa lang nang biglang bumukas ung pinto at sumilip ang ulo ni Jerwin.

Jerwin: Hey, you're awake.

Ako: *yaawwwnnn* Yea. -__- Akala ko humiga ka rin kanina?

Jerwin: I woke up 30 minutes ago. Anyway, we're having a bonfire later. We gotta
shop for a few things
to BBQ and panggawa raw ng s'mores, sabi ni Mr. Gordon. C'mon, get dressed!

Get dressed?

Napasilip ako sa suot ko. O___O

My golay. I'm still wearing the swimsuit. No wonder ganito na lang ang pagkapulu
pot ko sa kumot.
Malameg ang aircon. Malamang kailangan ko rin ibalik toh noh?

Ako: Give me five minutes. Mag-sshower lang ako.


May nakita kaming maliit na store just less than 10 minutes away from the villa.
Di naman sya kalakihan,
pero parang may mabibili naman kame.. I took a basket and handed it to Jerwin. H
inde ako
magpapakahirap magdala ng mabigat noh.

Jerwin: Hey, look, Venice..

Ehto nanaman kame.. -__-

Jerwin: They're selling chicken feet! Why are they selling chicken feet?? Can we
get some chicken feet??

I don't think Jerwin has ever gone grocery shopping before. Abah, dinaig pa ang
six-year-old sa pagkaamused sa halos lahat ng "abnormal" na bagay eh!

Ako: No. We don't need it.

Jerwin: But it's chicken feet!

Ako: Uh-huh. And we. Don't. Need. It.

Ilang beses na yang exchange na yan.. Anoh kayang iniisip ni Mr. Gordon at ehto
pang si Jerwin ang
pinag-shopping nya? Pano na lang kung hinde ako sumama? Eh di inuwian sila niton
g unggoy na toh ng
natto (mukha raw kasing dikit-dikit na tadpoles), dried shrimp (dahil mukha raw
madaling kainin), tuyo
(hindi ba raw na-BBQ un?), at ang chicken feet (simply because it's chicken feet
).... -___-

Jerwin: Venice..

Ako: Hm?

Jerwin: Tignan mo oh...

Tumingin ako dun sa tinitignan nya.. May pusa na natutulog dun sa ibabaw nung is
ang lamesa..

Ako: Oh? Pusa.. Anoh?

Jerwin: Can we buy that?

Aray.. sumasakit yata ang ulo ko. T-T

Ako: At bakit naman? Anong gagawin mo sa pusa?

Jerwin: Hindi ba gawa ang siopao sa pusa?

Hindi ko na-carry.. May kung anong sparkle ung eyes nya na parang nagsasabi na g
usto nya talagang
bilhin ung pusa para gawing siopao.. T^T

Napatitig na lang ako sa kanya... If ever man, curiosity will really kill the ca


Jerwin: Aw! Okay, fine... We're not buying the cat. -_- We don't need it.

Josko, Lord... T-T Ang reasoning skills ni kuya... T^T

Ako: Just carry the basket, okay? And don't--

Tumigil sya dun sa kinukuha nyang isang tali ng kangkong..

Ako: -- DON'T put anything in the basket.

Binalik nya ung kangkong na hawak nya..

Ako: Now, let's go and get the marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers.. Ma
loloka na ko syo pag
nagtagal pa tayo.

Sumunod naman si Jerwin sa'kin.. He's still darting looks from one thing to anot
her, pero at least, hinde
na sya naglalagay ng kung anu-ano dun sa maliit na basket namen..

..or so I thought..

Pagpunta namin dun sa starstruck na cashier, at nung nilalabas ko na ung mga bin
ibili namen, dun ko
lang na-realize na ang daming unnecessary items ang pinuslit nung mokong.

Ako: (sa cashier) Ah.. hahaha sorry ha, ung iba dito hindi naman namin kailangan

Binibigay ko sa kanya ung mga kailangan lang namen, and then binabalik ko ung mg
a puslit dun sa

Jerwin: What?? We're not buying the natto??

Ako: I told you, we don't need it.

Jerwin: But... I wanna see what we can do with tadpole-looking ingredients..


Ako: You don't experiment with food!

Napahawak sya dun sa noo nyang hinampas ko nung pinuslit nyang pechay.

Jerwin: Okay. T_T Why are you so abusive of me today?

Natatawa na sa'min si Ms. Cashier. Pasimple pa sya sa pagtago nya.. Obvious nama

Jerwin paid for our purchases -- kahit na wala ung mga mala-alien nyang gustonggustong bilhin..

Much much later...

Mayaman sa stars ang sky ngayong gabi. Everybody is busy sa pag-BBQ or sa tsismi
san nila habang nagiinit nung marshmallows para sa s'mores nila..

Ako naman, mag-isang nakaupo dun sa a few feet away from the fire, nag-sstargazi
ng.. Ang alam ko,
may kung anong belief, na pag namatay raw ang isang tao, napapasok sya sa exclus
ive club ng stars in
the nightsky.

I touched the silver ring na nandun sa ring finger nung right hand ko.. I wonder
if G is an honorary
member of the stars now..


Na-distract ako from my chain of thought nang tumabi sa'kin si Jerwin, carrying
a plate of fresh s'mores..
He carefully plopped himself down on the sand and handed me the plate.

Chocolate & marshmallow sandwiched between graham crackers.. what more can a gir
l ask for?

Ako: Thank you.

Jerwin: You know, you should go and heat your own marshmallow.

Ako: Eh bahket ba? Nandyan ka naman.

Jerwin: Geez... I can just imagine the horror of being married to you..

Ako: Aww.. aren't you glad we'll break up eventually?

Jerwin: Tell me about it. I feel sorry for the guy who'll be your husband-slashslave.

Ako: At sinoh naman may sabi na magpapakasal ako?

Jerwin took one of the s'mores dun sa plate and casually looked at me.

Jerwin: Anoh, magmamadre ka?

Ako: Hala.. tingin mo, tatanggapin ako dun?

Jerwin: (kagat sa s'more nya) That's what I thought. Wala ka pang 24 hours, ma-r
rebuke ka na.

Salbahe. -__-

Jerwin: So, bakit di ka magpapakasal?

Ako: Hmp! Magpapakasal lang ako sa kung sinong makakapag-arrange sa stars ng: "M
arry Me."

Jerwin: Ohhh.. How are they gonna do that?

Ako: Bah, malay ko. Bastah, ma-spell nya un sa nightsky, kasal na kame.

Jerwin: (smiles) You're gonna end up as an old maid.

Bago ako makasagot, bigla nang tumalon sa tabi namin sina Anton tsaka si Sheena.
. May sariling mga
bitbit na mga plato nila..

Sheena: Hello, young lovers! Long time no see!

Ako: Haller...

Napatingin ako sa plato nya.. BBQ... Mukhang bagong luto.. -__- Mukhang masarap.

Ako: Sunshine....

Jerwin: Anong "sunshine" ka nanaman dyan?? Kakakuha ko lang ng s'mores mo ah!

Ako: Kuha mo rin ako ng BBQ~ Sige naaa~

Jerwin: Eh kung tumayo ka kaya to get it yourself?

Ako: Yabang nito. Sige na, nandun lang naman eh.

Sheena: Anton, ako rin.. Pakuha rin ng isa pang stick.

Anthony: Hala.. Nandun lang tayo kanina eh! bakit kaseh isa lang kinuha mo?!

Sheena: Eh gusto ko muna tikman eh..

Ako & Sheena: Pleaassseeee..

Nagtinginan si Anthony tsaka si Jerwin.. and then, dahil hinde nila na-take ang
aming charm, tumayo na
sila para kumuha ng BBQ -- with matching one paragraph of reklamo pa yan..

Ahihihi.. Sarap utusan ni kuya.. sunod ng sunod..

Nung wala na sila, biglang umusog sa tabi ko si Sheena.

Sheena: Uy, best prend, you're smiling~

Ako: Eh bahket??! Masama ba ngumiti eh sa naaliw ako.

Biglang ngumiti si Sheena -- ung sincere smile talaga na hinde nang-aasar.. Tini
gnan nya ko sa mata,
which usually means na may kasunod na best friend moment itoh..

Sheena: I just haven't seen you smile like that in a while. Jerwin's doing a goo
d job.


I looked at Jerwin na nanghihingi ng BBQ kay Mrs. Gordon.. Naglolokohan pa sila

ni Anton -- nag-pplot
yata ng kung anong revenge..

So I guess, what Sheena means is... I look genuinely happy..

It's been two years since I felt something like that..



I froze. I thought I heard Gerard's voice.. but, that's impossible, isn't it? I
looked around, nonetheless.. as
if naman may makikita talaga ako.. There's no one else here who would have calle
d me by that
nickname.. No one..

Ako: Shee... I feel like I'm cheating..

Sheena: Cheating? Kanino?

Ako: Parang akong nagtataksil kay G...

Sheena: Best prend.. pano ka naman magtataksil? Eh wala na nga ung pinagtataksil
an mo. No offense.
But I'm sure Gerard would have wanted you to be happy.

I looked at her and then back at Jerwin na naglalakad na pabalik sa'min.. Deep i
nside, I know she's right..

Jerwin: O, BBQ.. This is the last time I'm getting up to get you something.

I forced a smile as I took the plate. Jerwin's been a pain, but he's a nice guy.
.. He makes me laugh and
smile.. That should be good..

I gazed up at the stars.. those little speckles of light in the vast, black sky.

Why do I suddenly feel guilty?

::Chapter 28::

Talk To Me


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

The next day started a little busier than we all would have wanted, pero anong m
agagawa namen.. Eh
last day na namen toh, balik sa real world nanaman kami bukas.

Mr. Gordon and I discussed a few other projects for the following month. Venice
stayed in our room,
trying to finish a paper due the next day. Anthony and Sheena are preparing our
things for our trip back
home later.

Nung natapos kami ni Mr. Gordon, the duffel bags are already by the door, at nas
a beach na sina Sheena
at si Anthony. Susunod na sana ako nung naalala kong nasa kwarto pa yata si Veni
ce -- nagpapakadakilang estudyante.. So I decided to see if she needs anything or kung patapos
na sya..

I slowly opened the door and peeked inside.. Venice is sitting on the bed with t
he laptop on her lap. Titig
na titig sya dun sa screen.. Dinidibdib talaga ang pag-aaral..

Ako: Hey, Venice...

She looked up.




She's crying?!? Why is she crying?!?

Napatakbo akong bigla sa tabi nya. Anong iniiyakan nya?!?

Ako: What's wrong? Na-sstressed ka na ba sa ginagawa mo?

Venice: *sniff* Kasi.... Kasi...

Inikot nya ung laptop para iharap sa'kin. Lumipat ung tingin ko dun sa screen...
. sa screen na supposedly
eh MS Word..... hindi YouTube.

Ako: Aren't you supposed to be doing homework? -__-

Venice: *sniff* I finished kanina. Sunshine, look mo oh..

Tinuro nya ung video. The title says "Because I'm A Girl -- Kiss".. What am I lo
oking at here? -__-

Venice: They were so happy together.. Tapos.. Nabulag ung girl, Sunshine.. Tapos
sobrang na-guilty ung
guy.. He finally decided to give her his eyes.. tapos tapos.. *sniff* Ang misera
ble nilang dalawa.. Tapos
nakita nung girl ulit ung guy after some time.. Na-realize nya ung nangyari.. ku
ng kaninong mata ung nadonate sa kanya... Sunshine.. ang sad nung story..

And this is coming from someone whose boyfriend died..

I looked at the video.. It's a total chick flick..

Ako: Bakit ka umiiyak?

Venice: Kasi nga ang sad! Ikaw ba, Sunshine, pag ako ba nabulag, ibibigay mo rin
sa'kin ung mata mo?

Ako: Adik ka ba? -__-

Venice: Eh pag na-amputate ung legs ko, i-ddonate mo ba ung legs mo para sa'kin?

Ako: I'm pretty sure that's not how things work.


Ako: AW! What?!?

Venice: Wala ka man lang i-ssacrifice na body part para sa'kin?!?

Ako: I love my body parts. Maghanap ka na lang sa Body Parts Bank or whatever.

Venice: Ang damot mo.

Ako: It's just... weird. Hinihingi mo na kagad ung mga body parts ko.. I'm still
alive, you know?

Sinarado nya ung laptop and put it back dun sa bag.. Then she went to her luggag
e and pulled out a
swimsuit, then dire-diretso lang sya na lumabas.. Dinedma na ko.. O__O


Ako: Are you still ignoring me?

I followed Venice out to the beach. She hasn't spoken a single word since we wen
t out of the villa. Kahit
nung nahihirapan syang maglagay ng sunblock sa likod nya, di pa rin ako pinansin
.. Sheena eventually
came and helped her put sunblock on her back.

Now, she's quietly lying on the beach blanket, her eyes covered by sunglasses..
STILL not saying

Sheena: What's going on?

Ako: She's ignoring me coz I won't give her my leg.

Anthony: Nanghihingi na si Venice ng binti ngayon?

Ako: Honestly, I don't understand it either...

Gumapang ako sa tabi ni Venice, oblivious to the stifled laughter na nanggagalin

g kina Sheena and Anton
dun sa katabing beach blanket..

Ako: Venice?? Huy... I'll buy you a mechanical leg if you want -- I mean not tha
t I have to.. but just in

Silence.. Pinatong ko ung ulo ko dun sa shoulder nya.... She's breathing slowly.
. deeply.. and it was then I
realized what's going on. I carefully slid the sunglasses off her face.. and yep
.. her eyes are shut.

She's sleeping.

Nagtawanan bigla sina Sheena at si Anthony. I'm guessing they realized this soon
er -- way sooner -- than
I did. I stood up and started stretching. Then I walked away.

--- .. ---

(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Ako: Sunshine, why are you avoiding me ba??!

Sinundan ko si Jerwin papunta dun sa truck nya.. Tinilapon nya ung mga bags dun
sa likod nung truck,
and then went back inside the villa to pick up more things. Sunod uhlet ako.

Jerwin: I'm not avoiding you.

Tuloy-tuloy sya dun sa pag-lload nya nung mga gamit namen sa truck.

Ako: Eh bakit kanina mo pa ko hindi matignan?? May ginawa kang kalokohan noh! Un
g lifeguard?!?
Nilandi mo ung lifeguard?! Sunshine naman, pwede mo na maging nanay un eh!

FINALLY, he stopped moving. Pero instead of looking at me or voicing out his usu
al retorts, napatingin
sya kina Sheena and Anthony na nakaupo dun sa living room. Kumaway ung dalawa sa
'min -- and
nagsimula nanaman si Jerwin sa kaloka nyang paggalaw-galaw. -___-

Eh syempre, nagsimula nanaman ako sa pagsunod-sunod ko.

Jerwin: Why are you following me, anyway?

Ako: Eh kaseh, kanina ka pa lakad ng lakad. Di ko naman ma-getz kung bahket di m

o ko tinitignan. Avah--



Kung kelan dire-diretso ang lakad ko, tsaka naman sya titigil. Eh talaga namang
magkakakilala ung noo
ko at ung likod nya.

Jerwin: Venice... Just.. Uhmm.. Next time..

Ako: Uh-huh??

Jerwin: If you're mad or if I offended you in some way, just tell me, ok?

Nag-flashback sa utak ko ung conversation namin kanina..

"I'm still alive, you know?".. He said that and parang nagulantang ako.. It give
s me a weird feeling pag
nakakarinig ako ng mga ganyang ka-simple na sentence na nag-bborder sa topic ng
life and death.. Kaya
di na ko nagsalita, kaseh di ko lam isasagot ko..

Tinulog ko na lang.

Jerwin: It feels... It doesn't feel right when you're not talking to me..


Anoh bang pinagsasabi nitong si kuya? Na-sobrahan ba sya sa araw? sa buhangin? n

apasok ba ng
alimango ung utak nya?

Di ko naman sya dinedma.. Bilang lang naman ung beses na may sinabi sya sa'kin n
ung palabas kami sa
villa.. Bakit nya naman naisip na hinde ko sya kinakausap?

Jerwin: Ok?

Napangiti na lang ako, kahit no idea ako kung anong dinadrama nya sa buhay nya.

Ako: Okay.

Jerwin: Great. Now, c'mon. Let's go home..

::Chapter 29::



(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

We left Batangas right after lunch -- para raw busog kame at hinde na kami patig
il-tigil sa kung saan saan
para lang bumili ng mangunguya. Magaling rin ang logic nyang si Jerwin paminsanminsan eh.

We dropped off Sheena and Anthony sa mga bahay-bahay nila, and finally, binaba n
a rin ako ni Jerwin sa
bahay ko.. 1:35 PM ako na kami nakarating sa bahay.. Hindi na bumaba si Jerwin t
his time.. Gusto nya na
rin daw kaseh umuwi, makanakaw man lang ng konti pang tulog.. Hello na lang daw
kay mommy..

I dragged my suitcase papasok.. at pagbukas na pagbukas ko ng pinto, sumalubong

kagad ang nanay ko..

"Venice, nandito ka na?"

Ako: Yep.. Hello, mother.

Mom: Kamustah ang beach? Bakit parang di ka naman umitim?

Ako: Next time, mom, pag nag-beach ako, I'll make sure I'll turn golden brown.

Mom: Golden Brown? Anoh ka, itlog? Ay oo nga pala, kanina pa tumatawag si Nicole

Napatigil akong bigla.. O_O Si cousin-in-law tumatawag? Bahket?! May balak nanam
an syang ikulong
kaming dalawa?!?!

Ako: Bakit daw?

Mom: Tatawag na lang daw uhlet sya mamaya.

Ako: Well, I'm going to take a nap.. So, good luck na lang sa kanya.

Umakyat ng ko ng hagdan papunta sa kwarto ko -- pahirapan pang kaladkarin ung ma

leta.. When I finally
reached my room, iniwan ko na ung pagkabigat-bigat na maleta sa may pinto at nag
-collapse sa kama

Bahala na si Nicole sa buhay nya.. Na-low batt na ko sa pagbilad sa araw, sa tra

ffic, at sa pagsaway kay
Sheena at Anton.. No energy na para magpaka-paranoid pa dahel sa tumatawag sa'ki
n ang troublemaker
nyang sarili..

Now, off to dreamland..

A couple of hours later...

"Venice! Venice! Venice!!!!! Why is it so hard to wake you up?!?"


Sinoh ba tohng istorbo sa beauty sleep ko?!?

I felt somebody bounce up and down my bed. Feel na feel ang panggising sa'kin..
-___- Tumilapon sana
sya sa sahig.

Finally, dahel nahihilo na ko kakatalon nya, I opened one eye para sabihing luma
yas sya dahil natutulog



Napaupo akong bigla. Is this a dream? a nightmare?!

Ako: Nicole!?! What are you doing here?!?

Nicole: Your mom let me in. I was calling your cellphone, but you're not answeri
ng.. So I called your
house phone, your mom said you're sleeping.. I took the initiative to drop by an
d wake you up.

Ako: Oh bat why? T-T

Nicole: Are you awake now?

Gising na ko. Gising na gising. T^T

Tumayo bigla si Nicole, and grabbed a black dress bag na nakasabit dun sa hook s
a likod nung door ko.
Bitbit nya? Dahel I don't remember owning a dress bag... at solid black pa..

Ako: Oh.... Is that a dead person? Did you kill somebody, Nicole? -__-

Nicole: (natawa) Of course not. If I'm gonna kill somebody, I'd just burn the co
rpse. I won't chop it all up
and put it in a perfectly good dress bag.

Parang pinag-isipan nya na talaga dati un.. -___-

Binuksan nya ung zipper nung bag and nilabas ang isang ivory-colored cocktail dr
ess. It has a black
pleated sash just below the bust na natatali sa likod, and black halter straps n
a tinatali rin sa likod. It also
has a trimming of black lace dun sa edges nung skirt.

It's cute. Simple, but cute.

Ako: What's that?

Nicole: This is one my mother's latest creations. It's not even released to the
market yet.

Ako: You're giving it to me?

Nicole: Of course! My mom tailored this one especially for you.. It fits me, so
I think it should fit you too.

Ako: Especially for me? T^T

An expensive, signature-branded cocktail dress made especially for me....

There must be a catch. -__-

Nicole: Yep! You're wearing this tonight!

I knew IT!

Ako: Tonight? What's going on tonight?

Nicole: Oh, you don't have to know.

Don't have to know?!? Eh ako tohng kinikidnap mo?!?

Nicole: Just go take a shower..

Sinabit nya uhlet ung dress sa likod ng door.

Nicole: Your mom was cooking something that smells really good when I arrived, s
o I'll be downstairs
while you shower. Holler at me when you're out.. I'll come back here and create
a masterpiece out of
you. Ciao!

After saying all that, lumabas na ng kwarto ko si Nicole. I stared open-mouthed

at her, and then at the
door, and thennn at the dress.

What's going on?!?

Nag-dive ung kamay ko sa ilalim nung unan and grabbed my phone. I dialled Jerwin
's number para magdemand ng information.. mag-demand na iuwi nya na ung pinsan nya (pero iwan na u
ng dress )..... at
kung pwede lang noh, mag-demand na sagutin nya ung phone. -_-

Anak ng tokwa. Di nanaman sinasagot ang tawag ko. rawr.

One of these days, may gagawin akong ringtone sa cellphone nun -- a ringtone he
won't be able to
ignore. bam.

I looked at the dress again. Sigh. Let's get this done and over with. T^T

--- .. ---

(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

I looked at my watch. 6:24 PM.. Jean woke me up from my nap to stand here in thi
s hotel's entrance
waiting for who knows what. And I'm wearing an ivory-colored tux. Who wears a tu
x para lang
maghintay sa pinto? -___-

Sigh. Jean and my parents went inside the hotel already. Ang bilin lang sa'kin,
tumayo lang ako dito sa
pinto and wait. Wait for what? I'll know daw.

Well, I've been waiting here for almost 15 minutes.. and I don't even know what
to do kapag dumating
na ung hinihintay ko. People are looking at me (a couple of passerbys asked for
a photo op).. Some
would whisper amongst themselves.. Nakaka-paranoid na. -__-

Iikot na sana ako para hanapin ung magaling kong pamilyang nang-iwan, when a car
stopped in front of
the main door. Nicole's car. Nicole.....

May family reunion ba today na nakalimutan ko? O__O Crap.

Nicole got out of the car, and threw her keys to the waiting valet. She immediat
ely saw me (I'm sure
dahel nag-sstand out naman ako sa lahat ng tao sa paligid ko -__- ) and ran to g
ive me a hug.

Nicole: Cousin! Hello! My, my, you look nice.

Ako: You don't look too shabby yourself.

Nicole always looks good. Well, I guess that's why she became a model. Right now
, she's wearing a
body-fitting, short dark blue dress with crystals beaded on the shoulder straps.
Her hair is straightened
to perfection with a small silver clip on one side.

She looks so prim and proper -- it's just not right.

Ako: Ok. What's the occasion? Is Grams coming?

Nicole just laughed, and then turned to look behind her. I just realized that he
r car is still there, and
someone else is stepping out.

Ako: Venice... @__@

I took a deep breath and completely forgot to exhale.

Nicole: I'll go inside first. Take care of my masterpiece? Hasta luego, primo!

Halos di ko na napansin na naglakad papasok nung hotel si Nicole. I was too preo
ccupied watching
Venice as she cautiously walks toward me.

is in
a few

wearing an ivory-colored dress that falls just above her knees.. Her hair
loose curls, cascading
inches past her shoulders. Her make-up is soft and flawless -- everything
her looks flawless.

She looks breathtakingly beautiful.

Ako: You look....... Wow..

Venice: (smiles) Wow is good. Wow is a compliment... right?

Ako: Yes!!! *ahem* I mean.. yes..

Venice: So what's the occasion?

I blinked. Nagising uhlet bigla lahat nung maliliit na neurons sa utak ko, and t
hey're all screaming, "Stop
ogling at her!"

I complied to their command.

Ako: Nicole didn't tell you?

Venice: Nope. She just appeared out of nowhere sa kwarto ko.. made me take a sho
wer.. ate pretty
much half ng merienda ko.. and then tada!

She took a quick spin -- as quick as her peep-toe, high-heeled shoes would allow
her -- and allowed me
to see every inch of her regal form.

Venice: Naging instant Barbie nya ko.

Ako: At least you're not blond. No one would know you just became my cousin's Ba
rbie. Well, anyway,
truth be told.. I don't know what going on either...

Napatingin ako sa paligid.. Anoh na mangyayari ngayon??

Just then, one of the hotel employees seemed to have noticed my looking around,
kaseh lumapit sya

Hotel Emp: Good evening poh, Mr. Jerwin, Ms. Venice. Please follow me to the ban
quet hall.

Venice: Banquet hall? Anong meron?

The employee didn't answer, so I just shrugged. Somehow, everything here feels l
ike it's been planned.

Ako: Well, seorita, shall we go?

I offered her my arm, and she reluctantly took it. We followed the hotel employe
e papunta dun sa
"banquet hall" daw..

Venice: We just got back, and may kung anong mystery na kagad na bumubulaga sa'k
in. T-T

Ako: It'll be okay. I'll be here.

Venice looked up at me, trying to ponder what I just said. Mukhang on the verge
of panic na sya sa mga
nangyayari.. Fear of the unknown, eh? Siguro kung di ko lang hawak ung kamay nya
, kanina pa
kumaripas ng takbo toh.

Venice: Okay.. Just.. Whatever might be waiting for us in there.. Don't leave me
alone, okay?

Ako: Okay.

Venice: Promise?

Ako: I promise.

Our guide stopped in front a double-door room.. The doors are closed and there's
not one sound coming
from inside. Venice and I glanced at each other. She's starting look more and mo
re anxious.

Venice: You think we'll be murdered in there? ...... Oh my god, I hope they're n
ot setting us up for an
impromptu marriage ceremony. O.O

Ako: Of course they're not!

Right?!? O__O

Hotel Emp: Well, here you go.

I felt Venice clutch my arm tighter. Our guide knocked on the door three times..
I was kinda waiting for
him to say, "Open Sesame!" -- but, well, one can hope.

We just stood there for a few seconds wondering what going on.. Should we run wh
ile we still have a

All of a sudden, the doors burst wide open -- revealing a crowd lauding in front
of us.


::Chapter 30::

The Other Woman


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

It's a party. It's a rich-people, business-socializing party.

It's not an impromptu marriage ceremony, but somehow, I still feel like I should
run away.

The room they rented is HUGE! Not that I should be surprised... Ang daming tao e
h.. People, na sabi ni
Jerwin, are important to his career: sponsors, composers, producers, directors,
marketing agents,
musicians, artists.. every kind of important people in the entertainment industr
y, nandito... There are
even a couple of newspaper photographers and writers walking around..

Why? Because it's Jerwin Santos' Surprise Engagement Party.

Apparently, being invited to a Santos' social event is like being invited sa Mal

"So, are you surprised?? "

I turned to look at Nicole na nakaupo sa other side ko (syempre, si Jerwin ung n

akaupo dun sa kabila)..
She looks ecstatic to be able to keep something like this a secret.

Ako: Oh yes. I'm very, VERY surprised.

Jerwin and I already made the quick greetings to most of the people present nung
pumasok kami.
Napapagod na nga ako about halfway through the introductions and hand-shaking an
d salutations.. Buti
na lang, maupo na raw kami kaseh magsisimula nang i-serve ung dinner.

And by "serve ng dinner", hinde sya buffet. Talagang appetizer, soup, salad, mai
n course, dessert ang
dating nya -- formal dinner ba..

Nasa main course na kami ngayon.. At sa totoo lang.. no wonder payat ang mayayam
an, abah, eh sinoh
ba naman mabubusog sa kakapiranggot na entree na toh?!?

I looked around the table.. Kausap ni Nicole si Jean.. Kausap ni Jerwin si Dusti
n (a long-time family friend
na kaedad lang nya)..

Wala man lang nag-rereklamo sa kanila, kaya tahimik ko na ring kinain ung nasa h
arap ko.. T-T

Jean: Ate Venice, have you talked to Grams yet?

Ako: Grams?

Jean: Yup, si lola! Ang tagal-tagal nya nang tinatanong kung kelan ka nya makiki

Nicole: She's the one sitting between my mom and Tito Ray over there..

Sinundan ko ung tingin ni Nicole dun sa kabilang table.. There is a pleasant, ol

d woman na nakaupo at
kausap si Tita Lina (mom ni Nicole, aka designer ng dress na suot ko).

Ako: Ung kausap ng mom mo?

Nicole: Yep, that's Grams.

Grams looks good even for her age, which I assume is pretty old, considering ung
mga edad ng mga apo
nya. Halatang maganda sya nung bata.. She looks approachable though. Hindi ung m
ga tipong panakot
na lola..

Jerwin: I'll bring you to her after we eat if you want.

Ako: That'd be nice.

Jean: By the way, how come may isa pang vacant seat dito sa table natin?

Dustin: I invited someone.

Nicole: And?

Dustin: She's on her way.

Jean: Ooohhh.. "She"?? May girlfriend ka na, kuya?

Dustin: Oh she's just a friend. Though.. (tumingin kay Jerwin) I hope you rememb
er her, Jerwin.

Jerwin: Oh? I know her?

They started talking about taking a vacation sa summer, maybe sa Boracay daw.. o
r bakit hindi na lang
daw sa Bahamas.. or Italy.. or Florida.. Oh di vah.. ang usapan nila.. parang is
ang sakayan lang ng bus ang
mga pupuntahan..

Nakikinig lang ako.. Nilalasap ang bawat subo ko ng maliit na steak.. They try t
o include me sa
conversation, syempre, sasagot ako.. pero.. nakaka-OP kaseh.. I've never been to
New York or Greece or
Rome or Mexico.. Ang pinakamalayo ko na ngang napuntahan eh Subic -- partida, fi
eld trip namen nung
3rd year high school.

We finished the main course, and kinukuha na nung mga waiter ung mga plates. I t
ook my glass of
water, and started to drink slowly nang biglang humirit si Nicole..

Nicole: Oh, by the way, Venice, when are you going to give me a nephew?

NAGTULOOOOYYY-TULOOOYYYY sa wind pipe ko ung tubig.

In other words, I started choking -- big time.

Jerwin started striking my back -- ung ginagawa ng mga tao pag may nag-cchoke. __- *cough*

Jerwin: Nicole!

Nicole: What? I'm just asking!

Jean: Kuya, you're blushing!

Nicole: *gasp* You two! Don't tell me you've been trying to--

Jerwin: NICK!

Nicole: Kidding.

Nag-rrecede na ung mga ubo ko, and I'm starting to feel myself being able to bre
athe again. Jerwin is
still gently hitting my back, while glaring at his cousin and his sister.

"What a fun table we have here..."


Ako: Aw! What the hell?

Napalakas ung palo ni Jerwin sa likod ko, and then he froze. Actually, I noticed
the WHOLE table froze. I
looked at all of them.. They're staring at the person who spoke behind me.

The color drained from Jerwin's face.

I slowly turned para tignan kung sinoh ba ung nakapagpatulala sa kanilang lahat.


Oh.. That's why..

I could almost feel my heart stopping when I saw the girl standing lusciously be
hind me.

Jerwin: Geena....

::Chapter 31::

Song For Someone


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Well.. this is awkward...

Our once cheerful little table ay biglang napaligiran ng oh-so-tensed na atmosph

ere. -__-

Nicole: What the heeeyyyllll are you doing here?!?

Geena: Why, I'm here for Jerwin's engagement party. And hello to you too, Nicole

Jean: Who invited you?!?!?

Dustin: I did.

Dustin stood up and led Geena to the empty chair na nandun sa gitna nya tsaka ni
Jean. I bet... kung
hindi lang nakakalat ang mga paparazzis around, and siguro kaseh baka madumihan
ung mga dresses
nila, pinaghahampas na sana nina Nicole at Jean si Dustin ng silya. Ang toxic ng
tingin! O_O

I glanced at Jerwin, and I felt a tiny prick in my chest. He's staring wide-eyed
at Geena.

Geena: So.. You're Venice?


Ako: Y-Yes. Hello.

Geena: I've never seen you before. What agency or station do you work for? Or ar
e you a recording
artist too?

Jean: Venice is not in the industry.

Nicole: She's a student.

Geena: A student?

Bakit parang tunog sa'kin ng conversation nila eh: student = alien? -___-

All of a sudden, Jerwin threw his napkin on the table and pushed back his chair.

Ako: Where are you going?

Jerwin: You're done eating, right? C'mon, let's go to Grams' table.

But... But.. may dessert pa... At chocolate cake ung nilalabas nila... T^T

Pinatong ko na rin ung napkin ko dun sa table, and slowly stood up. Sinundan ko
si Jerwin papunta dun
sa table ng mga elders -- a couple of tables away from ours.

Jerwin and I stopped behind the old woman, who immediately turned to look at the
both of us.

Jerwin: Grams.

Grams: Jerwin. Oh, so you finally bring your fiance here.


Ngayon na natitigan ko si lola.. may pagka-intimidating pala sya.. O___O

Her face, kahit na mukha na syang 70? 80?, is a portrait of sophisticated beauty
. Ang ganda siguro ni lola
nung bata sya.. Regal beauty..

at may kung anong aura pa sya na nag-ddemand ng full attention.. She's wearing a
maroon dress.. with
diamond earrings hanging from her ears, and diamond necklace around her neck.. m
ayaman din sa rings
ang hands ni lola..

Jerwin: You have always said better late than never. Anyway, Grams, this is Veni
ce.. Venice, this is the
"head" of the Santos family, Mrs. Gretchen Santos.

Venice: Good evening poh.

Grams: Good evening. Come here, sit down, let's talk.

Eh?!? Kailangan pa ba yan? T^T

I sat down on the empty chair na inuupuan kanina ni Tito Ray -- he's on the othe
r table talking to some
other business people.

Grams: So, tell me, Venice, what do your parents do?

Ako: My mom was working as a nurse in the US.

Grams: "Was"?

Ako: She's been staying here for about a year and a half now.. but she's flying
back to the US next week.

Grams: And your father?

Ako: He died when I was young.

Grams: I see.

I feel like I'm being interrogated. Kulang na lang, ung maliit na spotlight..

Grams: And how about you? What do you do for a living?

Jerwin: Grams, Venice is focusing on her studies.

Grams: Oh, is she now? Then, have you modeled before? Did some acting?

Ako: I.. uh.. Wala poh akong ganong experience....

Grams: Hmm.. (sips from her teacup) A Santos engaged to a nobody.. I never thoug
ht I'd see this day

Tita Merryl: Suegra, Venice has an incredible voice.

Grams: Hm? Does she now?


Napatingin ako bigla kay Jerwin, nanlalaki ang mga mata sa na-ffeel kong mangyay
ari. O__O I know this
feeling of terror. I knew this was coming!

Ako: HMMM?!?!? O.O

Jerwin just shrugged -- at daig pa ang clown sa laki ng ngiti nya! @_@ Kung di l
ang ako napapaligiran ng
angkan nya, sinalpak ko na ung uneaten cake dun sa mesa sa face nya -- tignan ko
lang kung makabungisngis pa sya.

Meanwhile, Grams motioned for the host to come over, syempre sunod naman si Mr.

Grams: My grandson and his fiance will be singing a song for everybody.

Oh my golay. I knew it!

Jerwin: Okay, Grams. Listen, and be amazed.


Jerwin pulled me from my seat, and almost dragged me papunta dun sa band dun sa
sulok na nag-pplay
ng kung anong soothing music.... mga gunggong.. kung gusto nyong mag-soothe ng s
oul, bigyan nyo ng
vodka! vodka lang ang katapat nyan men!

Ako: Why are we doing this?!?

Jerwin: So people won't have any more complaints about you being a "nobody".

Ako: Who cares about their complaints?! What about my complaints?!

Jerwin: You have any?

Ako: DUh! I'm being pushed into the spotlight again! And I don't like this spotl
ight! At isa pa, wala
naman tayong na-practice na kahit anoh!

Jerwin: Hmmm we were able to rehearse "Lucky"....

Ako: Adik ka ba? @__@ That was supposed to be for your concert, uh, I dunno, 500
0 years ago!

Ang announcement of my existence... Kung alam ko lang..

Ako: And besides, you rejected that song, di ba?! Sabi mo, it doesn't "fit" us!

Jerwin: That was then, this is now.


He went to
y dalawang
may hawak

the band and borrowed the guitar. I looked over dun sa dancefloor, ma
staff na
na ng tatlong mic stands sa gitna.. Then, Jerwin stepped beside me -na syang

Ako: Anoh yan?? Nag-gigitara ka?

Jerwin: Of course. Let's go?

Ako: Why do you always do this to me? T-T

Jerwin: Coz I know you shine best when you're singing.

Ako: What?!?

He took my hand and pulled my hand papunta dun sa gitna nung dance floor. He fix
ed one of the mic
stands para dun sa guitar, then adjusted the other one for him.. Masakit man sa
loob ko, inayos ko na rin
ung mic stand ko.. Eh anoh pa nga bang magagawa ko? Eh halos lahat ng people nak
a-tingin na sa'min.

Jerwin then nodded to the host to signal we're ready. As if naman... T^T

Mr. Host: Ladies and gentlemen, to show their gratitude for this wonderful surpr
ise, Mr. Jerwin Santos
and his fiance, Venice Zhao, has decided to serenade you with one of their favori
te songs. Please give
them a warm round of applause.

Favorite song?!? Anong kalokohan yan?!?

Before I knew it, Jerwin started plucking the strings of his guitar. He looked a
t me, and I can almost hear
him say, "Aja!" hahaha

{song: Lucky}

Jerwin: (sings) Do you hear me? I'm talking to you

Across the water across the deep blue ocean

Under the open sky, oh my, baby I'm trying..

Ako: Boy I hear you in my dreams

I feel your whisper across the sea

I keep you with me in my heart

You make it easier when life gets hard..

This isn't so bad...

I looked at the people around us.. They seem happy, enjoying the song, I guess.
Even Grams looks

I glanced back at Jerwin, and almost choked on my words..

He's glancing around the room.. or at least, that's what he's trying to make it
look like.. but.. I'm not
blind.. lalo na't ganito pa sya kalapit sa'kin..

I looked at the table in front of us.. ung table na upuan namin..

I put a smile on my face, kaseh syempre, masaya ung kanta, dapat masaya ang face
.... This will be on
tomorrow's newspaper, I'm sure...

Jerwin: (sings) And so I'm sailing through the sea

To an island where we'll meet

You'll hear the music fill the air

I'll put a flower in your hair..

Ako: Though the breezes through trees

Move so pretty you're all I see

As the world keeps spinning 'round

You hold me right here, right now...

I saw Jerwin glance at me real quick -- he even smiled.

I smiled back... then it was gone.. He turned away again.. His attention back to
her again..

Everybody has this look of admiration.. na parang kinikilig.. na parang we're th

is really talented,
promising couple..

I bet they just can't see.. they just don't notice..

Jerwin might be singing with me.. but.. he's singing the song for someone else..

::Chapter 32::

I Choose You


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

"See? That wasn't so bad."

Napatingin ako kay Jerwin. Balik na pala sa'kin ung atensyon nya.. We just finis
hed our little impromptu
show, and people are giving us a deafening applause. I guess they liked it. waha

Nag-bow kami sa audience a couple of times.. Someone took the guitar from Jerwin
, and after waving to
the audience one more time, Jerwin and I walked back sa table ni Lola..

Jerwin: Well, Grams? What did you think?

Umupo na uhlet ako dun sa upuan sa tabi ni Grams.. Grams beamed at me. Natuwa ya
ta si lola..

Grams: You have potential. Okay. I'll accept you into the family.

Ako: Ehh?!?

Grams: Hijita, ladies don't answer like that. Merryl?

Tita Merryl: Yes, suegra?

Grams: You see hijita often, yes? You should correct her way of talking.

Tita Merryl: Not so often, suegra, but I will point out her mistakes whenever we

What the quack is this??

Pinagtutulungan nanaman nila ako..

Tumingin ako kay Grams.. She looks very pleased... but still scary.. -__- Pag ku
montra siguro ako, baka
ipaluto nya ko sa malaking kawali... I sighed in defeat..

Grams: Next time I see her, I want her to be able to answer properly, and--

She swatted my back with her fan.

Grams: Proper posture. Don't hunch, hijita.

I immediately straightened my back. Na-interrogate na nga ako't lahat, ngayon, p

osture ko naman ang

Jerwin: Okay, Grams, we'll be going back to our table now.

Grams: Very well. Oh, hijita?

Ako: *gulp* Yes, ma'am?

Grams: Call me Grams. I'll see you soon.

Ai, lola.. kahit wag na uhlet tayo magkita. T_T

I stood up -- making sure na straight ang vertebrae ko -- and walked next to Jer
win. Jerwin slightly
bowed his head to his grandmother. Lumipat ung tingin sa'kin ni Grams. I started
to feel myself panic.
Straight ba ang posture ko? Masama yata pag sinabi kong "Ok, Grams! Vavush!"

She's still staring at me like a queen waiting for one of her subjects to do som
ething. What am I
supposed to do?! Baka mapuna nanaman ako..

Grams: Hijita?

Sa sobrang panic ko -- I curtsied! CURTSIED!


ndhvaerjlkajicf!!!!! Who curtsies in this day and age!?!??!?! <'OoO'>

Nung na-realize ko ung ginawa ko, I immediately grabbed Jerwin's hand and dragge
d him away. I can
feel my face heating up! Lahat na yata ng dugo ko, lumipad sa mukha ko!

And it's not helping na mamatay na sa kakatawa tohng kinakaladkad ko!

Jerwin: HAHAHAHAHAHA What was that?!?!

Ako: Shut up! I panicked, okay?!?

Jerwin: So you curtsied?

We were just a few feet away from our table when I turned to glare at him. There
are people walking
around us, pero busy sila sa pag-uusap at pagpunta dun sa dance floor para magsa
yaw.. I don't think
they notice na Jerwin is laughing like a maniac, and I'm just about to show him
my mad ninja skills.

Naturingan pa namang "fianc" ko. -__- Napahiya na nga ako, pinagtatawanan pa ko!?

Ako: Mabulunan ka sana.

Jerwin: But.. HAHAHAHAHA you curtsied

Ako: Will you stop laughing already?!?! O gusto mong makita sa front page ng mga
dyaryo bukas ang
pagngudngod ko ng mukha mo sa sahig!?!

Jerwin glance at my expression and then cleared his throat. Finally, tumigil na
sya sa kakatawa. Pero ang
laki pa rin naman ng ngiti nya. -__-

Ako: Haayy.. I can't believe I did that! You're grandma probably thinks I'm stup

Jerwin: You kidding me? She loved you!

Ako: -__- Weh!?

Jerwin: She called you "hijita"..

Ako: What does that mean?

Jerwin: It's Spanish for "little girl".. "little dear" or something like that..
It's a term of endearment. AND!
She even wants to see you soon!

Ako: Haayyy.. Probably to make sure I keep my posture straight... and I don't re
ply with "eh?!" T_T

Jerwin threw his arm around my shoulder and pulled me closer so that he can whis
per something
without anyone else having to hear it.

Jerwin: You'll be alright.. Grams isn't that cold-hearted.. My cousins and I abs
olutely love... her...

Napatingin ako when Jerwin's voice trailed by the end of his sentence. His arm s
lowly dropped back to
his side. Sinundan ko ung tinitignan nya.... and I should have known.. Geena..

It's either Geena or the big bowl of punch na katabi ni Geena...

Ako: You should go.

Jerwin: (napatingin sa'kin) Huh?

Ako: You want to talk to her, right? I'll go bother Nicole or Jean... or both.

Jerwin smiled and gave me a quick pat on the head.

Jerwin: I'll come back soon.

--- .. ---

(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

I grabbed a small cup from the buffet table and walked over to where the punch b
owl is.. where Geena
is quietly sipping from her own cup.

Ako: How was Paris?

She glanced up at me, and smiled.

Geena: Same old, same old. How about you? I was just gone for a month, and when
I came back, you're
engaged already.

Ako: Hmm.. yea...

Geena: And to someone who's not Santos material at that. She's not an actress, n
ot a singer, not a
model, not a business tycoon.... NOT the ideal heiress to the Santos dynasty, ma
y I say. I'm surprised
your parents allowed you date her.

Ako: (chuckled) Everything is mom's idea, after all.

Geena: Your mom's idea?

Ako: Oh, ha? Nothing..

Geena peered at me under her heavy eyelashes.. Yea, I know.. Nadulas lang ako..
But I guess, she chose
to just let it go.

Geena: And you? What attracted you to her?

Sumandal ako dun sa dingding, and I turned my eyes to watch Venice. She's talkin
g to Mr. Lopez, one of
the big bosses in a TV network I often work with.. Nicole is sitting beside her,
parang may kung anong
ino-offer si Mr. Lopez kay Venice.. I can tell by Nicole's excited exclamations,
and Venice's horrified
reactions. She's so easy to read.

Ako: Venice... She.. She's completely unexplainable. You think she's a good girl
, but when you get to
know her, she's actually everything.. She's crazy.. She's funny.. She's honest..
She's caring.. She's

Naalala kong bigla ung pag-curtsy nya kay Grams kanina, and in spite of myself,
I started chuckling.

Ako: And you'll never know what she's gonna do next.

Geena: You sound pretty fond of her.

I blinked and reverted my attention back to Geena. She's staring at me sharply.

I know that look.. She
uses it when she's not happy about something.

Geena: This is a set-up, isn't it?

Ako: What?

Geena: Dustin told me that this girl just appeared out of nowhere. Is she pregna

Ako: What?!? No!

Geena: So what...

She stepped closer to me and ran her hand over my arm.

Geena: Are you using her to make me jealous? Isn't this a bit too much? Being en
gaged and all...
Everything just to get to me?

I sighed. I gently stopped her hand from traveling anywhere else, and even more
gently, I pushed it

Ako: Geena.. You'll always be special to me..

She smiled.

Ako: But..

I looked at Venice, who just then, turned to look at me too. She smiled, and I s
miled back. She turned
away to pay more attention to whatever Nicole was blabbering.. Kunwari seryoso u
ng pakikinig nya,
pero halata namang konti na lang, kakaripas na sya ng takbo.. Fame scares her, I
don't know why.

Ako: I'm lucky.

Geena: Lucky?

Ako: Yea. I feel lucky I didn't end up with you.. Instead, I found her.

I met Geena's astonished gaze. I can tell she didn't expect me to say that. I ne
ver thought I'd say
something like that either..

But now that it's out there, it somehow feels "right".. Wala nang bawian.

Ako: I have to go--

Geena: Jerwin--

She suddenly grabbed my arm and pulled me back. She's holding on quite tightly.

Geena: Why are you leaving me? Is it because I didn't want us to be official? I'
ll change that! I'll make us
official! You and me.. Just leave that.... that.... that nobody!

I pried her fingers off my arm.. She didn't try to hold on. She just let me make
her let go..

Ako: I would have given anything to hear you say that before.. But it's differen
t now..

I met her eyes.. those intense brown eyes..

Ako: I'm engaged now. Geena, anytime you'll need me, you know you can always giv
e me a call. I'll
always be here for you... as a friend..

I let go of Geena's hand, and gave her a small smile. I looked back at the table
and found that Venice left
her spot. I wonder where she went...

I turned my back on Geena and walked away to look for Venice.

I never thought I'd turn my back on Geena....

but then again, I never thought I'd be engaged to a "nobody" either.

::Chapter 33::



(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

I found a comfortable-looking loveseat dun sa labas nung dance hall.. I'm so gla
d. T^T nyahaha Pinatong
ko ung mga tumitibok-tibok kong legs dun sa upuan and bent down to massage my ca

Buti na lang nakatakas ako unnoticed.. Naaliw kaseh si Nicole dun sa kinukwento
nung kung sinoh mang
manong un, at si Jean naman, kausap si Grams..

I took the opportunity to sneak out of the party, and ehto na nga.. buti na lang
may loveseat sa labas
nung banquet hall..

Ang taas-taas naman kaseh ng heels! Masaket sa paa! Ehto ung mga tipo ng shoes n
a dapat lagi kang
may katabi para mag-sway ka man side to side, may hahawak syo.. Ahyun lang naman
ang papel ni
Jerwin kaya ako tumatabi sa kanya..


It was really awkward seeing him and Geena together.. Lalo na nung nakahawak si
Geena sa arm nya..
They were looking so intently at each other.. I wonder kung anong pinag-uusapan
nila..... Haayyyy.. I feel
like the other woman..

Ako: Kabet. Isa akong KABET!

"Oh here you are."




I'm choking on my own oxygen. O.O

Ehto naman kasing si Jerwin, kung kelan nag-eemote ako sa pagiging kabet ko, tsa
ka naman sya lumabas
ng pinto! Eh kamustah nga naman ang airways ko!? Nagulat tuloy!

Jerwin: What are you doing??

I took a few deep breaths.. Bumabalik na ang abilities ng lungs kong huminga.. *
inhale* *exhale*

Lumapit sa'kin si Jerwin..


Hinampas ko ung tyan-slash-abs nya -- nakatayo kaseh si kuya, hindi ko tuloy mab

Jerwin: Aray! What?!?

Ako: Adik ka! Bakit ka ba nanggugulat!?

Jerwin: Kasalanan ko bang magugulatin ka?!?

Tinaas nya ung mga paa ko, and sat down dun sa inuupuan kanina ng aking tired le
gs.. He placed my legs
on his lap naman, kaya di na ko nag-reklamo..

Ako: Bakit ka ba nandito?

Jerwin: Kaseh bigla kang nawala dun sa loob.

Ako: *gasp*

I poked his arm.

Ako: Na-miss mo na kagad ako? Uyyyy, iba na yan..

Jerwin: You crazy? I was just worried na baka tumakbo ka na pauwi.. Anoh na lang
ang sasabihin ko sa
mga tao pag bigla kang nag-poof?

Ako: You know, you could have just said, "Yes, of course, Venice. I can't stand
being away from you."

Jerwin: That's just creepy. -__- And besides, bakit ba nakataas ang paa mo sa si

Ako: Eh sa nag-rerebolusyon na sila eh! Masakit kaya sa paa ung heels na yan!

Jerwin: Is that why you went out? Para lang mataas mo ung paa mo?

Ako: Well.. I was kinda avoiding talking to other people..

Jerwin started to massage my calves gently. He's doing such a good job na lalo k
o na tuloy ayaw tumayo.

Jerwin: Why are you avoiding them?

Ako: Kaseh naman.. They'd ask me questions like, "Where did you two meet?", "Wha
t did you do for
your first date?".. and "When's the wedding?" Ay josko! It's a miracle na hinde
nga ako kumaripas ng
takbo. *sigh* Kaya ehto, lumabas na lang muna ako.. Baka makahalata na sila pag
every time na
tinatanong nila ako ng ganon, iniiba ko ung topic!

Jerwin: You can just tell them we met at the music hall. It's the truth.

Ako: Uh-huh.. and I didn't know who you were.. and incidentally, you somehow end
ed up bringing me to
your house the same night coz I was wasted. Good story.

Jerwin: Well, you didn't have to tell them about the latter part. Geez.

Ako: And how do I answer questions about our "first date"? We haven't even had a
single date!

Jerwin: Ohhhh.. Is this your way of asking me to go on a date with you?

Ako: Laseng ka ba? -__- Bakit naman kita yayayain?? Ka-date-date ka ba!?

Jerwin: Ahsuz, nagpakipot ka pa.. All you have to say is, "Jerwin, will you go o
ut with me?"

Ako: Ewww.. Kilabutan ka nga. O_O

Napalingon kaming bigla nang bumukas ung pinto nung dance hall namin.. Halos tin
apon pa nga ni
Jerwin ung mga paa ko dun sa sahig. Salbahe. Tapos sasabihin nyang i-ddate ko ra
w sya?!?

"Oh my gosh, Jerwin, there you are!"

It's Nicole. Parang haggard si ate.. Kanina pa nya siguro hina-hunting si Jerwin

Jerwin: Yo, cousin!

Nicole: Don't "yo, cousin" me! Mr. Perez has been looking for you! Get your butt

Ako: Mr. Perez?

Jerwin: He's a topnotch music producer. He probably wants to talk about a new al
bum or something.

Tumayo na si Jerwin (waahhh ang massage ko!! T^T ) and straightened his tux, the
n he turned to look at

Jerwin: Let's go.

Ako: I'll stay here muna..

Jerwin: You sure?

Ako: Don't worry. Hindi ako kakaripas ng takbo pauwi.

Jerwin: With those heels, ha! Good luck na lang kung makatakbo ka.

Nicole: Jerwin.

Jerwin: Okay, okay! I'm coming.

Pumasok na uhlet si Nicole sa loob -- kinakaladkad ung pinsan nyang wanted. ;P K

akataas ko pa lang
uhlet nung paa ko dun sa upuan, nang bigla nanamang bumukas ung door. Eh di syem
pre, lumipad
nanaman ang feet ko pababa sa floor.

Anak ng tokwa! Bakit ba hinde na lang sila manahimik sa loob?!?



Oh crap. Pumasok na pala dapat ako.

Geena closed the door behind her and walked over to where I was sitting.

Geena: Mind if I join you?

Ako: Uh, no..?

Umupo si ate sa tabi ko.. I fought the urge to shrink dun sa opposite side nung
couch. We were both
looking at the wall in front of us.. Bakit naman sa dinami-dami ng taong lalabas
, ehto pa? T-T

Geena: I don't think I've properly introduced myself. My name is Georgina.

Ako: Oh, I know.

Geena: Well, of course you do. I've graced billboards, magazine covers, and adve
rtisements in more
times than I can count.

Confidence ba itoh o arrogance? -__-

Geena: But, tell me.

Bigla syang tumingin sa'kin. Halos mapatalon ako sa takot. O_O

Geena: Have you ever heard about me from Jerwin?

Ako: Uh.. He mentioned you once.. or twice..

Geena: I see. Then you must have a very vague knowledge of our relationship. Tal
king about
relationships isn't Jerwin's forte.

Ako: Relationship?

Ung "friends with benefits" thing nyo? Ay nako, ate, si Nicole ang nag-tsismis s
a'kin nun. At hindi
"vague" ang pagkaka-kwento ni cousin-in-law.

Geena: Jerwin and I have this special bond. We were sort-of going out, you see..
But I was focusing on
my career. Having a boyfriend would have been a distraction.

Ako: Oh...

Di ko getz... -___-

Geena: Jerwin courted me. He asked me to be his girlfriend so many times, it was
... shall I say,
impressive? I turned him down repeatedly. But, he didn't date other girls; he di
dn't look at other girls.
He only had eyes for me.

I see.. Martyr si kuya... o baka near-sighted.

Geena: I acknowledged this fact. He wanted me, and I wanted him. But I didn't wa
nt to commit,
because, like I said, I don't want to be bothered by a relationship. That's why.

Tumingin ako kay Geena.. She's staring at me.. Her eyes are practically burning
through me.. Dangerous
ang toxicity level ng stare ni ate. O_O

Geena: We settled for something more than friends, but less than a relationship.
We were lovers. We
had secret meetings, careful so our activities wouldn't leak to the press. We ha
d private, sensual nights
in hotels out of town, out of the country. Do you understand what I'm saying?

Ako: You were sleeping with each other.

Napa-blink si Geena, and my hand flew to my mouth. I totally did not plan to say
that out loud, at ganun
pa ka-straight. O_O

I mean, I know she's trying to tell me na may mga kalokohan sila ni Jerwin (at n
aughty-naughty na
kalokohan pa), and I already know naman ang mga perverted actions nila bago nya
pa sinabi sa'kin....
pero naman, brain! Di mo man lang inisip na umarte na kunwari in denial ka! o ka
ya contemplative! o
surprised man lang! Ahyan, si ate tuloy ang nagulat.

Geena: You knew everything?

Ako: Well.. kinda...

Geena: And still.. you're marrying him..


Ate, hinde kasal. Engaged lang. Wag mo naman sabihin na ikakasal na kame..

Napangiti na lang ako.. Di ko alam kung pano pa ko hihirit eh..

Geena: How much did Mrs. Santos pay you?

Ako: Eh?!?!

Ay, wag raw pala ganon ang sagot, sabi ni Grams.

Ako: Excuse me?

Geena: Mrs. Santos arranged this, didn't she? Jerwin had a little slip of the to
ngue earlier.. An arranged
marriage.. It's the only logical explanation for everything.

Ako: Ay! Anoh ba?!?-- -___- Nagtatagalog ka ba?

Geena: I understand it.

Ako: Buti naman. Wag ka na nga masyadong serious dyan, ate. Alam mo, Jerwin and
I, masaya naman
kame eh. S-Siguro nga, arranged lang ng mga nanay namen toh..

Mga loka-lokang nanay.. -__-

Ako: But we're making the most out of it. If it works out, then great. If not, t
hen, oh well, di vaahhh?

Tumayo akong bigla. Thiz iz it! Time to escape!

Ako: Ai, pumasok na nga tayo. Baka hinahanap na tayo sa loob. Nauuhaw na rin ako
.. Nandun ka sa may
punchbowl kanina di ba? Masarap ba ung punch? Ai, matikman na nga lang!

Mabilis akong naglakad papunta dun sa pinto.. Ayoko nang patagalin pa ang alone
moments ko with
Geena. Nakaka-stress sa heart at sa brain!

Kakahawak ko pa lang dun sa door handle, nang biglang tumayo si Geena. Ako naman
si stupid, tumingin
pa talaga. Eh sabi na ngang time to escape, titingin ka pa!

Geena: Venice.

Pumasok ka na! Pumasok ka na lang! Dedmahin mo!

Venice: Yes?

Anoh pa ang silbi ng brain kung hinde ka rin naman makikinig? -__-

Geena: I'll be leaving now. I'll see you around, though.

Ako: Ah.. ha..ha.. Okay..

She stepped towards me.. Na-frozen na ko dun sa harap nung pinto.. unable to mov
e sakali man
maisipian nyang sampalin ako or whatever..

But Geena stopped just a foot away from me.. Nakaka-intimidate ang aura ni ate..
nakakataas ng
balahibo.. O_O

Geena: And by the way, I know Jerwin. The only reason he agreed to this engageme
nt is because I
wasn't around. He needed a spare tire to keep him entertained. I just loaned him
to you.

So anoh ako? Spare tire na clown?! Entertainer nya?!

At kelan pa nahihiram ang lalake?!? Anoh yan, may library card ba yan?!

Geena: So don't get too comfortable with him.. Coz I'm here now. And I'm taking
him back.


After saying that, Geena sashayed off pass me to the main lobby. I followed her
with my eyes hanggang
sa mawala na sya dun sa corner.. It was only then na na-realize kong I was holdi
ng my breath.


Ako: (bulong sa sarili ko) Baahhh.. ang taray....



Bumukas bigla ung pinto, at syempre, ako tohng nakatayo dun mismo sa harap, pagb
ukas nya, diretso
kagad sa mukha ko.


Kanina pa namumuro tohng si Jerwin.

Jerwin: Oh my god! Are you okay?!?


Jerwin: Aw!

Binatukan ko nga sya.. Ung isang kamay ko, naka-cover sa ilong ko. Masakit pala
pag bumubukas sa
mukha mo ang pinto. T^T

Ako: Bakit ba di ka muna kumakatok?!?

Jerwin: Coz I was already inside! It's usually the people outside the room who k
nocks! Bakit ka kaseh
dyan nakatayo?!

Napatingin sya sa mukha ko.. Suddenly, his eyes got wide. @_@

Ako: What?

Jerwin: Your nose is bleeding! O_O

Ako: WHAT?!?!? WHERE?!?!? WHAT?!?!

Ang make-up ko! Ang dress ko! Ang nose ko!

Jerwin: pft. BWAHAHAHAHA Just kidding! Just kidding! You should've seen your fac


Ako: Let's go inside.

Jerwin: Yes, ma'am. T-T

I opened the door and walked in, followed by Jerwin, na nakahawak sa ulo nyang b
inatukan ko. Oh di
vah, tahimik na sya ngayon.. Parang batang nasigawan..

Geena's face flashed in my mind.. I glimpsed at Jerwin, who suddenly perked up a

nd dragged me to the
dance floor. The DJ just started spinning "Something Stupid" by Robbie Williams
and Nicole Kidman.

Jerwin: I love this song! Let's dance!

Oh di ba.. Bi-polar..

He spun me in his arms.. and we spent most of the night in the dance floor.. dan
cing.. laughing.. picking
on the oldies' sense of style.. It suddenly felt like we really were celebrating
our engagement..

How can someone not get "too comfortable" with him?

::Chapter 34::

Prince Charming


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

"WHAAA?? Really?!? Sumulpot sya?!?"

I trudged slowly sa tabi ni Kenny -- low batt na ang energy level ko, kaya sapil
itan pa yang paglalakad na
yan. Sheena and Anthony are walking behind us... pasimpleng landi yang si Anton

Sa totoo lang, amazingly lutang ang utak ko the whole day. Siguro dahil ang agaaga namen nakauwi
kagabi from the party -- umaga na. -___-

Kaya today, sa sobrang pagod ng brain ko, halos wala akong maalala sa mga lectur
es, classes, kahit
lunchtime, di ko maalala ang kinain ko. Extreme case of floating above the atmos
phere itoh.

After ng mga last classes namen, sabay-sabay na kaming naglalakad papunta dun sa
school gates..
Kinuwento ko sa kanila ung sudden appearance ni Geena sa so-called "Engagement P
arty" namin ni
Jerwin (minus the "I'll take him back" speech bago umalis si girlaloo. ).

Sheena: Di ba na-llink kay Jerwin un dati? Eh di nag-pyesta ang mga fafarazzis?

Ako: Hmmm... di naman.. Konti lang naman kaseh ung mga umaaligid na camera...

Kenny: So anoh? Anong verdict natin kay ex?

Ex? Ayaw magpaka-ex ni ex.. at hindi ko rin naman alam kung ex na talaga sya.. b
aka ex-ex-an lang.

Pero syempre, dahil ayokong mabomba ng mga delikadong tanong, di ko sasabihin un


Ako: Breast friend, maganda naman ako di ba?

Kenny: Gusto mo bang sumagot ako ng "oo"?

Ako: Bahket?! May iba pa bang sagot dun?!

Kenny: Ay! Oo nga noh! Sige, breastie, oo! Maganda ka! Patok sa masa ang beauty
naten! Mga dyosa

Ako: Friend! Kung dyosa tayo, eh anoh na lang sya?!? 5 times pa ang ganda ni ate
! Breast friend,
tinalbugan tayo!

Kenny: *gasp* Bounced?!

Ako: Bounced na bounced. T-T

Sheena: Ang gulo nyo mag-usap.

Kenny: Che! Wag kang magulo dyan. Usapan toh ng mga dyosa.

Sheena: *gasp* You mean, hinde ako dyosa? O_O Ang sakit naman!

Kenny: Ay! Dramahan ba ako!??!

Lumabas kami ng schoolgates na, as usual, debate nanaman ang ginagawa nung dalaw
a. Bakit raw hinde
dyosa si Sheena?

Di vah, ganda ng topic?

Tumingin ako sa paligid para hanapin ang Sunshine kong driver.. pero instead na
ung black pick-up truck
ang nakita ko, ung silver na family van ng mga Santos ang naka-park.

Oh Lord, anoh nanamang event itoh? T-T

Bumukas ung pinto nung van, at lumipad si Jean na diretso kagad sa usual greetin
g nya sa'kin: Flying
Hug, with matching lambitin sa leeg ko. Naka-uniform pa ang bata.. galing pa yat
a sa school nila..

Ako: Jean??! Anong ginagawa mo dito?

Jean: May meeting si kuya with some producers. Sabi nya sunduin daw kita. Punta
ka sa bahay!

Sheena: Sinoh yan?

Napatingin si Jean dun sa mga people sa likod ko -- ngayon nya lang yata na-real
ize na may kasama pala
ako. Then, all of a sudden, napansin kong natulala ang bata.

Jean: (bulong) Prince Charming....


Tama ba ung rinig ko?? It couldn't be, right? Sinoh naman ang tatawagin nya nun?
Si Anton? Eh mas
appropriate kung sinabi nya: "Frog Prince".... at wag na natin simulan kung baki
t hinde pwedeng maging
si Kenny un..

Sinoh pa bang tao sa likod ko?

Jean untangled her arms from around my neck and sprung papunta sa mga kaibigan k
o -- all-smiles pa
ang loka. O_O

Jean: Prince Charming!

Kenny: Ay! Where?

Oh di vah, ang vakla, "where" kagad ang reaction.

Jean: You!

Biglang niyakap ni Jean si Kenny -- and halos mahulog-hulog ang puso ko. O.O Nashock din sina Sheena
at si Anton.. Pero wala pa yatang 1 minute, na-realize ni Anthony ang nangyayari
, avah, humagalpak ng
tawa ang mokong!

Kenny: Uh, excuseeeee me! (tingin sa'kin) Sinoh ba tohng bubwit na toh at bakit
sya nakalambitin

Jean: Oh..

Tinanggal ni Jean ung arms nya and stared giddily at Kenny. Hinde ko kinakaya an
g powers ni sister-inlaw! Hinde ako makapagsalita!

Jean: My name is Jeanette. You can call me Jean. I know we just met, but, Prince
Charming.. I love you

Kenny: Ay! Bruhilda ka!

Anthony: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA I love you daw, Kenny!

Hinila ko bigla si Jean sa tabi ko -- far away from Kenny na parang konti na lan
g eh ilalambitin na sya
patiwarik. O_O

Ako: J-Jean! Anoh ka ba?! Wag mo ngang pag-tripan ung kaibigan ko. O_O

Jean: Ate naman, mukha ba kong nang-ttrip? This is love at first sight!

Brrr.... Kakilabot pakinggan.

Kenny: Hoy! Anong love at first sight ka dyan?!? Hinde tayo compatible, sister!
At hinde ako Prince
Charming! Ako. Si. Cinderella.

Jean: It's okay, Prince Charming. I accept you for whatever you are.. or kahit s
inoh pa gusto mong

Kenny: Uh, ew.

Ako: My golay. Tama na nga yan.

Tumingin ako kay Anthony na halos mangiyak-ngiyak na sa sobrang kakatawa.

Ako: Hoy, Anton, may balak ka bang mabulunan kakatawa dyan?!

Anthony: But-- wahahaha si Kenny raw... wahahahaha

Di na yata nakatiis ang mind ni Sheena.. dahil alam nyang wrong.. ang girl na ma
gkagusto kay Kenny...
Mali talaga. O_O

Lumapit sya kay Jean..

Sheena: Jean, right? I'm Sheena, friend ako ni Kenny tsaka ni Venice. Alam mo, I
understand naman na
gwapo si Kenny..

Kenny: Maganda. Maganda ako.

Sheena: And as long as hinde sya magsalita.. hinde sya gumalaw...

Tumingin kaming tatlo kay Kenny.

Sheena: At siguro, basta hinde na rin sya huminga.. mapapagkamalan talaga syang
fafable. Boy na boy,
di ba?

Kenny: Hoy, alalay ng dyosa, may patutunguhan ba yang sinasabi mo?!

Sheena: Manahimik ka nga dyan, Kenny. Anyway.. (balik tingin kay Jean) Kaya lang
, Jean, wag mong
sayangin ang puso mo kay Kenny.. dahil kahit anong pilit mo.. kahit anong ganda
mo.. kahit anong
gayuma pa ang ipainom mo dyan.. the only way na magkakasundo kayo, eh kung mag-e
exchange kayo
ng mga tips sa paglalandi ng mga fafa.

Jean: Manang.



Sheena: M-M-Manang?!?! M-Mukha ba kong "Manang"?!?! "Ate"! "Ate" ang dapat na ti

natawag mo

Ako: Ah hahaha.. Syempre naman, Shee, "ate" lang dapat.. Batang-bata ka pa eh..

Pasensya na, medyo sensitive si Sheena sa edad nya. -__-

Hinila ko si Jean patago sa likod ko.. Namumuro na sya eh.. Avah, hinde ko na ka
ya kung dalawa na ang
maglalambitin sa kanya patiwarik. Anoh na lang sasabihin ko sa kuya nya? "Sorry,
pero di nakaya ng
powers ko ang combined forces ni Sheena at ni Kenny"?

Ako: Sige ha, alis na kami.. May gagawin pa yata kame eh.... Bye!

Kinaladkad ko si Jean pabalik sa family van nila -- laking pasasalamat ko na lan

g kaseh nagpakaladkad
sya. T-T

Pero ang bata talaga.. ayaw paawat.. Papasok na nga lang ng van, may last hirit

Jean: (balik tingin kina Sheena at Kenny) Bye, Prince Charming! Manang!


I'm sure... Bagyo ng tawag at text ng mga reklamo ang matatanggap ko mamaya.. TT

Dumating kami sa bahay nina Jean.. Di ko na natanong kung bakit kailangan akong
pumunta dun eh
pwede naman akong ibaba sa sarili kong bahay di ba?

Tuloy-tuloy ang dakdak nung bata tungkol kay Kenny, hinde na ko nakasingit hangg
ang sa nakarating na
kami dito. T-T

Pumasok kami sa loob, sabay diretso sa kitchen kaseh gutom na raw si Jean (dapat
lang.. pagkatapos ba
naman nung energy outpour nya kanina, sinong di magugutom dun?)

Ako: Hello, Aling Ligaya.

Jean: Hi, Happy! Merienda time!

Aling Ligaya: Ay, uu. Sige, sandali lang.

Naupo kami ni Jean dun sa counter habang nag-pprepare si Aling Ligaya ng kakaini
n namin.

Jean: Oo nga pala, ate.. Malapit na Valentines day.. Anong regalo mo?

Ako: Regalo? Para sa Valentines? Di ba dapat ako ang binibigyan nya ng regalo?

Jean: Anoh bah.. Syempre, dapat may gawin ka ring special for him. Di ba dapat g
ive and take ang

Eh.. Relationship-kuno lang naman kame..

Ako: Eh anong bibigay ko? Di ba pwedeng hug na lang?

Jean: Ate naman, you're so cheap. How about a custom-made photo album nyong dala

Ako: I won't have time to do something like that.

Jean: Hmm.. an ipod?

Ako: Doesn't he have one already?

Jean: He has the old version. Get him the latest one.

Ako: But I'm broke. T-T

Jean: Anoh ba yan?

Umikot si Aling Ligaya and then put two plates ng grilled cheese sandwiches sa h
arap namen.

Aling Ligaya: Aba'y bakit hindi mo na lang ipagluto ng Valentine dinner?

Jean: Hey, that's a good idea!

Ako: Uh huh.. Last time na nagluto ako, muntik nang masunog ung bahay namen.

Jean: Ate.. What can you do? O.O

Aling Ligaya: (natawa) Mag-aasawa ka, hindi ka marunong magluto?

Ako: Aling Ligaya naman.. Kasalanan ko bang hinde kame nagkakasundo ng stove? -_

Aling Ligaya: Ay, bata ka.. Dumaan ka dito tuwing hapon, at tuturuan kitang magl

Ako: Weh?!? Talaga?!?

Aling Ligaya: Syempre.. Alam mo bang magaan ang loob ko dyan kay Sir Jerwin.. Pa
no na lang ako
matatahimik kung ang napangasawa nya eh puro prito ang ipakin sa kanya?

Ako: Truth is... Kahit prito, Aling Ligaya, takot ako.

Nagkatinginan silang dalawa ni Jean.. tapos sabay na sabay pa silang nagtawanan.

. Ibang klase talaga
ang bait ng mga tao ngayong araw na itoh.. -___-

Oh well.. but at least, may magtuturo na sa'kin magluto.

::Chapter 35::



(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

I surveyed the last room the building's owner is showing me.. It's spacious.. cl
ean.. I can lie down and roll
all over the floor, and it would probably take me 5 minutes before I run into a
wall -- and the walls are
thick enough so people from the other side wouldn't even hear anything.

Very nice.

Ako: This is good. I'll take it.

--- .. ---

(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

"Aiya! Why are you so mean to me??"


Ako: Ako?!? Ako pa ang mean?! Sabi ko naman syo, Kenny is gay! As in, GAY! Membe
r ng federasyon!
Honorary member!

Jean tried to reach for my cellphone one more time; I immediately stretched my a
rm out of her reach.
Halos 30 minutes na kaming ganyan.. Hinihingi kasi ni Jean ung number ni Kenny - para raw masimulan
na ang fairy tale romance nila.

Neknek nya! As if naman papatahimikin ako nung bakla kung binigay ko ung number
nya sa isang girl na

Jean: ATEEEEE!!! Sige naaaaa!!!

Ako: No! And besides! If ever man macho nga si Kenny, nababaliw ka ba?!? Ang lak
i-laki ng age gap nyo
noh! Child abuse un!

Jean: It's not child abuse kung consenting naman ung child!

Eh? Ganun ba un?

Jean tried to reach for my phone again.. and iwas nanaman ung kamay ko sa kamay

"Uh.. What are you guys doing?"

Napaikot kaming dalawa, and saw Jerwin coming in from the main door. Sa wakas! U
muwi na rin toh!

Jean: Kuya!! Ate Venice won't give me Kenny's phone number!

Jerwin: Kenny? Bakit mo naman hinihingi?

Jean: Because I love him.

Jerwin: Love? -___- Love, as in, "I love my phone"?

Jean: Kuya.. No, love as in I'm in love with him.

Natulala si Jerwin. See?!? See?!? Kahit si kuya nya nawindang!

Biglang tumingin sa'kin si Jerwin..

Jerwin: Jean.... uh.. how should I say this? But, you see, Kenny.. You're not ex
actly his type..

Jean: hm? What's his type then?

Ako: People with muscles.. cropped short hair.. dimples, preferably.. At least 6
feet tall.. And the person
should have a Y chromosome.

Jean: I have chromosomes!

Ako: But you don't have a Y chromosome.

Jean: Why are you so mean to me?

Ako: I'm not mean.

Jerwin: *sigh* Tama na yan. Venice, are you ready to go home?

Ako: Oh yes.

Tumayo ako and gathered my things from the coffee table.. Gumagawa kaseh kami ng
homework kanina
ni Jean bago nagsimula ang cellphone war.

Nung napasok ko na lahat ng gamit ko sa bag ko, I walked over to Jerwin..

Jean: Ate, drop by again tomorrow, ok?

Ako: I'll try.

Jean: Bye-bye, ate.. And tell Kenny I said hi.

Ako: -___- Okay fine.

Jean gave me a quick hug, and then lumabas na kami ni Jerwin to go to his truck.
I jumped in the
passenger seat, as usual..

Jerwin pulled out of their driveway, palabas dun sa street..

Ako: Sunshine?

Jerwin: Hm?

Ako: Anong regalo mo sa'kin sa Valentines day?

Jerwin swerved off the road nung narinig nya ung tanong ko. O_O Buti na lang wal
a pa kami sa highway!
My golay!

Ako: Anoh ba yan?!? Ayusin mo naman ang pag-ddrive mo!

Jerwin: Eh anoh ba naman kaseng klaseng tanong yan?!?

Ako: Bahket!? I'm your fiance, I have the right to ask for gifts.

Jerwin: Abah..... Talagang sineseryoso mo yang pagiging future Mrs. Jerwin Santo
s ha.

Ako: Oo na.. Kaya honey, anong regalo mo sa'kin sa Valentines day?

Jerwin: Hmmm.. pwede ba ung tig-pipiso na lang na candy? Recession ngayon eh.

Ako: Ang cheap mo naman.

Jerwin: Buti nga may regalo pa eh! Bakit ikaw? Anong regalo mo sa birthday ko?

Ako: Birthday mo?

Jerwin: What? You didn't know?

Ako: Ang alin?

Jerwin: Ang galing mo rin na fiance noh.. Birthday ng future husband mo, hindi mo

Ako: Eh bahket, ikaw?! Alam mo ba kung kelan birthday ko?!?

Natahimik si Jerwin.. Nag-iisip yata. Sa 365 days in a year, sige, manghula ka n

g date.

Sa totoo lang, alam ko naman na two days after ng V-day ang birthday nya, pero d
ahil dapat hindi ko
alam, kunwari innocent ako. Pano ko nalaman?

May director kasi na lumapit sa'kin nung party.. May surprise segment daw sila f
or Jerwin dun sa Sunday
show -- the weekend before Jerwin's birthday, na nagkataon lang din naman na Val
entines day pala.
They want me to take part. Shosyal.

Pero di alam ni Jerwin un. bwahahaha

Jerwin: Oh well. Nevermind.

Nevermind?!? Di man lang nya tatanungin kung kelan birthday ko?!?

Ako: Hmpf. Fine~

Nakauwi kami ng bahay, and as usual, dahil nakasanayan nya na yata, bumaba si Je
rwin para mag-hello
kay mother dear ko.

Hindi na rin ako kumokontra, kaseh binabatukan ako ng nanay ko pag inaaway ko si
Jerwin. Minsan nga,
feeling ko, mas favored nya si Jerwin kesa sa'kin.. *sniff* T-T

Yak. Drama.

I ran upstairs to change out of my uniform. Nagmamadali ako kaseh every time na
iniiwan ko ang nanay
ko at si Jerwin mag-isa, may kung anong out-of-this-world twinkle na sa mata ang
mother ko pagbalik

Ang weird.

Parang ngayon.. I ran down the stairs, at nakita ko na nag-uusap sina mother at
si Jerwin sa dining
room.. Excited nanaman ang gestures ni mom..

Mom: Ay talaga?! Kelan ko makikita?

Jerwin: If you want, we can go tomorrow. I'll pick you up.

Mom: Mamimili na rin ba tayo?

Jerwin: Sure. Tomorrow's my day off, so I have plenty of time.

Umupo ako sa tabi ni Jerwin.

Ako: What's going on?

Mom: Ay, Venice! Secret!

Ako: -___- Secret? bakit?

Jerwin: Coz this is something between your mom and I. It's an exclusive club.

Ako: Psh. Feel at home na feel at home ka ha.

Jerwin: My fiance's home is my home, right?

Ako: Home-home ka dyan?!?

Jerwin: Oh don't look at me like that.

Ako: Oh, like what?

like I'm shooting daggers at you with my eyes?

like I wish you'd burst into flames right now?

Jerwin: Like you really, really wanna kiss me.


Ako: A-A-A-Ano?!?!?!?!?

Mom: Oh my, have you two kissed already?

Ako: Mom!!!!

Jerwin: Hindi pa poh, tita.

Mom: Ahhh I see.

Jerwin: But we'll get there soon.

Mom: Oh! That's good! That's good! Kwento nyo kagad sa'kin ha!


I felt my face burn up. Binenta nanaman ako ng nanay ko! Kulang na lang yata eh
paskilan ako ng "50%
OFF" na sign!

My mom went back in the kitchen para silipin ung niluluto nya. Jerwin turned to
grin at me.

Jerwin: So would you like to kiss me now?


Binatukan ko sya and then I hastily stood up. I turned to stalk out of the dinin
g room habang naririnig
kong tumatawa si Jerwin. Dapat pala sinipa ko na lang sya kesa sa binatukan. raw

Ako: Halikan mo yang sarili mo!

::Chapter 36::

Brewing Up A Storm


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Oh jeep~ Jeep~ Jeep~ Jeep~

I missed you.

The next morning, as usual, dumating si Jerwin sa bahay, pero this time, hinde a
ko ang sinusundo nya -ung nanay ko.

Buti pa ung nanay ko, nakakuha na ng date kasama fianc ko.

Not that I have any complaints. Mabuti nga un! Tagal-tagal ko nang di nakakasaka
y ng jeep. Avah,
nakaka-miss makipagsiksikan noh!

Ako: Bayad pohhhhhh~

All smiles at talagang cheery-cheery pa ang pagkaka-abot ko nung bayad ko..

Tinaasan tuloy ako ng kilay nung batang katabi ko. Na parang ang weird-weird ko.

Ako: Anong tingin-tingin mo dyan?!?

The kid quickly turned away.

Tinignan ako ng masama nung katabi nyang manang.

I know. Minsan talaga, lumalabas ang pagka-"Lucifer's underling" ko.

I turned by face dun sa bintana.. feeling amazing kahit na nalulunod na ko sa ha

ngin. Buti na lang
malambot ang hair ko. Magulo man sya, maganda pa rin ako. wahahaha

Hayyy.. I have a feeling.. that today's gonna be a good day.

Today's gonna be a good, good day.

--- .. ---

(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

"Oh Jerwin! How about this?!? Or maybe that one over there looks better??!"


I watch Tita Mel walk through the aisles bounce from one display to another. Ang
feeling ko, nandito
lang ako para ipag-drive si tita... at parang bodyguard na rin na sunod ng sunod
.. hanggang sunod lang.
Syempre, ako rin ang magbabayad ng kung anoh man ang bibilhin nya.

So, ako ay: driver, bodyguard, and credit card.

I knew there was a reason I hate shopping.

I looked around the store and the handful of people walking around. They all loo
k like newlywed couples
or just really old couples. Sigh...

Tumingin ako sa relo ko. Venice should be in school by now.

Tita Mel: Jerwin! Tignan mo toh! This will be perfect for Venice!

Ako: Ah! Okay. Should we get it then?

Tita Mel: Hmmm... Let's look around first.

T-T Oh for crying out loud...

Gano katagal pa ba kami mag-iikot?? Can't we just buy something?



Napaikot ako sa likod ko nung narinig ko ung boses na tumawag sa'kin. And I was
completely shocked to
find myself face to face with Geena.

Ako: Geena! What are you doing here?

Geena: I'm looking for something for my bedroom. What are you doing here?

Napatingin akong bigla kay Tita Mel na busy sa pag-eexamine nung table lamp. Gee
na followed my gaze.

Geena: Who is she?

Ako: Venice's mom.

Geena: Oh.

Geena stared at Tita Mel. I couldn't really read her expression, and I have no i
dea what's going on in her
mind right now. It's disconcerting, really.

Suddenly, she smiled and took my hand in hers.

Geena: That's nice. You're accompanying her mom while she's in school, right?

Ako: Actually---

Geena: Your birthday is coming up. Do you want to go with me to Boracay?

Ako: Sorry. I can't.

Geena: Would you like to take your fiance?

I took a deep breath. That's poison right there laced in her voice.

Ako: I'd be busy with work the coming months. I'm releasing an album soon.

Geena immediately perked up after hearing that. She squeezed my hand and flashed
the smile that has
enchanted her male fans for years.. the smile that has enchanted me the first ti
me I saw it.


I pulled my hand out of Geena's grasp. I think I'm sweating. Whoo!

I jammed my hands in my pockets.

Ako: Tita Mel.

Tita Mel walked over to where I was, and threw glances at me and Geena.

Geena flashed her a quick smile before turning to look at me. She winked and the
n strutted away.

Lalo yata akong pinagpapawisan. -__-

Tita Mel: Who was that?

Ako: Geena. She's a close friend of mine.

Tita Mel: I see.

Well.. This is kinda awkward..

I wiped my forehead with my arm..

Ako: Uhmm so.. Are you ready to buy things now?

Tita Mel: Ay oo! Nakoo, halika! I have to show you something! I'm sure you'll li
ke it!

Ako: Of course... -.-

I let Tita Mel drag me to the display that caught her eyes just before she appro
ached me and Geena
earlier. Sigh. With the way things are going, I'm sure I'd be with tita the whol
e day.

--- .. ---

(Geena's POV)

I watch silently as Venice's mom took Jerwin's hand and led him further down the
aisle. I can't believe
he's actually socializing with these people. Commoners.

That little minx, Venice, has Jerwin wrapped around her little finger. She even
got him to shop with her
mom. Jerwin hated dealing with parents. He hated dealing with his own parents -what more other

And yet.. he's still here.. pretending to pay attention.. pretending he gives a
damn to whatever the old
lady is pointing at.

Venice might actually be a worthy foe.

I need to start moving.

::Chapter 37::

Panic Attack


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

"I Will Always Love You"..

ay ang taray!! Magpapaka-Whitney Houston ako!

..but then again..... maybe not... ka-love-love ba ung si Jerwin?! at "always" p


"2 Become 1"....

Tapos mini-dress at kasing high na platform shoes nung Spice Girls ang isusuot k
o.. Di kaya ako batukan
ni Jerwin?

.. at.. hmmm parang napaka-R-rated naman nung kantang un.. baka lalo pa kame matsismis.. @_@


Anak ng tokwa. Ang hirap naman pumili ng kanta!

I buried my face dun sa sinusulatan ko na notebook. I've been sitting here sa sc

hool cafeteria for almost
an hour now, nag-iisip ng "appropriate" song para dun sa surprise birthday segme
nt na dedicated to
Jerwin sa Sunday TV show.

Ung broadcasting network kasi na nag-hhandle ng mga publicity at mga once-in-a-w

hile TV guesting ni
Jerwin, trip na trip maging special ung segment na un..

If I know.. kaya lang naman nila ako gusto pakantahin dahil mag-aattract ng view
ers kapag nag-appear
ang "mysterious, unknown fianc" sa show nila.

Ako: Bakit ba hindi pwedeng simpleng "Happy Birthday" na lang ang kantahin ko?!?

"Anong 'Happy Birthday'?"

Napatingin ako sa harap ko, just in time to see Sheena na binaba ung bag nya sa
lamesa, and then sat
down across from me.

Ako: I'm trying to choose a song to sing for Jerwin's birthday..

Sheena: Awwwwwwww... Special rendition ba itoh?

Ako: Anong kinikilig-kilig mo dyan? It's not like I want to do this.. Napasubo l
ang ako dahil sa kakadakdak
ni Nicole..

Ang mga consequences ng mga nag-sspace out at oo na lang ng oo.. -___-

Sheena: Anong napili mo?

Ako: Di ko pa nga alam.. Gusto ko kasi ung tama.. alam mo un? Ung parang.. uhmm.
. talagang especially
for him talaga ung song..

Yak.. ang cheesy!

Sheena: Ai! May suggestion ako!

Ako: Anoh?

Sheena: "Come On Over"

Ako: Huh?

Sheena: (sings) All I want is you, come over here baby

All I want is you, you know you make me go crazy

All I want is you, now baby don't be shy

You better cross the line

I'm gonna love you right


Ako: Adik ka ba? Anoh ba yang pinagkakanta mo?

Sheena: Bakit?? Para naman ma-get na ni Fafa J ang message mo.

Ako: Anong message??

Sheena: Message!

She leaned in towards me.. lumapit din naman ako para makinig sa kung anong ibub
ulong nya.

Sheena: "Jerwin, you better cross the line.. Landiin mo na ko.... All. Night. Lo



Sheena: Aray naman! Joke-Joke lang noh! Kailangan bang batukan ako?!?

Ako: Yea-ha! Nang magising yang mga brain cells mo! =__=

Sheena: Ahsus.. Pa-blush-blush ka naman..

Ako: At ikaw?? Nasaan ung personal bodyguard mo -- aka Anthony?

Sheena: Huh? Si Anton?



Ai.. oblivious pa rin siya sa feelings ni guy.. O__O

Saksakan na nga ng pag-aalaga si Anton, unnoticed pa rin the efforts!

Ang manhid ng best friend ko. -__-

Ako: Anoh ba yan.. Di ba lagi kayo magkasama?

Sheena: Avah, malay ko dun.. Sya tohng bigla-biglang sumusulpot.

Ako: Oy, Shee, di ba crush mo si Anton dati?

Sheena: H-Hoy! Wag kang maingay! Anoh ka vah?!

Ako: Defensive much? Crush mo pa rin ba ngayon?

Sheena: Hinde noh! Anoh ka ba?! Ahyun ung mga panahon na hindi ko pa sya kilala.
In other words, ung
mga panahon na cute pa sya!

Ako: Di na sya cute ngayon?

Sheena: Cute pa rin naman... Pero syempre, nakilala ko na sya.. and nung nakilal
a ko na sya nang todotodo.. nalaman ko na rin na makulit sya.. pasaway.. ma-kontra.. tamad.. matakaw.
. takot sa ipis..

Ako: Takot sya sa ipis?

Sheena: (natawa) Ay oo! Naglalakad kami nung minsan sa may snyo, nang biglang ma
y flying ipis na
lumipad papunta sa kanya! Ay nakita mo sana kung pano sya kumaripas ng takbo!

Pasimple kong sinarado ung notebook ko, all the while listening intently sa mga
kwento ni Sheena.

Napapangiti na lang ako sa mga kwento nya..

Uyyyy... mga moments~ nyahahaha

"I'm kinda caught up at work. I don't think I'll be able to pick you up... unles
s you wanna wait for me. "

Neknek mo. Malay ko ba kung anong oras ka pa matatapos dyan!

Ahyan ang tinext ni Jerwin sa'kin nung uwian ko na.. at ahyan din ang reaction k
o nung nabasa ko ung
text na un.

Kaya nakasakay nanaman ako ng jeep pag-uwi..

Hindi naman ako nadumog or what-so-ever.. I should probably tell Jerwin to stop
picking me up since
safe naman ako sa jeep.

Although... nung naglalakad na ko sa kalye namen, napansin ko na mas maraming na

g-hhello sa'kin..
Samantalang dati, deadma ang beauty ko.. Pero sige, ok lang un.. bastah walang n

I stopped in front of my house gate.. Bubuksan ko na sana nang bigla akong napat
igil at napatakbo dun
sa side nung gate.

@_@ What!? What?! What!?

May nakasabit na wooden sign sa gate.. at in BIG, RED letters nakasulat ang:



Napasugod ako bigla sa loob!

Ako: MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM!!!!!!!


Wha?!?! Wha?!?

Lalong nanlaki ang mata ko nung pumasok ako ng bahay. There are boxes everywhere
! At ung mga
furniture, may mga taklob na!! mga maleta ko ba ung naka-park dun sa may hagdan?!?!?!?!

Narinig kong tumatakbo ang nanay ko upstairs, and in a few moments, tinalon nya
na ung last two steps
nung hagdan.


Ako: (turo sa left) What??! (turo sa right) What?!? (turo sa harap) What is goin
g on!?!?

Mom: Ai josko naman, Venice! Akala ko naman kung anong nangyayari!

Ako: EHHH?!?!

Mom: Hindi mo ba nakita ung sign sa labas? I'm selling the house.

Ako: WHY?!?!

Mom: Abah.. syempre.. aalis na ko in three days. Sino na lang titira dito?

Ako: Uh, hello?!?!? (turo sa sarili) Pano ako?! Patitirahin mo ko sa kahon??! Pa

tutulugin sa ilalim ng
tulay?! Papaliguin sa Pasig River?!? Pano ako magsusuklay nang walang salamin?!?

Mom: Ay anoh ka ba naman? Huminga ka nga muna! Nag-hhyperventilate ka na oh!

Ako: MOM!!!

Oo nga.. Panic attack yata itoh!

Pinaypayan ko ung sarili ko, dahil parang tumataas ang blood pressure ko. Biglan
g uminit at, in fairness,
naaaliw sa paghinga ng oxygen ang lungs ko. @.@

Mom: Hay, Venice.. Hahayaan pa ba naman kitang tumira dito mag-isa? Abah! Hindi
na noh! Mas
gugustuhin ko pang isama ka kesa---

Ako: WHAT?!?!

Mom: Well, it's supposed to be a surprise, but--

Na-block out nung brain ko ung mga sinasabi ni mother. Na-focus na lang dun sa i
dea na: Isasama ako ni
mother sa States.

That's not fair.... I don't want to leave.. I can't leave..

Lalo yatang tumataas ang blood pressure ko.. I need to get some air.

Mom: .... And that's why I'm selling the house.

Ako: I can't believe this.

I stormed out of the house bago pa man makahabol si mommy..

I'm feeling a little light-headed, but I continued running.. just running.. and
this feeling in my chest.. I
don't know how to explain it except.. was complete panic.

::Chapter 38::

Run To Me


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

Man.. That girl is really troublesome.

I jumped out of my truck. Kinawayan ko ung mga guards dun sa booth, and then wen
t straight to my

It was about an hour ago when I got out of a meeting with the manager and some o
f the album staff
people. When I checked my phone, there was a voicemail from Tita Mel. Pumunta ra
w ako sa kanila as
soon as possible dahil nawawala si Venice.

Syempre, nataranta din ako nung narinig ko un. I drove as fast as I could to the
ir house.. Tita Mel ran up
to me as soon as I opened the gate.

Venice rushed out of the house daw -- five hours ago. Tinatawagan, hindi sumasag
ot.. Tinawagan na ni
Tita Mel sina Sheena, Anton, at si Kenny, hindi raw kasama nung tatlo si Venice.
Nag-aalala na si Tita.

All this because the house is being sold?

I tried calling Venice, pero kahit ako, dinedeadma. I called Sheena.. She told m
e to try searching in the
cemetery. I thought that'd be reasonable, so here I am.

And just like Sheena said, ahyun nga si Venice, nagmumukmok nanaman sa harap nun
g libingan ni

I walked up to her, but she didn't seem to notice me.

Ako: Venice. Let's go--

I paused when she turned to look at me.

She has those eyes... blank.. expressionless.. lifeless..

I've seen those eyes before..

Ako: Are you... okay?

Venice: I'm not leaving. I can't leave. I promised G.. I promised I'd live my li
fe here. I can't leave him
behind, Jerwin! I can't!

What... is she talking about?

I held my place, even though the intensity in her whole aura makes me want to st
ep back. I feel like it's
one of those times when I shouldn't move.. One move and it will cause a shift in
the whole galaxy.

Exaggeration, but it feels that way.

Venice: I'm scared. Jerwin... My life is here. I don't know what will happen to
me if I leave.. I don't know
how I'll survive.. Just thinking about it... Just thinking about it makes me fee
l so alone..

She's obviously freaking out.

I sat down beside her. I didn't meet her eyes, dahil just looking at those eyes.
. I remember now.. Two
years ago.. They were the same eyes.. Frozen and lifeless..

Ako: Gerard is this important to you?

She nodded.

Ako: What are you worried about?

Venice: Weren't you listening?? I told you, I can't leave this place! I don't wa
nt to go to the States!

Ako: States?

Venice: You mean, you didn't know? My mom wants to take me with her!

Ako: Whoa! Hold on, hold on.. Back up a little. Kelan sinabi ng mom mo toh?

Venice: This afternoon.. Binebenta nya na nga ung bahay. Tapos balot na lahat ng
gamit namin...


Ako: Did you really hear your mom say she's taking you to the States?

Venice: Eh what else could she have meant?

Uh.. I have a feeling she's misunderstanding something here...

Venice's usual dumb self.

Ako: Let's go.

Venice: Go? I don't think I wanna go back yet.

Ako: Nope. I think you'd wanna go to where I'm taking you. Maybe it will shed so
me light on this whole

Venice: Huh?

I got up and brushed the grass off my jeans. I offered my hand to Venice...

Ako: I'll make everything okay.

Venice looked at my outstretched hand, and then at me.. She looks confused.. I l
ike her confused face
better than the "lifeless" mask she was wearing moments ago..

I would give anything to keep that mask off her face.

I'll take care of her. I will make everything okay.

Ako: Believe me..

She forced a smile on her lips, and finally, took my hand.

Venice: I believe you.

I pulled her to her feet. Pinagpag nya ung palda nya, and then turned to look at
the tombstone...
probably saying her "See you later" words..

After a few minutes, she faced me.. Her face looks like it's back to normal.. Th
e panic.. the fear.. the
loneliness.. all gone from her eyes..

Venice: Let's go.

Ako: Go on ahead. I'll be right behind you.

Venice: Ohh-kay?

She whirled around to leave. I can tell she's curious kung bakit ako nagpaiwan,
pero di naman sya
nangulit.. She just walked away..

I watched her hanggang sa malayo-layo na ung nalalakad nya..

It just occurred to me.. She's been here for five hours..

Talking to this.. stone.. because she's afraid to be alone?

I looked at the tombstone sa paahan ko..

Gerard Sheen... He died just a few days before Christmas..

That's harsh.

But to still be able to affect Venice to this extent.. two years after..

Ako: Gerard.. If you've been watching Venice from wherever you're floating, I'm
sure you know who I

I stared at the stone.. with so much magnitude na parang talagang pinaparinig ko

ung sinasabi ko dun sa
lalaking hindi ko naman nakilala kahit kailan..

Ako: Venice might have ran to you this time, Gerard.. But next time she feels al
one.... Next time.. I'll
make sure she runs to me.

::Chapter 39::

Be With Me


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Sumasabay sa pagkanta si Jerwin dun sa music sa radio.. Usually, naaliw ako pag
naririnig kong
kumakanta si Jerwin habang nagdrrive.. Feeling ko may singing-driver ako.

Pero dahil nababagabag ang kaluluwa ko ngayon, masyado akong absent-minded para
i-mind ung
pagkanta nya.. Pinapanood ko ang ung mga nag-sswoosh by dun sa bintana as we dri
ve through the late
night streets.

Bigla lang akong natauhan nang nakita kong nag-swoosh din ung kalye papunta sa b
ahay ko. @_@

Ako: Sunshine.. lumagpas ka na.

Jerwin: No, I didn't.

Ako: Anong "no I didn't"? Eh ahyun na nga ung kalye pauwi oh! O_O

Jerwin: Who said anything about going to your house?

Ako: Eh san tayo pupunta?

He suddenly turned to glance at me, and then he winked. He winked at me. O_O

Jerwin: It's a surprise.

Ay si kuya! Pa-cute!

Dahil mukhang nasa good mood si kuya, pinagbigyan ko na.. Baka ma-offend, itapon
akong bigla sa ilog..

We drove for about 20 more minutes, until finally, nag-park na si Jerwin dun sa
curb. I looked around.
It's dark and quiet... and di ko alam kung anong ginagawa namin dito.

Jerwin: C'mon. Let's go.

He jumped out of the truck, and sumunod naman ako. Tinignan ko ung building na n
asa harap namin..
Light blue gate.. white walls.. decent-looking yard..

It's a house.

Ako: May binibisita tayo?? Nang ganitong oras??

Jerwin just laughed. Anoh naman kaya katawa-tawa sa tanong ko? -.-

Jerwin: Just follow me.

He grabbed my hand and naglakad kami papunta dun sa gate. He punched some number
s dun sa
numeric keypad na nakadikit sa poste nung gate. Siguro.. close friend nya ung na
katira dun kaya alam
nya pati ung security code nung gate... -__-

The gate opened and we walked in. Madilim. Isang porch light na nandun sa may fr
ont door ang
automatic na nag-turn on. Naglagay pa ng ilaw, ung pinto lang pala ang iilawan.

Jerwin led me sa narrow path papunta sa door. When we got there, he let go of my
hand and fished
something out of his pocket.

Susi. May susi pa si kuya nung pinto.

Pinasok nya ung susi, but before opening the door, he turned around and looked a
t me.

Jerwin: Close your eyes.

Ako: Eh?!

Jerwin: I told you, it's a surprise. Now, close your eyes.

Ako: Psh. Ang drama naman nito. Buksan mo na lang kaya.

Jerwin: Do you really want to ruin this for me?

Ay ma-drama. Anoh bang nakain nito ngayong araw na toh at sagad-sagad ang topak?

Ako: Fine.

I shut my eyes closed.

Jerwin: You sure wala ka nang nakikita?

Ako: Yes, I'm sure. Can we just get this done and over with? Some kind of malami
g ang wind noh.

Narinig ko na medyo nag-rattle ung keys.... and then silence.



What's going on na?!

Hintay pa uhlet ako sandali..

Wala pa ring nangyayari.. Anoh vah?! May kung anong surprise party ba sa loob?!?


Or could it be na binebenta nya ko sa friend nya?!?!

ABAH! I need to know...

..kung gwapo ba ung pinagbebentahan nya sa'kin! nyahahaha

I cracked open one eye.. isaaang maliit na silip--

Bigla akong napamulat WIDE OPEN nang nakita ko ang nasa harap ko!


Jerwin's face was just inches away from mine!

I stumbled backwards sa sobrang gulat -- buti na lang nahawakan ako ni Jerwin sa

braso; otherwise,
bumagsak na ko dun sa damo.

Jerwin: Be careful!

Ako: Eh kaseh naman!!! Anoh bang ginagawa mo?!?

Binitawan ako bigla ni Jerwin nung napansin nyang bumalik na ang sense of balanc
e ko. Then, he
focused his eyes somewhere else... And is his face flaming red or what?!?! O__O

Jerwin: I-- I was just checking kung wala ka na talagang nakikita! Don't get the
wrong idea!

Ako: Ch-Ch-Checking?!? Nandito na ung mukha mo! Dito! Dito!

Nilagay ko ung kamay ko a few inches from my face para bigyan ng emphasis ung di
stance ("distance" pa
ba ang tawag kung hinde naman distant ung layo nya?!?!) na sinasabi ko.

Jerwin: Oh relax. It's not like I was gonna kiss you.

Ako: *gasp* You were gonna kiss me, weren't you?!?! O.O

Jerwin: W-What?!?

Ako: Then anong ginagawa nung face mo dito?!? dito?!? dito oh!!!

I held up my hand again dun sa kung gano kalayo ung face nya kanina.

Jerwin: I told you! Tinitignan ko lang kung nakapikit talaga ung mata mo. Anyway
, can we get back to
what we were doing!?

Ako: You want to get back to kissing me?!?!

Jerwin: I told you, I wasn't gonna kiss you!

Ako: Eh "get back" to what?!?

Jerwin: To closing your eyes! The surprise isn't gonna wait forever, you know?!?

Ako: Oh.. hahaha

Ahyan.. Kaseh naman.. Relax ka lang, Venice..

Ako: Ayoko na. Baka pag sinarado ko nanaman ung mata ko, baka ma-rape mo na ko n

Jerwin: Ha. Akala mo naman, rape material ka?

Ako: What's that supposed to mean? -__-

Jerwin: Aish. Fine. Suit yourself.

He turned his back tapos, and finally, binuksan nya na ung door. Ako naman si cu
rious, silip kagad sa
loob kung anong meron. Madilim.. Walang party?

Ako: And...?

Pumasok si Jerwin sa loob. He turned on the lights. Wala talagang tao.


The place is huge.. and pretty.. kahit walang laman.

Wait. Bakit sya pasok ng pasok?!

Jerwin: Anoh pang tinatayo mo dyan? Pumasok ka na.

Ako: Aren't we trespassing?? Di ba tayo makukulong nito!??

Jerwin: Geez..

He stepped out again and stood beside me, staring at the inside of the house.

Jerwin: Don't you get it yet? This is the surprise.

Ako: Huh?

Jerwin: Your mom doesn't want you to live alone anymore. And since I'm your very
responsible and
sensible fianc, I promised her I'd take care of you.

Ako: Uh-huh.... -___-

Jerwin: Ayoko ka na rin naman tumira dun sa bahay na yun mag-isa.. That house is
in plain view of the
public. Walang security dun sa neighborhood. Pano na lang kung may biglang mangstalk syo?

Ako: Bakit naman may mang-iistalk sa'kin? O__O

Jerwin: Are you forgetting who your fianc is?

Ako: Iba rin ang hangin mo ngayon noh? So anong ginagawa natin dito?

Jerwin: *sigh* Really..... You'll be living here from now!


Napatingin ako bigla dun sa bahay sa harap ko.

Ako?!? Ditoh?!?!

House?!? Bahay?!?

Ako: You bought me a house!?!?

Jerwin: No. I'm just renting the house.

Ako: You rented me a house?!!?

Jerwin: I rented us a house.


Ako: Dito ka rin titira?!?

Jerwin: Abah syempre! Ang tagal-tagal ko nang tinitignan tong bahay na toh noh.
Sabit ka lang.

Ako: But what would your fans think?? And your parents?

Jerwin: My parents are okay with it. And the fans? I don't think they'd mind. We
're engaged, anyways.

Ako: But.. O__O Di ba nga, statistically, mas malaki ang possibility na mag-eend
sa divorce ang mga
couples na nag-co-cohabitate bago magpakasal?

Jerwin: (chuckles) Ahh.. so you're worried about what would happen when we get m

Ako: I didn't say we're getting married! Nagtatanong lang ako noh.

Anoh ba naman yang pinagtatanong mo, Venice? Mapapahamak ka nyan eh.

Ako: *gulp* We... We wouldn't be sleeping in the same bed... right?

Jerwin: Of course not! This house has two bedrooms. Unless.. you want to sleep i
n the same bed. I'm
sure we can work something out.

Ako: Ulol! Di na noh!

Pumasok ako dun sa loob ng bahay para mag-explore -- at takasan na rin ang smirk
sa mukha ni Jerwin.

It's a charming house. Spacious and may homey na aura.. I started walking around
the place, kasunod si
Jerwin na sinasabi ung plano nyang gawin dun sa mga kwarto na nilalakaran namin.

Jerwin: It's a nice house, right? Your mom went wild when she saw this place.

Ako: My mom knows?!?

Jerwin: Yep. She even picked out the furniture.... Took her time choosing everyt
hing too.. *sigh*

Ay.. parang nag-rreminisce ng masakit na past si kuya..

Ako: Nasan na ung mga furniture?

Jerwin: They'll deliver most of it tomorrow.

Ako: Oh.. okay.. So.. My mom wasn't really planning on taking me to the States,
was she?

Jerwin: Nope. She's leaving you here. With me.

I wonder if that was a good idea. -___-

Nakaikot na kami sa first floor. The kitchen is fully equipped. The living room
is vast. The dining room is
pretty big too. There's a patio in the back (sabi ni Jerwin, maglalagay raw sya
ng swing chair dun). The
backyard isn't that large, pero maraming flowers (alagaan ko raw mabuti -- ginaw
a akong gardener. -__)

There's a half bathroom dun sa may hallway, and across from that is a closet par
a sa mga jacket or

Ako: What's upstairs?

Jerwin: The bedrooms. One full bathroom. A storage closet. Wanna go see?

I nodded. The more we roamed in the place, the more na nag-bbuilt up ung excitem
ent ko. I'll be living

Ako: Sunshine.. When are you planning to move in?

Jerwin: As soon as possible. Maybe the day after tomorrow.. Hmmm.. What do you t

The day after tomorrow... ahyun ung araw bago umalis si mom. That'd be reasonabl

Ako: Sounds good.

I looked around the room, which is to be my bedroom. Look at the size of this th
ing! And a walk-in

Jerwin: So... you're really moving in with me?

Ako: Yea-ha!

I was feeling ecstatic then...

I never imagined the mess that single move can create.

::Chapter 40::

Start The Fire


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Jerwin: Well.. here we are.

Jerwin parked his truck sa tapat nung gate nung bahay ko. I was so ecstatic abou
t the new house na
halos kaladkarin na ko ni Jerwin palabas.. He promised me I can go back tomorrow
to order the movers

Ako: So.. what time dadating ung mga furnitures? And are you sure na pwedeng-pwe
de ko silang utusutusan kung san at pano nila aayusin ung rooms?

Jerwin: Oo nga.. Just make sure the house looks presentable.

Ako: I shall do my best.

Jerwin: And by the way, I have to be in the studio pretty much the whole day tom
orrow.. Do you want
me to ask Mang Ponce kung pwede ka nyang i-drive around?

Ako: Naaaahhhh. Mag-jjeep na lang ako.

Jerwin: That's good. At least, di ko na kailangan bayaran ung gas nung van.

Ako: Kuripot. -__-

Jerwin: Yea, yea. I'll see you sometime tomorrow then.

Ako: Okie. Good night!

I jumped out of the truck and nag-glide papasok nung gate. I heard the truck dri
ve away as I opened the
main door--



And kakabukas ko pa lang ng pinto, lumipad na kagad ang nanay ko papunta sa'kin
(which wasn't very
easy to do, considering lahat ng kalat sa sahig).

Ako: Aloha, motherr.

Mom: San ka ba galing? Kanina pa kita hinahanap? T^T

Ako: I'm sorry for the wa-poise na exit kanina. Di na mauulit.

Mom: Kasi naman! Assuming ka naman masyado! San ka ba galing!??

Ako: Jerwin brought me to the house -- our house.

Mom: Ay! Nakita mo na?? Ang ganda di ba?!

And just like that, all was forgiven. My mom led me up to my room para ilabas la
hat ng excitement nya
dun sa bahay. In fairness, dinaig pa ang level ng excitement ko.. parang sya ang
lilipat ah..

The next day.. Maaga akong nakalabas from school dahil may kung anong family eme
rgency ung prof ko
sa last class.

So here we are.. Nag-wwindow shopping ni best friend sa tabi-tabi.. kahit pareho

kaming walang pera.

Sheena: He bought you a house?!?!?!?

Ako: No. He rented a house for him -- sabit lang ako.



I immediately clamped a hand over Sheena's mouth, tapos biglang flash ng smile s
a mga tao sa paligid
namin. Kunwari delusional si Sheena.. wala silang narinig!

I dragged Sheena out of the store, and nung all clear na, tsaka ko lang tinangga
l ung kamay ko from her

Ako: Wag ka ngang maingay! Pano na lang kung may makarinig!??!

Sheena: Eh kaseh naman si fafa J! Na-sshock ako! Pero... anong itsura nung bahay
? Mansion ba?

Ako: Loka. Hinde.. I'm going there later, gusto mo sumama?

Sheena: Ay! Really? Anong gagawin natin dun?

Ako: Magpapaka-interior designer.

Sheena: AYYYY!! Sali ako!

Tumingin ako sa relo ko. Jerwin should still be in the recording studio.. and I
still have two hours bago
ako expected dun sa bahay..

Ako: It's still too early... You wanna go to the recording studio with me?

Sheena: Eh? Anong gagawin natin dun?

Ako: Hmmm.. manggugulo tayo sa kung anong ni-rrecord ni Jerwin.. Pero syempre, p
ara di masyadong
halata, magdala tayo ng merienda.

Sheena: *gasp* Tingin mo, papakantahin nila ako dun? O_O

Ako: Adik ka ba? -___- Dadaan lang tayo.

Sheena: Panira ka ng pantasya, lam mo un? -__- Anong merienda dadalhin naten?

Napaisip ako... Anoh nga ba? Hmmm...

Ako: May tindahan ng banana-Q at sago at gulaman sa may harap nung building.. Du
n na lang tayo

After ng byahe at pangungulit dun sa tindera ng banana cue, pumasok na kami ni S

heena sa allimportant building.. Ang hirap kasama ni Sheena! Gustong pasukin lahat ng kwarto
-- baka raw makita
namin si fafa Piolo nya. -__- Ang hirap pa naman kaladkarin sa tamang direction
ng mga may adrenaline
rush.. Kaya ahyan, naligaw pa tuloy kame.. Naaliw si Sheena dahil halos naikot n
a yata namin ung
building kakahanap nung recording studio.

Kaseh naman! Walang directory at "You Are Here" tohng building na toh noh!

Nung ready na kong mag-give up, we finally asked a wandering security guard, at
naituro na rin kami sa
wakas sa tamang daan. -__-

Buti naman dahel napapagod na ko sa pagkatok sa door #1, #2, #3, and so on.

Note to self: Wag nang isama si Sheena dito next time.

Kumatok ako dun sa door na tinuro nung guard -- all the while nagdadasal na sana
nga, this is it na!

The door opened and sumilip ang mukha ni Kuya Pao.

Isa sa mga nag-mmix ng music ni Jerwin si Kuya Pao.. Nakilala ko nung minsang du
maan ako dito.

Kuya Pao: Oh Venice! Bumibisita ka?

Ako: Nanggugulo lang, kuya. Busy ba?

Kuya Pao: Di naman. Pasok ka.. or kayo?

Napatingin sya kay Sheena.

Ako: Ay, best friend ko poh, si Sheena. Sheena, si Kuya Pao.

Sheena: Hell-oh, kuya~

Ay.. tama bang lumandi?

Ngumiti lang si Sheena, and nung tumalikod na si kuya para papasukin kami, hinam
pas ko kagad si best

Ako: Mag-behave ka nga!

Sheena: Bakit ba?! Eh ang cute ni kuya eh!

I gave her one last warning glance bago kami pumasok sa loob. Nasa loob si Kuya
Pao at si Kuya Trey (isa
sa mga composers). Buti na lang.. Mukhang kasya ung binili kong banana cue..

Nasa loob ng recording booth si Jerwin. He looked up and waved nung nakita nyang
dumating ako.

Kuya Trey: Baahhhh.. Anoh yang dala mo? May share ba kami dyan?

Ako: Syempre naman, kuya. Bribe itoh para sa lahat ng trabaho nyo sa bagong albu
m ni Jerwin.

Kuya Trey: Woohoo! Banana cue!

He bent down tapos nagsalita dun sa mic sa harap nya.

Kuya Trey: Jerwin, may dalang merienda ung asawa mo! Labas ka muna dyan!

Sheena: (bulong) Pffft. Asawa ka na raw.

Ako: Shut up. -__-

Nilagay ko ung bag ng banana cue dun sa maliit na table, tapos pinatong na rin n
i Sheena ung tatlong
malalaking baso ng sago't gulaman (parang sakto lang sa kanila ung tatlo.. wala
pala kaming inumin ni
Sheena). Nag-dive kagad ang mga kuya para makikain. Gutom yata sila...

Lumabas si Jerwin ng booth and dumiretso kagad sa'kin.

Jerwin: Ahhh!! Food! (silip sa banana-Q) Where'd you get it? It looks different
from how Aling Ligaya
makes it..

Ako: This is fresh from the streets. With extra flavor. Try it.

I took one stick tapos nilapit sa reluctant na bibig ni Jerwin.. Masyadong malan
di.. Ayaw ng mga food na
galing sa street..

Ako: It's okay. Promise, walang Hepa toh or kahit anoh.

Kokontra pa sana si Jerwin, pero pinanglakihan ko na sya ng mata. Kumagat ka na

dahil kung hinde,
isasalpak ko toh sa bunganga mo. *_*

Jerwin: Okay. Fine.

He leaned forward and took a small bite --

All of a sudden, the door opened.

While still holding the stick to Jerwin's mouth, I turned my head para tignan ku
ng sinoh ung dumating...
and what I saw made me suddenly shove the banana in Jerwin's mouth -- which I on
ly realized kasi he
started choking.

Buti na lang, mabilis si Sheena. She immediately offered him one of the cups ng
sago at gulaman nung
nag-uubo si Jerwin..

Jerwin: What the hell are you doing!??

I flashed an apologetic smile, then turned again to the new arrival, na nakatayo
dun sa may pinto ng

Jerwin followed where I was looking at, and I think, biglang naging understandab
le ung pag-shove ko
nung saging sa bibig nya.

Jerwin: Geena. What are you doing here? O__O

I felt Sheena nudge me vigorously, before she leaned over to whisper something.
Tumaas nanaman ang
tsismis radar ng loka..

Sheena: (bulong) That's her?!? Oh Em Gee! She's hot!

I shot her a warning look. Geena walked over to where out little group was stand
ing.. May dala rin syang
paper bag.. Dinadalhan nya rin ng merienda si Jerwin...?

Geena: I was in the building, and I heard you're here too.. I thought you might
be hungry by now.. So I
brought your favorite croissant.

"Favorite"? Jerwin likes croissants?

She handed Jerwin the bag, then eyed the banana-Q dun sa mesa.. and I swear, she
scoffed at me.... or
am I imagining the little glint of mockery in her eyes?

Jerwin: Uh.. thanks.

I looked around the room. Oblivious sa awkward atmosphere ung dalawang kuya -- m
asyado silang busy
sa mga saging nila. Si Sheena naman, nanonood lang. Jerwin accepted Geena's bag
and placed it on the

Nakaka-choke ang atmosphere!

Ako: Uh, I think we should go now.

Sheena: Whe?! Aalis na tayo?!?!

Ako: YES

Sheena: But we just got here. T-T

Jerwin: Yea.. you just got here.

Ako: Pupunta pa ko sa bahay, di ba? Dadating ung mga furniture......this... afte


Napatingin ako kay Geena.. Does she know? Does she know Jerwin and I are moving
in together?

Is she gonna kill me? T^T

Jerwin: Oh. Right.

Ako: So.. Okay.. Uh, Kuya Trey, Kuya Pao! Alis na poh kami!

Kuya Pao: Ha? Oh sige! Salamat uhlet sa merienda!

Ako: Sige poh!

I glanced back at Jerwin, and gave him a quick nod. I grabbed Sheena's arm and d
ragged her out of the
room.. Before completely shutting the door, narinig ko pang may pahabol si Jerwi

Jerwin: Hey, this banana-Q actually tastes good! Wag nyo kong uubusan, pag-uuntu
gin ko kayong

Napangiti ako kahit papano.. At least.. natuwa sya sa banana-Q ko. I kinda felt
better kahit nung
lumakad na kami paalis ni Sheena..

Sheena: Bakit natin iniiwan si kabet dun!?!? Baka ahasin nya si Fafa J!!!

Ako: Ssshhh!!! Relax ka lang ok?!? Let's just go.

Kung alam lang ni Sheena.... Hindi naman si Geena ang extra sa love story eh..

Ako ang kabet.


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

The recording session lasted a few more hours after Venice left. For some reason
, Geena decided to stay
hanggang sa katapusan. She never visited me, much less, stay throughout one of m
y recording sessions

I walked her to her car, just because I'm a nice gentleman.. I thought I'd be ab
le to leave without being
interrogated, but I guess not...

Geena: So.. what's this talk about furniture arriving today?

Ako: I rented a house.. Venice is in charge of putting the rooms in order.

Geena: Oh? You gave her that much power over your property?

Ako: Uh.. well...

I don't think there's any way of avoiding this...

Ako: She'll be staying in the same house anyway...

I looked down at my shoes and counted to ten before lifting my head up to face h
er again -- which I
kinda wish I didn't. Her face clearly shows she's flabbergasted by what I just r

Geena: You're moving in.. with her?!

Ako: Yea.

A bunch of words ran through my mind to try to explain... but I also thought, wh
at's there to explain?

Isn't it normal for couples these days to co-habitate? Especially when they're i
n the "engaged" stage?

I better run.

Ako: Look.. Uh.. She's waiting for me right now.. So.. uhmm.. I'll go ahead, oka
y? See you around--

Geena: Jerwin!

I froze. Crap. I told you I should run.

Geena: This Friday.. Dustin and I arranged a birthday party for you.

Ako: What?

Geena: We reserved a banquet hall in the Manila Hotel. At 8 PM. You should come.
.. and I guess, Venice
too.. Wait, no. Actually, I demand for Venice to come.

Ako: This Friday? I'm sorry, but--

Geena: I won't take "no" for an answer. Won't you come? For old times' sake? Oka
y! I'll see you there!

Before I can respond, she was already in her car -- slamming the door with brute
force too. She just
waved a quick bye, and then sped out of the parking lot just like that.

I didn't even get to tell her that this Friday, Venice's mom is flying back to t
he States.::Chapter 40::

Start The Fire


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Jerwin: Well.. here we are.

Jerwin parked his truck sa tapat nung gate nung bahay ko. I was so ecstatic abou
t the new house na
halos kaladkarin na ko ni Jerwin palabas.. He promised me I can go back tomorrow
to order the movers

Ako: So.. what time dadating ung mga furnitures? And are you sure na pwedeng-pwe
de ko silang utusutusan kung san at pano nila aayusin ung rooms?

Jerwin: Oo nga.. Just make sure the house looks presentable.

Ako: I shall do my best.

Jerwin: And by the way, I have to be in the studio pretty much the whole day tom
orrow.. Do you want
me to ask Mang Ponce kung pwede ka nyang i-drive around?

Ako: Naaaahhhh. Mag-jjeep na lang ako.

Jerwin: That's good. At least, di ko na kailangan bayaran ung gas nung van.

Ako: Kuripot. -__-

Jerwin: Yea, yea. I'll see you sometime tomorrow then.

Ako: Okie. Good night!

I jumped out of the truck and nag-glide papasok nung gate. I heard the truck dri
ve away as I opened the
main door--



And kakabukas ko pa lang ng pinto, lumipad na kagad ang nanay ko papunta sa'kin
(which wasn't very
easy to do, considering lahat ng kalat sa sahig).

Ako: Aloha, motherr.

Mom: San ka ba galing? Kanina pa kita hinahanap? T^T

Ako: I'm sorry for the wa-poise na exit kanina. Di na mauulit.

Mom: Kasi naman! Assuming ka naman masyado! San ka ba galing!??

Ako: Jerwin brought me to the house -- our house.

Mom: Ay! Nakita mo na?? Ang ganda di ba?!

And just like that, all was forgiven. My mom led me up to my room para ilabas la
hat ng excitement nya
dun sa bahay. In fairness, dinaig pa ang level ng excitement ko.. parang sya ang
lilipat ah..

The next day.. Maaga akong nakalabas from school dahil may kung anong family eme
rgency ung prof ko
sa last class.

So here we are.. Nag-wwindow shopping ni best friend sa tabi-tabi.. kahit pareho

kaming walang pera.

Sheena: He bought you a house?!?!?!?

Ako: No. He rented a house for him -- sabit lang ako.



I immediately clamped a hand over Sheena's mouth, tapos biglang flash ng smile s
a mga tao sa paligid
namin. Kunwari delusional si Sheena.. wala silang narinig!

I dragged Sheena out of the store, and nung all clear na, tsaka ko lang tinangga
l ung kamay ko from her

Ako: Wag ka ngang maingay! Pano na lang kung may makarinig!??!

Sheena: Eh kaseh naman si fafa J! Na-sshock ako! Pero... anong itsura nung bahay
? Mansion ba?

Ako: Loka. Hinde.. I'm going there later, gusto mo sumama?

Sheena: Ay! Really? Anong gagawin natin dun?

Ako: Magpapaka-interior designer.

Sheena: AYYYY!! Sali ako!

Tumingin ako sa relo ko. Jerwin should still be in the recording studio.. and I
still have two hours bago
ako expected dun sa bahay..

Ako: It's still too early... You wanna go to the recording studio with me?

Sheena: Eh? Anong gagawin natin dun?

Ako: Hmmm.. manggugulo tayo sa kung anong ni-rrecord ni Jerwin.. Pero syempre, p
ara di masyadong
halata, magdala tayo ng merienda.

Sheena: *gasp* Tingin mo, papakantahin nila ako dun? O_O

Ako: Adik ka ba? -___- Dadaan lang tayo.

Sheena: Panira ka ng pantasya, lam mo un? -__- Anong merienda dadalhin naten?

Napaisip ako... Anoh nga ba? Hmmm...

Ako: May tindahan ng banana-Q at sago at gulaman sa may harap nung building.. Du
n na lang tayo

After ng byahe at pangungulit dun sa tindera ng banana cue, pumasok na kami ni S

heena sa allimportant building.. Ang hirap kasama ni Sheena! Gustong pasukin lahat ng kwarto
-- baka raw makita

namin si fafa Piolo nya. -__- Ang hirap pa naman kaladkarin sa tamang direction
ng mga may adrenaline
rush.. Kaya ahyan, naligaw pa tuloy kame.. Naaliw si Sheena dahil halos naikot n
a yata namin ung
building kakahanap nung recording studio.

Kaseh naman! Walang directory at "You Are Here" tohng building na toh noh!

Nung ready na kong mag-give up, we finally asked a wandering security guard, at
naituro na rin kami sa
wakas sa tamang daan. -__-

Buti naman dahel napapagod na ko sa pagkatok sa door #1, #2, #3, and so on.

Note to self: Wag nang isama si Sheena dito next time.

Kumatok ako dun sa door na tinuro nung guard -- all the while nagdadasal na sana
nga, this is it na!

The door opened and sumilip ang mukha ni Kuya Pao.

Isa sa mga nag-mmix ng music ni Jerwin si Kuya Pao.. Nakilala ko nung minsang du
maan ako dito.

Kuya Pao: Oh Venice! Bumibisita ka?

Ako: Nanggugulo lang, kuya. Busy ba?

Kuya Pao: Di naman. Pasok ka.. or kayo?

Napatingin sya kay Sheena.

Ako: Ay, best friend ko poh, si Sheena. Sheena, si Kuya Pao.

Sheena: Hell-oh, kuya~

Ay.. tama bang lumandi?

Ngumiti lang si Sheena, and nung tumalikod na si kuya para papasukin kami, hinam
pas ko kagad si best

Ako: Mag-behave ka nga!

Sheena: Bakit ba?! Eh ang cute ni kuya eh!

I gave her one last warning glance bago kami pumasok sa loob. Nasa loob si Kuya
Pao at si Kuya Trey (isa
sa mga composers). Buti na lang.. Mukhang kasya ung binili kong banana cue..

Nasa loob ng recording booth si Jerwin. He looked up and waved nung nakita nyang
dumating ako.

Kuya Trey: Baahhhh.. Anoh yang dala mo? May share ba kami dyan?

Ako: Syempre naman, kuya. Bribe itoh para sa lahat ng trabaho nyo sa bagong albu
m ni Jerwin.

Kuya Trey: Woohoo! Banana cue!

He bent down tapos nagsalita dun sa mic sa harap nya.

Kuya Trey: Jerwin, may dalang merienda ung asawa mo! Labas ka muna dyan!

Sheena: (bulong) Pffft. Asawa ka na raw.

Ako: Shut up. -__-

Nilagay ko ung bag ng banana cue dun sa maliit na table, tapos pinatong na rin n
i Sheena ung tatlong
malalaking baso ng sago't gulaman (parang sakto lang sa kanila ung tatlo.. wala
pala kaming inumin ni
Sheena). Nag-dive kagad ang mga kuya para makikain. Gutom yata sila...

Lumabas si Jerwin ng booth and dumiretso kagad sa'kin.

Jerwin: Ahhh!! Food! (silip sa banana-Q) Where'd you get it? It looks different
from how Aling Ligaya
makes it..

Ako: This is fresh from the streets. With extra flavor. Try it.

I took one stick tapos nilapit sa reluctant na bibig ni Jerwin.. Masyadong malan
di.. Ayaw ng mga food na
galing sa street..

Ako: It's okay. Promise, walang Hepa toh or kahit anoh.

Kokontra pa sana si Jerwin, pero pinanglakihan ko na sya ng mata. Kumagat ka na

dahil kung hinde,
isasalpak ko toh sa bunganga mo. *_*

Jerwin: Okay. Fine.

He leaned forward and took a small bite --

All of a sudden, the door opened.

While still holding the stick to Jerwin's mouth, I turned my head para tignan ku
ng sinoh ung dumating...
and what I saw made me suddenly shove the banana in Jerwin's mouth -- which I on
ly realized kasi he
started choking.

Buti na lang, mabilis si Sheena. She immediately offered him one of the cups ng
sago at gulaman nung
nag-uubo si Jerwin..

Jerwin: What the hell are you doing!??

I flashed an apologetic smile, then turned again to the new arrival, na nakatayo
dun sa may pinto ng

Jerwin followed where I was looking at, and I think, biglang naging understandab
le ung pag-shove ko
nung saging sa bibig nya.

Jerwin: Geena. What are you doing here? O__O

I felt Sheena nudge me vigorously, before she leaned over to whisper something.
Tumaas nanaman ang
tsismis radar ng loka..

Sheena: (bulong) That's her?!? Oh Em Gee! She's hot!

I shot her a warning look. Geena walked over to where out little group was stand
ing.. May dala rin syang
paper bag.. Dinadalhan nya rin ng merienda si Jerwin...?

Geena: I was in the building, and I heard you're here too.. I thought you might
be hungry by now.. So I
brought your favorite croissant.

"Favorite"? Jerwin likes croissants?

She handed Jerwin the bag, then eyed the banana-Q dun sa mesa.. and I swear, she
scoffed at me.... or
am I imagining the little glint of mockery in her eyes?

Jerwin: Uh.. thanks.

I looked around the room. Oblivious sa awkward atmosphere ung dalawang kuya -- m
asyado silang busy
sa mga saging nila. Si Sheena naman, nanonood lang. Jerwin accepted Geena's bag
and placed it on the

Nakaka-choke ang atmosphere!

Ako: Uh, I think we should go now.

Sheena: Whe?! Aalis na tayo?!?!

Ako: YES

Sheena: But we just got here. T-T

Jerwin: Yea.. you just got here.

Ako: Pupunta pa ko sa bahay, di ba? Dadating ung mga furniture......this... afte


Napatingin ako kay Geena.. Does she know? Does she know Jerwin and I are moving
in together?

Is she gonna kill me? T^T

Jerwin: Oh. Right.

Ako: So.. Okay.. Uh, Kuya Trey, Kuya Pao! Alis na poh kami!

Kuya Pao: Ha? Oh sige! Salamat uhlet sa merienda!

Ako: Sige poh!

I glanced back at Jerwin, and gave him a quick nod. I grabbed Sheena's arm and d
ragged her out of the
room.. Before completely shutting the door, narinig ko pang may pahabol si Jerwi

Jerwin: Hey, this banana-Q actually tastes good! Wag nyo kong uubusan, pag-uuntu
gin ko kayong

Napangiti ako kahit papano.. At least.. natuwa sya sa banana-Q ko. I kinda felt
better kahit nung
lumakad na kami paalis ni Sheena..

Sheena: Bakit natin iniiwan si kabet dun!?!? Baka ahasin nya si Fafa J!!!

Ako: Ssshhh!!! Relax ka lang ok?!? Let's just go.

Kung alam lang ni Sheena.... Hindi naman si Geena ang extra sa love story eh..

Ako ang kabet.


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

The recording session lasted a few more hours after Venice left. For some reason
, Geena decided to stay
hanggang sa katapusan. She never visited me, much less, stay throughout one of m
y recording sessions

I walked her to her car, just because I'm a nice gentleman.. I thought I'd be ab
le to leave without being
interrogated, but I guess not...

Geena: So.. what's this talk about furniture arriving today?

Ako: I rented a house.. Venice is in charge of putting the rooms in order.

Geena: Oh? You gave her that much power over your property?

Ako: Uh.. well...

I don't think there's any way of avoiding this...

Ako: She'll be staying in the same house anyway...

I looked down at my shoes and counted to ten before lifting my head up to face h
er again -- which I
kinda wish I didn't. Her face clearly shows she's flabbergasted by what I just r

Geena: You're moving in.. with her?!

Ako: Yea.

A bunch of words ran through my mind to try to explain... but I also thought, wh
at's there to explain?

Isn't it normal for couples these days to co-habitate? Especially when they're i
n the "engaged" stage?

I better run.

Ako: Look.. Uh.. She's waiting for me right now.. So.. uhmm.. I'll go ahead, oka
y? See you around--

Geena: Jerwin!

I froze. Crap. I told you I should run.

Geena: This Friday.. Dustin and I arranged a birthday party for you.

Ako: What?

Geena: We reserved a banquet hall in the Manila Hotel. At 8 PM. You should come.
.. and I guess, Venice
too.. Wait, no. Actually, I demand for Venice to come.

Ako: This Friday? I'm sorry, but--

Geena: I won't take "no" for an answer. Won't you come? For old times' sake? Oka
y! I'll see you there!

Before I can respond, she was already in her car -- slamming the door with brute
force too. She just
waved a quick bye, and then sped out of the parking lot just like that.

I didn't even get to tell her that this Friday, Venice's mom is flying back to t
he States.

::Chapter 41::

Slip of the Tongue


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Ako: It looks.... okay naman.. di ba?

Sheena and I stood by the main door and stared at our finish "design".. We spent
hours and hours
moving furniture around -- well, di naman exactly "kami" ung nag-move, Jerwin hi
red some strong arms
to carry the furniture around, taga-utos lang ako at second opinion naman si She

Sheena: Yea.. I like it. It looks comfy, pero spacious..

Strong Arm #1: Tapos na poh ba tayo?

Napatingin kami ni Sheena dun sa anim na lalaki na nakaupo sa labas. Kawawa nama
n sina kuya, naoverwork sa kakabuhat.

Bakit vah.. Binigyan ko naman sila ng malamig na tubig.

Ako: Ay, opo. Tapos na poh tayo.. Uhmm.. Pano poh ba ang bayaran?

Strong Arm #1: Wag nyo na poh isipin un. Inasikaso na poh ni Mr. Santos ung baya

Ay buti naman dahil wala akong ipangbabayad snyo.

Nagtayuan na sila, and nilakad namin ni Sheena ung anim na tagabuhat sa mga truc
ks nila.. We thanked
them one last time and then watched as they disappeared down the road.

Sheena: Well.. Tara na. Uwi na tayo.

Ako: I have to wait for Jerwin. May usapan kami na dito mag-mmeet eh.. You wanna
stay a little bit

Sheena: Haaayyyy na ko.. Gustuhin ko man, baka makaistorbo-- Wait. Kasama nya ka
ya si Geena?

Ako: I doubt it. -__-

Sheena: Oh well. I'm going home then.

Ako: What!? Kung kasama nya pala si Geena, mag-sstay ka?!?!

Sheena: Syempre! 1st hand tsismis un! Pero dahil wala naman akong masasagap, lal
ayas na lang ako!

She hailed a tricycle na tamang-tama naman na dumadaan.

Sheena: I'll see you tomorrow!

I waved goodbye na lang.. Nasanay na ko sa ka-"baitan" ng best friend ko eh.. Af

ter mawala nung
tricycle, pumasok na uhlet ako sa loob nung bahay.. I walked around the house to
survey what we've

The living room looks cozy.. Pwedeng-pwede nang manood ng TV dito buong araw, at
masaya ka pa rin..

The dining room is kinda lacking some ornaments.. pero the medium-sized round ta
ble? PRETTY! and
matching pa ung four chairs.. Maybe we can buy some paintings to put on the wall
s para di masyadong

Aakyat sana ako sa second floor nang narinig kong bumukas ung gate sa labas. Sum
ilip kagad ako sa
bintana, and I saw Jerwin's truck na pumapasok dun sa driveway. I immediately op
ened the door para
hintayin sya..

Yakk.. anoh ba yan.. Parang akong housewife na i-wwelcome ung husband nya.. Ew.

Sinarado ko uhlet ung pinto, tapos naupo na lang dun sa new couch. Maya-maya, pu
masok na si Jerwin.

Jerwin: Why'd you close the door?

Ako: Malamig eh.

Jerwin looked at me all weird. Kaseh nga naman.. di naman talaga ganun kalamig s
a labas. Eh bakit ba!?

I quickly stood up para di na sya makasabat uhlet..

Ako: So?? Anong rating mo sa interior designing skills ko?

Jerwin looked around the room.. From his expression, mukha namang satisfied sya
sa nakikita nya. Avah,
dapat lang noh! Ang hirap-hirap kaya mag-arrange!

Jerwin: Heyy.. Not bad. I like it. Did you do the bedrooms too?

Ako: Yea! Naawa nga ako dun sa mga movers.. Kaseh bago pa nila maakyat ung mga k
ama tsaka ung
vanity table ko.. ung study table mo.. Grabeh..

Jerwin: Well.. That's what I paid them to do.

Umakyat kami sa second floor and went straight dun sa kwarto nya. I'm particular
ly proud of what I did
to his room.. heeheehee..

I grabbed the doorknob and then flashed a big smile at Jerwin.

1.. 2.. 3!!

I pushed open the door -- complete with the "ta-da!" sound pa!

And then I looked at Jerwin para lasapin ang reaction nya..

Ako: So? What do you think?

He cautiously stepped inside.. Looking at the walls.. at his bed.. at his study

Jerwin: Are you sure this isn't your room? O_O

Ako: Duh! I specifically made everything here for you!

I glanced around my handy work.. I'm so proud.. nyahahaha

Habang umiikot ang tingin ni Jerwin around the room,

sinimulan ko naman ung paliwanag ko as to why his room looks like this.

Dahil nagutom kami ni Sheena kanina, dumaan muna kami sa store para bumili ng ma
kakain.. Dahil sa
mga Valentine designs na nakalagay, pumasok bigla sa magaling kong brain ang con
cept ng room nya..

Malapit na ang Valentines.. Kaya kailangan, mapagmahal ang kwarto nya.. Binili k
o lahat ng

Main Parapernalia #1: Red na Cartolina.

And habang naghihintay dun sa mga movers, I cut out all sizes of hearts: small h
earts, medium hearts,
big hearts, VERYYY BIGG hearts..

And then I taped them all over the walls tapos nag-lagay pa ko ng tatlo dun sa k
ama nya!

Oh! Oh! And his bed!

Main Parapernalia #2: Hearty-Heart Bedsheet

I saw this bedsheet on sale.. It was so cute and it was just screaming: "TAKE ME
EE" It's pink na may
design na hearts. Happy Valentines talaga.. Kaya binili ko rin.

And then his study table. Wala akong makita na notebook na may hearts dun sa sar
i-sari store eh.. kaya
nag-settle na lang ako sa ballpen.. Fluffy Ballpen.

Main Parapernalia #3: Red & Pink Fluffy Ballpen

Ehto ung mga ballpen na may fluff feather ball sa other end... soft to the touch
! Nilagay ko sa penholder
nya ung dalawang fluffy ballpen.. Ang cute cute talaga nila.. Match na match sa
concept ko.

Jerwin: Are you mad at me or something?

Ako: Di naman.. *gasp* Y-You don't like the room? T_T

He quickly looked at me -- and I immediately pulled my "oh-so-hurt" expression.

Jerwin: No! I mean! It's not that I don't like it.. It's.. It's very.... heart-y

Di ko na nakaya! Si kuya! Trying hard not to hurt my feelings, pero ung face nam
an nya: absolute dread!

Tumawa na ko nang tumawa.. Jerwin just looked at me as if I've gone crazy.

Jerwin: Do you mind explaining what's going on?

Ako: Sunshine naman kaseh! Seryosong-seryoso ka sa pag-consider nitong kwarto mo

! Syempre naman,
ung furniture lang ang inayos ko.. Tingin mo ba papatulugin talaga kita with all
these hearts around?

Jerwin: You little--! Akala ko pa naman seryoso ka sa mga pinaglalagay mong "des
ign" dito!

Ako: Wahahahahaha Sunshine! You're so funny! I love you! --- O__O

Napatigil akong bigla sa pagtawa nung narinig ko ung sinabi ko.

WTQuack?!? Where the hell did that come from?!?

Jerwin blinked twice.. I tried to open my mouth para maghanap ng pangontra sa si

nabi ko... but I can't
think of any. I can feel my face burning up.

All of a sudden, Jerwin smirked.

Jerwin: Oh, so is that why you put hearts all over the room? Coz you love me?

Ako: Che! Hinde noh! It was a joke! A. Joke. I'll help you take them out right n

Jerwin: No. Leave them. We can put them down tomorrow.

Tumingin sya sa relo nya.

Jerwin: Come on. I'll take you home.

He turned around and left the room. Naiwan lang ako sandali to take deep breaths
, to try to regain
composure.. dahil hindi ako maka-recover sa ka-stupidan na un!

I haven't said I love you in years! At-- At!! Kay Jerwin pa! Kay Jerwin pa talag
a! T__T

Lumakad ako papunta dun sa wall katabi ng pinto, and I started hitting my head - di naman masyadong
malakas dahil ayoko rin naman masaktan.

Ako: You're (hit) so (hit) stupid. (hit hit hit hit)

"Am I interrupting something?"

I slowly turned my head dun sa door. Nakasilip si Jerwin -- with an amused look
on his face.

Strike two naaa!

Ako: No. *sigh* Let's just go.

I followed Jerwin down the stairs.. still mentally hitting myself. Napansin yata
ni Jerwin na kulang na lang
eh pagulungin ko ung sarili ko, coz he suddenly turned to me and then said,

Jerwin: Venice, it's okay.

Ako: Huh?

Jerwin: I think it's completely healthy for engaged couples to say "I love you"
to each other. I will forever
remember your courage in saying it first.


He laughed out loud bago nya ni-lock ung main door behind us and jumped in his t
ruck.. I was
dumbfounded. O_O


::Chapter 42::

Stuck Inside


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

The next day, after school, instead of Jerwin picking me up, or ang starting to
become a ritual of taking
the jeep home, sinundo ako ni Manong Ponce.

Today is D-Day: The Moving Day... and today rin ang flight ni mother. Although m
amaya pang 11 PM ang
airplane nya..

Sinundo ako ni Manong Ponce from school, and from there, pumunta kami sa bahay p
ara naman
sunduin si mother at ang mga last-minute gamit ko..

As soon as I stepped inside the house, napatingin kagad ako sa paligid.. Lahat n
g furnitures namin, either
na-donate na sa kung saang shelter or nahingi na ng mga kapitbahay.. Malinis na
ung mga sahig at

I suddenly feel sad leaving this home.. T-T

Mom: Hoy. Anong tinatayo-tayo mo dyan?

Ako: Bakit ba? Illegal na bang mag-emote ngayon??

Mom: Sira. Tulungan mo na nga lang ako dito.

Panira naman ng moment. -__-

Pero dahil masunurin akong anak, kinuha ko na ung mga maleta na kaya kong dalhin
.. Inisa-isa namin
ung mga gamit and tinambak dun sa van... until finally, wala na.. wala na talaga
ng laman ung bahay.....
waahhhh!!! ToT

Ni-lock na namin ung gate, and pumasok na sa van..

I looked back at the house na siguro eh never ko na uhlet mapapasok... Bahala na

ang real estate agent
syo.. T-T

Mom: Manong Ponce, mag-right ka dyan...


Ako: San tayo pupunta?

Mom: Ay, sa mga Tita Laura mo muna ako tatambay hanggang mamayang gabi..

Ako: EH?! At bakit?!?

Mom: Eh kasi naman, anak.. Matagal nanaman bago kami magkita ulit.. Gusto ko nan
g lubus-lubusin..
And sya na rin daw maghahatid sa'kin sa airport.

Ako: Eh pano ako?!? Ako ang anak mo, di mo man lang i-sspend ang final hours mo
with me!?

Mom: Hoy. Anong "final hours"?!? Mamatay na ba ko ha?!?

Ako: You know what I mean.. And besides, we're not even related to Tita Laura, t
apos i-bburden pa natin
sya sa paghatid syo??

Mom: Anoh ba? Tight kami ng tita mo noh.. TIGHT!


"TIGHT" raw sila.. TIGHT! Ai josko! Ang mga teenage slang na ginagamit ng nanay
ko! O_O

Ako: But what about me?!

Mom: Eh ayusin mo na lang ung bahay nyo ni Jerwin.. Magkita na lang tayo sa airp
ort. And besides,
ikaw, pwedeng-pwede ka naman lumipad sa US kahit kelan.. ikaw lang tohng may aya
w eh.. Kaya
pagbigyan mo na kami ni Tita Laura mo, ok?

Ako: Fine....

Hinayaan kong ituro ni mom kay Manong Ponce ung daan papunta sa bahay ni Tita La
ura.. Anoh pa nga
bang magagawa ko, eh sa ehto ang gusto ng nanay ko?

Pinagpalit ako sa "tight-ness" nila? Tama ba un!?

When we reached Tita Laura's house, tinulungan na namin si mommy na ibaba lahat
ng gamit nya.. Pati
ung asawa ni Tita, lumabas na para maki-haul ng mga maleta at boxes..

Nung napasok na lahat, nag-bye bye na ko kay mom para naman pumunta dun sa bahay
namin ni
Jerwin.... Oh well..

The house was dead quiet nung pumasok kami ni Manong Ponce. Pero, syempre, what
did I expect nga
naman? Eh nasa work pa si Jerwin..

Mabilisan naming inakyat sa kwarto ko ung mga gamit ko, kaseh malapit na mag-uwi
an si Jean, which
means, malapit na rin manundo si Manong Ponce..

After half an hour ng pag-akyat, nag-bye bye na rin si Manong Ponce.. Siguraduhi
n ko raw na naka-lock
ung pinto.. and then he left.

At naiwan na kong mag-isa sa bahay....

Ang tahimik... amazingly tahimik... -___-

Okay! Let's get busy!

Sinimulan ko na ung paglabas nung mga gamit ko..

Clothes and shoes.. sa walk-in closet

Kalandian things.. sa vanity table

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I paused to listen, pero nawala na uhlet ung ingay..

Ako: I must be imagining things... -__-

Babalik na sana ako sa pagsandok nung ulam, nang may kumalabog ulit. This time,
I froze. I'm not
imagining it.

"May inuwi si nanay, si nanay, sa bahay...

Sinabit nya, sinabit nya, sa tabi ng bahay..



I cautiously walked over to where the muffled song is coming from.. I can feel m
y heart beating hard
against my chest..

Is it a ghost? I hate ghosts.. not that I've ever seen one.....

Wouldn't it be more realistic to think it might be an intruder?

What the hell? We just moved in and may magnanakaw na kagad?!?

"May inuwi si nanay, si nanay, sa bahay~

Sinabit nya, sinabi nya, sa tabi ng bahay..."

It's coming from the closet...

May kung anong kumaluskos sa loob.. @_@

Maybe it's a mouse.. a singing mouse?

God, I hope it's a mouse.

I took a deep breath -- and then biglang bukas nung closet door.

Tingin kagad ako sa loob while holding the sandok up for defense.

But... there's nothing inside......

All of a sudden....



Ako: (screams) aaAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Something-- Something grabbed my leg!

Nagkadapa-dapa ako sa paglayo sa kung ano man ung nasa loob nung closet!

Ako: W-Wha?!? W-Who's in there?!?!?!

Someone slowly crawled out of the closet.. I'm not exactly sure if it's a "someo
ne".. Kamukha ni Cousin
It.. Where the face is supposed to be, puro buhok ang nandun.. and why is she cr
awling on the floor!?!

Venice: Argh..... Sunshine... It's me.... -_____-

Ako: Venice?!?!

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Pero bago pa man makasagot si Jerwin, I saw a flash of gold walking up to us.. a
nd biglang nanikip ang
dibdib ko..

Isang tao lang ang kilala kong mukhang dyosang bumaba sa lupa..

It's Geena.

Geena: You're late. I was starting to think I threw the party for nothing.

Then, to my surprise, she suddenly turned to me and smiled.. She SMILED at ME! O

Geena: It's so nice that you can come, Venice.

Ako: Uh.. yes.. O_O

Geena: Oh, well, I'll see you guys later.. The refreshments and the food are ove
r there. Help yourself.

And with that, she walked away -- swinging her hips from side to side.. As usual
, she's so pretty....

I hit Jerwin's arm.

Jerwin: Aw! What?!?

Ako: You brought me to Geena's party?!?

Jerwin: It's my party.. Didn't you hear them greet me happy birthday?..... altho
ugh.. yea.. Geena threw it
for me...



Jerwin: Hey, it's free food!


Jerwin: We'll leave as soon as we can.. -__-

::Chapter 44::

Lady In Red


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Why am I here..... -__-

Tumingin-tingin ako sa mga mukha ng mga girlaloos na nakapaligid sa'kin.. They'r

e all famed faces... VJ..
Actresses.. Supermodel... At ang pinakamasakit pa, katapat ko mismo si Geena.. ___-

I have no idea how it came to this... Jerwin and I were looking at the finger fo
od laid out dun sa table
when Dustin came by and "took" Jerwin.. Hindi na bumalik si kuya.. Naaliw yata d
un sa little huddle
nilang mga lalaki sa likod..

At dahil sa sobrang swerte ko, sa dinami-dami ng mga taong pwedeng kumausap sa'k
in, si Geena -- SI
GEENA -- pa ang talagang dumating.. Dinala nya ko dun sa table nya at ng mga sup
erstar nyang friends..
*sigh* Bakit nga ba ko sumama?

Ang favorite subject pa nila: Ako.

I wanna cry. T^T

Krystal: You're so lucky, Venice.. Jerwin is really a great guy.

Honey: Not to mention, hot! I mean, have you seen his abs!??

Ako: Ha? Oh.. yea.. *gulp* His abs...

Nag-flash bigla sa utak ko picture nung "abs" nya nung nag-photoshoot kami sa be
ach.. Whoo! *sweat*

Farrah: So tell me, does he serenade you with his songs? (bi n   :%M R'r"I@c i r k
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Ako: So nagpapaka-Superman ka?

Jerwin: Hey, at least I didn't think na maging sardinas noh!

Ako: -_____- Shut up.

We walked to the center of the dancefloor, squeezing ourselves through the other
couples who are
already there.

Jerwin: And, besides, don't you think it's time to dance with the birthday boy?

He twirled me around once before pulling me close to him for a slow dance.. He g
ently put my arms on
his shoulders, then placed his hands on my waist.

Ako: Are you doing this to make your friends-slash-my fanboys jealous?

Jerwin: (laughs) That's a good idea.

Ako: Hmm.. May potential suitor ba ko dun sa mga fanboys na un?

Jerwin: Hey. That's harsh. -____- How can you look for a suitor while you're eng
aged to the hottest
singer in the country -- AKA me? And you're saying it while dancing with me too!

Ako: (natawa) Ahsush.. Dramahan ba ko?

Jerwin: I'm not..

Ako: Nasa good mood ka yata? Kanina ka pa nakangiti ah.. Lasing ka na ba?

Jerwin: What?!? Of course not! I only had one shot..

Ako: Eh anong nginingiti-ngiti mo?

Jerwin's smile got wider as he pulled me even closer to him..

So close na it must be sinful to have other people see us like this..

Jerwin: Coz you're wonderful.

Anoh raw?

I tried to step back a little para tignan ung mukha nya,

pero Jerwin stopped me and held me tighter.

Jerwin: Don't ruin the moment, Venice..

Ako: Moment??

Jerwin: Just dance with me.. Let this be our time.

I don't get it, pero tumahimik na ko.. I relaxed in his arms and pinatong ung fa
ce ko on his chest, letting
him sway me in tune with the music..

Somehow, being like this in his arms makes me feel like all the hell I've been t
hrough since I stepped in
this party never happened..

Now, it feels like it's just me and him..

I took in the subtle smell of his cologne..

I can even feel the steady beating of his heart..

and then when the song came to its chorus,

I hear him softly singing in my ear..

Jerwin: (sings) The lady in red is dancing with me

There's nobody here, it's just you and me

It's where I wanna be

I hardlyknow
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Eh sya?!?!? Tama bang gawin akong isda?!?

Before I can counterattack, Jerwin immediately grabbed my hand and started dragg
ing me around the
room to say goodbye to the guests.. People were trying to stop him from leaving,
pero Jerwin just
laughed at their attempts.

I tried looking for Geena, pero I didn't find her in the room.

Hanggang sa paglabas namin, I still didn't catch a glimpse of the girl... which
is good. nyaha.

We stopped sa entrance nung hotel..

Jerwin: Wait here, I'll get the truck.

Ako: Okay.

--- .. ---

(Geena's POV)

---------------- .

I watch the two of them walk out of the hotel. Jerwin whispered something to Ven
ice, and then he
strode away to the parking lot. Venice stood there, her arms wrapped around hers that red dress
she claimed Jerwin bought for her.

It's sickening.

"Geena.. What are you doing here?"

I didn't have to turn to know who it was. Lately, it's always been Dustin who lo
oks for me..

Me: Look at them, Dustin.. Acting like the perfect couple..

He stood next to me and watched the scene outside. Jerwin finally pulled up his
truck, and then
hurriedly got out to open the door for his "fiance".. Venice smiled at him before
getting inside..

The perfect couple..

Dustin: Let's go back inside, Geena.

Me: I talked to Jerwin earlier.

Jerwin ran to the driver's side, and the "oh-so-happy" couple finally drove away

Me: I tried to make him meet me for his birthday.. just like how we did it the p
ast year.. Him.. Me.. alone
somewhere.. And do you know what he told me? He said he's spending his birthday
with that nobody!

I turned to Dustin, fuming with anger.

Me: He chose her over me! And then he walked away! He's playing me!

Dustin: Geena..

Me: But I'll make him see... If making Venice realize her place didn't work, the
n I'll make sure to destroy
her. I'll ruin her! I'll break her! I don't care if I get my hands dirty.. I wil
l get Jerwin back.

::Chapter 45::

Simple Plan


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

The next day, maaga-aga akong gumising.. Maaga na ung 10:00 AM, lalo na kung Sab
ado di ba? Habang
nasa kung anong music session si Jerwin, pumunta naman ako sa ABS para sa rehear
sal for tomorrow's
semi-surprise birthday segment ni Jerwin..

Everybody was really friendly, and masaya sila dahil pumayag ako na mag-appear s
a show... Syempre,
sabay tukso na kaya lang ako lalabas eh dahil, bukod sa birthday segment ni Jerw
in un, happy valentines
day na rin..

Tinuro lang sa'kin kung kailan ako lalabas, kung pano ako iikot dun sa upuan ni
Jerwin, kung san ako
tatayo.. And syempre, dalawang beses na rin na practice nung song with the band.

Natapos kami three hours later.. -__-

I'm hungry. famished. starving. T-T

After saying goodbye and thank you, nagmamadali na kong tumakbo paalis.. Di ako
sure kung anong
oras uuwi si Jerwin.. pero baka pwede pa kong makatambay sa bahay and watch some
cooking shows..

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Ako: WHAT?!?!?!

I bolted up from the couch and towered over the startled Venice. Nararamdaman ko
ng umaakyat lahat
ng dugo sa ulo ko.

Ako: Minanyak ka?!?!?

Venice reluctantly nodded her head.

I'm gonna f*cking kill that guy!

Ako: What did you do?!? Did you punch the hell out of him?!?

Venice: Tinignan ko lang sya nang masama, and then, hinampas ko ung bag ko sa ka
nya.. O__O

Ako: Why didn't you beat the hell out of him?!? ARGH! Do you remember his face?!
I'm gonna bring you
to a sketch artist right now!

Venice: Eh?!? W-Why? O_O

Ako: I'm going to hunt that bastard down! I'm gonna broadcast his face all over
the news! When I find
him, I'm gonna kill him! I'm gonna f----

Venice: WHOAAA!! Sunshine! Relax ka lang! O_O Mas hot ka pa sa'kin ah!

May kung anong amused expression na sa mukha nya si Venice as she watches me pac
e back and forth
dun sa living room.

Seriously, how can she tell me to relax in a time like this?!?!

Ako: Let's go to the police station right now.

Venice: Eh?!? Abno ka ba? I don't even remember the dude's face. O_O Hindi ako n
akakaalala ng mga

Ako: Then, we'll track him down!

Venice: Oh for crying out loud.. -__- Alam mo ba kung gano karaming FX meron sa

Ako: I don't care! That little--!! How dare hefP{~a SN

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Jerwin: Geez.. Umatras ka ulit.

I put the truck in reverse (just like how he showed it to me) and then, as sloow
wwly as I can, umatras



Ako: Oh sshhht. <'O.O'>

My foot immediately stepped on the brake, and my hands flew to my mouth (napamur
a pa tuloy nang
wala sa oras ).

May naatrasan ako.. May bumunggo sa'kin.... May BUMUNGGO sa'kin!!!

Nasaktan ko ang oh-so-precious truck! Jerwin is going to kill me.

Napatingin kagad ako kay Jerwin.. Isang libong excuse kagad ang tumakbo sa utak

"Sunshine, may aso yatang nag-suicide!"

"Ubos na ung gas...?"

"Hinimatay ung truck mo, Sunshine..."

Nanlalaki ung mata ni Jerwin.. Na-shock talaga sya! O_O

He opened his mouth na parang magsisimula na syang mag-freak out.. Then he pause
d and really stared
at my burning face -- and to my surprise, he just shook his head and laughed to

Jerwin: I-shift mo sa 'park' ung kambyo, and step out.

Sumunod kagad ako.. Halos madapa-dapa pa sa pagmamadali -- wag lang akong masiga

With all the feminine gentleness na kaya ko, dahan-dahan kong sinarado ung pinto
as I nervously wait
for Jerwin to finish inspecting the back of his truck.

Kamustah na kaya ung nag-suicide na aso? -__-

Jerwin: Well.. wala namang gasgas.. Lucky for you, the garbage can didn't leave
any mark.

Ahhh di pala suicidal na aso ang natamaan ko..

Jerwin: Why are your eyes so big?


Jerwin: Your face is red too. Are you okay?

I nodded. O.o

Inikutan nya ko ng isang beses, examining.. and then finally, he laughed again.

Jerwin: You're scared! Akala mo papagalitan kita noh?

Ako: Hindi ba?

Jerwin: Well, I was going to.. But when I heard you curse, then cover your mouth
.. and namula ka pa!

He stepped closer to me and pinched my cheek.

Jerwin: Ang cuuuttte mo! Now, give me the keys.


I handed him the keys, and watched him jump inside the truck. I rubbed the cheek
na pinisil nya. Tama
bang panggigilan ako?


Kung di ko lang nabunggo ung truck mo..... Psh.

Jerwin: Anoh pang tinatayo-tayo mo dyan? Get inside.

Ako: What? Tapos na ang driving lessons natin?

Jerwin: No. We're driving over to my parents' house.

Ako: Bakit?

Jerwin: My mom has an old car we rarely use. At least un, kahit ibunggo mo, I do
n't think anyone would

And thus.. the torture continues. -__-

"Ate Veniceeeee!!!"

As soon as Jerwin dropped me off the front, sumalubong kagad sa'kin si Jean. As
usual, hyper nanaman

Jean: Anong ginagawa nyo dito? Kamustah ung bagong bahay? (biglang silip sa liko
ko) Kasama nyo ba si
Prince Charming ko?

Ako: Jean, ilang beses ko bang sasabihin syo, never magiging "Prince" si Kenny.
-__- "Princess", mas
posible pa kung princess.

Jean: I don't care. Anyway, okay na ba ung performance mo bukas?

Ako: It's not a performance. Guest appearance lang sya. I went to the rehearsal
kanina, seems like
everything's going to be okay.

Jean: Eh ang Valentine dinner? Okay na ba?

Ako: Well.. anoh... Magaling na teacher si Aling Ligaya sa pagluluto eh.. So, ma
giging ok naman siguro..

Natahimik kaming bigla nang nakita namin si Jerwin naglalakad palapit. Keep the
secret from the
receiver.. nyahaha

He gave Jean a playful hug before walking with us papasok ng bahay.

Jerwin: Where's mom and dad?

Jean: Tinatanong pa ba un, kuya? As usual, they're at work. Why did you suddenly
drop by nga pala?
May naiwan ka pang mga gamit?

Jerwin: Yea.. I need to get a few more things, and I'm borrowing mom's old car.

Jean: Hm? Why?

Ako: Dahil ayaw nya nang ipahamak ulit ung mahal nyang truck.

Jerwin: I'm teaching your ate how to drive.

Jean: Ohhhh! Ate, that's good! Para next time, maglakwatsa na lang tayong dalawa
without Mang

Ako: Di ka ba makalabas nang wala si Mang Ponce?

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( 3g},'(

After nun, hindi na sya nagsalita.. at hindi nya ko tinitignan!

Nakarating na kami't lahat sa dressing room nya, dinedeadma pa rin ako.. I know
I should feel awkward
(maybe a little bit guilty?) after that little thing kanina, pero anoh bang maga
gawa ko? High ako from
nervousness at lack of sleep.. Girls just wanna have fun!

Ako: Valentines na Valentines, dinedeadma mo ko.. Tama ba naman un? Di ba dapat

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Ako: Eh vahket ba!? Gusto kong makita si fafa Piolo!

Jerwin: Piolo isn't even here.

Ako: Eh di maghahanap ako ng ibang fafa-hin. It's a free country.

Jerwin: I think you're forgetting something.

He pointed at my left hand.

Jerwin: That diamond ring on your finger means you're engaged to me.

Ako: Gusto mo, hubarin ko muna?

Jerwin: You wanna die?

Ako: Uuuyyy.. Possessive ka na ha..

Jerwin: Of course. I need to take good care of what's mine.

Ay? Nakiki-ride na si kuya.. Nasa good mood na sya?

Ako: Anoh ako, pet? Kailangan ng "good care"?

Jerwin: Tender, loving care...

He suddenly got up from his chair, and tumayo sa harap ko.. At ang nakakawindang
pa, he bent over and
nilapit nya ung mukha nya sa mukha ko. O__O

Ako naman si shocked, hindi nakagalaw.

Ako: B-Bakit ka lumalapit ng ganyan? Uh, personal space please?! O_O

Jerwin: Personal space? You think that still applies here? You already saw me na

Ako: HALF! HALF-naked! O.O

He moved closer to me again..

Nag-aalarm na ang all kinds of panic alarm sa brain ko, pero hinde talaga ako ma
kagalaw.. I just stared at
his face, fearing.... err.. okay.. half-fearing what he's gonna do.. half-antici
pating if he has the guts to do

Jerwin: Hmm.. naked, half-naked.. It's still the same.. I should get something b
ack, right? To make us

Ako: *gulp* B-But I've seen you in your swimming trunks before.. That can still
be considered halfnaked... O.O

Jerwin: Nope. That's different. Swimming trunks is different from a towel. And I
don't keep myself in
shape para lang basta-basta masilipan.

Ako: W-What are you saying?

Jerwin: I need to charge a viewing fee, of course.

Ako: Wala akong pera.

Jerwin: Who says I'm gonna ask for money?

Ako: Uh.. What do you want then?

Josko poh.. 200 miles a minute na ang tibok ng puso ko.

Pinagpapawisan na rin ang likod ko.. Parang kanina lang, ako ang nang-ttrip dito
ah! O.O

Jerwin placed his hands on the chair's armrests, totally imprisoning me in that
small little space. His face
is so close to mine, na I can feel his breath on my skin.

Jerwin: How about a kiss?

Ako: EHHH?!?!

Ahyan na! Nagputukan na ang mga veins ng puso ko!

I can feel my face burning in a way na may lumalabas na yata na steam sa tenga k

Jerwin started to inch his face even closer, and all I could do was close my eye
s shut.


What to do?! What to do?! What to do?!!?!?!

5 seconds..




Pagdating ng 10 at wala pa rin ung "kiss", I cracked one eye open na. It can't p
ossibly take him that long it right?



I knew it. -___-

Nakatayo si Jerwin far from me, resting his back on the dressing table in front.
. He's watching me with a
teasing grin on his face.

I fell for the little jerk's trick. -__-

Jerwin: Ha! I've never seen anyone turn that shade of red before.

Ako: You--!!! You lizard! What the hell was that for!?!? You almost gave me a he
art attack!

Jerwin: Oh? Are you disappointed na hindi ko tinuloy?


Ako: N-No! Bakit naman ako ma-ddisappoint!? Kung tinuloy mo un, I would've smack
ed your face right
then and there!

Jerwin: But you should have seen your face! You looked adorable kahit na may tin
y bit of pagkaridiculous.

Ako: W-What?!

Jerwin: And with this, we're even now, my dear.

Ako: Dear-dear-in mo yang mukha mo!

Tumawa lang si Jerwin amidst my panic scoldings. After checking himself one last
time at the huge
mirror, he walked past me papunta sa pinto..

Jerwin: Well, the show is going to start in a minute, so I have to go.

Binuksan nya na nang konti ung door, pero bago pa sya completely lumabas, he tur
ned to face me

Jerwin: And, Venice? If you want a kiss, all you have to do is ask..


I grabbed the small pillow behind me and threw it with all my might papunta kay

Ako: Shut UP!

He gracefully dodged the bullet, and went out of the room laughing. I slumped in
the chair, trying to
make my heart go back to its normal beating rate.

Ako: Lokong un... Maloloka pa ko nang wala sa oras.

::Chapter 48::

A Song For You


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

The show has been going on for almost an hour now. I've performed, I co-hosted..
Naalala ko na kung
bakit hindi ako pumirma ng kontrata to host a noontime show. Parang ang tagal ng

And I haven't seen Venice since we started.

Ano na kaya nangyari dun??

"Jerwin! Get on stage!"

Stage? What?

Napatingin ako kay direk.. I'm not supposed to go up til later.. What's he talki
n' about?

Direk: Jerwin!

Ako: Yea?!?

Before I knew it, I was being dragged on stage by two of the hosts, and the came
ra was already focused
on us. We're on air.


Tumingin kagad ako dun teleprompter para tignan kung may sasabihin ba ko or what
.. pero wala naman
akong linya na lumalabas.

Carlo: And now, ehto na ang special segment para sa current prince of songs.

Special segment?

Mark: Mukhang confused na confused ka, Jerwin ha..

Ako: Ay, obvious 0}\1

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looking at the screen, so I guess it's the "recorded birthday greetings" part na

"Kuyaaa~! "

And of course.. si Jean ang magsisimula ng greetings..

I listened to the usual birthday greetings from the usual people.. Si Nicole.. D
ustin.. Jean.. a few coworkers.. and syempre, mawawala pa ba ang pangaral ni manager..

Nung natapos ung message ni manager, akala ko tapos na.. Lagi kasing si manager
ang huling message..
But to my surprise, may isa pang recorded message na lumabas.

"Jerwin. "

It's Venice.


Kaya pala sumama ung babaeng un.. Gusto nyang makita sarili nya sa screen noh!

The audience got restless nung nakita nila ung tao sa screen. They still can't g
et enough of seeing her..
Natural na tsismoso na yata talaga ang mga tao..

"Happy Birthday and Happy Valentines! Uhmm.." Lumipat ung focus ng mata nya dun
sa kung sinoh man
ung may hawak nung camera. "Wala na bang take-two toh?"

Oh wow.. She WOULD ask that..

Nagtawanan ung mga tao.. but I could barely hear them.. I was focusing on the vi
deo.. It's weird that
they didn't edit that out.. Natuwa yata si direk..

"Uhmm.. I know na hindi tayo masyadong nag-uusap tungkol sa mga ganitong "sweet"
na bagay.. Kaya
lubus-lubusin mo na ang pakikinig dito ok?!"

I felt Carlo slap my back, napatingin tuloy ako sa kanya. Tumatawa silang dalawa
ni Mark.. Pano nga
namang hinde, eh saan ka pa ba nakakita ng "heartfelt" na message tapos biglang
ganun-ganun ang
hirit? Venice talaga..

"Ano.. I just wanna say how proud I am of you. You're a wonderful person to your
family, friends and
even to strangers. The longer I watch you and the longer we've been together....
It's been great."

Oh.. seryoso na sya ngayon..

"Hmm I don't really know what to say.. kasi naman si direk, bigla-bigla lang sum
usulpot tapos sasabihin
na lang na i-record ko toh--" Napatingin ulit dun sa kung saan (I'm guessing eh
kung san nakatayo si direk
). "So, I guess I'll just sing you a song.. Alam ko naman how much you love hear
ing me sing.."

Hala.. Kelan ko sinabi un?!?

I mean, it's true.. Pero.. kelan ko sinabi un?!?

"Kaya makinig kang mabuti ha! I chose this song especially for you. "

The music started and the people erupted in a round of applause.

Kakanta si Venice dun sa video??

Carlo and Mark suddenly left the stage, and then narinig kong gumalaw ung stage
set sa likod ko. I
turned around to look..

It was moving to the side... revealing Venice..

She's wearing a different outfit from the one she wore when we came.. The blue d
ress looks good on
her. Her hair has been loosely curled.. and she has make-up on.

More importantly, she's holding a mic.

She's going to sing live.

Venice: (sings) I pinch myself

Sometimes to make sure I'm not in a dream

That's how it seems

I close my eyes and breathe in the sweetest moments I've ever known

It feels like home

And here I am

I want to be your everything

There you are

Turning winter into spring...

She walked towards me, and I couldn't help but smile at her.

I know how she feels about singing in front of the camera.. I know she doesn't w
ant to perform in front
of an audience anymore.. But here she is.. Singing a song just for me.

She looks nervous. I reached out my hand to her, which she gladly took. I smiled
at her to tell her she's
doing great.. and then, there it is.. that transformation.. Her voice even becom
es more spectacular when
she's confident.

The song wasn't that long.. Syempre, pinutol na nila para di makasakop ng masyad
ong mahabang oras..
But it was alright.

When Venice finished, she gave my hand a quick squeeze.

She lowered the mic bago sya nagsalita ulit..

Venice: Advance happy birthday, Sunshine..

Suddenly, I didn't care about the audience or the cameras.. I took her face in m
y hands, and then I
leaned in..

The sudden noise in the studio somewhat woke me up from what I was about to do,
pero wala nang

I landed a soft peck at the tip of Venice's nose. -- much to the delight of ever
ybody watching.

Ako: You're the best.

Venice looked startled at first, but then she met my eyes and she smiled. She's
not freaking out..

Carlo: Yihheeeee! Tama bang mang-inggit sa harap ng mga singles dito?!?

Mark: Oo nga!

Ako: Anong "singles"?!? May mga girlfriend kayo ah!

I wrapped an arm around Venice as the other two proceeded with their script. Fin
ally, nung commercial
break na, Venice and I went back to the dressing room.

Venice: Maannn.. I thought I was going to die~ T-T

Ako: Yea right.. You little sneak.. I didn't know you were gonna perform today!

Venice: Duh. Kaya nga surprise eh..

I closed the door behind me, and then walked over to where Venice was standing,
checking her
reflection in the mirror.

She looked at me nung nakita nyang nakatayo na ko sa tabi nya.

Venice: What?

I smiled at her and then pulled her in my arms. She was surprised by the gesture
, but she didn't push me

Venice: Errr... should I be hugging you back? Iiyak ka ba?

Ako: (chuckles) No. I just want to thank you.

Venice: Kailangan talaga may hug pa?

Ako: I've always thought it'd be nice to have someone sing a song especially for
me.. I never had anyone
sing for me.. I never thought it would happen.

Venice: Sunshine..

Ako: So.. Thank you for the song. You're amazing.

. .

. . . .

Venice: Ang cheesy mo naman.. Parang kanina lang pinag-ttripan mo ko ah.. Mood s
wings ba itoh? Time
of the month?



I let her go, sabay tingin sa kanya.

Ako: You--! You really know how to ruin a moment!

Venice: Pssh.. Moment-moment ka uj1

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Dustin: You're in love with her?

Ako: Huh?? O_O

Nanlaki ung mga mata ko dun sa simpleng tanong na un. I guess I've been too busy
with things that I
never really got to thinking about this issue.

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Haayyyyy.. -___-

Finally, after two hours in the restaurant, we finally left. I checked my watch
again. 9:00 PM.. WTH? It's
already this late?!?

Geena: Sorry.. I didn't mean to keep you for so long.

Ako: It's okay. It can't be helped.

Damn the waiter who took forever bringing us the desserts and the check!!!! Haay

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for a few moments, fighting the urge to wake her up and drag her somewhere nice
so I can make it up to

Pero syempre, di ko gagawin un. Saan naman kami pupunta?

Napatingin ulit ako dun sa niluto ni Venice..

I'm not really hungry, but...

How can anyone say 'no' to beef steak?

::Chapter 51::

Picture To Burn


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

I woke up the next day nung naramdaman kong nasusunog na ang balat ko sa matindi
ng sikat ng araw. __- I hate waking up in the mornings... pero anong magagawa ko? It's Monday. Kai
langan magpakaestudyante.. -.-

Umikot ako ng kama para gumulong sana pababa nang nakita ko ang mapupulang bulak
lak sa nightstand
ko. O_O

Of course, napatayo akong bigla -- gising na gising.

It's a bouquet of red roses.. one dozen red roses for moi?

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Valentine's Day...

"The two seem to be in a date" ... "They dined in a restaurant famous among coup
les" ... "He bought a
bouquet of flowers for the model."

But.. he bought flowers for me too...

And then finally, I knew it was coming, but it still hit me pretty hard when I s
aw it: "People can't help but
wonder: where could Jerwin's fiance be?"


No way....

I finally lost all will to remain standing. I dropped on my knees, staring in di

sbelief at the empty space in
front of me. Buti na lang nakasandal ako sa pinto sa likod ko, otherwise I would
have fallen flat on my

I know Jerwin can be stupid sometimes, but... this level of stupidity is just ab
surd. He's still young. The
lump of flesh in that skull of his shouldn't be shrinking so fast!

My gaze shifted to the brown envelope that came with the newspaper. I was startl
ed to find my name
written on it.

What got me even more confused, "Venice" lang ang nakalagay. Walang return addre
ss, walang stamp.
Kahit nga ung address ko, wala. I wonder how it managed to get in the right mail

I stared at the envelope, feeling a sense of apprehension kahit na wala pa kong

ginagawa. But I chose to
look anyway. I slowly opene( O & B |dUDbj-n "p 

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Aish... What the hell are these pictures!?!?

If I didn't know what really happened, it would seem like I really was out on a
date. Lalong kumulo ang
dugo ko nung nakita ko ung last picture. Were our faces that close?!?


If Venice saw this.....

Napatingin ulit ako dun sa uniform sa kama... Then, a sense of dread started to
creep in my system as I
sort of realized what happened.

I immediately took out my phone and called Sheena back.

Sheena: You hang up on me tapos ngayon tatawag-tawag ka!?!?

Ako: Sheena!

Sheena: Eh? Oh?

She must have sensed the sudden urgency in my voice cause she quickly piped down
, and she sounds an
itsy bitsy bit calmer than she was earlier.

Ako: Where's Venice?

Sheena: What do you mean where's Venice? Wala ba sya dyan snyo? Kanina pa namin
hinahanap dito sa
school, pero we couldn't find her. So we assumed na nag-stay sya sa bahay nyo.


I heard some noise from the other line as Sheena tries to fend off someone from
grabbing the phone.
But it seemed like she failed dahil ung susunod na boses na narinig ko is si Ken
ny na.

Kenny: JERWIN SANTOS! Pag may nangyari kay Venice, nakoooo!!!! Kahit na mahal na
mahal ka ng
buong puso't kaluluwa ko, I swear, babalatan kita ng buhay at pupulbusin at ikak
alat sa Pasig River!

I think I'm starting to understand kung bakit sadista si Venice.. -__-

Ako: Don't worry. I'll look for her. I'll call you back.

Biglang nag-180 degree turn ang boses ni Kenny, as lumabas nanaman ang natural p
ersonality nya.

Kenny: Oh okay~ . Call me, okay, Fafa J?

Sheena: Bruha! Lumandi ka nanaman! Akin na nga yan!

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Me: Oh, yea! Venice goes here, doesn't she?

I shot Dustin a look. Yes, this is Venice's school. So what? Did he really think
I was going back to school
when my portfolio is still cramped with fashion shows and photoshoots? Yea right

Girl 2: Yes, Venice goes here. Although.. this is her last semester.

Me: Are you acquainted with her?

Girl 1: We're not exactly close friends. She's a year ahead of us. But everyone
in this school knows her.
She's been the topic of conversations, especially after that thing that happened
two years go.. and well,
of course, getting engaged to one of the hottest celebrities right now.

Me: What "thing" happened two years ago?

The two girls looked at each other. This is where the good part begins. Who woul
d've thought it'd be
this soon? I didn't even need to manipulate these girls!

Girl 1: Uh well.. Her relationship with Gerard Sheen. Everyone knows about it. P
eople still mention it to
this day once in a while.

Me: Oh, she had a boyfriend?

Dustin: Geena, I think we should go.

I turned to Dustin in annoyance. Why is he being such a pain today?

Me: What, why? I still need to wait for the counselor. If you have to go, it's o
kay. I can just get a cab to
take me to work later.

That shut him up. Really, he should learn to just stay quiet and not bother my g
athering of information
here. I turned back to the two girls and motioned for them to sit next to me. Th
e two were reluctant at
first, but who can refuse my offer?

Me: So.. Venice had a boyfriend?

Girl 1: Yea.. I can still remember the hype it created when people first found o
ut. No one expected
Venice to have a real boyfriend.

Me: Why?

Girl 2: Venice wasn't the type of person to settle down. We were really surprise
d when she and Gerard
hooked up. But people eventually warmed up to the two of them. They looked reall
y happy together.

Me: And.. where is this Gerard guy now?

They looked at each other again. This time, they look a little fidgety as well.
I'm so glad I came.

Girl 1: Gerard died. About two years ago.

Girl 2: Yea.. When Gerard passed away, Venice wasn't the same girl anymore. She
wasn't as sociable as
she used to. It was like she died along with him.

Me: She must have really liked him then?

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ut half of
me is starting to panic cause I don't know where she is.

I took out my phone and tried calling Venice's number for the fifth time since I
left the house. And just
like the last four times, she didn't pick up.

Where else could she be?


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Late that afternoon..

The whole day went by surprisingly fast. I was kinda expecting it to drag along
like those other gloomy,
annoying days... But it didn't. -__-

After somewhat recovering from the shock of seeing the article and the pictures,
I trudged back to my
bedroom. Tinambak ko dun sa study table ko ung mga dyaryo at pictures, tapos I s
lumped on the chair. I
just needed to think for a while..... ang mahirap lang, walang pumapasok sa utak

I was sure people will make a big deal out of this. I didn't want to deal with t
heir curious and pitying

That was when I decided I'd rather ditch school and magliwaliw na lang to clear
my mind.

I changed out of my uniform and put on casual clothes, which I later on, I decid
ed wasn't a good idea. As
soon as tumapak ako sa mall, nagsimula na ang mga tinginan ng mga tao. -___-

Blessing in disguise siguro na nakilala nila ako. Dahil, just to get out of the
possibility of getting mobbed,
pumunta ako sa stores na hindi ko naman usually pinupuntahan *cough* expensive s
tores *cough*, and
bought me a whole ensemble of outrageously expensive outfit.

I got a black and white striped corset-inspired blouse, tight-fitting jeans, bla
ck mid-high boots, and a
black Peter Grimm cadet hat, which I tilted to cover my face.

All purchases were covered by a credit card given by Jerwin -- for emergency pur
poses only.

Bakit, di ba emergency toh?!

When i walked out of the store, people were still looking at me. But this time,
tumitingin sila dahil, alam
ko, maganda ako. bwahaha

Buong araw akong nagpalaboy-laboy. I went from one mall to another. Nanood pa ko
ng sine. When I
got hungry, I ate in one of those fancy restaurants na never kong kinainan befor

Before I knew it, halos 4:00 na. I finally checked my phone. I had four messages
from Sheena, three from
Anton and Kenny, and about a gazillion from Jerwin.

Apparently, kanina pa ko hinahanap nung mokong. Chuchu nya. Akala nya ba basta-b
asta na lang ako

Pero dahil naubusan ako ng pupuntahan, at sumasakit na rin ang paa ko, I ended u
p leaving the malls.
Ehto ako ngayon, nakatayo sa harap ng rusty gate ng bahay ni Sheena. She should
really tell her parents
to re-paint their gate.

Dahil feel at home naman ako sa bahay nila, I helped myself na papasok. Yes, gan
yan kami ka-close.
Dire-diretso pa ko sa loob. Nag-hi sa mommy nya (na nagulat nung nakita ako ), t
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e" ng isang
tao dyan sa tabi nya?!? *ahem* Anthony. wahahaha

Sheena: Hay nako. Ang sinasabi ko lang naman, best friend -- at ito ay sa point
of view ng taong nakakawitness sa mga interactions nyo at mga nakakawindang nyong sagutan.

Ako: Uh-huh?

Sheena: Kahit na anoh pang nangyari sa kanila ni Geena sa past, past na un. Unde
niably, ikaw na ngayon
ang present. At kung bibigyan mo pa ng pagkakataon, malamang, ikaw na rin ang ma
giging future.


Ang corny.

Sheena: Di vah!? Ang sweet! At lahat ng yan, dahil lang sa isang gabi ng kalokah
an mong magpakalasing!
Best friend, this is FATE!

Ako: Fate-fate ka dyan. Sabihin mo dyan sa fate na yan, sa lahat ng ayoko, eh un

g pinapasakit ang ulo ko.

.. Though I wonder..

Totoo kaya ung sinasabi nya?

::Chapter 55::

Coming Home


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

"Dito na lang poh muna, manong."

Tumigil ung taxi sa tabi nung gate ng broadcasting building. Hindi kaseh nagpapa
pasok ng taxi ung mga
guards. Kailangan ko tuloy maglakad. Mga manhid! Di ba nilang masakit na ang mga
paa ko?!?!

Ako: Paki hintay na lang poh ako.

Manong Driver: Sige po. Mag-ppark po muna ako dito.

Ako: Thank you.

Tumalon ako palabas nung taxi. Kinawayan ko ung mga guards. Nakilala naman nila
ako, alam na rin
naman siguro nilang si Jerwin ang hanap ko, kaya pinapasok na nila ako nang wala
nang hingi-hingi pa ng
ID chuchu.

I left Sheena's house after much persuasion from mi best prend na it's time to t
alk and face Jerwin na
raw. Baka raw may dahilan ang katangahan ni Jerwin. Pakinggan ko raw. Eh anoh pa
ng magagawa ko?
Pinagtulakan nya na ko palabas ng bahay nya. Alangan namang magskandalo pa ko..

Tumawag ako ng taxi and told the driver to bring me to this building. I assumed
na may schedule si
Jerwin today para sa album nya. He can't just cancel that, right? So.. siguro na
ndito sya?

Pero pagkapasok na pagkapasok ko, sinalubong kagad ako nung receptionist.

Receptionist: Venice? Anong ginagawa mo dito?

Ako: Ahh.. hello po. Hinahanap ko poh sana si Jerwin...

Receptionist: Ay nako, Venice.. May photoshoot sya dapat today, kaya lang pina-c
ancel nya.

Ako: Eh?! Bakit raw?!

Receptionist: Di ko alam. Ung manager nya ang tumawag eh.. Personal reasons daw.

Lumapit sya sa'kin bigla, na parang naninigurado na walang makakarinig sa mga sa

sabihin nya..

Receptionist: Dahil ba dun sa balita dun sa dyaryo? Kaya ba hindi sya sumipot ta
pos hindi mo pa alam
kung nasan sya?

Ate.. may pagka-tsismosa ka rin noh.. -___-

Ako: Ahhh hindi naman siguro.. Baka may kailangan lang syang gawin...

Tulad ng pagpa-ikot-ikot sa buong Manila kakahanap sa'kin...?

Receptionist: Ganun? Alam mo, Venice, nung nakita ko ung balita na un, hinde ako
magagawa ni Jerwin un.

Ako: Oh?

Receptionist: Oo! Kasi pag nakikita ko kayong dalawa, ang cute-cute nyong tignan
! Para kayong tuko.

Ako: Ahhh.. -__-

Langya. Kanina tarsier, ngayon naman tuko. Ayoko na ngang kumapit kay Jerwin! Ku
ng ano-ano nang
hayop ang na-ccompare sa'kin!

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ng wrong with having a
friendly get-together. I go out with my guy friends too.

Reporter 3: Hindi ba big deal na nakita silang dalawa na magkasama during Valent
ines Day?

Ako: I'm not a big celebrator of Valentines Day. To me, February 14 is just anot
her day of the year. I
mean, of course I still like getting flowers and chocolates -- but what do you e
xpect? I'm a girl. Kung
pwede lang, araw-arawin sana ni Jerwin ang pagbigay ng mga bulaklak sa'kin.

The reporters laughed at this little remark. Akala ba nila nagbibiro ako? Gusto
ko talaga ng flowers arawaraw noh!

Reporter 1: Speaking of flowers, it was also rumored that they were spotted in a
floral shop. Jerwin was
seen buying flowers for Georgina.

Ahhh.. At least ito, hindi ko na kailangan mag-isip pa ng palusot. Bawas kasalan


Ako: This is an example of how the newspaper reporter didn't see the whole story
. About those rumored
flowers... Jerwin actually gave them to me.

Reporter 2: Oh! So you received them?

Ako: Yes. A dozen of beautiful red roses.

The reporters seem to be pleased with what they're hearing. Ok na ko. I've said
all I had to say. Lalayas
na ko. Hindi na kaya ng brain ko kung ma-prolong pa ang stress.

Ako: This whole "date" thing was really just blown out of proportion. It was jus
t two friends eating
dinner together. It's not a big deal to me.


Ako: ..So it shouldn't be a big deal to anyone else. I hope I managed to clear u
p some issues. Thank you.

I gave a quick nod of goodbye, bago umikot to escape their "one last question, M
iss Venice!". Talagang
pinagkahabol-habol pa nila ako, buti na lang pinigilan na uhlet sila nung mga gu
ards. Ang sarap pala ng
feeling ng may bodyguard. nyahaha

I immediately jumped inside the waiting cab, which, as soon as I shut the door,
drove away.

Manong Driver: Nako, ma'am, dinumog pa kayo nung mga reporters. Akala ko matatab
unan kayo, biglabigla silang sumugod eh.

Ako: Ha.. Oo nga poh eh..

Manong Driver: San na po tayo ngayon?

Ay.. Saan nga ba? I don't know where Jerwin might be..

Pero... -__- I'm just really exhausted from everything na nangyari nitong araw n
a toh. I just feel like
crawling somewhere and hibernate for a week.

Ako: I think... Uuwi na lang ako.

I gave the house address to the driver. After making sure na alam ni manong kung
san ung bahay, I
slumped in the backseat, watching the blur of passing cars and buildings.

I took out my phone. Jerwin left me a couple more messages. I would have answere
d kung narinig ko
lang ung phone ko.
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`isn't she looking at me? Is it because of the pictures? The news? Why isn't
she looking at me??

Nagsimula nanaman ang marathon ng panic attack ko. I wanted to start explaining
about the pictures,
but I don't want her to think na nagiging defensive ako. I just want to talk to
her, make sure everything's

But, heck, I don't know what to say!

Ako: You could have told me where you were going. Kahit sina Sheena hindi alam k
ung nasan ka. I even
canceled a photoshoot just to look for you!

I can almost feel my heart pumping double time habang nag-vvent out ako. It's li
ke, even though I want
to stop, my mouth continues talking. All the built-up energy from the past few h
ours just continuously
poured out of my mouth.

Ako: I was calling your phone, but you never answered! Do you know---

Venice suddenly whipped around to face me. Napatigil ako sa pagsalita nung nakit
a ko ung mukha nya.
Her eyes are blazing fires of fury, and although she's speaking calmly, her voic
e is dripped with acid.

Venice: Ahh.. So it's okay for you to go out and not tell me, but it's not okay
when I do it?

Ako: What--

Venice: At pag ako ang tumatawag, okay lang na hindi mo sagutin ung phone. Pero
pag ikaw ang
tumatawag, I should immediately answer? Ganun ba un?

Ako: I didn't say---

Venice: Ohh so you're gonna deny it now?!?

What just happened here? O_O

Venice: I'm sorry I made you miss your very important photoshoot, and I'm sorry
you have to drive all
over the place. In my defense, I didn't ask you to look for me.

Ako: Hey! Did you really think I'm just gonna sit quietly after knowing that you
saw that stupid article?!?

Venice: Who knows?!? Jerwin, listen here, cause this will be the one and only ti
me I'm gonna say this.

Ako: Say what?

Venice: I understand na this "thing" between us is nothing but some stupid paren
tal agreement. It may
be just a source of entertainment -- a game -- for you. Pero--

Ako: Hold on!

Venice: No! You listen!

She stepped towards me. I can almost feel her anger burning my skin. I've never
seen Venice this mad
before... Honestly, it scares me.

Venice: If you want to go on a date with Geena, then at least, do it somewhere n

a walang makakakita
snyo! Because, in case you've forgotten..

She held up her left hand to my face.

Venice: You are engaged to me. At least, that's what people think. I can't cover
for you all the time.

I couldn't speak after she said all that. Venice just looked at me for a few mor
e seconds before she
finally turned around and pushed past me.

Ako: Venice!

Venice: I'm going to bed! Don't talk to me!

And with that, she was gone. I could only hear her bedroom door slamming from up

"Jerwin Santos, you dumbass!"


Ako: Yes, I am

Nicole: ARGGHHHH!!! I can't believe I'm related to you!

Wow.. How many times have I said THAT before?

It's been a couple of hours since Venice walked out on me. I've been dying to ta
lk to her and clear things
up, but.. she said she was going to bed and not to talk to her. I don't want to
wake her up. What if she
wakes up at the wrong side of the bed and we start fighting again?

Did we really just have our first fight? O_O

Nicole bombarded my phone with calls an hour ago. I was intentionally ignoring t
he calls, pero ung huli
nyang voicemail, nag-threaten na sya na pag hindi ko sinagot ung telepono, pupun
ta sya dito sa bahay. __- Knowing Nicole, I'm sure she would follow through with the threat kapag hind
i ko pa sya kinausap.
Nicole in this house is definitely the last thing I need right now.

So I finally decided to answer her call, and anoh pa nga bang inaasahan ko? Of c
ourse, my cousin loves
to overreact. -__-

Nicole: Did you patch things up with Venice now?

Ako: I'm going to..

Nicole: What!? What?!? WHAT?!?! She's finally home and you haven't done anything
AT ALL?!?!

Hmmm.. I probably shouldn't tell her that Venice and I ended up bickering as soo
n as she got home...

Nicole: Boy, where is your brain?!?!

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I rolled out of bed and halos gumapang papunta sa pinto ko. Then I stopped.

Dahan-dahan kong binuksan ung pinto.... Pasimpleng tingin-tingin sa labas..

Tahimik... Tulog pa kaya si Jerwin?

Napatingin ako dun sa relo sa likod ko. 11:30 na.

May trabaho ba sya ngayon?

Di ba birthday nya?

I tiptoed to his room and pressed my ear dun sa pinto. Walang nahilik.

I opened it slowly, and peered inside. Walang tao.

Wala talaga sya. San nanaman kaya pumunta un??

I went downstairs para tignan kung baka sakaling nakahilata sya dun sa living ro
om.. or sa patio sa labas.
Kung anumang trip nya sa buhay..

I checked the living room, the patio, the bathroom, the dining room. Wala.

Finally, I stumbled in the kitchen. Dun ko nakita ung plate na may cover, nakapa
tong sa counter. There's
a stick-it note.


I had to go and have lunch with my family. I wanted you to come, pero tulog na t
ulog ka. I felt bad
waking you up.

Anyway, I cooked you some scrambled eggs and may tinapay pa dyan. Don't forget t
o eat since you
didn't eat last night.

I'll be back as soon as possible. I hope you're not mad anymore. See you later.
-- Jerwin"


Tama bang sardinas ang itawag sa'kin?!? Sa ganda kong toh, anong mukhang sardina
s, ha?!?

Binasa ko uhlet ung note, tapos sinilip ko ung scrambled eggs na sinasabi nya..
Dapat pala inaaway nang
mas madalas tohng taong toh... Nagiging sweet pag feeling guilty eh.

I raced up the stairs papunta sa kwarto ko, and hinalughog ung buong kama para s
a cellphone ko.
Tawagan natin para mabawasan naman ang stress ni kuya kakaisip kung nagpaplano b
a kong sagasaan
sya ng truck o lalagyan ko ba ng thumbtacks ung kama nya.


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

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Jean: Exhausted? From what, kuya?

Nicole: Coz Venice saw the article and got really upset. She ran away from home.

I shot Nicole a look. I don't know why she's so pissed. Bakit ba sobrang affecte
d sya sa mga nangyayari?!
Nagkasama lang silang dalawa sa kulungan, close na kagad sila?!?

Dad: Why did you go out with Georgina Schmitz, Jerwin?

Ako: It was just a friendly dinner. People just blew it out of proportion.

Jean: Oh! That's what Ate Venice said too!

Ako: You talked to Venice?

Jean: No. You didn't see the interview?

Ako: What interview?

Nicole: The interview where she covered up for your dumb--

She suddenly looked at Grams.

Nicole: -- self.

Jean: It was all over the news last night, kuya.

Mom: We didn't expect her to speak out either. But she did good. At least hindi
na lalong kakalat tohng
scandalo na toh.

So she covered up for my mess... Lalong lumalaki ang kasalanan ko. -__- I knew I
'd be all over the news
that I just didn't want to watch TV last night. How was I supposed to know Venic
e did that for me?

This birthday sucks.

Grams: Jerwin, are you having an affair with this Georgina?

Ako: What?! No! We're just friends, and I wouldn't dare cheat on Venice...

Jean: Oohhh kuya~ Is it because you loovvveeee her na~?

Ako: S-S-Shut up!

Nicole: WAH! You're blushing! Ai, Grams! My little cousin is in la la love!

What's this?!? 360-degree mood change nanaman?! Nicole really needs to get her b
rain checked up by a

And why are they ganging up on me anyway?!

Ako: Tigilan nyo nga ako. Mainit lang dito noh kaya ako pinagpapawisan noh..

Nicole: Uh-huh... Excuses.

Grams: Hijita, stop teasing your cousin.

Nicole: Sorry. My little cousin is just too cutteeeee!

Ako: Grams just told you to stop it!

Nicole just laughed at me. She focused her attention back on her plate. This tim
e, at least, she's not
murdering the chicken anymore. She's actually eating it now. Lucky chicken.

Dad: So, Jerwin, are you absolutely positive na walang namamagitan snyo ni Georg

Ako: Yes.

Mom: And you'll never cheat on Venice?

Ako: Yes.

Grams: And this scandal was just blown out of proportion?

Ako: Yes.

Jean: And that you love her already?

Ako: Yes--- Hey!

Nagtawanan sina Nicole tsaka si Jean. If Nicole wasn't sitting all the way at th
e other side, pinag-untog
ko na silang dalawa!

All of a sudden...

Sunshine? Oh, Sunshiiineee~

WTF?!?! Venice?!?

The table got quiet nang narinig din nila ung boses ni Venice.

I looked around the restaurant searching for her.

Sunshine! It's me! Answer your phone!

Phone?!!? OoO

I frantically jammed my hand in my pocket. Halos mabitaw-bitawan ko pa ung cellp

hone sa sobrang
pagmamadali kong makuha sya.

Sunshine!! Anak ng---

Ako: Excuse me.

I jumped out of my seat and practically ran out of the restaurant. I could hear
Nicole and Jean cracking
up again.

What the hell was Venice thinking changing my ringtone to something like that?!?

Ako: Hello?!?!?!

Venice: Hurray! You answered your phone!

Ako: How can I NOT answer my phone!?!?

Venice: Oh, so my personalized ringtone worked?

Ako: You were practically yelling "Sunshine"!!!!

Venice started laughing on the other line. I was about to yell at her again, whe
n I realized something:
She's laughing. That means she's not angry anymore, right?

Ako: Sardines... you're not mad anymore?

Venice: Hmmm.. I heard it's bad for someone's health to remain angry for a long

I couldn't help but smile. Kung may makakakita siguro sa'kin ngayon, mapapagkama
lan akong baliw sa
laki ng ngiti sa mukha ko. Bahala sila sa buhay nila.

My birthday is just improving more and more by the minute.

Ako: Does that mean I'm forgiven?

Venice: You will be.. in one condition.

Ako: Consider it done.

She paused for a while, as if looking for the right words or calming her nerves
down. Who knows? But
then, finally, she whispered something. I barely caught it, but I'm glad I did d
ahil as soon as the words
were out of her mouth, she hang up.

I waltzed back inside the restaurant. All eyes were on me since there's probably
this ridiculous grin still
plastered on my face.

Ako: Grams, I hope you don't mind, but I have to go now.

Jean: Eh?! We haven't even had dessert yet!

Ako: I know. But I still have a few things to do, and I have to -- or rather, I
want to go home as early as

Nicole: Ooohh~ Coming home to the missus eh?

Ako: I'm gonna ignore that just because I'm in a good mood now.

Nicole: *sigh* It must be so nice to be in love.

Grams: Hijita...

Nicole clammed her lips at the sound of Grams' warning voice. Grams then looked
at me and smiled.

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(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Jerwin and I spent the whole day outside. Naglalandian. nyahahahaha joke! Anoh b
ah, demure ako
noh... walang kokontra!

Just like he said, he took me shopping. The funny thing is, hindi nagbalot ng mu
kha nya si kuya. Usually,
pag ganitong lumalabas kami at pupunta sa malls or sa kahit saan na maraming tao
, kinakarir nya ang
pagiging celebrity-undercover nya. Complete sa headgear, shades, minsan nga may
scarf pa...

I know. Mainit sa Pilipinas.

Anyway, this time, hindi ko alam kung nananadya ba sya o ano, pero he stepped ou
t of the truck without
his usual paraphernalias. Na-shock nga ako eh.. Lutang yata ang utak nya.

As soon as we stepped inside the mall, pinagtitinginan na tuloy kami. May iba pa
nga na pasimpleng
kumukuha ng pictures, pasimpleng sumusunod-sunod. Nakaka-bother, pero sabi ni Je
rwin, just pretend
lang raw na hindi ko nakikita ung mga taong u C CB`oE_;m0 Lz
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Ako: Eh? O_O

He looked behind him para tignan kung anoh ba ung tinitignan ko. Parang hindi ny
a yata napansin ung
apat na nakabuntot sa kanya, dahil pagbalik ng tingin nya sa'kin, clueless pa ri
n si kuya.

Ako: Talaga bang hindi mo nakikita ang mga people na sumusunod-sunod syo?? @_@ S
unshine, may
problema ba yang mga mata mo?!


He sat down on the chair next to me. Seryosong-seryoso sya dun sa pag-sstir nya
nung straw nung
watermelon shake nya. Mukhang abnormal.

Jerwin: I see them. Pero sa tagal ba naman na sinusundan ako nga mga tao, I got
used to it. Eventually, I
learned to ignore them.

Ako: Maannnn... I don't think I'll ever get used to people following me to this
degree. -__-

Jerwin: That's probably because you don't want people giving you this much atten

Ako: Duh. I don't want people invading my privacy noh.


Napatingin kaming dalawa dun sa dalawang lalaki na dumadaan sa likod namin. Kail
angan talaga nilang
isigaw ung pangalan ni Jerwin para lang mangbati noh?

Jerwin: Ah! THANK YOU!!

The two guys waved at him tapos umalis na sila. Akala ko magtatalon pa sa kilig
ung dalawa, pero
mukhang hindi naman. hahaha

I quietly sipped my melon shake, watching Jerwin as he constantly runs his hand
through his hair.

This little liar. Obviously, the stares and the people are making him uncomforta
ble. Abah, kung itutuloy
nya yang ginagawa nya sa buhok nya, baka makalbo na sya nyan!

Ako: You wanna leave soon?

Jerwin: Bakit? Are you done shopping?

Ako: Yea.

He looked at his watch.

Jerwin: Hmmm... okay. Ilang oras na rin pala tayong nandito. You wanna go now?

Ako: Eh?!? Now na??!

Jerwin: Why not?

Ako: I'm too lazy to get up and start walking again. Can't you just carry me on
your back? T__T

Jerwin: . . . I can ask them if I can drive the truck inside... Then I'll pick y
ou up right here..

Ako: WHAT?!?

Jerwin: They usually do car shows in this floor. There must be a way those cars
managed to get inside,

Tumingin-tingin sa paligid si kuya. O_O Seryoso yata sa pag-consider na dito nya

ko susunduin -- gamit
ung truck nya. Avah, nababaliw ba sya?!?

Ako: Hoy, Jerwin Santos, adik ka ba?!? Ipapasok mo ung truck mo dito?! Anoh ka,

Jerwin: I AM Jerwin Santos.

I mimicked his answer.

Ako: "I AM Jerwin Santos"..

Tapos biglang pitik sa noo nya.

Ako: Ulol! Bibigyan mo pa ng problema ung management ng mall! Gusto mo bang ma-b
an tayo dito?!?

Jerwin: Dork! I was just kidding! Bakit kailangan mo pa kong pitikin?!?

Ako: Eh gunggong ka pala eh! Seryosong-seryoso ung mukha mo, akala ko naman tala
gang gagawin mo!

He's holding his forehead and wincing in pain. Ang exagge... parang naman ganun
ka-lakas ung
pagkakapitik ko........... hindi naman, di ba?

Ako: Masakit ba? O_O

Jerwin: Hindi!

Ako: Eh bakit hawak mo pa yang noo mo?!? Tanggalin mo nga ung kamay mo!

Jerwin: Ayoko nga! Bakit ba?!

Ako: Eh kung hindi naman pala masakit, bakit ayaw mong tanggalin!?

Jerwin: Eh sa gusto kong hawakan ang noo ko eh! It's a free country!

Ako: Aish!

Hinablot kong bigla ung kamay nya, trying to peel it off his forehead. Pero mala
kas si kuya, talagang feel
na feel nya ang pagtakip.

Jerwin: Stop it!

Ako: You stop it!

Jerwin: Are you trying to rape me?!?

Ako: What the hell are you talking about?!? Anoh naman ang ka-rape-rape sa noo m

Jerwin: Why are you all over me then?!?

Ako: Let me see your forehead!

Jerwin: Bakit ba?!? Araw-araw mo nang nakikita ang noo ko!

Ako: Anak ng tinapa! Patingin mo na kaseh!

Jerwin: Haven't you heard that curiosity killed the cat?!?

Ako: Mukha ba kong pusa?!?

Jerwin: AHHH!! Ang kulit mo!

I finally managed to pry his hand off his forehead! Bibigay rin pala, papahirapa
n pa ko! O____O Hm??

There's a small red spot... yep, dun sa pinitik ko, may small red spot.


I suddenly grabbed his face and hinila sya palapit sa'kin para mas makita ko ung
noo nya. I stared in
horror at that tiny spot.

Ako: WAAHHH!! Napalakas ba ung pitik ko?!? It hurt, didn't it?!? WAH I'm sorry,
Sunshine! OoO

Jerwin: It didn't hurt. W-Will you stop crushing my face!?

Ako: But it's red! It's red!

Jerwin: Stop panicking!

Ako: But it's red!!!

"Aww.. Ang sweet nyo namang dalawa."


An old couple walked past us, smiling and nodding as they watch the little scene
between Jerwin and
me. Napatingin kaming dalawa ni Jerwin. Kahit na hawak ko ung mukha nya, Jerwin
managed to crane
his neck and look at the old couple.

Dun ko na-realize na amazingly close pala ang mukha ko sa mukha ni Jerwin -- at

hawak ko pa with both
hands ang face nya! I literally jumped and halos mahulog ako sa upuan ko sa sobr
ang pagmamadali kong

Jerwin gave an awkward smile to the old couple. As soon as malayo na sila, he su
ddenly slumped on the

Jerwin: That was embarrassing.

Ako: Wha---

And it was then that I realized...

there's at least ten people surrounding us -- all armed with their cameras and p
hones. O__O

I slumped on the table right next to Jerwin's head.

::Chapter 60::



(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

After that little incident, Jerwin and I waited for a bit. Baka sakaling magsial
isan rin ung mga tao.. Then
we can peacefully leave. Pero iba ung nangyari. Instead na mabawasan, nagsimula
pang dumami ung
mga tao. O__O Ung kaninang sampu, naging 15.. tapos dumami pa sila nang dumami.
They were all
watching us.. taking pictures.. recording videos..

I was getting so anxious na naubos ko yata ung iniinom kong shake in one sip. I
suggest never to try that
dahil it causes brain freeze. Promise. =___=

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e's so preoccupied with
that arm.

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B@t5_Bz%_?7 ycVBangiti pa sya. In fairness, naapektuhan na yata ng romantic

atmosphere ang brain cells ni kuya. Lumalabas nanaman ang pagka-corny nya.

He took my hand and led me to the table. Kinarir nya na talaga ang pa-good shot
nya, he even pulled out
the chair for me bago sya umupo sa sarili nyang upuan.

Jerwin: I was supposed to take you here for Valentines, kaya lang... Well, you k
now what happened..

Ako: Oh.

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while the other one remains in his other hand.

The song "Two Less Lonely People In The World" continues to play around us.

I can't help but think how appropriate the song is right now.

Coz being in each other's arms like this, it certainly feels the both of us can
finally stop being alone and


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

I don't think I've ever spent this much attention to a girl I'm dancing with. I'
m so aware of her presence
that I'm afraid I'm going to start tripping over my own feet. When did a girl ev
er make me this nervous?

We swayed in time with the music. I felt Venice resting her head on my shoulder.
I pulled her gently
closer to me. I can smell the subtle smell of her shampoo in her hair. I can alm
ost feel her heartbeat.
This must be what heaven feels like; good music in the backW+N q (9o 1 )f Ow!

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Although Venice and I managed to get home by midnight last night, hindi naman ak
o kagad nakatulog. I
spent hours and hours walking around my room, worrying about the new album, turn
ing in my bed, and
even peeking at Venice's sleeping figure bago ako nakatulog.

In the end, I only had three hours of sleep.

Halos nag-ssway na nga yata ako side to side sa sobrang antok.

Maybe that's why the shoot wrapped up earlier than expected. -____- Crap.

I hope they managed to take good pictures.

I dragged myself papasok nung bahay. I hastily threw the keys on the counter, ta
pos naglakad papunta
sa living room. I collapsed on the couch. I can just sleep right here...... -___

Kakapikit ko pa lang ng mata ko nang narinig ko ung main door na nagsarado. That
's probably Venice.
She gets out of school around this time, right?

Maybe I should've picked her up. But I haven't been thinking straight this whole




I bolted up from the couch and ran towards the door as fast as my hurting muscle
s would let me. I
completely forgot about my exhaustion.

Ako: What?!? What?!?

Venice: Oh, Sunshine. Hello.


Ako: Anong "hello"?!? Why were you screaming?!?

Venice: Ah, wala lang un. Vent out lang.

Ako: Vent out? About what?

Venice: Haaayyyy nako!

-  H/  x

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Yang liit nyang yan...

Venice: Bakit kailangan mo pa pumunta dun, eh nag-ooffer na nga akong masahihin

kita??! And besides,
ako ang fiance mo! .... -____-

She stopped talking. Parang nag-iisip yata ng kasunod na argument na related sa

pagiging fianc at sa
pagmamasahe. Ung argument ba na hindi sya mapapahiya..

Ako: Sardines, okay okay, I get it. Ikaw na nga ang magmasahe sa'kin.

Venice: Good.

Ako: Nagseselos ka lang dun sa mga masseuse, ayaw mo pang sabihin.

Venice: OoO A-A-Anong nagseselos?!? Nababaliw ka ba?!? Bakit naman ako magseselo
s ha?!?

Ako: Yea-yea..

I started taking off my shirt--

Venice: H-H-HOYYYY!!!!! Bakit ka naghuhubad?!?!?!?!?!?

Ako: What? Eh pano mo lalagyan ng oil-- or lotion ung likod ko kung may T-shirt

Venice: Eh b-bakit kailangan pa ng lotion?!? O.O

Ako: Coz that's how they do it.

Venice: Eh bakit ka naghuhubad?!??! O.O

Ako: I just answered that question!

Her face is flaming red. I haven't even completely taken off my shirt yet, mukha
na syang hihimatayin.

Ako: I can just go to the spa--

Venice: NO!! Fine! Take off your shirt! Pero shirt lang!

Ako: (chuckles) Shirt lang naman talaga. What else were you expecting me to take

Venice: S-Shut up!

I finally slid the shirt off my head. I turned to look at her and almost burst o
ut laughing nung nakita ko
sya. She has her eyes shut closed.. and is she praying under her breath?!


I jumped on the bed again. Ready na sa masahe ko. Nakadapa na ko, may yakap na k
ong unan...

Ako: When you're done thanking all the angels and saints for the opportunity to
touch my back, you can
start the massage.

Bumukas bigla ung mata nya. Akala ko ibabato nya sa'kin ung buong nigh}7 

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Jerwin: Aish.. Ganyan ba ang nanggigising?! Are you trying to kill me!?

Ako: Hoy, ginising kita by normal means, hinde ka tumayo!

Jerwin: Talaga lang?!

Well.... Isang beses na subok. bwahaha

Ako: I did my best... but I guess my best wasn't good enough.

Jerwin: -__- What?

Ako: Ay nako! Tumayo ka na nga dyan! Tulog ka ng tulog, baka hindi ka na makatul
og mamaya!

Jerwin: Ah, so nag-aalala ka pala sa'kin?

Ako: Don't flatter yourself. Geez.

Tumayo na ko and went inside my walk-in closet. Lokong un.. Bagong gising na nga
't lahat, ang gwapo pa
rin. nyahahaha jowk! Tama ba namang ngitian ako nang may kung anong bahid ng pan

Jerwin: Oh yea, did you call Sheena and them already?

Ako: Yea.. Sabi ko paggising mo, aalis tayo.

Narinig ko syang bumaba ng kama. Sana naman binibihisan nya na ang mga abs at li
kod nya noh..?
Kundi.. baka hawak-hawakan ko nanaman ang oh-so-wide-and-muscular nyang likod, e
h baka makulong
ako bigla ng sexual harassment.

Jerwin: Okay. Let me just take a shower real quick. Tell them we'll pick them up
in an hour.

Ako: San ba tayo pupunta?

Jerwin: Basta.

Sumilip sya sa loob nung walk-in closet ko -- and for some reason, nung unang si
lip nya, parang nakapikit
pa ung dalawang mata nya. After a few moments lang, tsaka nya binuksan ung isang
mata nya. Nung
parang na-realize nyang the coast is clear, tsaka nya ko tinignan.

Topak nanaman nito?

Jerwin: Uh, and make sure na kasama sina Anthony and si Sheena.

Ako: Eh?

Jerwin: Just trust me.

After that, lumabas na sya ng kwarto ko. o_O Ang weird....

Posible bang gising na ang isang tao, pero ung utak nya eh naiwan sa kama?

An hour later, nagtipon-tipon sina Sheena, Anton, at Kenny sa bahay ni Sheena. D

un na namin sila
sinundo. Jerwin drove to a high-class nightclub -- iba pa dun sa very memorable
na club na pinuntahan
namin ni Nicole.

This club looks more chic.. Mukhang mas tighter a security.. Mas mahal ang cover
fee... -___- Buti na
lang si Jerwin ang nagbayad para sa'ming lahat. May advantages talaga minsan ang
may fafa na may
makapal na wallet.

Pumasok kami sa loob. Malakas na techno music kagad ang sumalubong sa'min. And k
ahit na school
night, punong-puno ng tao ung club
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Biglang napatingin si Nicole kay Kenny.

Nicole: Oh my gosh! I like you!

Kenny: Ay! I like you too~!

Oh my gosh, they're both gonna kill Geena! OoO

I shot a warning glance dun sa dalawang potential murderers. They gave an innoce
nt smile. -__- As if
naman maniniwala akong inosente sila...

Dustin: Uhmm.. if you want, we can just get another table....

Sumulyap-sulyap ako kay Jerwin. Mukhang ang straight ng mukha nya.. -___- Wala s
yang balak maging
hospitable!? I wiped my hands on the fitted jeans I was wearing. Hindi naman paw
is ung kamay ko, pero
parang feeling ko pinagpapawisan dahil sa sobrang tension.

Ay anak ng tinapa talaga!

Ako: You guys can sit here.

Jerwin: Venice?

Nicole & Kenny: Nooo~ O__O

I looked at Nicole and Kenny.

Ako: You two, behave.

Naramdaman kong biglang hinawakan ni Jerwin ung kamay ko under the table. Tuming
in tuloy ako sa
kanya. Don't tell me... Affected much pa rin ba sya na nasa iisang table sila ni

Geena and Dustin took seats at the other end of the table. Dustin looks awkward,
while Geena, as usual,
looks like her usual arrogant self.

Kenny and Nicole both look as if they're about to start throwing things.

Sheena looks worried, Anthony looks confused (kelan ba hindi naging confused toh
ng taong toh? -__-).

Jerwin leaned over to me para bumulong.

Jerwin: Are you sure this is okay?

Ako: Na-bbother ka ba?

Jerwin: Not at all. They're my friends. I just want to make sure na okay lang ta
laga syo na dito sila

Ako: If you're okay with it, then I'm okay too.

Kenny: Hoy kayong dalawa dyan! Anoh bang pinagbubulungan nyo? I-share naman!

Umayos kami bigla ng upo ni Jerwin. Tama ba namang itapat bigla sa'min ang spotl

Ako: Wala. Umorder na nga kayo.

Kenny: Hay nako, oorder sana talaga ako kaya lang parang na-ruin ang appetite ko

Pinanglakihan ko ng mata ung bakla. Wag sya magkakalat dito! Baka talagang itila
pon kami palabas!
Pano na lang ang dinner ko?!?

Kenny: --buuttiiiii na lang bumalik sya at nagugutom na ulit ako. Kaya let's eat

Napapansin kong panay ang tinginan nung dalawang opposing teams sa isa't isa. Ti
tingin sina Kenny at
Nicole tapos babalik sa menu.. Titingin naman si Geena sa kanila, tapos sa'min n
i Jerwin, tapos titingin
rin sya dun sa menu.


Kung walang himalang mangyayari, I'm pretty sure, this is gonna be a long nite.


(Geena's POV)

---------------- .

Me: Why are they sitting so close to each other?

Dustin: Coz that's how couples usually are.

Me: They're NOT a couple.

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aikt hy.di mo pa ligawan si Sheena?

Anthony: PFFFTTTT!!!!!

Aish.. O_O

He almost sprayed whatever he's drinking on me! It's a good thing I was able to
dodge! Aish..

Ako: You didn't have to react like that.

He wiped his chin and looked at me -- finally. Posible naman palang matanggal un
g mata nya kay Sheena

Anthony: Anoh ba naman kasi yang sinasabi mo, bro?!? Wag kang magpapasabog ng mg
a ganyan, lalo
na pag umiinom ako. @_@

Ako: I'm just curious. Pati kasi si Venice na-sstress snyong dalawa.

Anthony: Si Sheena?! Liligawan ko?! Ha! W-We're just friends!

Ako: Oh? But you know...

I made him look back on the dancing floor again.

Ako: She seems to be a nice girl. Looks very pretty too..

Anthony: Of course. Of course.

Parang napapabilis ang pagtungga nya nung iniinom nya ah.

Ako: I'm sure a lot of guys are vying for her attention.

Anthony: Uh-huh.

Ako: Tulad na lang ni Dustin.

Anthony: Dustin? Ano si Dustin?

Ako: Well, he was telling me how cute Sheena is. If you're not careful, baka maa
gaw pa syo si Sheena...

In reality, wala naman talagang sinasabi si Dustin tungkol kay Sheena. Pero di n
aman alam ni Anton un.

Ako: Hmm.. maybe that's why he's dancing with her. Baka gagawa na sya ng move...

Anthony: He's dancing with Venice too!

Ako: Bro, Dustin and I are close friends. Do you really think he'll hit on my gi

Tinungga nya nanaman ung bote nya. Pumapasok na yata sa utak nya lahat ng sinasa
bi ko.

Ako: Off-limits si Venice sa kanya. He wouldn't betray me like that.

Anthony: Eh di gagawin ko na lang din syang close friend! Kung close kayo at clo
se kami, eh di lahat na
tayo close! Off-limits na ang lahat!


Anong klaseng reasoning ba meron tohng magkakabarkadang toh!?!?

Ako: Dude, you're killing me here!

Anthony: Gusto mo ng CPR?

Ako: No thank you. -___-

I finished my last bottle. Anthony begins his 3rd or 4th. He continues to watch
Sheena with a thoughtful
expression on his face.

Heh.. I guess I was able to influence him after all.

I stood up and took off my jacket.

Anthony: San ka pupunta?

Ako: San pa ba? I'm gonna go bump and grind with my fiance.

Anthony: Oh, yea. You probably should.

I know. Kanina ko pa nga napapansin ung mga umaaligid-aligid sa likod ni Venice.

Nahihirapan na yatang
magtaboy si Dustin.

Maybe next time we go clubbing, I'll make sure Venice wears an oversized shirt,
loose jeans, and
sneakers. I have to do something about that pretty face of hers too. -___- Hmmm.
. yea. That's a good

Ako: Bumaba ka na rin mamaya, Anton.


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

It was already quarter to two nang maisipan naming umalis. I-deny man namin at g
ustuhin man naming
magtagal pa, cannot be talaga. May mga pasok pa kami bukas at may mga work pa si
na Nic, Jerwin, at
Dustin. Boohoo. -__-

Oh well. It's okay. We were able to dance for at least a couple of hours...

*gulp* Medyo nagugulantang pa rin ako pag naaalala ko how close Jerwin was nung
nagsasayaw kami.
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e exchange
between the trio.

Ako: What did you do!??

Jerwin: I got rid of one of your stressors.

Ako: Eh?

Dustin jumped inside Nicole's car. Maya-maya lang, they drove away.

Naglakad na kaming lahat papunta naman sa truck ni Jerwin.

Sheena and Kenny are walking in the front. Nakasunod si Anthony dun sa dalawa. K
ami naman ni Jerwin,
nanonood lang sa likod.

Jerwin: Watch this.

Biglang tinawag ni Jerwin si Sheena.

Jerwin: Sheena! What do you think of Dustin?


What is he doing?!?!

Sheena: Eh?!?! B-Bakit?!?

Jerwin: Hmm just wondering. He's a nice guy, right?

Sheena: Uh.. I guess so..

Kenny started teasing Sheena kaya nawala sa'min ung atensyon. As soon as hindi n
a sila nakatingin, I
nudged Jerwin's side.

Ako: What in the world are you doing!?

Jerwin: Basta. Trust me.

Bigla nya kong hinila para sumabay kay Anthony. Wala naman akong nagawa kundi ma
nood dahil hindi
ko alam kung anong kalokohan nanaman ang pumasok sa utak ng taong toh!

Jerwin: Anton. I told you so. Make your move now.

Anthony: But...

Jerwin: What are so worried about? Baka maagawan ka talagang bigla nyan..

Ohhh... Ohhhh... I see..

Ako: Oo nga, Anton. Pano na lang kung talagang ligawan ni Dustin si Sheena?

Anthony: He wouldn't!

Jerwin: You never know...

Umabot na kami dun sa truck. Jerwin walked over to the driver's side, samantalan
g ako, pinauna sina
Sheena at Kenny para sumakay dun sa likod.

Napatingin ako in surprise nung nakita kong tumigil si Anthony dun sa harap ng t

Ako: Anton, what are you doing? Get in.

Napatigil rin tuloy si Sheena sa pagsakay nya. She looked back in confusion.

Sheena: Nahihilo ka na ba? Ang dami mo kasing ininom eh..

All of a sudden...

Anthony fell on his knees. My mouth dropped open. I heard Jerwin chuckle on the
other side of the
vehicle. Halos madapa-dapa sa paglabas uhlet si Kenny.

And Sheena's eyes almost bulged out of their sockets.

Sheena: Anton--? O.O

Biglang inistretch out ni Anthony ung mga kamay nya, sabay sigaw:


::Chapter 65::



(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

The next day...

"I'm so tired..." -__-

Naglalakad kami ni Kenny palabas ng school grounds. The four of us decided to ea

t lunch sa nearby KFC,
pero parang nagbabago na yata ang isip ko. I just want to sit down and space out
for the whole hour and
a half na break ko. -___- I can tell na ganun din si Kenny. Unusually quiet ang

Unlike itong dalawang toh sa harap namin...

Kanina pa naglalandian sina Sheena at si Anthony.. After what happened last nigh
t, parang biglang
naging makulay ang buhay nung dalawa. =__=

I leaned towards Kenny para bumulong, just in case na marinig ako at mag-all out
denial nanaman si
best friend and ang newfound semi-boylet nya.

Ako: Hindi pa sila, di ba?

Kenny: Di ba sabi ni Sheena, magtrabaho raw muna si Anton?

Ako: Di ba ibig sabihin nun manligaw muna?

Kenny: Oo yata.

Ako: Eh bahket parang kagabi pa sila nilalanggam?

Kenny: Ay I know! Katabi ko silang dalawa kagabi sa likod pauwi noh.. Alam mo ba
ng kulang na lang eh
kumuha ako ng insecticide para patayin ang mga langgam sa sobrang lagkit ng ting
inan nila?!?

Ako: Nakakapatay ng langgam ang insecticide?

Kenny: . . . Hindi ba?

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Jerwin: And besides, pinalitan mo rin naman ung ringtone ko ah!

Ako: That's different! Ako lang ang may karapatan magpalit ng ringtone! At bakit
ka nga pala
tumatawag?!? Hindi ba dapat nagttrabaho ka?!?

Jerwin: Sheena texted me. Tawagan raw kita. May nangyayari ba?

Tinignan ko nang masama si Sheena. Nung nakita nyang tinitignan ko sya, she imme
diately flashed me
an innocent smile. Bruhang toh.

Ako: Wala. Sige na, bumalik ka na sa trabaho mo.

Jerwin: Okay. I'll see you later pag-uwi ko then.

Ako: Yea yea..

Jerwin: Sardines..

Ako: Hm?

Jerwin: Umuwi ka kagad ha?

Napaisip akong bigla. Hindi naman siguro kami magtatagal ni Geena noh?

I mean, cmon.. sinoh ba naman ang magtatagal kasama nung babaeng un? -__-

Ako: I'll be home as soon as I can.

Jerwin: Okay. Bye..

Ako: Byeee..... Ay! Sunshine?

Jerwin: Yeah?

I know.. this is going to be embarrassing.. at siguro isang malaking hammer sa a

king pride pero.. walang
magulo! In reality, naaliw ako sa ringtone. Mahal daw eh..

Ako: Pwede, magpa-ring ka ulit isang beses pa?

::Chapter 66::

The Meeting


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

My last class ended a few minutes late, kaya syempre late na rin ako nakalabas.
Buong hapon na ko
hindi mapakali. A small voice inside my head says na it's a bad idea to meet up
with Geena. At isa pa,
ang lakas ng ulan sa labas. 4:30 pa lang, pero madilim-dilim na dahil sa rainclo
uds at todo bagsak ng
ulan. I wonder kung may bagyo ngayon? It seems like it. -__-

Tumawag ako ng tricycle kahit na walking distance lang sana ung Starbucks. Pero
dahil ayoko naman
mag-show up na mukha akong nag-swimming with all my clothes on, mag-sacrifice na
ng ilang barya
para sa tricycle.

When I got there, I noticed na medyo konti lang ung mga tao. I looked around sea
rching for Geena. I saw
her sitting in one corner. Kahit na natatakpan ng hoodie nya ung mukha nya, at k
ahit na intense ung
tingin nya dun sa laptop sa harap nya, parang she still stands out. Ganun ba tal
aga pag celebrity?

I slowly walked over to her table. She immediately looked up nung tumigil ako sa
harap nya.

Ako: Sorry I'm late. Kanina ka pa?

Geena: Oh it's okay. I kept myself busy. Did you order your coffee yet?

Ako: Ah, hindi pa. I'll be right back.

I went to the counter para umorder ng kape ko. I stole glances at her. Mukha nam
ang normal pa ang
lahat. Ano kayang pinapanood nya dun sa laptop? Parang sobra maka-concentrate sa
palabas eh.

After getting my cup, I went back to the table and sat across from her.

Geena: You know this is really amusing.

Ako: Hmm?

Geena: I really wanted to know more about you, so I asked around -- I hope you d
on't mind.

Ako: Ahh...

"Asked around"??

Ako: And.. And what did you find out?

Geena: Well, I found out that you're really famous in your school. You used to s
tar in almost every
musical production?

Ako: Oh, yea.. That was a long time ago. I don't do those things anymore.

Geena: Yes, I heard.

Uminom ulit ako dun sa kape ko. Parang kinakabahan na yata ako.. 'sz


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Ako: N-No...

Geena: Hmm.. I didn't get to hear the last part of the story. Is he still in the
hospital, Venice?

I wanted to reply, but my mind has fully zoned in on the video now.

It's the final scene.

In just a few minutes, the curtain will come down.

In just a few minutes, he'll finally whisper that he loves me.

In just a few minutes, Gerard will suddenly collapse.

In just a few minutes, he'll be gone forever.

Geena: So, Venice, when you met Jerwin, was it that easy to forget about Gerard?

Ako: W-What?

Geena: When was the last time you visited him, Venice?

Ako: I... I...

When was the last time I visited him?

The video is showing the curtain call now. As if by some horrible twist of fate,
the camera was zoomed in
on Gerard and me.

How could I miss that he was unusually pale? Or that beads of sweat were profuse
ly appearing on his

But I did notice those things.. I just didn't know.. I didn't know..

I can remember it all now. It's coming to me like a wave of unwanted memories.

His shaking body.. His cold hands..

Here.. This is it..

Gerard leaned towards me as the curtain is coming down.

The curtain has completely covered the stage now. The camera didn't see the fina
l seconds.. the final

But I remember it all..

I suddenly stood up, accidentally knocking down my cup of coffee. But I didn't c
are. I have to leave.

Ako: I.. I have to go.

I hastily turned around to leave, only to hit something hard behind me.

Dustin: Whoa, Venice? Are you okay?

Inikutan ko ung nabunggo ko and ran out of the cafe. I think I can hear someone
calling after me, but I
may be wrong. Soon enough, I felt the rain hitting me, somewhat blurring my visi

I called the first taxi na dumaan sa'kin and frantically gave the driver my dest

Yes, I remember it all. I can almost see it as if it's happening right in front
of me.

The way his hand slipped from mine..

The way he collapsed..

The way his eyes closed..

The way he muttered those final words..

His final words...

"I love you, V..."


(Dustin's POV)

---------------- .

I watch in shock as Venice jumped in a cab. What was that? I just got here and s
he already left? And in
such a state too...

I went back to Geena's table and sat down on the chair Venice was sitting on ear
lier. A waitress is
picking up the broken pieces of the cup that fell earlier.

Me: That was weird...

Then, all of a sudden, napatingin ako dun sa laptop sa harap ko.

It's a streaming video from some site.

The video already finished playing, but the title immediately caught my eyes:

"Venice Zhao & Gerard Sheen: Forever Remembered"

Gerard? Why does that name sound so familiar?

I looked up at Geena, and I saw a satisfied smirk on her face. And then it hit m

Gerard. Gerard was the name of that guy Venice dated.

Me: Geena! What did you do?!?

Geena: I didn't do anything. I just reminded her what it feels like to lose some
one -- just like the way I
lost Jerwin.

Me: You didn't lose Jerwin. God, Geena, how can you use this tragedy against her

Geena: Use what?! I just asked her when was the last time she saw Gerard.

Me: You know Gerard is dead!

Geena: But she doesn't know I know.

What is wrong with this woman? When did she become so cruel?

Geena: Don't look at me like that, Dustin. It's her fault! She made Jerwin leave

Dustin: No. You made Jerwin leave you.

I got up from the table and hurriedly took out my phone. I ran out of the cafe t
o my car. Maybe I can still
follow the cab Venice jumped in earlier.

The other line kept ringing. I hope Jerwin is wrapping up with his schedule toda
y. Well, actually, I just
hope he answers his phone. It doesn't matter whether he's done or not. I'm sure
he'll storm out of there


Me: Jerwin. We have trouble.

::Chapter 67::

What About Me


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

The truck skid to a stop in front of the cemetery. I didn't even bother to check
kung direcho ung
pagkakatigil ko.. as long as hindi ako mahagip nung mga dumadaan na sasakyan, th
en I'm fine.

I opened the door and jumped out of the truck, silently cursing the heavy downpo
ur of rain. Sa dinamidami naman ng araw.... Aish...

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wet clothes. I never saw Venice again after they closed the door. She never went
out of that room
again... Gerard's former room..

The atmosphere in the living room is heavy. I told them bits and pieces of what
happened. I guess just
the words "Gerard", "breakdown", and "cemetery" were enough for them to understa
nd what's going

Marian: Don't worry about it, Jerwin. Wala ka nanaman magagawa..

Anthony: She'll probably stay here for a few days, bro.. Siguro mabuti pang umuw
i ka na, magpahinga..

A few days ha... So last time this happened.. was it also just a few days na nag
kaganito si Venice?

Ako: Okay...

We all stood up. I thanked them for the dry clothes, then nilakad na nila ako sa
pinto. Marian handed me
an umbrella para raw hindi na ko lalong mabasa.

Ako: I'll drop by again tomorrow to bring her some clothes... Paki alagaan na la
ng muna sya..

Marian: Of course

Anthony: Ingat sa pag-ddrive, bro.

I looked at the door behind them, the one Venice disappeared to earlier.

She's not even gonna see me off?

Ako: Sige... alis na ko.. Thank you ulit..

Instead of driving back to our own house, I found myself going to my parents' pl
ace. I don't usually run
to my parents when something frustrating or bad happens... But.. I guess any pla
ce is better than the
silence that will greet me kung umuwi ako sa bahay.

I parked the truck in front of the main door. I handed the keys to Manong Ponce
na halatang gulat na
gulat na makita ako. I think I walked past Aling Ligaya.. She asked me something
pero hindi ko naman
masyadong naintindihan. I just trudged up the stairs to my room.

I opened the door and looked around my old room. Some of my things are still her
e. When I moved to
the other house, I thought I'd leave my bed and a few clothes behind just in cas
e bigla akong sipain ni
Venice palabas.. or i-lock ako sa labas ng bahay for who knows what reason..

I never would have thought na babalik ako dito under a whole different league of

I sat on the edge of my bed and stared at the darkness in front of me. I didn't
bother turning on the
lights since the darkness helps me think more clearly.

I should take care of Geena. She doesn't have the r#

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But.. didn't he pass away a long time ago?

Ako: Tell me, mom, how do I compete with memories?

Mom: What are you talking about?

Ako: His name was Gerard. He used to go to the same school as Venice. He starred
in a school play with
Venice. He used to live in an apartment in a small neighborhood. I heard he real
ly loved Venice and was
ready to do anything for her. They were probably inseparable by human means.

I grabbed a handful of the blanket in my hands. I'm afraid that without any supp
ort, I'm gonna start
trashing this place. That'd be a shame dahil balak kong dito matulog.

Ako: It's been two years since he passed away, but Venice still never fails to v
isit his grave. I thought I'll
be able to take his place, but that was just a foolish thought, wasn't it?

I finally buried my face in my hands. This is probably the first time in many ye
ars that I allowed my mom
to see me this vulnerable.. It's out of character. But right now, I don't even c

Ako: What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do, mom? She's still in lov
e with him...

I suddenly felt her sitting next to me. I turned around in surprise. I thought s
he'd run out of the room
screaming for dear life.. or maybe say something like I should pull myself toget

I didn't expect her to sympathize.. much more, be a "mom".

Mom: Jerwin, alam mo ba kung bakit namin kayo pinagsamang dalawa ni Venice?

Ako: Coz you and her mom are both clinically insane?

Mom: You mean, "geniuses" right? Hay nako, anyway, so Mel and I were talking, ri
ght? and we both
came to the same conclusion.

Ako: Which is?

Mom: You and Venice were the same. Not in the same situations, but the two of yo
u.. you were both

Did I hear her right? I mean, I understand Venice being lonely and all, but me?
Why would I be lonely?
My career was going great. My parents were constantly nagging about doing better
. I was too busy to
have real friends. People were intimidated by my name. Geena never genuinely car
ed about me..

Who am I kidding? My life sucked.

Mom: Looking at your career, you really achieved a lot in a short amount of time
. But that didn't really
matter, did it? I could see how you yearn for companionship. Hindi ba un ang dah
ilan kung bakit ganon
na lang ang pagkakapit mo kay Georgina no matter how many times she messed up?

She even knows about Geena?!? @_@

Mom: That's why.. when I saw you with Venice..... -___- even though it was a sca
ndalous first meeting...
I thought to myself, "Ah this might be fate". And I was right! This is probably
what they call "a mother's

Ako: Didn't you just say it was fate? Anyway, what about Venice? Why did Tita Me
l agree to give her
daughter to a total stranger?

Mom: Oh we're not "total" strangers. She said she was a fan when I was still an
active actress. A fan and
an idol isn't such a bad combination, di ba?

But an idol you see only onscreen... That's still... considered a stranger, isn'
t it? -__-

Mom: Anyway, Mel told me na kahit na Venice seems like the cheerful person she o
nce was, for some
reason, Venice's smile never reached her eyes. As a mother, of course, she was r
eally worried. Venice
wouldn't talk to her about what happened.

Ako: I see...

Mom: Mel was actually reluctant to do this whole engagement thing at first. Pero
nung nakita nya
kayong dalawa ni Venice dun sa living room...

Oh. +__+ That time.... Remembering it now... I thought I was going to die of a h
eart attack.

Mom: She came back to me with this huge smile on her face. Sabi nya, there might
be something there
daw. Ano bang ginagawa nyo nun?

Ako: What?!? N-Nothing. O_O

Mom: So the engagement was decided. You look a whole lot better, and Venice look
s genuinely happier.
You two are perfect for each other.

Ako: You really think she's happy?

Mom: Of course! I'm a good judge of character, Jerwin. Venice smiles from her he
art when she's with
you. But well.. she's still young..

Ako: What's that got to do with things?

Mom: Being young is usually synonymous to being stupid.

Ako: Mom!

Mom: Oh, trust me, dear. I went through that whole stupid stage thing myself. Ve
nice just isn't thinking
straight right now. Hindi nya pa na-rrealize na she's moving on well. Just give
it time.

She finally stood up and looked around the dark room. I guess I should have turn
ed on some lights.. It's
kinda weird talking to my mother in the dark like this. -__-

Mom: Don't beat yourself too hard, Jerwin. So what if you're competing with old
memories? Just make
new ones. Gerard is Gerard, and you're you. Sooner or later, Venice will realize
this too.

She ruffled my hair -- the same way she does back when I was five. I know I shou
ld probably get pissed
because she's treating me like a kid here, but isn't that how mothers are like?
They'll treat their children
as kids even if their children are already way above 50 years old.

In a sense, it's a comforting thought.

Mom: Go take a shower. Last time na nabasa ka ng ulan, nagkasakit ka. How are yo
u going to take care
of Venice kung pati ikaw may sakit?

Ako: Okay.

Mom: Then, bumaba ka pagkatapos mo. Your father should be home soon. It's been a
while since we
had a family dinner. Oh, and you should probably talk to your sister too. I'm th
iiiss close to giving her
little bouncing self a tranquilizer. -__-

I watch her as she walks toward the door, heavily complaining on why I didn't tu
rn on the lights. I guess
she was seeing shadows and stuff. She flicked the switch on just before she step
ped out of my room.

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Marian: Yea sure.. But she might still be resting right now.. Last time na pumas
ok kami, she was lying on
the bed.

Ako: Okay..

I left the living room and silently went inside the bedroom. The room is dark, e
xcept for a tiny lamp at
the side of the bed. Just like Marian said, Venice is on the bed, lying on her s
ide with her back to me.

Ha.. So she's playing the sleeping card ha...


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

I heard the door creak open. I don't know kung sino nanaman un. Nasilip na ko ni
na Sheena and Kenny..
pati si Dustin at si Jean dumating na rin. They all left after seeing me on the
bed. Akala nila tulog ako..
Truth is, I'm just pretending I'm sleeping. I feel so tired that I'm not even th
e mood to talk to anyone.

But this time.. this time is different. The person didn't leave. I heard the doo
r close and muffled
footsteps walking towards me. I stiffened up a little bit nung umupo sya sa kama

"I've watched you sleep numerous times. Do you really think you can fool me to t
hink na natutulog ka


It's Jerwin.

He finally came...

Not that I've been waiting for him all this time! O_O

Uh, maybe it's just that I know he's coming sooner or later.. I was expecting hi
m to show up anytime
soon.. That's all.

But, really, I have my back tur*&'yI5Y# v


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Ako: I'm going home, ate.

Ate Marian: Eh?!

Ako: Yep. Thanks for taking me in kahit sandali lang, ate.

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.. half-making sure na
wala na kong nakakalimutan; the other half, probably because I know I won't spen
d a lonesome time in
this room ever again.

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Pano naman sila nagkaron ng susi?

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May himala nga ba talaga sa mundo??

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vygh cMile. Naaaliw ako sa mga thoughts ko. Iba talaga ang level ng
imagination pag inaantok na!

Magiging pirates kami ni in our next lives~ wahahaha

Ako: Sunshine, you're the best!

Nagulat ako when Jerwin suddenly cupped my face with both his hands. O_O

His hands feel warm against my skin.

Pero ang mas kinagulantang ko eh ung sinabi nya.

I think naapektuhan na yata ng antok ko ang ability to hear ko. I mean.... reall

He wouldn't say something like that... right?

Ako: W-Wha? O.O

Jerwin: I love you. This must be one of the most random times to blurt it out bu
t... I love you, Venice.



He must be drunk (from the orange juice kanina?), or sleepy, or maybe he's high.

It's either one of those things.. or maybe I'm dreaming?

Shouldn't I be dreaming about pirates since ahyun ang pinapanood namin?!?

Jerwin suddenly smiled. He pats my head as if trying to calm my nerves down.

As if that's gonna help. -___- Konting-konti na lang, tatalon na ang puso ko.

Jerwin: You don't have to say anything. I just felt the need to say it. I'm not
asking you to say it back.



Jerwin: I can wait until you realize it for yourself.

I suddenly snapped out of my daze.

Ako: Eh? Realize what?

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aeadoau, I tfss he didn't invite her...?

Dustin: I swear I didn't invite her!

Ako: How did she find us!?

Dustin: How am I supposed to--- +__+ Oh. I think I might have mentioned somethin
g about meeting you
here tonight....

Ako: You..

It's too late to do anything now. Geena is here. We can't possibly bolt up and s
tart running. That's just...
-___- bakit nga ba hindi?

Ah.. coz the bar is packed and mahirap tumakbo?

I let out a huge sigh. Oh well, since she's here, I might as well talk to her.

Geena bounced on the stool next to me. As usual, she looks all prepped up.

Geena: Hi! What are you two doing here? I didn't get a call.

Ako: That's because we didn't call you, Geena.

Dustin looked at Geena and then me. Tapos na-realize nya yatang may bombang sasa
bog. He downed
his final bottle and then stood up.

Dustin: Uh, I'm just gonna go..... to the washroom.

Before I can stop, he turned around and left the table. Iniwanan talaga ako. Wal
a man lang suporta?!?

Geena took one of the bottles on the table and opened it for herself.

Geena: My, my.. Isn't this like the old times? You and I alone together... drink

Ako: Yea.. Old times..

Geena: I heard you and Venice are having a rough time right now. Is that why you
're sulking in this
cheap bar?

I gripped my bottle as I watch her drink. How can she say something like that wh
en she was the main
reason things went downhill anyways?!?

Geena: Really, Jerwin, how long are you gonna play with that commoner? She's not
even worth all this
trouble. How about.. tonight.. we do a little something at my place... just you
and I..

She suddenly leaned closer towards me. I didn't budge. I won't let her have the
satisfaction of thinking
she still has the same effect on me. Even when she started to run her fi<6:n+nfwV>B


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But those people... There are too many witnesses..

What will they say?

I hastily parked the truck in the driveway. It was a 30-minute drive from the ba
r to the house. In that
length of time, my mind almost went crazy thinking of the scandals that little i
ncident will create. Should
I push back the album's release? What kind of damage control am I gonna do? Peop
le will talk. The
manager will undoubtedly behead me... even though it's not my fault, he will BEH
EAD me!

I dragged myself out of the truck and to the door. I feel like I lost all my ene

The euphoria I felt from the new album's nearing completion just vanished into t
hin air.

I silently walked inside the house and was surprised to see Venice on the dining
table, hunched over
something. She seems to be concentrating really hard on something. I don't think
she heard me come in.

I walked over to her and saw a bunch of textbooks and notes all over the table.
Kinakarir nya talaga ang
pag-aaral. Mukhang scholar ah.

I looked over her head para tignan kung ano kayang subject ang binabasa nya..

and then...


What the--? Isn't that Vogue magazine?!?

I looked at the top of her head in disbelief. Akala ko kung anong galing na estu
dyante, "latest hair ideas"
pala ang binabasa! Talagang sobra pa ang pag-cconcentrate nya!

Ang galing talaga ng taong toh. I laughed to myself.

I stepped closer to her and wrapped my arms around her shoulders from behind. Na
patalon sya sa gulat.
She turned around and was obviously startled to see me.

Venice: Sunshine! O.O

She tried to cover the magazine with another textbook. Mag-aattempt pang lumusot

Ako: Too late. I already saw what you're reading. Galing mong mag-aral ha.

Venice: S-Study break ko toh noh!

Ako: Yea, yea. If you say so.

I rested my chin on top of her head as she tries to organize the mess of schoolw
ork on the table.

Venice: Alam mo, hindi patungan ang ulo ko noh.

Ako: But your hair smells good. Sabi ko syo eh, mag-shampoo ka nang madalas para
laging ganito
kabango ang buhok mo.

Venice: Hoy, tingin mo sa'kin?! Nag-sshampoo ako every other day noh!

Ako: Oh? Hindi ba once a week ka lang kung maligo?

Venice: Huy! Anoh ka?!?

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Ako: Ay vakla, anoh vah?!? Nasa harap mo na ko! Wag kang sumigaw!


Sheena: Ay, anoh bah yan?!? Huminga ka nga muna! Nag-hhyperventilate ka na!

Pinanood ko si Sheena as she teaches Kenny how to breathe. Naloloka ako.

Anong nangyayari?

Nung medyo kalmado na si bakla, tumingin ulit sya sa'kin.

Kenny: NagtextangpinsankosabinyanabasanyarawnahinditalagakayoengagednifafaJ (dee

p breath)


Oh. No. So it finally came out.

It's been three days.

Three days since Jerwin told me about the event in the bar...

Three days since Jerwin said I should be ready for anything that might happen..

Three days na ang lumipas at akala ko never nang lalabas ang balita...

Wala ba talagang himala sa world?!?

Nagtinginan kami ni Sheena. No wonder she looks worried. Hindi nga naman sya pwe
de basta-basta
magsalita kahit na may alam sya. Anong sasabihin nya?

Anong sasabihin ko?

Kenny: Totooba Totooba Totooba Totooba?!?!?

Anthony: Now that I think about it, parang hindi nga naman sakto sa timeline ng
buhay mo ang
engagement nyo. Papaalam mo naman sa'min kung nagkaron ka ng boyfriend.. pero hi
nde, malaman na
lang namin, engaged na kayo. *gasp* Arranged marriage ba talaga toh?!?!? O_O

I looked at Sheena. She just shrugged. In other words, it's up to me raw.

Should I tell the truth? Should I lie?

Di ba parang mas mahirap kung magsisinungaling ako? Pano kung magkabistuhan na n

ga talaga?

Nag-papanic ung dalawa.

Ako: Relax nga lang kayong dalawa dyan. I'll tell you everything -- basta wag ny
ong ipagsasabi kahit

Madaldal si Kenny, pero marunong naman sya magtago ng mga sobrang BIG na secrets
. Si Anton.. may
pagkachismoso, pero takot nya lang pag tsinismis nya ko.

We started walking out of the campus para mabawasan ang mga tenga na makakarinig
ng whole story. I
told them everything.

Kung pano ako napulot ni Jerwin..

Kung pano kami pinagkasundo ng mga loka naming nanay..

As in lahat-lahat.

When I finished, napatigil ung dalawa dun sa gitna ng kalsada with astonished lo
oks on their faces.

Ako: I'm sorry I didn't tell you guys before. Ang bilin kasi sa'kin wag ipaalam
sa kahit sino...

Don't be maaaddddd~ T^T

Kenny: I can't believe it...

Ako: Ken--

Kenny: Nalasing ka lang, may fafa ka na?!? Anak ng balyena! San ba yang club na
pinuntahan mo!?
Magpapakalasing din ako!

Anthony: Sheena, lasingin rin kaya kita? Baka sagutin mo na ko~

Sheena: Anoh?!? Gusto mo bang mamatay nang maaga ha?!?!

Sadya bang abnormal ang mga kaibigan ko? Magkakapareho silang lahat!

Sa haba-haba ng storya ko, sa pagkalasing ko p:J%6- C]


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to give out
anything with your words nor your expressions. The reporters will either admit d
efeat for now or just
leave you alone altogether.

Venice, on the other hand, looks panicked. She's trying hard not to show she's s
cared, but I can see it in
her eyes.

I can't blame her though. The reporters are extremely rough. They're pushing and
shoving their cameras
and mics right at us. These people.. they don't even care if we get hurt or not.

Who am I kidding?

With news like this, how can they remain calm? It's the scoop of the year!

Venice: Ouch!

One of the cameras scraped her arm. I can see a red gash appearing.

The cameraman didn't even apologize or even flinch.

This indifference... It made me nervous.

I'm sure they'll trample us if we don't get out of here.

But everywhere I turn, there's a camera flashing or a mic being shoved in my fac

I stepped even further back to avoid getting hit.

Venice is obviously trying to find a way out too.

Then.. all of a sudden, I saw someone grab her hand. The person pulled her to hi
m and immediately
wrapped a protective arm around her.

I froze in my spot as I watch them -- him.


Seeing the new person appear, the reporters quickly shifted their attention from
me and Venice to the
star couple. Jerwin shoulders their way out of the crazed mob of reporters. All
the while, he didn't take
his arm off Venice.

He's taking all the damage for her...

The security guards finally appeared and fended off the paparazzi. When they got
free from the
obstacle, Jerwin instantly led his fianc out of the building.

I stayed rooted on the ground until they disappeared from my sight.

I felt Dustin take my hand and steered me out of the scene.

He took me to the parking lot back to his car. I sat in the passenger's seat fee
ling dazed as he drove us
out of there.

Dustin: Are you okay?

Me: Dustin..

Dustin: Yea?

Me: Is Jerwin.. happy?

Dustin: What?

He looked at me for a second. I guess he realized I'm completely serious.

We've been friends for years. He should know when I just want a clear-cut answer

Dustin: Yes. He said he's never been happier.

Me: I see.

Dustin: Why are you asking this now?

Me: Back there... He came.

I stared right in front of me as tears started falling from my eyes.

I didn't wipe them away. I couldn't. Things are finally sinking in.

Me: But he didn't even glance at me.

::Chapter 74::

Little Moments


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

I know I should be shocked out of my skeletal system right now.....

pero pag ganito ba naman ang driver mo, tignan ko lang kung may oras ka pang mat
ulala. @_@

We turned into another corner again. I gripped my hands on the seatbelt so tight
na halos mamuti na
ung knuckles ko. I think konting ikot pa nung steering wheel, mag-ooverturn na u
ng truck.

Lasing ba tohng si Jerwin?!? Nag-inuman ba sila dun sa meeting kanina?!?

Ako: May hinahabol ba tayo? May hinahabol ba tayo?!?! OoO

I saw Jerwin c

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bagsak namin.

We went on driving for a few more minutes hanggang sa makarating na kami sa neig
hborhood namin.
Ilang ikot pa and Jerwin parked the truck sa harap ng isang sari-sari store. I l
ooked at him questioningly
as he silently jumped out of the truck.

Mag-pa-Pancit Canton na lang yata kami. O_O

Not that I'm complaining, masarap naman ang Pancit Canton eh. Lalo na ung calama

After a few minutes, he came back with a small plastic bag. He took out his purc
hases. Nanlaki ang mata
ko nung nakita ko ung dala nya. OoO

Ung bulak, carry ko pa...

Pero ung anti-septic, hindi na!

Ako: A-Ano yan?!

Jerwin: Para dyan sa braso mo.

I KNEW IT!!! <'OoO'>

Nilayo ko kagad ung injured arm ko! Mahapdi na nga, lalagyan nya pa ng ganon! Gu
sto nya bang
magwala ako dito?!?

Ako: Ayoko. I refuse!

Jerwin: Anong "I refuse" ka dyan? Baka ma-infect yan pag di natin nilinis.

Ako: Hinde! Hindi yan ma-iinfect! Masipag ang mga white blood cells ko!

He turned off the truck's engine. May balak yata mag-stay dito hangga't hindi ak
o pumapayag sa gusto
nya. He twisted the cap off nung bote ng antiseptic, tapos naglagay sya ng ilang
patak sa bulak. Kung
pwede lang, tinanggal ko na ung braso ko at tinapon palabas para lang hindi nya
mailagay yang magic
potion nya. T^T

Jerwin: Give me your arm.

I gave him my uninjured arm. Nagkapilipit pa ko sa pag-ikot, pero ok lang. Baka

sakaling di nya

Jerwin: Sardines, I'm not blind. -__- Give me your other arm.

Humarap ako sa kanya. I put on my "please have mercy on me" look. Jerwin just ro
lled his eyes. Tama ba
naman un?!? Hindi man lang ba sya naawa sa'kin?!

Jerwin: We don't know kung san naka-store at kung san-san galing ung camera na h
umagip syo. We
better disinfect that scratch as soon as possible.

Ako: But.. But.. Hindi ba kasama sa civil rights ko ang freedom to refuse medica
tion? T^T

Jerwin: *sigh* We can do this all night.

He really looks determined. Reluctantly, pinaubaya ko ung braso ko sa kanya.

Ayoko naman buong gabi dito noh. Hindi nakakatuwa matulog sa sasakyan.

Jerwin: I'll be gentle, I promise.

I just bit my lip. Hinahawakan nya pa lang ung braso ko, ni hindi pa nga lumalap
it ung bulak, nangingiyak
na ko. I know, mukha akong sira. -__-

Jerwin: Here I come... It won't hurt--

Kaboom! As soon as nilagay nya ung bulak dun sa gasgas sa braso ko, my other han
d immediately went
into action!

Ako: IT HURTS!!! You said you'll be gentle?!?!?

Jerwin: Ouch! Ouch! Stop hitting me!

Ako: Sunshine!! ToT Dahan-dahan lang!!! Sunshine!!!

Kahit na binubugbog na sya nung isang kamay ko at nagkaka-epilepsy ung hawak nya
ng braso ko para
lang makataas, he ignored me and applied the treatment. Talagang mabilis pa ung
pagpahid nya kaya
feel na feel ko ang hapdi.

My arm feels like it's burning. After ikalat ni Jerwin ung gamot dun sa buong su
gat, he gently blew on the
wound para mabawasan ung hapdi.

Too late. Naluluha na ko~ T^T I stopped hitting him. Na-drain na yata ang energy
ko. Learned
helplessness. Kahit anong bugbog ko sa kanya, hindi nya binitawan ung braso ko.

After a while, the pain receded and he stopped blowing.

Jerwin: See? It wasn't that bad.

Ako: Sagasaan kaya kita ngayon tapos buhusan ko ng antiseptic ung mga sugat mo.
Tignan ko lang kung
ngingiti-ngiti ka pa dyan. T_T

Jerwin: Oh c'mon.. Pag sinagasaan mo ko, pano ka na lang? Baka maaga kang ma-byu
da... Pano na lang
ang mga anak natin? Mahirap luma4 '{h&~GfAJ6.P.Dm#8o4<25lnI+G (7yn| <k

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pwev"b`kJto where Jerwin was waiting.

He looked at me all weird nung nakita nya ung dala ako. He didn't say anything t

I told him to drive papunta sa dating neighborhood kung san ako nakatira -- ung
malapit sa dating bahay
namin ni mommy (kamusta na kaya ung mga bagong nakatira dun?). Sunod naman sya.
When we got
there, he parked the truck sa tapat nung basketball court. Nilabas ko lahat ng m
ga binili ko and inabot
kay Jerwin ung para sa kanya, which is a red and white na sumbrero.

Jerwin: What's this? Why are we here?

Ako: Basta, suotin mo na lang, okay?

I took out a dark blue bandana from my sari-sari store purchases. I rolled it on
ce, tapos tinali ko sa ulo
ko. Tada! Headband bandana!

Jerwin: What are we doing? Are we kidnapping somebody?

He threw the cap on his head. Ehtong si kuya, puro tanong, pero sunod naman nang
sunod. I handed
him the 3D glasses, which he reluctantly took.

Ako: Di ba gusto mong kumain sa labas?

Jerwin: Uh...?

Ako: Papakainin kita sa labas! Ngayon, unless gusto mong madumog ng mga tao, suo
tin mo na yang mga
binibigay ko syo, ok?

Jerwin: I feel like we're out to mug someone... -___-

Ako: No. We are out on a mission. Like ninjas.

Jerwin: Ninjas?

Ako: Maki-ride ka na lang.

Sinuot nya ung 3D glasses nya. Natatakpan nung sumbrero nya ung mukha nya, and w
ith the glasses,
you can barely recognize him. Unless may lumapit sa kanya at tumitig ng bonggang
-bongga, hindi na sya

Tinignan ko ung sarili ko sa salamin. I look gangstah~ nyahahaha

With the glasses, I look like a dork -- kaya hindi ko na lang sinuot. I don't th
ink people will mind me
anyway. If they recognize me, I doubt na pagkakaguluhan nila ako.

Bumaba na kami ni Jerwin. He keeps on adjusting the fake glasses and pulling dow
n his cap. He looks
nervous. I can't blame him though. Never in his life siguro sya lumabas ng ganit
o para lang tumambay.
Actually, never in his life siguro sya tumapak sa mga ganitong eskinita kung san
nagkalat ang mga
pawisin at mga hindi pa naliligo na mga tao.

He keeps on looking around habang naglalakad kami. Parang syang batang first tim
e sa zoo.

Pasilip-silip dun sa mga half-naked na naglalaro ng basketball...

Tumitingin-tingin sa mga batang kalye na naghahabulan kahit lumulubog na ang ara


Napapatitig sa mga askal na palaboy-laboy...

Pinanood ang mga tatay na gabi-gabi na lang kung mag-inuman dun sa may tindahan.

Ang hirap maging sheltered na mayaman. Ignorante.

Jerwin: Uh.. so.. may restaurant dito?

Ako: Restaurant? Mukha bang may restaurant dito?

Jerwin: No.

Ako: Oh, alam mo naman pala eh.

Napatingin sya sa'kin.

Jerwin: Where are we going then?

Ako: Bibinyagan ka.

Jerwin: Huh?

I pulled him to walk faster. Nandun pa sa kabilang dulo ng kalye ang destination
namin. Naaaliw naman
ako dahil nagpapahila si kuya kahit na panay ang tingin nya sa paligid. Explorer
mode yata sya ngayon.

After ilang minuto, nakita ko na ung lugar. Hinila ko lalo sya para magmadali.

Ako: Tada! Here we are! Street food heaven!

Lalong natulala si Jerwin. He looked from one push-cart to another.

Street food heaven talaga tohng lugar na toh lalo na pag ganitong oras. Halos la
hat ng street food na
pangarap ko, naglalabasan pag ganitong oras at nag-ggather sila dito.

Oh di vah~ Heaven~

Jerwin: We're eating here?

Ako: Yep.

Jerwin: Mabubusog ba tayo nyan?

Ako: Bahala na! Basta, kumain na tayo!

Hinila ko sya papunta dun sa push-cart ni Manong Fishball.

Ako: Kuya! Sampung piso nga poh!

Binigyan kami ni manong ng dalawang stick. Jerwin glanced at me in confusion. Na

gtataka siguro kung
bakit stick lang ang binigay sa'min.

Ako: Sige na, Sunshine, tumusok ka na.

Jerwin: Tumusok?

Pinakita ko sa kanya ung ibig kong sabihin. May kawali sa harap ni manong tinder
o.. Dun sa kawali, may
nilulutong fishball at squidball. Bahala ka na tumusok ng gusto mo.

Tumusok ako ng tatlo.

Ako: See? Ganito lang.

Jerwin nodded. SinubW  g hb 5lpTE

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ote ng Coke o
Royal -- and yes, nilalagay nila sa maliit na clear plastic bag kaya siguraduhin
mong walang butas ung

Ang huling stop namin eh ung isaw stand. Sa totoo lang, ang pinunta ko lang dun
eh ung barbecue.

Jerwin: What are those?

Ako: Isaw. Intestines ng baboy.

Jerwin: Masarap?

Ako: Errr.. di ko alam. Totoo lang, di ko kaya kainin.

Jerwin: Oh.... I'll take one then.

Ako: Eh?!?

Jerwin: What?

Kinarir na talaga ni kuya ang pagka-explorer nya! O_O Feel na feel ang pag-disco
ver ng new things. Wala
na kong nagawa nung inabutan sya ni manong ng isang stick ng isaw. Talagang napa
titig na lang ako...

Jerwin: Hey, it's good!

At nasarapan pa...

Jerwin: Sardines, you should try this!

Ako: Eh, di na. Masaya na ko sa barbecue ko.

Jerwin: But it's really good.

Ako: Oo na.. I believe you.

Nung naglalakad kami pabalik sa truck para umuwi, tatlong stick na ng isaw ang h
awak ni Jerwin. Iba ang
powers ni kuya. Nagustuhan talaga ung isaw.

When we reached the truck, napansin kong panay pa rin ang tingin ni Jerwin dun s
a mga nagbabasketball.

Ako: You know.. We're not really in a hurry. Do you want to watch first?

Jerwin: Really?!?!?

Ako: Uh.. yea.

Hindi naman masyadong obvious na tuwang-tuwa sya, noh?

Pumasok kami dun sa basketball court. Connected ung court na un sa public elemen
tary school sa tabi
nya kaya madalas, dito naglalaro ung mga tambay. Wala mang bubong, may ilaw, upu
an, at fence
naman. hahaha Malinis-linis pa.

Swerte lang namin dahil walang masyadong tao ngayon gabi. Mahirap na.. Baka bigl
ang may mapatitig
kay Jerwin at ma-realize kung sino sya. Pano na lang ang buhay namen if ever.

Jerwin: Who's the referee?

Ako: Referee? Anong referee?

Jerwin: Well.. aren't they playing a game?

Ako: Sunshine, katuwaan lang yang larong yan. Kung may foul eh di foul.. pero us
ually, defense at
offense lang ang ginagawa nila. Wala nang free throw-free throw.

Jerwin: I see...

Tahimik ulit syang nanood habang kinakain ung mga isaw nya. Ilang minuto lang ya
ta ang tinagal nung
isaw. Tapos ung Royal naman, isang higop lang. Pero wala namang reklamo si kuya.
Busy sa panonood
nya nung basketball.

I'm not really a sportsfan. Mas gusto ko pang panoorin ung mga reaksyon ni Jerwi
n. nyahahaha
Pinapanood nya talaga ung laro.. Pag nagkakalokohan ung mga players, napapangiti
rin sya.. Si kuya..
Sabik yata sa mga ganyang mala-bastos at nakakalokong kulitan.

Jerwin: Oh, he's leaving.

Napatingin ako dun sa tinitignan nya. May isang player nga na aalis na -- pinata
wag na yata ng nanay.
Yan, one player short na tuloy ung isang team. Siguro mag-uuwian na rin sila---

"Uy, bro! Kanina ka pa dyan! Gusto mo maglaro?"


Oh my golay, they're talking to Jerwin!

Pagkaalis nung isang player, lumapit ung isang team sa'min. As soon as Jerwin he
ard the invitation,
napatingin kagad sya sa'kin -- and I swear, nakakita yata ako ng stars sa mata n
ya. O_O

Ako: *sigh* Fine. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Jerwin: I'll be back soon!

Tumayo kagad sya tapos tinanggal ung fake glasses nya. Napalipad ung kamay ko sa
braso nya.

Ako: What are you doing?!?

Jerwin: Relax. I'm keeping my cap on.

Ako: But--

Jerwin: If they find out who I am, we'll run.

Wala na kong nagawa. Kinuha ko ung fake glasses nya and bumalik sa upuan ko. He
ran towards his
"teammates" and I think pinakilala nya pa ang sarili nya as "Jay".

Hay nako.. Kung hindi ka lang sabik sa playmates, hinila na kita pauwi.

They started the game again. In fairness, may hidden talent pala tohng si Sunshi
ne. Parang shooting
machine sa mga two- at three-pointer shots. Lumalabas nanaman ang pagka-competit
ive side.

But most importantly, he looks like he's actually having fun.

Napangiti ako. See? Isn't this a good way to celebrate kesa dun sa high-class na
restaurant na
pupuntahan sana namin?

Halos kalahating oras na sila naglalaro. Gusto ko na ngang magpaka-cheerleader a

t magpaka-"Go
Sunshine! Go Sunshine!" dun sa stands... kaya lang wala akong pom-poms eh.

All of a sudden, someone's arm brushed near Jerwin's face. Nahagip ung sumbrero
nya and nahulog sa
sahig ung sumbrero. I immediately shot up to my feet.


Nakita ko si Jerwin na napatigil sa posisyon nya. Nung na-realize nya ung nangya
ri, he quickly went and
RYthen 3M~
back on
-- but it was too
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Jerwin: But tonight was great. Di ba?

Ako: Yep.

Kung nag-enjoy naman sya, kahit ngayong gabi lang, eh mabuti na rin. Memories of
life~ wiihhh~

Naputol ang pangungulit ko sa sarili ko when Jerwin suddenly reached over to my

side and held my
hand. I looked up at him pero sa kalsada na sya nakatingin. Yet, kahit na hindi
sya nakaharap sa'kin, I can
see satisfaction in his features.

Jerwin: Thank you for tonight, Sardines.

I smiled as I playfully intertwined my fingers with his.

Ehto ang celebration namin for our 2nd monthsary. Cheap man, pero worth it naman
ang every minute.

Ako: You're welcome, Sunshine.

::Chapter 76::



(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Oh you've got to be kidding me.

Natulala ako sa labas ng bintana nung taxi. May halos 15 na cameras and reporter
s ang nagkalat sa
harap ng school gates. I don't think they're here dahil finals na at malapit nan
g maglabasan ang mga new
graduates -- ang future ng ating bansa!

Haayyyyy... Good morning to me. -___-

Ako: Manong, sa tingin nyo, makakalagpas kaya ako nang hindi nila napapasin?

Manong Driver: Ay nako, ma'am, parang imposible. Eh ung ako nga, malayo pa lang,
nakilala ko na kayo,
sila pa kaya?

I knew it... T^T Gyera talaga ang sasabakin bago ako makapasok.

Nag-ayos pa man din ako ng buhok dahil dalawang final exams ang kukunin ko today
! Sabi nga nila,
connected ang ganda mo sa ability mong kumuha ng test. Aba, kung nag-aalala ka k
ung gano na kaya
kagulo ang buhok mo, eh di hindi nakapag-concentrate sa exam, di ba?

Tumingin ulit ako sa labas nung bintana. Buti na lang mabait si Manong Driver, t
inigil na nya ung metro
kahit halos limang minuto na kong nakaupo dito.

Manong Driver: Ay, alam ko na!

Napatingin akong bigla kay manong. May stroke of a genius ba sya!? Sasagasaan ny
a na ung mga
nakakalat na reporters? Papaliparin ung taxi over the gate? Sisigaw ng "DARNA!"
or "Superman" ba

Manong Driver: Hintay lang kayo dyan, ma'am, ha. Wag kayong magpapakita. Kukunin
ko lang ung

Ako: Ahhh~ Sige po, manong! Salamat po!

Pinanood ko syang tumalon palabas nung taxi. Pasimple pa sya sa paglakad-lakad n

ya papunta dun sa
gate nung school. *sniff* Ang bait ni manong. T^T

Kinalkal ko ung bag ko para iwanan ung bayad dun sa front seat -- idagdag na rin
ang malaking tip dahil
santo si manong -- SANTO.

Maya-maya lang, nakita ko nang bumabalik si Manong Driver. Kasama na nya si Mano
ng Guard. Medyo
nakahalata yata ung ibang reporters. Nag-iba bigla ang titig nila dun sa dalawan
g naglalakad.

Tumigil si Manong Guard sa harap ng bintana ko. Binuksan ko ng konti kasi may in
aabot sya sa'kin.
Sumbrero? -__-

Manong Guard: Miss, sorry, mag-isa lang akong naka-duty ngayong umaga eh. Pero s
uotin nyo ho ung
sumbrero para hindi kayo masyadong makunan.

Ako: Uh.. okay.. Salamat po. Pasensya na sa abala.

Sinuot ko nga ung sumbrero, tapos kinuha ko na rin ung bag ko. Before opening th
e door, I took a couple
of deep breaths. Parang feeling ko, criminal ako na lalabas sa kulungan under su
spicious circumstances.
In other words, hindi ako natutuwa sa "feeling" ko.

Ako: Okay, I'm ready.

Kahit hindi pa naman talaga.

I opened the door and stepped out. As soon as tumapak ako sa labas, tumabi kagad
sa'kin si Manong
Guard! Pati si Manong Driver, naki-eksena rin! Buti na lang talaga, malaking tip
ang iniwan ko kay
manong. T^T

Nagtulakan na ung mga reporters nung napansin nila ako. Samu't saring tanong ang
binato sa'kin.
Syempre, mawawala ba naman ang favorE(~e $_ ,( ](Si1r a =n X

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k-S f ]'L Hwnong Driver: Ah, sige po. Salamat po. At good luck sa mga test nyo.

Ako: Thank you po.

Lumabas na ulit si manong para bumalik na sa taxi nya. Ako naman, pag hindi pa t
umayo, talagang mallate na ko sa exam ko. I stood up and tried to smoothe out my uniform. Nung med
yo acceptable na ung
itsura nya, tumingin ako kay Manong Guard.

Ako: Sige po, manong, papasok na po ako. Salamat po sa escort.

Manong Guard: Walang anuman. I-rreport ko na lang sa principal ung nangyari. Bak
a sakaling may
magawa sila para mamayang pag-uwi mo.

Ako: Sige po. Salamat po uhlet.

Umikot na ko para pumunta sa building ko. I tried to ignore the whispers and sta
res, pero the more I
pretend to be oblivious, the more I notice them.

Good morning talaga. -__-


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

I came home late that afternoon feeling irritated. I left the manager's office a
fter a very heated
discussion about the current scandal and Venice. I even saw the footage nung mga
reporters na nagaabang sa labas ng school ni Venice.

They showed a short clip of when she arrived. She was almost trampled on by thos
e reporters. Kung
wala siguro ung guard and the other old guy, baka napisat na sya.

Tapos nung pag-uwi nya naman, may mga pulis na! Pero kahit anong barricade ang g
awin nila, dahil
maliit lang naman ung space, naiipit pa rin si Venice. There was even this one s
hot na close-up nung
mukha ni Venice. She looked really upset and scared.

The manager is right. She's not safe anymore.

More importantly, she won't be able to go back to her old life.

Nope. Not after this scandal.

But still... How can he suggest an escape route like that?

There's gotta be another way to get rid of this problem.... right?

I went inside the house and was surprised to see Venice on the couch -- staring
into space. O_O I
wonder if it's because of what's happening...

Ako: Aren't you supposed to be studying?

Venice: *sigh* Yea.

Ako: And?

Venice: I finished earlier. Now I'm bored.

Ako: Anong ginagawa mo dyan?

Venice: Nagbibilang ng dust particles.

Huh? o_O

Venice: Gusto mong maki-upo? Makibilang ka rin sa'kin. Pero dapat magaling ang m
ata mo kasi palubog
na ang araw. Mahirap na silang makita.

This is one of the most absurd ideas I've ever heard. Pero ehwan ko ba naman sa
sarili ko, nakinig naman
ako at umupo nga sa tabi nya.

I squinted my eyes at the ray of sun na pumapasok through the glass door.

Yep, ahyun ung mga alikabok....

Am I supposed to count all of them?

Venice: Sunshine.

Ako: Hm?

Venice: There was a bunch of reporters outside school today. I think they stayed
there for hours just
waiting for me.

Ako: That's what they do.

Venice: But... I don't understand. I'm not a celebrity.

Napatigil ako bigla sa pagbibilang ko, and turned to face her. She looks frustra
ted. I'm used to the
constant stalking, but I forgot na iba nga pala si Venice. She doesn't want her
life to be broadcasted for
the entire nation to see.

Ako: I know it's hard right now, but I promise, it'll get better soon.

Venice: Really?

Truth is, I don't really know. Gano katagal magiging curious ang mga tao?

Gano katagal bago mawala ang interest ng media?

This issue hasn't even reached its peak yet.

Ako: I'll take care of you. Believe me.

She finally flashed a quick smile. She nodded as if assuring herself na totoo la
hat ng sinasabi ko.

Venice: I believe you.

I smiled. I don't think I managed to cheer her up that much.

Then I remembered something. Since tapos na naman syang mag-aral... at wala nama
n syang mapapala
kung magbibilang sya ng mga dust particles nya..

Mas mabuti na kung isama ko sya.

Ako: Hey, you know, I finished the new CD the other day.

Venice: Oh?

Ako: Yea, I'm actually going to the studio later to listen to the final product.
Gusto mong sumama?

Venice: Really?!? Kahit hindi pa sya na-rrelease!?!?

Ako: Of course. It's only right na ang fiance ko ang unang makarinig, di ba?

::Chapter 77::

So Long So Long


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

"Will you stop crying already?!?"

"I'm not crying!"

Pero sa totoo lang, talaga namang maluluha na ko dito.

Nakakahiya na nga kaseh pinagtitinginan kami nung mga taong nakakasalubong namin

We just finished listeninig to Jerwin's final track list. Nakaka-touch ung mga k
anta. Sabi nya, unlike the
previous album, most of the songs daw sa new album na toh, sya mismo ang sumulat
. Kaya talagang
dugo nya ang tumagaktak para lang ma-release ung album na un.

Lahat nung songs maganda. May sweet and mellow. May R&B-ish na feel. May headban
ging rock.
Meron din alternative. Kumpleto sa rekados kaya na-enjoy ko talaga.

Pero ang pinaka-favorite kong kanta from the album is ung track #2.

Ironically, ahyun ung kaisa-isang song sa album na revival lang.

Never Gonna Be Alone.

So, bakit ko sya naging favorite?

Kasi sabi ni Sunshine, nilagay nya raw ung kantang un dun

especially for me.

Wahsuuuusshhhhh... San ka pa?!?

May song na dedicated for me sa album nya~ wahahahaha

Ang haba ng hair ko~

Pero, don't get me wrong, hindi un ang dahilan kung bakit ako umiiyak.

Kasi naman. After naming makinig sa album, syempre, lalabas na kami nung studio.

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::Chapter 78::

Tik Tok


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

The next day, para maiwasan raw ang pagdumog sa'kin, Jerwin insisted na ihatid a
ko for school.

Little did I know na may usapan na pala sila nung principal. Instead of stopping
in front of the gates,
dumiretso sya sa pag-ddrive. Akala ko nga sasagasaan nya ung mga reporters na na
katambay dun sa
may gate, pero di naman pala. Pinapasok nung guard ung sasakyan ni Jerwin hangga
ng sa loob.

Na-amaze ako. Planado na pala lahat ni kuya.

Jerwin: I'll pick you up later, okay?

Ako: Wag na. May pupuntahan pa kami nina Sheena.

Jerwin: But, Venice--

I turned to glare at him. Sa totoo lang, di pa rin kami nagbabati from the event
last night with Geena.
Parang Cold War sa bahay dahil todo iwas ako kay Jerwin. Ni hindi ko nga rin ala
m kung bahket, pero
parang nakakahiya naman kung bigla-bigla na lang akong mag-give in pagkatapos ng
effort kong
magpaka-maldita sa kanya.

Jerwin: *sigh* Okay. Just be careful. Call me if you need me.

I jumped out of the truck. I watched him slowly back out para lumabas na uhlet.
Haaayyy.. Anoh ba
naman tohng ginagawa ko? Kawawa naman si Sunshine... Inaaway ko nang walang dahi
lan.... -___- I
wonder kung mood swings toh.. Time of the month na ba?


I turned around and saw the Three Stooges approaching me. Di ko mapigilan ngumit
i. Holding hands
while walking sina Anton at si Sheena oh~ Anoh yaaannn~ wahahahaha

Kenny: Shosyal ang mga paparazzi sa labas! Pang-Britney Spears ang taray!

Ako: Anong taray ka dyan?!? Pinapasakit nila ang ulo ko!

We started walking papunta sa library. May study session kami today para sa mga
huling exams namin.
Mapasok man lang namin ang library kahit ngayon lang na last day na ng klase.

All the while na naglalakad kami, I couldn't help but notice na dumadami lalo an
g mga nagbubulungan at
mga tumititig nang masama. Kung hindi lang ako reformed person, dinukot ko na un
g mga mata nila!

Kenny: Hay nako. Kagatin na sana ng langgam ung dalawa sa likod naten.

Sumilip ako dun sa "dalawa sa likod namin", and true enough, kagatin na nga sana
sila ng mga langgam.
Nakaakbay si Anthony kay Sheena. Ang mga ngiti pa nung dalawa habang nag-uusap!
Ay my golay! Kelan
pa naging ganito ka-corny ang best friend ko!?!?

Ako: Langya! Anoh ba yan?!? Kayo na ba?!?

Biglang tumutok ung ngiti nung dalawa sa'kin -- and I swear, kabulag!

Isa lang ang ibig sabihin nito!

Kenny: Ay malandi! Kayo na!?!? Kelan pa?!?!

Sheena: Kagabi lang.

Ako: Ay! Ay! Ay! Hindi nga!?!? Hindi nga?!?

Buti na lang at wala pa kami sa library dahil, sa lakas ng tilian naming tatlo,
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Parang kang muchacha!

Kenny: Ay! Lumapit ka nga dito at nang makilala ng panget mong mukha ang madumin
g sahig!

Biglang nakawala si Kenny sa hawak ko, at talagang sinugod nya ung kabayo!


Before I realized what was happening, hinagip na kagad ni Kenny ung buhok nung k
abayo at hinila nya
palikod to the the highest power! Napaupo talaga ung babae sa sahig!

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Jerwin: You have to leave.

. . .

Ako: What?

Jerwin: My parents talked to your mom already. We'll cover your airfare. You jus
t need to buy the

I must have heard him wrong, right?

It was just a few days ago when he said he loves me...

He can't just suddenly decide to make me leave, right?

. . .

Why is he making me leave?

This must be a cruel joke.

Tumingin ako sa kanya and realized na may kung anoh pa pala syang sinasabi.

I can only pick out bits and pieces of whatever he's saying. Hindi kinaya ng bra
in ko ang shock nung
sinabi nya.

Why is he still blabbering?!?

I threw the pillow at him. It hit him straight in the face.

That shut him up.

Ako: Stop messing with me. It's not funny.

Jerwin: I'm not messing with you, Venice.

Ako: You want me to go to the US?!?

Jerwin: . . . There's nowhere else you can go.

Talagang seryoso sya!

Ako: So things aren't working for us right now, why do I have leave!?!

I struggled to find some arguments, pero hindi ko talaga ma-gets kung bakit kail
angan ko umalis... kung
bakit nya sinasabing umalis ako.

Ako: Why do I... have to leave?!? Things will get better soon!

Jerwin: Venice, it's for your own good. Ung nangyari kanina... things like that
will happen again and
again everywhere you go as long people recognize you. You don't want that. Hell,
I don't want that!

I stood up and stalked to where he's standing. Nilapit ko ung mukha ko sa kanya
para wala syang choice
kung hindi tignan ako sa mata.

Ako: Look at me and tell me you don't want me here. Look at me and tell me you w
ant me to leave.

He clenched his jaw. I feel my chest tightening as his eyes met mine.

Medyo umasa pa ko na sasabihin nyang he's just joking... or na he takes it all b

ack... that he wants me...

Jerwin: I'm sorry, Venice.. You have to go.

It feels like something grabbed my heart and squeezed it hard -- really hard.

I took a step back keeping my eyes on his face. I can feel my blood starting to
boil. Is this what betrayal
feels like?

Ako: Fine.

Jerwin: Just call my mom pag nakahanap ka na ng plane tickets. They'll buy it fo
r you.

I stared at him in disbelief. So it's been planned out? He's just gonna push me
away? Lalong tumataas
ang attitude meter ko, na nung nagsalita ako, I couldn't help the sarcasm that s
eeped through.

Ako: Is it that easy to let me go? Is it because I'm being a huge burden to you

Jerwin: Venice, it's not like that---

Ako: Okay. I understand. If that's what you want, sige. Pupunta ako sa States.

He kept his silence. I can feel tears burning my eyes already.

I feel extremely pissed off, betrayed, frustrated, desperate....

Ako: Just so you know... I don't do long distance relationships.

Jerwin: . . . Me neither.

There goes the heart squeezing again. The tears finally decided to fall.

Ehwan ko ba naman. Tears always fall at the most inconvenient times.

Ako: Are you serious?!?! You do understand what will happen to us when I leave,
right?!? There won't
even be an "us" anymore!

Jerwin: We'll break up. I know. But isn't this what we originally planned?

I took another step back. Of course.... totoo naman eh.. Ahyun naman talaga ung
original plan namin..
We'll agree to the engagement, then eventually break up. I should have expected
that this is going to
happen sooner or later, right?

So... why does it feel like this?

I gently wiped my tears away, para man lang maka-save ng kahit konting dignity.

But they're stubborn. They just kept falling anyway.

Jerwin: It's late. Go to sleep, Venice.

He turned around to leave. That's it. Just like that and the conversation is ove

The anger somehow disappeared nung na-realize ko na if I mess up tonight, this h

our, this minute, it'll
really be over.

Ako: Jerwin... What am I going to do?

He paused, but he didn't face me. Maybe that's better. He won't see me make a fo
ol of myself.

Ako: I love you.

He whirled around to look at me, but my sight is so blurry from the tears that I
couldn't see his
expression. Lalo pa nung lumabas na ung three little words na un. I just realize
d how true they are, and
it hurts na sa ganitong situation pa sila lumabas. Maybe he doesn't even care an

Jerwin: W-What?

Ako: I love you. *sniff* If it hurts this much, then I think I love you.

It felt like forever before Jerwin finally stepped closer to me.

I furiously wiped my tears away. Ayoko syang tignan. I think I'm afraid of how h
e's gonna react to what I
said. San ka pa ba nakakita ng tinaboy na nga't lahat, mag-ii love you pa?

Epitome ng ka-martyran.

Jerwin: You idiot.

He slowly wrapped his arms around me. In contrast to the meaning of his whispere
d words, he's trying
to provide me comfort now.

Jerwin: Sa dinami-dami ng panahon na mong pagsabihan nyan, why do you have to sa

y it now? . . . Do
you have any idea how hard it was for me to tell you to go?

Ako: Then stop telling me to leave. I want to stay.

Jerwin: Venice. I have to push you to leave.

Ako: Why?!?!

Jerwin: . . . Because I love you too.

He tenderly tilted my face up. Before I could grasp what he was doing, his lips
gently crushed onto mine.
The kiss was somehow familiar yet different.

It was unhurried.. soft.. sweet..

His lips are firm and soft -- if that even makes any sense.

I can almost feel all his affection in this kiss.

I don't want to let go.

I wrapped my arms around his neck as I respond to his bold approach.

I want to savor this moment.

This could either be our last first kiss...

or our first and last kiss.

::Chapter 81::

Ticket To Ride


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

"He said WHAT?!?! You're going WHERE!??!"

I flashed an apologetic smile sa mga tao sa paligid namin. At the same time, I c
lamped a firm hand over
Sheena's mouth. Skandalosa talaga. -___-

We just finished our graduation practice. Dahil gutom na kami, we decided na kum
ain sa KFC. It's weird.
Ngayon lang yata ako lumabas na natakluban ng sumbrero ang mukha ko buong oras n
a naglalakad kami
sa labas. Pero mas mabuti na un kesa naman madumog nanaman.

Anyway, habang nakain kami ng lunch, I finally told them ang main event sa near
future ko. As expected,
hindi sila naaliw.

Ako: Hush, Sheena. Anu ka ba?

Kenny: Eh bahket?!? Bahket?! Bahket ka aalis?!?

Tinanggal ko ung kamay ko sa mukha ni Sheena to let her breathe. She continued t
o glare at me.

Ako: Like I said, gusto nila akong ilayo sa gulo. Besides, ganito naman talaga a
ng original plan ni mother.
As soon as maka-graduate ako, susunod na ko sa kanya sa States. I guess ngayon,
nagkataon lang na si
Jerwin mismo ang nagpapadala sa'kin.

Sheena: Eh bahket ka nga nya pinapadala?!? Anoh ba yan?! LDR?!

Parang may tumusok sa puso ko nung sinabi nya un. I lowered my head, pasimpleng
iwas sa mga
inquisitive stares nila.

Ako: No. We both agreed na hindi kami bagay sa ganyang long distance chuchu na y

Sheena: *gasp* You mean.... Pag umalis ka, mag-bbreak kayo?!? O_O

I nodded.

Kenny: Ay kung hindi naman pala kayo dalawa't kalahating tanga!

Ako: Gee. Thanks. -___-

Kenny: Alam mo, Venice, kung hindi lang kita friend, sinabunutan na kita. Ngayon
pa kayo mag-bbreak?!

Ako: I don't wanna deal with another long distance relationship. Based from expe
rience, mahirap noh.
Lalo na pag hindi ko alam kung anong nangyayari sa kanya.

Sheena: Anoh ba! Iba naman ang sitwasyon nyo ni Jerwin sa sitwasyon nyo ni Gerar
d dati!

Sheena suddenly clamped a hand over her own mouth. Nadulas yata. Ehwan ko ba nam
an sa kanila kung
bakit hanggang ngayon, feeling nila taboo ang name ni Gerard sa'kin.

Ako: It's okay. I'm not gonna bawl my eyes out dahil lang binanggit mo ung name
nya noh.

Nagkatinginan silang tatlo. Naaliw talaga ako pag ganyang naiilang sila. Ang out
of character!

Ako: Relax nga lang kayo. Hindi ko naman sinabi na forever na ko sa States. I'll
come back someday.

Sheena: Kailan?

Ako: I don't know. Months? Years from now?

Kenny: Ah basta! Naiinis pa rin ako! Pano na lang ang ambisyon kong magpaka-brid
e's maid sa kasal nyo
ni Fafa J kung aalis ka?!?

Ako: Magpaka-bride's maid ka sa kasal nina Sheena.

Kenny: Chuchu. Walang mga fafable na artista sa kasal nyan!

Sheena: Anak ng tipaklong! Bakit kasal ko na kagad ang pinag-uusapan naten?! Ni

hindi pa nga nagppropose si Anton!

Anthony: Gusto mo mag-propose na ko ngayon?

Sheena: Che! Wag kang maingay, walang kumakausap syo.

Hindi ko pa rin talaga ma-gets ang relasyon ng dalawang toh. Daig pa nila ang ma
g-asawang 50 years
nang kasal kung magbarahan eh. Pero sige lang. Basta masaya silang dalawa. Mukha
naman masaya
silang dalawa.

Kenny: Ay ay ay.. Alam ko na, vakla!

Ako: Ang alin?

Kenny: Para makabawi ka! Pagdating mo dun, ihanap mo kagad ako ng fafa ha~ Gusto
ko ung blond at
may blue eyes.

Sheena: Ay gusto ko yan!

Anthony: Sheena!

At balik nanaman sa dati ang mga utak nila. Inubos ko na ung kinakain ko habang
nag-dedebate sina
Anton at si Sheena kung bakit mas hamak na gwapo raw sya kesa sa blue eyes. Syem
pre, si Kenny ang
referee, always -- kahit na parang ang lumalabas eh Anthony vs. Sheena & Kenny.

I smiled. I'll miss this.

Napatingin ako sa relo ko. Ang bilis naman ng oras. Haayyy. Tumingin ulit ako du
n sa tatlo. Finally, tinaas
ko na ung kamay ko para tumigil sila sa kakadakdak nila.

Ako: I gotta go.

Sheena: Already?

Ako: Yep. May usapan pa kami ng mommy ni Jerwin eh.

Anthony: Oh sige. Teka, itatawag na kita ng taxi.

I watched as Anthony walked out of the restaurant. Napatingin ulit ako kay Sheen
a and Kenny.
Nanahimik na sila tungkol sa blue eyes, sa wakas. Ehwan ko ba naman. Anoh bang m
eron sa blue eyes?

Maya-maya, bumalik na si Anton. I hugged the three of them bago ako lumakad pala
bas. Nung pumasok
ako sa taxi, naramdaman ko nanamang nag-plummet ang mood ko. I'm going to meet w
ith Jerwin's
mom para bumili ng plane ticket. I wonder... gano katagal pa kaya ako dito?

I went home that night feeling worse than I did in the afternoon. Nag-usap na pa
la si tita at si mom.
Gusto nilang hanapin ung ticket na makakalipad ako as soon as possible. Sino ba
naman ako para
kumontra? -__- Nakaka-depressed lang isipin kung gano ka-"soon" ung flight ko.

Dahan-dahan kong sinarado ung main door. I looked around and noticed na tahimik
ang buong bahay.
That's weird. Nasa driveway ung truck, so that means nandito si Jerwin.

Ako: Sunshine?

Sumilip ako sa kusina, sa living room, sa dining room... wala. I went upstairs a
nd sumilip sa kwarto nya.
Wala rin. Nakinig ako sa banyo, walang tao sa loob. o_O Nakulong kaya sya dun sa
closet sa baba? I was
about to go back downstairs para i-check kung na-lock na rin ung sarili nya sa a
king sardines closet, nang
may narinig ako ingay sa kwarto ko.

Curious, I went to check it out.

Ako: What are you doing?

Nakita ko si Jerwin na may hinihilang maleta from my closet towards the door. He
almost jumped nung
narinig nya ung boses ko.

Jerwin: Oh Sardines. Hello.

I looked at the luggage bag questioningly. Anoh yan? Pinag-impake nya na ko? Di
makapaghintay na
palayasin ako?

Ako: Uh. Gamit ko ba yan?

Jerwin: Hmm... Yep.

I took a deep breath. Alam kong pinag-usapan na namin toh at lahat, pero I still
can't help but feel bitter.
Pinag-impake nya pa ko. Parang atat na atat na syang paalisin ako noh? I chose t
o ignore the issue
muna. Mahirap na. Dahil masama ang araw ko, very prone ang attitude meter kong t
umaas. Ayoko
mang-away. Ayoko mang-away. -__-

Ako: I met up with your mom kanina. I got the plane ticket.

Jerwin: I see.

Ako: The flight's on--

Jerwin: Venice.

Napatingin ako sa kanya nung tinawag nya ung pangalan ko with a hint of warning
in his voice. Iniwan
nya ung hinihila nyang maleta and plopped himself on my bed. He stared at the fl
oor while I waited for
him to speak. Ang awkward ng atmosphere.

Jerwin: You know... I agreed that you have to leave, but that doesn't mean I wan
t you to. Just... Don't
tell me when you're leaving.

Ako: Why not?

Jerwin: If you do, I'm afraid I won't be able to let you go.

I rolled my eyes. Bumalik ung sinabi ni Kenny kanina tungkol sa'min ni Jerwin. K
inarir na talaga naming
dalawa ang pagka-stupid.

I walked over to the bed and sat down next to him. Cautiously, pinatong ko ung u
lo ko sa balikat nya.

Ako: Hindi ko na sasagutin yang sinabi mo, since alam ko na ang isasagot mo. Oka
y. I'll keep the date to

He nodded. I felt his hand gently stroking my hair. I don't know how long we sta
yed like that, just
enjoying each other's presence kahit na hindi kami nag-uusap. It was comfortable

Jerwin: You should take a shower.

Ako: Huh?

He finally pulled away and looked at me. He has a small smile on his lips. Ung n
giti na, after seeing it so
many times, na-realize kong sinusuot nya lang pag may kung anong mischief sa uta
k nya.

Jerwin: Go take a shower. Ilalagay ko ung maleta sa truck, then wait for your do

Ako: Bakit mo ilalagay sa truck ung maleta?

Jerwin: We're going on a roadtrip, mahal.

He leaned in and landed a light kiss on the tip of my nose. Bago ako maka-recove
r, he already stood up
and grabbed the luggage bag na iniwan nya sa sahig. He walked out of my room whi

Then, nag-sink in na ung sinabi nya sa'kin.

Ako: Roadtrip?? Anong roadtrip??

Tumakbo ako sa pinto ko, sabay pahabol na sigaw sa'kanya.

Ako: At sinong may sabing tawagin mo kong "mahal"?!?

I heard him laugh habang bumababa sya sa hagdan.

Jerwin: Just go shower. Mahal.

I narrowed my eyes at the direction he disappeared to. Ka-cornihan.

I smiled to myself and bounced papunta sa closet ko. I gaped at the sight of my
once-organized closet.
Tama bang halungkatin ang mga damit ko tapos hindi man lang inayos pabalik? +_+


I grabbed a pair of black sweatpants, a red tee, and my underwear. I bounced pap
unta sa bathroom to
take a shower.

Roadtrip daw. I wonder where we're going.

::Chapter 82::

The Promise


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Ako: Oohhh follow that car next!

Jerwin: Which one?

Ako: Ung red! Ung reeeedddd!!!! Err.. nevermind. -__-

Pinanood ko ung red car na mag-bye-bye sa dinaanan naming exit. Oh well. Next vi
ctim na lang.

For hours now, nagpapaikot-ikot kami ni Jerwin sa kung saan-saang kalsada. Appar
ently, magaling
magplano si Jerwin. Magyayaya mag-roadtrip, wala palang destination. Kaya ang ki
natapusan, namili na
lang kami ng mga kotse sa kalsada at sumunod sa mga chosen cars hanggang sa maka
hanap ng susunod
na susundan. I know. Ang galing namen.

Sumandal ako sa upuan ko. Malapit nang lumubog ang araw, wala pa rin kaming nara
rating. Enjoy nga
ang pag-ddrive, pero hindi naman kami pwedeng matulog sa kalsada noh. At isa pa,
nagugutom na ko. __-

Ako: Sunshine, nasan na tayo?

Jerwin: Honestly, I have no idea.

Ako: Makakauwi pa ba tayo?

Jerwin: Gusto mo nang umuwi?

Ako: Nagugutom na ko. -.- Feeedddd meeeee!!!

Jerwin: Maybe we'll turn sa susunod na exit.

It didn't take that long. Maya-maya lang, may kung anong exit nang sumulpot. Tul
ad ng plano, lumiko
nga kami. Tumingin kagad ako sa paligid. Uh... I wonder if this is a good idea.
Lumiliit na ung kalsada.
Dumadami ang mga puno. Walang buildings kundi maliliit na bahay.

Anong probinsya ba itoh?

Ako: Where are we going?

Jerwin: We can look for a restaurant somewhere.


Tumingin ulit ako sa paligid. Anong restaurant naman kaya ang makikita namen dit
o? Eh puro bahay,
sari-sari store, gasolinahan, at maliit vulcanizing shop ang nakikita ko.

Oh hey, ahyun, kainan!

Ako: Sunshine, dun oh. Mag-park ka dito sa side.

Jerwin: Why?

Ako: Dahel gusto ko nang kumain!

Siguro natakot sya na baka sya na ang kagatin ko, or maybe trip nya lang maging
mabait sa'kin ngayon.
Either way, nag-park nga sya sa tabi nung kalsada, kung san may isa pang kotse n
a naka-park. After
nyang patayin ung makina, hinalungkat ko ung compartment nya. Nakita ko ung sumb
rero nya and
tossed it to him.

Ako: Here. Wear this and let's go.

Jerwin: May isaw ba dito?

Ako: Ngayon ka pa naghanap ng isaw?

Jerwin: Wala dito?

Ako: Haayyy.. We'll go see.

Bumaba kami nung sasakyan. Jerwin took my hand as I led him dun sa maliit na tur
o-turo. I can smell the
sinigang~ Haayyy heaven. T^T

Nginitian ko ung manang na nasa likod nung hilera ng mga tinda nya. Tinignan nam
in ni Jerwin ung mga
ulam. Mukhang mainit pa.

Ako: Manang, isang order nga poh ng sinigang at kanin. Tsaka isang bote ng tubig
. (tumingin kay Jerwin)
Anong gusto mo, Sunshine?

Jerwin: Uh.. Ung beef steak poh.. tsaka kanin. At paki-dalawa na poh nung bote n
g tubig.

After bayaran ni Jerwin ung pagkain namin, umupo kami dun sa isang sulok nung ma
liit na kainan -- ung
pinakamalapit sa electric fan dahil napansin kong medyo pinagpapawisan na ung ka
sama ko. Ang hirap
ng walang aircon noh?

Jerwin: Wow. This is all really cheap.

Ako: The wonders ng turo-turo.

Jerwin: Alam mo, Sardines, I think you're the cheapest girlfriend I've ever had.

Ako: Nice to know.

We ate in silence. Dahil pag gutom, galit-galit muna. It's not until ubos na ang
bawat butil ng kanin sa
mga plato namin nang tumayo kami para bumalik na sa aming roadtrip.

Ako: So.. san tayo?

Jerwin pulled out of the roadside pabalik sa pagddrive sa kalsada.

Jerwin: I'm thinking.... just follow this road right here...?

Ako: As long as makakauwi tayo eh, why not? I still have a graduation to attend
to, you know?

Jerwin: Yeah, yeah. Nasa compartment ung GPS. We'll manage.

We drove around for at least an hour more, singing with the radio or teasing eac
h other or wondering
where in the world we are. Madilim na. We have to look for a place to spend the
night. I'm sure hindi
papayag si Jerwin na matulog sa truck.. Takot nya lang mapapak ng lamok.

Kumokonti na ang mga bahay sa paligid namin. Feeling ko lang, walang hotel dito.
Ngayon lang nag-ssink
in: hindi pala masyadong matalino na hindi kame nag-plano noh?

Jerwin: Kunin mo ung GPS. Search mo kung saan may malapit na lodgings.

Sinunod ko naman ung instructions nya. May dalawang lumabas sa search na malapit
sa iniikutan namin
ngayon. I looked at the map -- and napataas ang kilay ko.

Ako: Alam mo bang malapit na tayo sa beach?

Jerwin: Beach?

Ako: Uh-huh. Tignan mo.

Hinarap ko sa kanya ung GPS, and yep, ung map na may malaking tubig sa side ng l
upa. Ibig sabihin, may
beach, di vah?

Binalik sa'kin ni Jerwin ung GPS as he returned his eyes back on the road.

Jerwin: May malapit ba na pwedeng tulugan dyan sa beach na yan?

Ako: Yeah. You wanna go?

Jerwin: Let's hope na may spare room sila.

I think, kinarir na namin ni Jerwin ang pagka-swerte ng gabing toh. Una, hindi k
ami napadpad sa middle
of nowhere kahit na sumunod-sunod lang kami sa mga sasakyan. Pangalawa, walang n
akakilala sa'min
habang nagliliwaliw kami. Pangatlo, nakahanap kami ng matutulugan.

Nakuha namin ung pinakahuling spare room na meron ung hotel -- swerte talaga. Ma
liit lang ung motel,
simple, and affordable. Ung kwarto na nakuha namin -- as if naman may choice pa
kami -- eh parang
panandalian lang talaga. May maliit na ref sa sulok, may lamesa at upuan, may mg
a drawers na lalagyan
ng damit, may queen-sized bed, at maliit na banyo. Malinis naman, at may aircon,
so hindi ko kailangan
mag-alala na baka paggising ko bukas, tunaw na si Jerwin.

Jerwin: This isn't too bad.

Binaba nya ang kaisa-isang maletang bitbit namin sa tabi nung mga drawer. Sinara
do ko ung pinto while
he inspected the little room.

Ako: Yeah.. Pang-overnight talaga.

Jerwin: And we're close to the beach. They should renovate this place. Mas kikit
a sila from tourists.

Ako: Bakit sa'kin mo sinasabi?

Jerwin: I'm just saying.

He plopped himself on the bed.

Jerwin: Mauna ka na sa shower. Ipapahinga ko muna mga mata ko.

Ako: You brought clothes?

Jerwin: Of course. Ano sa tingin mo laman ng maleta na yan? Bato?

Ako: Ha. Ha. -__-

Jerwin lazily watched me from the bed. Si kuya, napagod kaka-drive. Binuksan ko
ung maleta and nakita
na pinagsama nya pala dun sa maliit na space na un ung mga damit namin. Sa bagay
, hindi nga naman
ganon kadami ang kailangan namen. Parang two-days worth ng damit ang dinala nya.

Hinalungkat ko ung mga gamit. Kumpleto. May toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, sab
on, suklay... at...
dark red na boxers. Dark red SILK na boxers. Before I knew it, I was fingering t
he material. Nung na-

realize ko ang ginagawa ko (at naisip ko kung saang parte ng katawan ni Jerwin s
inusuot ang boxers), I
quickly withdrew my hand. Umiinit yata ang mukha ko. ~__~

Hinalungkat ko uhlet ung maleta. Parang akong timang dito, namumula eh anoh nama
n ngayon kung
boxers nya un. It's not like first time kong makakita ng boxers. Geez.

I grabbed a cotton shirt and a pair of shorts. Tapos kinalkal ko uhlet para magh
anap ng underwear. I
found one... then I found the other two he packed. Napataas ang kilay ko. Sa din
ami-dami ng underwear
sa drawer ko, ehto talagang tatlo ang pinili nyang dalhin? May boyshort underwea
r naman ako.. May
cotton.. May mga demure na underwear, pero ang kinuha nya talaga ung lacy underw
ear ko noh? At
red, black, and white pa!

I turned to look at Jerwin. Nung nakita kong nakatingin din sya sa'kin, I glared
at him and held up a black

Ako: Pervert. -__-

Jerwin: What?? They're pretty....

Ako: . . . Pervert. -__-

Jerwin: Geez, relax. It's not like I'm gonna see you wearing them!

Suddenly, he propped himself up on his arms. May kung anong nakakalokang sparkle
sa mata nya.

Jerwin: ...unless, of course, you want me to see you wearing them.

Ako: *gasp!* Pervert!!

I can still hear him laughing hanggang sa pagbagsak ko nung pinto nung banyo.


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

Much, much later the same night, Venice and I decided to sneak out of our room a
nd walk along the
shore. Halos hatinggabi na kaya wala nang tao sa labas. It's not like they'll se
e us anyway. Wala namang
poste ng ilaw sa beach. Unless lumapit sila sa'min, hindi nila makikita mga mukh
a namin.

After a few minutes of just walking along the shore, we sat

a panoorin ung tubig
tsaka ung buwan. Sabi ni Venice, may pagka-romantic raw ung
lubusin namin. Maybe
she's right. I mean, it's not everyday na nakakaupo kami on
he sea, with no sound or
noise except the waves. The night sky is dotted with stars,
ing bright.

down on the sand par

setting, kaya lubusthe sand, watching t
and the moon is shin

Ang cliche man, it's hard not to appreciate the scenery.

Venice is sitting in front of me, with her back resting on my chest as she silen
tly watches the waters.

This is perfection.

Venice: Sunshine?

Ako: Hm?

Venice: Sa tingin mo... ano na kaya mangyayari sa'tin five years from now?

Ako: Five years from now? Hmmm... I don't know. Why?

Venice: Wala lang. Naisip ko lang... I wonder if... we would have found someone
else by then...

"Someone else"... Why would I want "someone else"?

I wrapped my arms tighter around her waist.

Ako: I...

hope not.

Ako: ...don't know.

There was a short silence after that. It wasn't awkward. It wasn't angry. It was
just.... sad. Naalala namin
bigla na bilang na nga pala ang mga araw "namin".

Venice: Jerwin. I know we've talked about na... pag-alis ko.. it'll be over betw
een us.

Ako: Uh-huh...

Venice: I'm just thinking... I mean, I'm not going make you promise anything. I
know things happen, you
know? Pero... when that time comes... Kahit anong mangyari, I really, really hop
e we'd remain friends.

Umikot sya para tignan ako.

Venice: Don't forget about me.

There was a silent plea in her voice. Na parang inaasahan nya na as soon as wala
na sya, I'd actually
forget everything. Out of sight, out of mind, ganon?

How do people do that?

I don't want to forget.

I don't want to be with someone else.

And I don't want her to be with someone else.

I cupped her face in my hands and kissed her tenderly. When we broke off, I star
ed deep into her eyes.
Bilang na ang mga araw namin, but it doesn't mean everything has to end... right

Ako: Venice... I'll let you go for now, but I promise, I'll come for you. I'll c
ome for you. So... if you can...
don't wrap your arms around someone else. Don't give your lips to someone else.
I'll come for you, so...
don't give your heart to someone else... okay?

::Chapter 83::

The Day After


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

The next morning...

I can't believe I'm doing this.

It's ten in the morning. The sky is clear. There's a refreshing breeze outside.
The sea looks inviting... and
anong ginagawa ko?

Nakatitig sa iba't ibang brands ng tampons at napkin, trying to figure out kung
anong pinagkaiba nilang

I nervously looked around the small store. It's a good thing na maaga-aga pa at
wala pang masyadong
tao, otherwise... This is just plain embarrassing. I sighed. I can't believe I l
et Venice talk me into doing

this. I mean, she kicked me out of the bed while I was in the middle of a good d
ream I can't even
remember now, then she practically chased me out of the room para lang maghanap
ng store to buy her
urgent feminine needs.

Ako naman tohng ignorante, akala ko pag pumunta ako sa store, all I have to do i
s grab a pack of
feminine pads, and then I'll be out. Pano ko ba naman malalaman na may "wings",
"panty liner", "ultrathin", at "regular" pa pala akong dapat pag-isipan? Tapos, may katabi pang "tamp
ons" ung mga
tinitignan ko.. The next time na maubusan or makalimutan ni Venice ang mga dapat
nyang dalhin, I
swear, I won't let her kick me out of the room without a fight.

Yeah right. Who am I kidding?

Finally deciding na this is way out of my league, lumapit na ko dun sa manang na

tinititigan ako simula
nung tumambay ako sa harap ng shelf ng mga feminine needs. It's a good thing I'm
wearing dark
sunglasses and a baseball cap. I don't think na makikilala ako ni manang.

Ako: Uh.. Excuse me poh.. Pero kailangan ko po ng tulong.

The old lady shot me an amused smile. Sabi na nga ba at pinapanood ako ni manang
na titigan ung mga
napkin at tampon eh.

Manang: Oh sige, hijo. Anoh bang kailangan mo?

Lumakad kami papunta dun sa shelf na halos twenty minutes na sa harap ko. I gave
her an apologetic
smile nung tumingin sya sa'kin after nung tanong nya.

Ako: Ang sabi lang po kasi ng girlfriend ko, bumili raw ako ng napkin. Uh, hindi
ko naman alam na ganito
pala karami ang... choices na pagpipilian ko. Ano na lang po ba ang i-rrecommend

The older woman snickered under her breath. Parang the longer I stay here, the m
ore na I wish I
dragged Venice out of the room with me. -__-

Manang: Mas mabuti na siguro kung kunin mo ung may wings.. Madalas, ayun ang bin
ibili ng mga
babae. Mas ligtas na hindi matagusan--- O mas gusto ba ng girlfriend mo ang tamp

Ako: Anoh ho ba pinagkaiba?

Manang: Hay naku, hijo, dapat alam mo tong mga toh!

Ako: Sorry. -__-

Binuksan ni Manang ung isang box ng tampons. Kumuha sya ng isa at hinarap sa'kin
. I looked at the thing
in confusion. Pano nakakatigil ng menstruation yan?

Manang: Ito ang tampon. Kung ikukumpara mo ba sa napkin, eh mas maliit ang chans
a na matagusan
ang babae pag ito ang gamit. Ayun nga lang, eh dapat sisiguraduhin nyang magpali
t pagkatapos ng ilang

Ako: Ahh.... Uh.. Pano ho ginagamit yan?

Natawa si manang. -__- Kasalanan ko bang hindi ko alam? Eh hindi naman ako nagam
it nyan! Masama
bang maging curious?!

Manang: Pano pa ba sa tingin mo? Eh di pinapasok.


Ako: P-Pinapasok?!?! H-Hindi po ba masakit un!?? Safe po ba un?!

Dito na talagang humalaghak ng tawa si manang. I think I can feel the blood drai
ning from face as I
stared in horror at the.. the thing na hawak nya. How can someone invent such a

Ako: I-- I think I'll just get the normal sanitary napkins.

I grabbed one pack of "Whisper with Wings" before practically running towards th
e register.

Ako: At least these are safe... normal... wouldn't hurt... -.-

Tinawanan lang ulit ako ni manang as she takes the cash from my hand.


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

"I am never doing that again!"

I watched in amusement as Jerwin dropped the plastic bag on the bed, sabay tilap
on sa sarili nya
facedown sa unan.

Ako: Anong nangyari syo?

Jerwin: Next time na magpapabili ka ng.... kailangan mo, it's either you're comi
ng with me or I'm not
going at all!

I bit my lip to stop myself from laughing. Si kuya naman, masyadong melodramatic
. Parang walang
kapatid na babae~ Sa bagay, I doubt na inuutusan syang mamili ng mga personal ga
mit ni Jean.
Masyadong sheltered ang buhay.

Pano na lang pala kung sa susunod, bra at panty naman ang ipabili ko sa kanya?

Baka himatayin na sya!

Kinuha ko ung plastic bag and then walked towards the washroom.

Ako: Yeah, yeah. Thank you, Sunshine. Mag-ayos ka na para makalayas na tayo.

Jerwin: You're not even sorry for putting me through that torture, are you? -__-

Ako: Dagdag mo na lang sa life's experiences mo.

Jerwin: I hate you. ~_~

Tinawanan ko lang sya. Anoh ba naman ang mag-undergo sya ng mga embarrassing na
situations once in
a while?

Ako: I love you too.

He mumbled something, pero hindi ko na narinig dahil he completely buried his fa

ce na talaga sa unan.
Siguro dapat maawa ako sa itsura nyang mukhang tinali sya sa labas ng Megamall s
a harap ng maraming
tao in nothing but his boxers... Too bad. I'm enjoying this way too much to feel
sorry for him.

After a quick shower, a quick clean up of the room, and a quick drop off of the
luggage back sa truck,
Jerwin and I finally were able to make ikot-ikot. As usual, naka-undercover getup nanaman si Jerwin,
with his cap and brand name sunglasses. After ten minutes (and threats to beat h
is head), pumayag na
syang tanggalin ung sunglasses nya. At least, mukha na syang normal na palaboy - fafable na palaboy,
pero palaboy pa rin.

Dumadami na ang mga tao sa paligid. It's a small town, pero hindi naman totally
out of civilization.
Probinsyang-probinsya. I wonder where we are.

Kumakain kami ng pandesal fresh from the small bakery na nadaanan namin habang n
aglalakad. Ahyan
na ang breakfast namen.

Jerwin: What should we do now?

Ako: Abah, ehwan. Ikaw ang nagyaya na magliwaliw, sabit lang ako.

Hinati nya ung last pandesal as he looks around. Binigay nya sa'kin ung kalahati
, while he nibbled on the
other half.

Jerwin: Well.. I don't think may makikita tayong souvenir shop dito.

Ako: Yep. Palagay ko rin.

Jerwin: Should we just head back to Manila?

Ako: Ikaw bahala.

Uminom sya dun sa bitbit naming water bottle, still looking around. Ayaw pa yata
umuwi ni kuya. After
nyang tunggain ung tubig, binigay nya sa'kin ung bote. Inubos ko na ung natitira
ng kalahati. Just then,
may nakita syang kung ano. Bigla nya kong nginitian sabay hila patakbo sa kung a
no man ung nakita nya.

Jerwin: That's it!

Ako: Ha?!

Nung nakita ko ung shop na tinatakbuhan namen, nanlaki bigla mga mata ko. He mus
t be kidding me!

Ako: Sunshine! We can't do that!

Jerwin: Why not? It'll be fun!

Ako: But I don't know how to ride a bike!

Napatigil bigla si Jerwin. Dahan-dahan syang umikot para tignan ako. May malakin
g question mark pa sa
mukha nya.

Jerwin: How can you not know how to ride a bike?

Ako: Ehwan ko! Kasalanan ko bang hindi ako nabiyayaan ng sense of balance?!?

Jerwin: So... ayaw mong mag-bike?

Ako: Gustuhin ko man, hindi nga ako marunong. And I doubt na meron silang malaki
ng bike na may
training wheels.

Jerwin: Oh well. You can ride with me then.

Bago pa man ako makasagot, nakalakad na kagad si Jerwin papunta dun sa manong na
nung maliit na rentahan. Haayyy... Syempre, hindi ko nanaman sya mapipigilan. Ku
ng gusto nya magbike, okie fine~ Baka biglang maglupasay pag pinigilan ko.

Lumapit ulit ako sa kanya nung nakita kong may binibigay nang bike si manong. Un
g bike na may
passenger seat sa likod. Ibig sabihin, sakay ako.

Jerwin: Sardines, let's go.

Nginitian ko si manong. Tapos, tumalon ako sa likod ni Jerwin, sabay yakap sa li

kod nya habang nagpedal sya paalis. Weehhh~ libreng chansing! wahahahaha

Halos isang oras din kami nagpaikot-ikot sa mga kalsada. May nadaanan kaming sim
bahan, kung san
tumigil si Jerwin sandali para pumasok.. Inikutan din namin ung barangay hall..
After ilang ikot pa, nakita
na ulit namin ung bakery na pinagbilhan namin ng pandesal. Nung napagod na si Je
rwin, tsaka kami
bumalik dun sa rentahan ng bike.

Binayaran ni Jerwin si Manong. Checking the time, na-realize naming dalawa na or

as na para bumalik ng
Manila. Otherwise, baka gabihin kami sa daan. Sumakay na ulit kami sa truck ni J
erwin, and in no time at
all, nasa highway nanaman kami.. Kumakain ng take out from McDo as lunch.. Nakik
inig sa GPS kung
pano kami makakauwi nang hindi naliligaw.

Patapos na ang no-destination na road trip namin... -___-

I don't wanna go home yet~ T^T

Ako: Ayoko pa umuwi.

Jerwin: No? Sardines, graduation mo na tomorrow. Don't you have things to prepar

I flinched at the reminder. Hindi dahil sa graduation ko, pero dahil, unconsciou
sly, pinaalala nyang
kailangan ko na nga pala mag-ayos ng mga gamit.

Sucks. -__-

Halos 7 PM -- yes, 7:00 ng gabi -- na nang nakauwi kami ni Jerwin sa bahay. Hind
i dahil sa traffic. Hindi
dahil sa nawala kami. Naaliw lang si Jerwin sa mga paikot-ikot ng kalsada. Tinig
ilan na yata namin halos
lahat ng maliliit at hindi masyadong maliit na baryo, city na dinaanan namin. Pa
ti ung mga sidestreet na
tinadahan ng kung anu-anong makakain, talagang hindi pwedeng hindi tigilan.

Kaya good luck naman.. Pagdating namin sa bahay, daig ko pa ang isdang naka-hila
ta sa palengke nang
tinilapon ko ang sarili ko sa sofa.

Kasunod kong pumasok si Jerwin, hila-hila ang maleta namen at nagbukas ng mga il
aw habang
lumalakad sya papunta sa living room.

Jerwin: You okay?

Ako: I'm tired. -__-

Jerwin: Why? Hindi naman ikaw ang nag-drive.

Ako: Dahil nakakapagod pigilan kang bilhin lahat ng mga nakita mong "amusing to
the eyes"! Anong
balak mong gawin sa voodoo doll na binebenta syo nung manang na galing pa yata s
a Shake, Rattle, and

Jerwin: I just wanted to know kung totoong may mangyayari pag tinusok ko ung man
ika. You never
know, a certain producer might be asking for the pain.

Ako: Argh~ -___- You're hopeless!

He flopped down on the couch next to me. Naglagay sya ng unan sa likod ng ulo ny
a para mas maging
comfortable ung sandal nya. Feeling ko lang, napagod rin si kuya. I saw him clos
e his eyes. Para siguro
ipahinga kahit sandali ung mga mata nya. Inggit ako, sinarado ko rin ung mga mat
a ko. Five minutes
lang.. Then I'll take a shower and crawl in my bed. Five minutes...

. . .

. . . . .





Jerwin: Sardines, may nag-ddoorbell.. -__-

Ako: Nanaginip ka lang. -__-

Pareho kaming hindi gumalaw sa pagkakahiga namin. Baka sakaling pag tinuloy lang
namin ang pagdeny, baka mawala nga ung ingay.

Pero syempre, hindi ganon tumakbo ang mundo.


Ako: Argh! Sinoh ba yang storbo na yan?!?

I rolled out of the couch hanggang sa nakatayo na ko, trying to rub sleep out of
my eyes.

Ako: Sunshine! Tumayo ka na dyan!

Jerwin: Why? -.-

Ako: Kung gigising ako, gigising ka rin!

Jerwin: Whyyyyy?

Ako: Coz I said so!

Jerwin: Is this how it's going to be when we get married? -.-

Tinaasan ko lang sya ng kilay as he pries himself off the couch. Hindi nya yata
napansin ung sinabi nya
dahil tuloy-tuloy lang sya sa pagsunod sa'kin papunta sa nagsskandalo na pinto.
Married daw. Ha...


Jerwin: Yeah yeah. We're coming. ~_~

He mumbled something under his breath as unlocks the

an nung tao sa
labas ung gate at pumasok na hanggang sa pinto, sure
namin ang
nambubulabog. Kung magnanakaw un, hindi naman siguro
sinuman sya,
good luck na lang. Jerwin doesn't look very happy na

door. Considering na nabuks

kami ni Jerwin na kakilala
sya mag-ddoorbell noh? Kung
nagising sya. heehee


Jerwin: Yea?!?!

Napatigil kaming dalawa pagbukas nung pinto at nakita namin kung sinong nakatayo
sa labas. O.O

Ako: Sunshine... I think I'm more tired than I realized. Nag-hhallucinate yata a

Jerwin: No. I don't think so. I see her too.

Nagkatinginan kaming dalawa, sabay tingin ulit dun sa tao sa labas. Finally, nag
-sink in na na totoo talaga
itoh! Hindi sya hallucination!

Ako: MOM!

::Chapter 84::

Talk About It


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

If there's one reason I can come up with on why Tita Mel is here, it would be da
hil graduation ni Venice.
She wouldn't dare miss her only child's college graduation, right? So, the fact
na nag-appear sya out of
nowhere doesn't trouble me. The question kung kailan sya babalik ng States ang n
akaka-bother. Isasama
nya na ba si Venice pabalik?

I casually sat on the couch habang nag-uusap ung magnanay sa kabilang couch. Aft
er getting over the
initial shock, pinapasok namin si Tita Mel and gave her a glass of juice.

Venice: Kailan ka pa dumating?

Tita Mel: Kaninang umaga lang.

Venice: Sana sinabi mo na dadating ka. Nasundo ka sana namin.

Tita Mel: Anong klaseng surprise naman un kung sasabihin ko rin lang naman pala
syo? And don't worry
about it. Sina Tita Merryl mo ang sumundo sa'kin. They dropped me off sa hotel k

Ako: My mom?

Tita Mel: Yes, your mom. Sila na nag-asikaso ng plane tickets namin, binayaran k
o na lang. So alam
nyang dadating ako.

That's the confirmation right there. Sinusundo nya na nga si Venice.

My face must have mirrored my frustration dahil tinaasan ako ng kilay ni Tita Me
l. Sumandal ulit ako sa
upuan, trying to mask any unwanted expression.

Tita Mel: Venice. Bakit di ka muna umakyat at magpalit ng damit?

Venice: What? What's wrong with my clothes?

Napatingin din ako sa damit ni Venice. Dahil natulog kami as soon as we got back
, hindi pa kami
nakakapagpalit ng damit. Venice is still wearing a pair of denim jeans and a fit
ted shirt. Not exactly the
picture of homey clothes.

Tita Mel: Wala. Pero mas comportable kung hindi maong ang suot mo, noh? Ako ang
nahihirapan syo
eh. Kaya sige na, akyat na.

She stole a quick glance at me, which Venice didn't fail to notice. Tinignan ako
ni Venice, then tumingin
sya sa nanay nya.

Venice: Bakit feeling ko pinapaalis mo lang ako para ma-interrogate mo si Jerwin

? -_-

Tita Mel: Anong interrogate? Bakit ko naman gagawin un?

Venice: Uh-huh.

I gave a nonchalant shrug nung tumingin ulit sya sa'kin. Siguro nakaramdam na wa
la na syang
magagawa, tumayo si Venice and dragged herself out of the room paakyat sa kwarto

That left me and her mom alone in the living room. Parang kinabahan yata akong b

Nung sure na kaming nakaakyat na si Venice, humarap kagad sa'kin si Tita Mel. Wa
la nang paligoy-ligoy
pa, diretso tanong kagad si tita.

Tita Mel: Anong balak mong gawin?

Ako: Saan po?

Tita Mel: Aalis na si Venice. Hindi mob a pipigilan?

Ako: Wala naman po akong karapatan pigilan sya sa pag-alis.

Tita Mel: You're her fianc.

Ako: For now.

Tita Mel: So ganon na lang? Hahayaan mo lang syang umalis?

I sighed.

Ako: Tita... Naaalala nyo ba nung sinabi nyo sa'kin na someday, may mamahalin ak
o, na i-ssacrifice ko
ang lahat para lang sa taong un? Ang sabi nyo pa, pag nakita ko na ung ganong re
lasyon, wag kong

Tita Mel: Sinasabi mo bang hindi si Venice ung taong un?

Ako: Oh no. I'm positive that Venice is the one for me. I'll give up everything
and anything for her.

Tita Mel: Jerwin. Lasing ka ba? Nagkakaintindihan ba tayo?

Natawa ako sa confused expression ni Tita Mel. Ayaw pa kasi muna akong patapusin

Ako: I asked Venice to wait for me. I promised her that I'll come for her, so if
she can, I hope she waits
for me.

Tita Mel: Anong sabi nya?

Ako: She... didn't say anything.

Tita Mel: Iba talaga ang topak ng batang yan kung minsan.

Ako: No, it's okay. I understand her fears. I don't do long distance relationshi
ps either. Hindi naman
naming alam kung anong mangyayari, so... mabuti na kung free syang gawin ang gus
to nyang gawin.

Tita Mel: Who cares kung anong gusto nyang gawin?!? -__- Gusto ko ikaw ang magin
g son-in-law ko.
Itatali ko sya sa bahay hanggang dumating ka.


No wonder nagkasundo sila ng mother ko. Iba pareho ang takbo ng isip nila. Tama
ba namang isipin na
ikulong ang anak nya?

Tita Mel: So, anong kinalaman nito sa advice ko syo?

Ako: I'm just saying. Venice is worth everything I have to give. I'm not giving
her up unless she wants me

Tita Mel: Haaayyyy hindi ko naman talaga kayo maintindihang dalawa. Bakit hindi
na lang kaya kayo
magpakasal? Mag-Vegas tayo, para wala nang plano-plano!

Ako: Tita naman. O_O If Venice and I are ever gonna get married, I'll make sure
to do everything right.

Tita Mel: Sinasabi mo lang yan. Tignan ko lang ang tapang mo pag dumating ang ar
aw na kailangan nyo
nang mag-decide ng flowers, center piece, motif, at kung anu-ano pa.

Okay. So eloping doesn't sound too bad after all.

"Tapos na naman siguro kayong mag-usap noh?"

Napatingin ako sa likod. Bumalik na si Venice, wearing shorts and... T-shirt ko

ba yang suot nya? Anak
ng... Ilang linggo ko nang hinahanap ung T-shirt na yan, kinuha nya pala!

Ako: Nice shirt.

Venice: I know. I found it in your closet~

Ako: When are you planning to give it back?

Venice: Who says I'm giving it back?

Ako: But... it's too big for you. And I like that shirt. T^T

Venice: I like it too.

Lumakad sya sa'kin and patted the top of my head. Ginawa akong aso. -__-

Venice: I'll buy you another one. Don't cry.

Ako: I'm not crying.

Napansin kong todo ang panonood ni Tita Mel sa'ming dalawa as Venice continued t
o treat me like a
child na ninakawan ng laruan (which is somewhat true dahil ninakaw nya naman tal
aga ung T-shirt ko).
When Venice finally gave me a peck on the forehead, dun na napangiti si Tita Mel

Tita Mel: Naghalikan na ba kayong dalawa?

Venice: Mom!

Ako: Opo.

Venice: Jerwin!

Tita Mel: Ooohh did you like it?

Venice: MOOOMMM!

Jerwin: I definitely did.

Tita Mel: Ikaw, Venice?

She crossed her arms over her chest. Namumula ung mukha nya either from embarras
sment or dahil
naiinis na sya.

Venice: No comment. -__-

Ako: I'm sure she liked it too.

Venice: Sunshine, gusto mo ba talagang mamatay nang maaga?

Tita Mel: Pano mo naman nalaman na nagustuhan nya rin?

I looked back at Venice. Kung nakakamatay ang tingin, sampung beses na kong nama
tay. But then again,
kalian ba naman ako napigilan ng galit nya?

Ako: Coz every time I finally break off the kiss, mukhang konti na lang, tatalun
in nya na ko. Parang gusto
akong lamunin.

Venice: What?!? Kailan nangyari un ha?!?

Tumawa lang si Tita Mel. After Venice finally calmed down, and nag-promise na ri
n sya na hindi nya ko
sasakalin, nagpaalam na si tita. Babalik na raw sya sa hotel dahil inaantok na s
ya, maaga pa ang
graduation ni Venice bukas.

Ako: Hold on. Let me just grab my keys. Ihahatid ko na kayo.

Tita Mel: Ay wag na, mag-ttaxi na lang ako. Magpahinga na rin kayong dalawa.

Ako: Are you sure, tita?

Tita Mel: Oo. Sige na.

Tumawag ng taxi si Venice. We waited sa labas hanggang dumating ung taxi. Nung n
akasakay na si tita,
tsaka lang kami pumasok ni Venice pabalik sa loob ng bahay. I was about to go up
stairs nang biglang
hinawakan ni Venice ung kamay ko. I stopped and looked at her.

Venice: Is that how I really look like pagkatapos kitang halikan? :|

Ako: Sardines, I was just kidding. Unless, gusto mo talaga akong rape-in every t
ime na hinahalikan kita. If
yes, then you don't have to stop yourself, you know?

Venice: Ha. Ha. Funny. -__- *sigh* I just don't want you to get the wrong idea.
I don't kiss you because...
you know. I mean... I like kissing you... I like you kissing me. It makes me fee
l special.. and loved. I was
hoping na you feel the same.

She looked down on the floor. I put my hands on her face and made her look at me

Ako: Of course I do. You're the best thing that ever happened in my life. And ev
ery time I look at you
after we kiss, you smile at me as if I'm the best thing that happened in yours.

Venice: (smiles) Good. You know exactly how I feel then.

::Chapter 85::



(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

"Argh! What is wrong with your hair?!"

I sighed for the hundredth time since sinubukan ni Sheena na pa-"bonggahin" ang
buhok ko. Sa totoo
lang, dahil kanina nya pa hinihila ang buhok ko in all directions, nagiging numb
na ung scalp ko. Hindi pa

rin nya magawa ang gusto nyang gawin dahil pagkatapos ng successful na pagkulot,
ayaw nang sumunod
ng buhok ko.

Ako: Can't you just tie it all up? -__- Napapagod na ang hair ko oh.

Sheena: Eh kung nakikisama ba naman sila, eh di hindi sana sila napapagod!

Kenny: Anoh bang pinagkakaguluhan nyo dyang dalawa? Kanina pa kayo ha!

Ako: Si Sheena kaseh! Tinotorture ang ulo ko!

Kenny: Hay nako, lumayas ka na nga dyan. Ma-llate tayo sa ginagawa nyo eh!

Tinulak ni Kenny si Sheena patabi, and just like that, ibang kamay naman ang nag
hihila sa buhok ko. -__-

Maaga kami gumising - well, actually, maaga silang nanggising. 6:30 AM pa lang,
nambubulabog na sina
Kenny at Anthony sa bahay namin. Pati si Jerwin, nawindang. After nila akong i-h
arass na magmadali
maligo at magbihis, kinaladkad na nila ako palabas - not without isang matinding
yakap muna sa
nagmumuni-muni na Jerwin Santos mula kay Kenny.

Pumunta kaming lahat sa bahay ni Sheena para dun magpaganda. Okay, ako, si Sheen
a, at si Kenny,
magpapaganda. Si Anthony, sabit lang.

Kenny: Ganito lang yan oh.. Itali sa side.. Kumuha ng konting kaguluhan sa kabil
ang side.. and... tada!

Tinignan ko sa salamin ang finished product ng bakla. Inayos nya ung buhok ko pa
ra maging side
ponytail, tapos hinayaan nya ung loose strands na i-frame ung mukha ko. Oh di va
h~ Kung anong tagal ni
Sheena, ganun kabilis si Kenny.

Sheena: Haayyy.. Sige na nga. Okay na. Anyway, best friend, nasan si Jerwin?

Ako: Hmm may gagawin raw sya today eh.

Sheena: Di sya aattend ng graduation natin?

Ako: Probably not. You know naman ang schedule nun.

Anthony: Babawi rin un. Pwede na ba tayo umalis? Halika naaa~

Kinolekta namin ung mga gamit naming and then we all piled up sa van nina Sheena
. Dakilang driver
namin ngayon ang father ni Sheena. Nasa kalagitnaan na kami ng highway nang bigl
ang sumalpak ang
mukha ni Kenny sa bintana!

Kenny: Ay! Ay! Ay! Ang taray!!! Venice!!!

Napalingon kaming lahat bigla sa pinagkaka-panican nung bakla. And my golay, hal
os mahulog-hulog ang
puso ko sa nakita ko. Dun sa kalagitnaan ng highway, isang malaking summer billb
oard ang
nakabalandra. At sa gitna ng napakalaking billboard ay ang mukha ko! OoO Okay, m
ukha ko at ni Jerwin..
pero nandun pa rin ang mukha ko!

Yep. Ahyun ang impromptu swimsuit modeling gig ko nung pumunta kami ni Jerwin sa

Sheena: Waaahh best friend, nilabas na nila ang advertisement! Ang ganda mo!

Anthony: Parang natural na model ah!

Ako: Syempre.

Kenny: Ilang oras Phinotoshop yan.

Ako: Gusto mo bang mamatay nang maaga, bakla?

Pero, syempre, dahil mahal na mahal ako ng mga loka, tuloy-tuloy lang sila sa mg
a commentaries nila
tungkol sa mga "enhanced features" ko. Mga bruhang toh... Parang naman ganon na
lang ka-over the
top ang ginawa sa picture ko. Okay, so naging perfect shape ang katawan ko... At
parang nag-gglow ang
skin ko (siguro dahil pinaliguan nila ako ng body oil nung photo shoot na un)...
At daig ko pa ang model
ng shampoo sa ganda at shiny ng hair ko...

Pero kasalanan ko bang sadyang maganda lang talaga ako? wahahahaha

Nung nakarating na kami sa graduation venue, sinalubong kagad kami ni mommy at n

i Tita Merryl -much to my surprise. In fairness, di ko akalain na aattend ang byenan ko. weehhh

Aattend rin daw sana si Jean at si Tito Ray, kaya lang busy sa school at sa work
. Oh di vah, family affair if

After ng panandaliang chikkahan, tinawag na ang mga estudents para makapagsimula

na. Kinaladkad
ako ni Sheena at ni Kenny papunta sa likod para makapagsimula na ng march.

The ceremony went by pretty fast. Siguro dahil absentminded simula nung umupo ak
o hanggang sa mga
speech-speech chuchu. Or siguro dahil madaldal ung katabi ko, at hindi ko namala
yan na lumipad na
pala ang oras. Anyway, before I know it, turn ko nang umakyat ng stage. Syempre,
kasabay kong

umakyat si mother para sabitan ako ng medal. Parang elementary eh, noh? Walang m
agulo, kanyakanyang trip lang yan.

Pagkatapos nyang isabit ung medal, humarap na kami dun sa photographer sa harap
para sa picture.
Lumapit sa'kin si mommy ng konti para bumulong:

Mom: Tinatawag ka ni Jerwin.

Ako: Jerwin?

Tumuro sya sa may likod nung photographer, and sure enough, ahyun nga si Sunshin
e. May bitbit na
sariling camera at may malaking proud na ngiti sa mukha. Nung nakita nyang nakat
ingin ako na'ko sa
kanya, he immediately snapped a photo, and then waved. Lumaki lalo ung ngiti ko.

Halos kaladkarin ko si mommy pababa ng stage para lang magmadali sya.

Ako: Kailan sya dumating?

Mommy: Kani-kanina lang.

Nung nakababa na kami sa wakas, sinalubong kagad ako ng isang mahigpit na yakap
ng Sunshine ko.
Syempre, ako rin, yakap din kagad.

Ako: I thought you said may gagawin ka today!

Jerwin: Yeah. I got these for you.

Inabutan nya ko ng isang bouquet ng red roses.

Jerwin: And I made sure to pick up your graduation gift.

Ako: Gift? For me?

Jerwin: Yep. But I'm not giving it to you yet. Sige na, bumalik ka na sa upuan m
o. I'll see you after the

He gave me a peck on the cheek, then he slipped through the crowd para bumalik s
a kung san man
nakaupo sina mommy at si Tita Merryl. Lumakad na rin ako papunta sa assigned sea
t ko, pero hindi bago
madaanan si Sheena, na nakaupo a few rows in front of ng row ko.

Sheena: Oy. Nakita ko un. Nakarating si fafa J, ha~

Ako: I know.

Tumuloy ako papunta sa upuan ko, holding the bouquet and my diploma close to me.
Kahit hanggang sa
pag-upo ko, feel na feel ko ang ngiti sa mukha ko. This is the life, you knoooww
w~ Ni hindi ko napansin
ang mga tingin ng ilang mga people sa paligid.


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

Venice's graduation finished in no time at all -- or siguro dahil late ako, kaya
hindi ko masyadong
nadama ang haba nya. Dahil isa si Venice sa mga last students na tinawag, nakaha
bol pa ko, and I still
saw her march on stage to accept her diploma. I think it's one of those moments
na I can never be more
proud of her.

After ng official end ng ceremony, nag-picture-picture muna si Venice kasama ng

mga kaibigan nya. For
some reason, naging official photographer ako. I think na-aamuse si Venice sa mu
kha ng mga kaibigan
nya pag nakikita nila kung sino ako. Syempre, kung masaya si Venice na i-shock a
ng mga inosenteng tao,
sino ba naman ako para pigilan pa sya?

Pagkatapos ng sandamakmak ng pictures, at mas marami pang pictures kasama ung ba

rkada nya, sa
wakas, pumayag na rin sya na umalis na. Niyaya namin sina Sheena, Anton, at si K
enny na mag-late
lunch, pero may mga plano rin yata ung mga pamilya nila. Ang tagal bago natapos
ang mga goodbyes
nila sa isa't-isa. I didn't have the heart to pry her away lalo na nung umiyak n
a sya. Hanggang sa kotse,
nagpapahid si Venice ng mga luha nya. I still don't know kung tears of joy ba un
dahil she finally
graduated, o tears of sadness dahil hindi nya alam kung kailan nya ulit makikita
ung mga kaibigan nya.

I lightly fingered the small box in my pocket. I wonder how she'll react once I
give the gift to her...

Venice: Henyo, henyo ang kung sinoman nakaimbento ng waterproof na mascara.

Ako: Are you feeling better now?

Venice: Yeah. I can't cry the whole afternoon, di ba? San nga pala tayo pupunta?

Ako: I made reservations in a restaurant.

Tumingin sya sa sasakyan na nakasunod sa'min. Dun nakasakay ung mga nanay namin.

Venice: Alam ba nina mommy kung san tayo pupunta?

Ako: Yeah. My mom knows where it is.

Dinaanan namin ung newly put up na billboard ng Guess. Napapangiti pa rin ako pa
g nakikita ko ung
advertisement na un ng swimsuit. It's not because the ad turned out really good,
but it's more because
of the memories na nangyari nung weekend ng photoshoot. Kahit anong tagal na, na
tatawa at
napapangiti pa rin ako pag naaalala ko un.

Venice: What do you think of the billboard?

Ako: It's good.

Venice: I know. Ang ganda ko!

Ako: (chuckles) Yeah, but I think I like the real you better.

Venice: Oh? Kahit na may bilbil ako, at ung billboard me eh slim and sexy?

Ako: Kahit na.

Venice: Kahit na minsan halos magkabuhol-buhol na ang buhok ko sa sobrang hangin

, samantalang ung
billboard me eh parang kahit may twister na, masunurin pa rin ang hair nya?

Ako: Tutulungan pa kitang mag-suklay.

Venice: Kahit na hindi nag-gglow ang balat ko na parang may kung anong luminesce
nt na ilaw sa balat

I stole a glance at her, and then smiled.

Ako: You look luminous enough for me.

Venice: Weehhhh~ Kaya mahal kita eh! Pinapalaki mo ang ulo ko~

I laughed again. She leaned forward para maghanap ng ibang station sa radio whil
e I continued driving---

"--All for show nga ba? Jerwin Santos, umattend sa graduation ng fiance nyang si
Venice Zhao..."

Natahimik kaming bigla. Venice froze sa upuan nya.

"Pagkatapos ng mga balitang publicity stunt lang ang relasyon ng dalawa, marami
ang naghihinala na
palabas lamang ang ka-sweetan ng dalawa habang nasa graduation--"

Venice: Ha. Ang bilis ng balita ah.

She immediately switched the radio to another station. May titigilan sandali, ta
pos iibahin nya nanaman
ung station.

"--Lumabas ang isang billboard advertisement kung saan kasama ni Jerwin Santos n
a nag-model ng
mamahaling brand ng swimsuit ang fiance nyang si Venice Zhao. May mga nagsaabi na
ginamit raw ni
Venice si Jerwin para makapasok sa showbiz--"

I finally turned off the radio. There was a couple seconds of silence before Ven
ice snapped back to

Venice: Wow. That was lame.

Ako: Don't let them bother you. They don't know anything.

She sighed before sya umikot para humarap sa bintana.

Venice: Yeah. I know.

Since then, her mood totally pummeled down. She was spacing out during lunch. Sh
e barely talked to
her mom nung bumalik na sa hotel ung mom nya. She barely talked nung nag-drive n
a kami pauwi. Dahil
lang sa ilang mga tao na kung anu-anong ina-aassume tungkol sa kanya. Nakakainis

Nung nakarating na kami

wer. I went to the
living room and grabbed
w I have to do
something. I called the
ere was a long,
pondering silence after

sa bahay, Venice immediately went upstairs to take a sho

my phone. I don't know how to fix the problem, but I kno
manager's phone and told him what I wanted him to do. Th
I spoke.

Manager: Are you sure about this?

Ako: Yes. This is getting out of hand. Venice doesn't deserve this. I want to se
t the record straight.


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Later that night...

I think halos dalawang oras na'kong nakahiga sa kama. Kahit anong pilit kong mat
ulog, ayaw talagang
matulog ng utak ko. Muntik na nga akong mahulog sa kama sa kaka-paikot-ikot ko.

After ng another failed attempt na bumagsak sa dream world, I sat up in frustrat

ion. Kapag inuntog ko
ba ang ulo ko sa dingding (oo, alam kong masakit), makakatulog ba ko?

Tumingin ako sa kwarto ko. Halos wala nang laman. Ung mga maleta ko na lang.. at
isang bag.

Parang kailan lang, naaalala ko pa nung lumipat kami dito. Ngayon, naka-impake n
anaman ako.

Bubwit na mga assumers kaseh yan! Anoh bang problema nila sa buhay?!


I swung my legs out of the bed, and as quietly as I could, I walked out of my ro
om papunta sa kwarto ni
Jerwin. Siguro tulog na sya. I mean, halos hatinggabi na, so malamang, di ba?

Pero, just in case na hinde, I softly knocked on the door and then binuksan ko n
g konti ung pinto.

Madilim na ang kwarto nya.

Ako: Jerwin?

I waited for a few seconds, pero walang sumagot. Nung iikot na sana ako pabalik
sa kwarto ko, may
narinig ako biglang gumalaw sa kama. Not long after that, sumagot sya in barely
audible voice. I would
have missed it kung hindi lang ever ang katahimikan sa house.

Jerwin: Yea?

Pumasok ako sa kwarto nya, making sure to close the door behind me. I stood sa t
abi nung kama nya as
he looked at me. Dun ko lang na-realize, anoh nga bang ginagawa ko dito? Parang
akong timang, lakad
kasi ng lakad.

Ako: Uh... I know it's late... and... anoh... I know this may sound really rando

He pulled himself up para makita nya ko nang mas maayos. I took a deep breath, t
hen I quietly asked
him the one reason I can think of kung bakit ako pumunta sa kwarto nya in the mi
ddle of the night.

Ako: Can I sleep here?

He looked at my face as if he's searching for something. Akala ko, he's gonna st
art teasing me, which
would make me go back to my own room, and try to sleep again by myself. But to m
y surprise, he
extended his hand and smiled at me.

Jerwin: Sure.

::Chapter 86::



(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

I turned to my side para sana yakapin ung katabi ko. Pero instead of the warm, l
ean body na ineexpect
ko, bumagsak ang kamay ko sa lumalamig at malambot na kumot. Confused, I opened
my eyes. And,
yep, wala na nga ang taong supposedly eh katabi ko. May narinig akong umiikot-ik
ot sa kwarto.
Assuming na ung umiikot at ung hinahanap ko eh iisa, I turned to my side para ma
s makakita nang
maayos. There he is. -__- Si Jerwin na nagsusuot ng sapatos... at mukhang may pu

Tumingin ako sa orasan.. It's 10:30 in the morning.

Argh.. Anong normal na tao ba ang gumigising nang ganito kaaga?

Ako: Sunshine?

Napatigil sya sa ginagawa nya nung na-realize nyang gumagalaw-galaw na pala ako.

Jerwin: Oh. I didn't mean to wake you.

Ako: It's okay. May pupuntahan ka?

Jerwin: Yea. I have to go to my manager's office. Tapos, may interview ako late
in the afternoon.

Ako: I see.

Jerwin: I'll be back soon.

I flinched sa sinabi nya. I stared at him as he finished putting on his shoes. H

e grabbed his phone and his
wallet from the table then turned around to face me. Nung nakita kong lumalakad
na sya palapit sa'kin, I
quickly plastered a smile on my face.

Jerwin: Don't forget to eat lunch.

Ako: Of course.

Jerwin: Bye.

He gave me a quick kiss on the forehead before he straightened up again. Kakabuk

as nya lang nang
pinto when I felt the need to call him again. He paused and turned to look at me
. I opened my mouth to
tell him kung anong mangyayari mamaya... But then, I remembered he didn't want t
o know. So instead, I
just smiled at him again.

Ako: I love you.

He gave me a quizzical look, pero nawala rin kagad as his expression changed to
something warmer.

Jerwin: I love you too.

After saying that, he finally left. Narinig ko ung truck na nag-start. Maya-maya
, bumukas na ung gate,
and he was gone. I collapsed on the bed again and pulled the sheets closer to me
. Amoy Jerwin pa rin...


I stayed in that position for a few more minutes, memorizing his scent... Finall
y, I forced myself to get
out of bed. I still have things to do.

Mataas na ang araw nung lumabas ako. Syempre, dahil hapon na. Kasalanan ko bang
matagal ang
process ng pagligo, pagbihis, pagpapaganda, pagkain at pag-space out ko?

Anyway, sinundo ako nina mommy at ni Tita Merryl from the house, kasama si Manon
g Ponce na driver
at taga-bitbit ng mga gamit. Pag-alis namin, I asked them na idaan muna ako dito
, kahit five minutes
lang. So, ehto ako ngayon... Naka-luhod sa very familiar na damuhan, sa harap ng
very familiar na
gravestone habang naghihintay sa labas ng very familiar na sementeryo ang mga ma
tatandang kasama

Ako: G... Last time ko na yata makakadaan dito... Unless, of course, bumalik ako
after ten years. Anyway,
I'll make sure na makakadaan ako sa totoong libingan mo sa States. Maybe I'll ev
en say hello to your
parents. I wonder if they'll recognize me... Bahala na.

I lightly traced the engravings on the smooth stone. I felt a sense of dj vu nung
ginawa ko un. Ilang
beses kaya ako umupo dito dati doing the very same thing? Ilang taon, ilang buwa
n, ilang araw akong
kumapit sa bato na toh na wala naman talagang koneksyon kay Gerard kundi ung pan
galan nyang nakaengrave?

It's weird. Parang ang tagal na... Ang dami nang nangyari...

Ako: Continue to watch over me, okay? At kung hindi rin naman masyadong pabigat,
paki bantayan na
rin si Jerwin. Pag nakita mong may ginagawang kalokohan, may permission kang pas
ukin ang mga
panaginip nya at ipahabol sya sa monsters.

Napangiti ako sa picture. Ang cute naman~ Si Jerwin at si Gerard in one place...
Ung isa hinahabol ng
monster, ung isa, tumatawang parang sadista. I'm sure, kung buhay lang si G, mag
kakasundo sila ni
Jerwin. Kahit na madalas magtatalo sila dahil pareho silang matigas ang ulo, I'm
sure they'll be fast

Pero mabuti na rin sigurong ganito. Pano na lang ang puso ko kung sabay silang n
asa buhay ko? Ay
shosyal! Mamangka sa dalawang ilog~ Ang ganda ko!

I smiled one last time as I finally stood up and brushed the blades of grass off

of my jeans.

Ako: Well, this is good-bye. I'm leaving now, G.


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

I watched in nervous anticipation as the talk show hosts wrap up the interview w
ith the current guest.
After the talk with the manager on what I can say without giving away too much p
rivate information, I
finally found myself waiting in the dressing room of the weekend Celebrity Talk
Show. The whole show is
live, so there's absolutely no place for mistakes.


Napaikot ako when I heard my name. I quickly came face to face with a very baffl
ed-looking Nicole.

Ako: Nic, what are you doing here?

Nicole: I had a meeting with some sponsors. What are you doing here?

Ako: Interview.

Nicole: Interview? Now? But... What about Venice's flight?

Ako: Venice's flight?

Nicole: Yeah. Isn't she leaving today in...

She looked at her watch.

Nicole: ...about an hour?

I froze on the spot. Did I just hear her right? Venice is leaving today?

Nicole scrutinized the horrified expression I'm probably wearing right now. I ca
n almost see the gears in
her head turning, hanggang finally, na-realize nya na ang nangyayari. She glower
ed at me as she
repeatedly slapped me on the arm.

Nicole: You idiot! You didn't know---

"Jerwin? It's your cue!"

I snapped out of my daze nung naramdaman kong may humihila na sa'kin palayo from
Nicole's abuse,
papunta sa stage. Ni hindi ko na rin napansin na Nicole is throwing daggers at m
e with her eyes as I was
dragged away. I was numb. Nung nagpalakpakan lang ung audience ako nagising. Nak
aupo na pala ako
sa harap nung host.

Ako: Uh.. Good afternoon po.

Kuya Boy looked at me with concern in his eyes. Napansin nya yatang wala ako sa
tamang utak... at
medyo namumutla yata ako. It feels like it. I don't think tama ang pagdaloy ng d
ugo sa katawan ko
ngayon. But no one needs to know that.

I gave the host a small smile to assure him I'm fine. After all, nandito na rin
naman ako, I'll do what I
came here to do.

Kuya Boy: Jerwin, unang-una, maraming salamat sa tiwala at sa pagkakataon na ito


I gave him a faint smile.

Kuya Boy: Wala nang ligoy-ligoy pa, ang relasyon nyo ni Venice, totoo bang arran
ged lang ang lahat?

Ako: Ang "relasyon" namin?

I stifled a snort.

Ako: I admit, the engagement was arranged.

A rushed murmur resonated from the people in the studio.

Ako: Pero ang "relasyon" namin? Our relationship is very much real.

Kuya Boy: Anong ibig mong sabihin?

Ako: We started out under unconventional circumstances. Ang totoo pa nga po nyan
, nung binalita
sa'min ng mga magulang namin na we're getting engaged, ako pa ang medyo okay sa
balita. Venice was
on the verge of strangling me to death for agreeing with the arrangements.

Kuya Boy: So, contrary sa mga balita, hindi si Venice ang lumapit syo?

I bit my tongue to keep from laughing. Technically, si Venice nga ang lumapit sa
'kin, but I don't think that
counts... Lalo na dahil lasing sya nun at hindi nya na alam ang ginagawa nya whe
n she stumbled upon

Ako: Venice had nothing to do with the decision to get engaged... or any other d
ecision that came

That... did not sound right. -__- Ganun na lang ba ka-strict ang pagpapatakbo ng
mga magulang ko sa
relasyon namin na hindi ko napansin na natangay na lang ng daloy si Venice? She
didn't even get a say
on anything... Not the start of the engagement... Not the end of it.


Kuya Boy: Jerwin? Jerwin?

I snapped out of my reverie. Binalik ko ung atensyon ko kay kuya. May sinasabi n
a pala sya, ni di ko na
narinig. Napansin nya rin yata, dahil thankfully, he repeated his question. Sigh
. I don't think I'm doing
too well with this live interview thing. -_-

Kuya Boy: Nalilito ang marami. Ibig sabihin ba nito ay napilitan lang si Venice
na pumasok sa relasyon
nyo? Nagpanggap lang ba sya na masaya kayo?

Ako: What? No! Of course not.

That's ridiculous. We're happy! . . . or rather, we were happy.

Ako: Just because the relationship started out wrong does not mean it continued
to be wrong. What
Venice and I had was real, probably more real than some other relationships that
started with the
normal na ligawan.

Nag-ssignal na si direk na malapit nang mag-commercial break. I better wrap up.

I turned to the camera,
much to the surprise of the staff and crew.

Ako: On behalf of my family and Venice, I apologize to everyone kung naramdaman

nyong niloko namin
kayo or kung inakala nyo na publicity stunt lang toh. Please do not hate Venice.

I took another deep breath. There's a sudden stillness in the studio as I talk t
o the people and lay out all I
have to say.

Ako: The main reason I came here today is to tell the

uring the short time that
the Venice and I spent together, I can sincerely tell
to love that woman, and
that she had come to love me as well. It's not a lie.
at we had was real, and
I really hope all of you would understand and finally

truth. And the truth is, d

all of you that I had come
We were not pretending. Wh
let go of the doubts somed

I lowered my eyes, and then slowly looked back kay Kuya Boy. He was looking at m
e intently, with a hint
of pity in his eyes. I wonder if I look as pathetic as I feel right now?

Kuya Boy: Napansin ko lang habang nagsasalita ka, past tense ang mga sinasabi mo
. May nag-iba ba
ngayong nilabas mo na ang totoo?

Napatingin ako bigla kay Nicole, na nakatayo sa gilid nung stage. Mukhang kalmad
o na sya. She actually
looks like she's sympathizing with me. I guess I wouldn't have to worry about be
ing murdered after the
interview. She bit her lip, and then reluctantly, she gave me a nod of encourage

Ako: As of today, Venice and I no longer together.

I closed my eyes as I hear astonished whispers went around the studio. That conf
ession hurt more than I

Kuya Boy: Pagkatapos ng lahat ng sinabi mo, bakit ngayon pa kayo naghiwalay?

Ako: The rumors, the harsh criticisms, the assumptions... Venice does not deserv
e any of those. It was
decided that she'll be better off away from here. As we speak, nasa airport na p
o sya... boarding her
flight to the States.

Kuya Boy: Jerwin, kung bibigyan ka ng pagkakataon na mag-iwan ng mensahe para ka

y Venice, anong
sasabihin mo?

I turned to the camera again... Anong sasabihin ko kung, sa kung anong himala, e
h naririnig nya ko

"Don't go"?

"You still never told me if you were going to wait for me"?

But then again, I already promised that I'd come for her no matter what, so...

Ako: Venice. I'll fulfill my promise, so please, wait for me.

I stumbled inside the dark house after shutting the front door behind me. I woul
d have called for Venice,
ran around the house looking for her... but what's the point? The stillness alre
ady confirms the truth:
she's gone.

I trudged upstairs, but instead of going to my room, I walked inside hers - or a

t least, it used to be hers.

I turned on the light and looked around. Wala na ung mga kalat nya sa study tabl
e. Hindi na natatabunan
ng make-up at accessories ung vanity table nya. Wala nang one or two shirts na n
akakalat sa sahig. The
room is clean. Empty.

Except for the small box and the piece of paper sitting on her bed.

Lumakad ako palapit sa kama. I slowly took the small box. Nanikip ang dibdib ko
nung na-recognize ko
kung ano ung box na un.

It was a ring's box... The diamond ring's box. I opened it -- kahit na alam ko n
a kung anong nasa loob -pero seeing the diamond ring... It just made things more real, you know? We're n
o longer engaged. She
left me the ring. She's really gone.

I closed the box and reached for the paper na pinapatungan kani-kanina lang nung
box. I unfolded it and
read the small message. I read it again... and again.. and again.

Nung nag-sink in na sa utak ko ung binasa ko, I couldn't help but smile.

The message is simple.. but it is exactly what I wanted to hear (or read, whatev


I'll wait for you.

. Sardines."

::Chapter 87::

Time After Time


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

There is something very familiar about this guy's face. It's getting annoying na
I can't place what's so
familiar about him. Kahit nung sumabit na si Jean sa braso nya para ipakilala un
g ka-"date" nya (Meet
Patrick daw), I still can't stop glaring at him. I don't really care if it's mak
ing the guy uncomfortable. Tama
lang un. Anong iniisip nya? Gagawin kong madali ang buhay nya, eh malakas ang lo
ob nyang ilabas ang
kapatid ko?!

Who cares kung 16 na si Jean at pinayagan na sya ng mga magulang naming makipag"date"? It is my
brotherly right to make the guy's life miserable. Especially since mukhang prett
y boy tohng lalaking toh...
Wait a minute...

I stared at the guy's face again, and then it hit me. I knew there's something f
amiliar about him! Well,
not entirely familiar, pero nandun na rin ung resemblance.

He looks like Kenny!

Damn. And I thought Jean finally got over that little crush.

Ako: Dude.

Napatingin sa'kin si Jean tsaka ung ka-"date" nya.

Ako: Are you gay?

Jean: Kuya!

Ako: What? I'm just making sure. He looks a lot like your previous "Prince Charm
ing", or nakalimutan mo
na ba?

Jean: Shut up.

Patrick: Prince Charming?

Jean: Don't mind him. Na-overwork na utak nyan, hindi na gumagana.

She turned to glare at me while still talking to the amused boy next to her.

Jean: Bitter lang sya kasi ilang taon na syang walang girlfriend. Pakipot pa kas
i. If I were you, matagal na
kong lumipad sa States---

Ako: Jeanette.

Jean: What? Sasabihin mo nanaman na busy ka? Na hindi pa kasi tapos ung kontrata
mo? Hay nako!
Ehwan ko syo!

Ako: You know? I liked you better when you were young and annoying. At least, no
'n, may pagka-cute
pa ung pagka-annoying mo. Now, you're just plain annoying.

Jean: Sabi mo lang un. Alis na nga kami.

Ako: Make sure you come home before eleven - and I mean, eleven in the evening,
Jean, not eleven the
next day. Maghihintay syo si Aling Ligaya.

Jean: Okay na, kuya. Masyado kang uptight. Relax ka lang dyan. If I know, kinaka
bahan ka na, wala pang

Ako: Like I said earlier, you're annoying. -__-

Tumawa lang sya, and then walked up to me and gave me a hug.

Jean: See you soon, kuya.

After nun, hinila nya na palabas si Patrick bago pa man makapag-paalam nang ayos
ung tao. Jean talaga,
lumaking may pagka-dominatrix. I stood by the front door and watched the car dis
appear, hanggang sa
sumarado na ulit ung gate. I walked back to the room na ginawa kong personal wor
king space ko. It's
where I write songs for other artists, where I review tracks and albums I might
feel like producing, where
I check on talents with potential, and where I finalize the financial and materi
al donations na pupunta sa
mga maliliit na baryo na kailangan ng konting tulong sa araw-araw nilang buhay.
Yep, nagpapakaphilanthropist ako. One of my earliest projects was the small town na pinagkawal
aan namin ni Venice
years and years ago.

Napatingin ako sa kalendaryo na nakapaskil sa may tabi ko. It's been months sinc
e the last time I talked
to Venice; years since the last time I saw her. We've both been busy with work a
nd other things. If things
go the way I plan, then it won't be long 'til our lives return to the way it sho
uld be.


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

"What?!? He wouldn't go out with that walking stick! Nasa kinder pa yata yan nun
g nag-hhigh school na

I know it's not healthy na sigawan ang TV, pero pag bad trip ka, at lalo pang na
kaka-bad trip ang
pinapanood mo, anoh pa bang care mo kung hindi makakasagot ung sinisigawan mo?

I stabbed my spoon sa bowl ng ice cream na kinakain ko as I glared at the screen

. Siguro, bad idea na
nagpakabit ako ng TFC, pero pano na lang ako sasagap ng tsismis tungkol kay Jerw
in kung wala akong
Filipino channel, di vah?

But then again, kung ang mga tsismis eh ganitong nakaka-high blood and mostly di
naman totoo, eh ano
pang silbi ng panonood ko?

I blame Jerwin. -__-

Three years, four months, and two weeks.

Kung tinuloy-tuloy ko ang pag-ccross ng mga araw sa kalendaryo, siguro makakasig

urado ako na ganyan
na exactly katagal since lumipad ako dito sa States. Pero dahil tumigil ako sa p
ag-eekis ng mga araw
nung umabot ako sa one year and two months, in denial akong ganyan na talaga kat

All I know is... Three years... Three years na kong naghihintay.

Ang hirap pala.

Of course, it's not like we didn't keep in contact. We talk once a month. Chat o
nline once in a while pag
may oras (which is very rare considering timezones and work schedules). Okay, so
I haven't actually seen
him in the flesh since three years ago, it's alright. I can manage somehow. As l
ong as I get to talk to
him...... He knows that.

So why in the world bigla syang nag-disappear!??

For three months now, walang email, walang tawag, walang YM, walang kahit ano! Z
ilch! Nada!
Nasagasaan ba sya ng truck?!? (I hope not. -_-)

Napatingin ulit ako sa TV, na iba na ngayon ang tsinitsismis.

May nakita na kaya syang iba?

Aba! Sabihin nya man lang sa'kin nang mapa-ambush ko sya! Tatlong taon akong pin
aghintay, tapos
sasama lang pala sya kung anong walking stick?! Abno ba sya?!

Haayyy. -___-

I turned off the TV and pried my butt out of the couch. I might as well go out a
nd... do something bago
ako ma-loka dito. Ehto ang isa sa mga disadvantages ng nakatira sa isang apartme
nt, all alone. Walang
makausap na pang-distract man lang. Ever since I moved out of my mom's house two
years ago, I found
out na ang creepy pala pag kinakausap mo ang dingding -- nagmumukha kang sira.

So, tinigil ko na un. Instead, pag kailangan ko na ng distraction, I walk outsid

e, kahit isang block lang, at
kahit anong oras pa. Good thing safe ang neighborhood na napaglipatan ko.

I grabbed my keys from the counter and then quietly locked the door behind me. I
t's already 10:30 PM,
so most of the other residents sa building, either tulog na or getting ready na
matulog. I went down the
stairs, and then stepped out of the building. Malapit na mag-autumn, so medyo ma
lamig na ang hangin
pag gabi. I guess this is one of the reasons kaya halos wala nang tao sa labas.
May mga dumadaan na
sasakyan once in a while, pero walang naglalakad.

I tugged my coat closer to me and started my walk. Iniisip kong maglakad hanggan
g sa Walgreens two
blocks away para bumili ng gatas... pero ang weird naman, di ba? Lumabas ako nan
g ganito ka-late ng
gabi para lang bumili ng gatas. But oh well.. May kung anong law ba na nagsasabi
ng bawal bumili ng
gatas at eleven in the evening?

Tumigil ako sa kabilang street nung Walgreens para hintayin ung pedestrian light
na mag-green. Ehwan
ko ba kung bakit ako sumusunod sa traffic rules, wala namang kotse. May pulis ka
yang nakatago kung
saan? Huhulihin nya ba ko pag nag-jaywalking ako?

Only one way to find out. bwahahahaha

I looked to the right and looked to the left para siguraduhing walang sasagasa s
a'kin. Mahirap na.
Masakit ang mamatay. Nung nakita kong the coast is clear, I was about to step ou
t of the sidewalk nang
napansin kong may nakatayo sa kabilang side nung street. Normally, I wouldn't mi
nd, pero this time,
nakatitig sa'kin ung guy -- which of course, freaked me out. O.O

I stood on the spot and squinted para makita ko nang mabuti ung mukha nya -- the
n I froze.

Oh my gawd. I'm hallucinating. Natulog na talaga dapat ako!

Suddenly, the other guy smiled and casually waved at me. Hindi ko na napigilan a
ng sarili ko as tears
threatened to spill out of unblinking eyes. I ran towards him -- thankful na wal
ang sasakyan dahil late ko
nang na-realize na i-check bago tumawid. He jogged towards me to meet me halfway
. When he's finally
close enough, I flung my arms around him.

Ako: Oh my god. You're here! You're here! What are you doing here?!?

Natawa sya ng konti as he gave me a quick hug before pulling away to look at me.

Jerwin: Anoh pa ba? I'm fulfilling my promise. I've come for you.

::Chapter 88.1::

Destiny Fulfilled


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

"Kelan ka pa dumating? Sinong kasama mo? How did you know where I was? Nasan mga
gamit mo?
Pano ka nakarating dito?"

Jerwin chuckled softly as I barreled him with questions. I know, halata bang naexcite ako? Walang
magulo! Moment ko itowh!

I stared at him as we walk back to my place. He looks better in person kesa pag
nakikita ko sya sa TV. Of
course, mas amazing naman talaga dahil nakikita ko sya habang kinakausap nya ko
- nahahawakan ko
pa! Sensory overload! Ganun pa rin itsura nya. It's been three years, pero paran
g walang nagbago. If
ever, nag-mature lang nang konti ang mukha nya. May kung anong wisdom na from li
fe experiences sa
mga mata nya. But the boyish good looks, the teasing grin, the affectionate glan
ces... Nandun pa rin.

It's like nothing changed. Parang ang sarap nya pa ring rape-in! wahahahaha char

Jerwin: Slow down. Isa-isa lang ang tanong.

Ako: Okay. Start from the beginning.

Jerwin: I just got here this afternoon. I'm staying in a Comfort Inn not far fro
m here. After dropping off
my things, I took a cab and was about to go to your place nung nakita kitang nag
lalakad. Tinigil ako nung
taxi sa may kanto. I've been following you for five minutes, naghahanap ng tataw
iran, nung nakita mo

Ako: Awwww... You're stalking me already, kakarating mo lang.

Jerwin: I'm not stalking you.

Ako: Okay lang un, Sunshine. Alam ko namang di mo na mapigilan ang sarili mo. Ta
gal mo ba namang di
nakita tohng ganda kong toh.

Jerwin: True.

Ay. Ang bilis um-agree. I likes!

He suddenly stopped walking and pulled me in for a hug. Syempre, ako namang si m
alandi, nagpa-hug
naman. Sigh...

Jerwin: I missed you.

Ako: I know.

Jerwin: Na-miss mo ba ko?

Ako: We-ell... Tatlong buwan ka ring hindi nagparamdam... -__-

Jerwin: So... dun sa tatlong buwan na un, may nagbago ba?

Ako: Sinadya mo bang hindi magparamdam?

Jerwin: I wanted to give you a sense of freedom bago ako pumunta dito, just in c
ase... I don't want you
to feel obligated to still wait for me. I wanted you to have the opportunity to
find out if you want
something -- someone else.

Ako: Hmmm.. I did go out with this guy a month ago.

Naramdaman kong biglang nag-tense ung hawak nya sa'kin. Si kuya talaga... Magpap
aka-martyr, tapos
pag hinarap mo ung kinda, like-a na gusto nyang mangyari, biglang aatakihin sa p
uso. Haaayyy, mga tao
nga naman.

Jerwin: And?

Ako: We went out once, that's it. I realized na hindi pala ako natutuwa sa kanya
.. and the main reason
na pumayag lang akong lumabas kasama sya is nabbwiset ako syo dahil hindi ka nag
paparamdam... Ang
gwapo mo!

He laughed again. Binitawan nya na ko, pero hawak nya pa rin ung kamay ko as we
started walking sa
apartment building kung san ako nakatira.

Jerwin: Hey, may trabaho ka ba bukas?

Ako: Nope. Off ako ng weekends.

Jerwin: Good. Tomorrow, we can grab lunch, tapos ipasyal mo ko. As for tonight,
I guess we can stay up

Ako: Di ka ba pagod?

Jerwin: Well, a little... (smiles) But I figured I don't really have to go back
to my motel room tonight...
Maybe just a quick nap?

Ako: Makikitulog ka?

As soon as I opened the door to my apartment and stepped inside, dumiretso kagad
si Jerwin sa living
room. He plopped himself on the couch - parang isda na bagong huli.

Jerwin: What? You don't want to spend every minute, every hour with me now that
I'm here?

Ako: Ang feeling mo rin, noh?

Pinanood ko sya as he tried to make himself comfortable sa aking beloved plush c

ouch. Nung napansin
nyang hindi ko sya nilalapitan, he craned his neck to look at me.

Jerwin: Come here, Sardines. Tagal ko nang hindi naririnig ang "You Are My Sunsh

As soon as nakatulog at nakapagpahinga na nang konti si Jerwin, quality T-I-M-E

kagad ang banat namin.
Saturday, nagliwaliw kami sa Chicago, kung san mangiyak-ngiyak ako nung pinilit
nya kong umakyat sa
Willis Tower at pumasok dun sa glass thingy overlooking the city. Matamaan sana
ng kidlat ang kung
sinuman nakaisip gawing tourist attraction ang pagkataas-taas na building na un.
Hindi pa natuwa,
talagang nilagyan pa ng glass encase sa pinakataas na floor, sticking out of the
building, na pag nag-step
ka sa loob, makikita mo talaga ang TAAS ng tower under your feet. Kung anong tuw
a ni Jerwin, ganon
naman ang lakas ng temptation kong umiyak at suntukin ung ngiti sa mukha nya. Bu
malik kami sa
ground floor, at halos halikan ko na ang semento sa sobrang tuwa. T^T We then we
nt to Millennium
Park, tapos sumakay ng subway papunta sa Chinatown. Over all, it was a good day.

Nung Sunday naman, binisita namin sina Mommy at ang kanyang boylet sa bahay nila
. Imagine na lang
ang excitement ng mother ko nang nakilala nya kung sino ung nakasakay sa kotse k
o. Halos ayaw nya na
nga kami paalisin. Kung wala siguro akong trabaho kinabukasan, baka kinulong nya
na kami sa bahay

Monday, I grudgingly spent 8 hours at work. I usually don't mind working in the
nursing home -promise, may pagka-exciting ang buhay dun lalo na pag maraming mga may dementia
na umaaligidaligid. When I got out, I drove to Jerwin's motel to pick him up for an early di
nner. He just woke up nung
dumating ako -- jet lag raw. Kawawa naman.

We went to a nearby restaurant. Kinuwento sa'kin ni Jerwin lahat ng mga pinaggag

awa nya the past

three months. Apparently, busy-busyhan si kuya sa pagiging santo. Kinuwento nya
rin ang so-called date
ni Jean the day ng flight nya. That date was about four or five days ago, hindi
pa rin nawawala ang
kagustuhan nyang i-harass ung lalaki for dating his "baby sister". Psh. Overprot
ective na kuya.

I was driving him back nang pumasok sa isip ko ang isang ideya. Syempre, ako nam
an si impulsive, wala
nang isip-isip pa, tinanong ko kagad sya.

Ako: Why don't you check out of the motel and just stay with me?

He looked at me wide-eyed. Tinaasan ko sya ng kilay. Anong nakakagulantang sa ta

nong na un? Avah,
kung iisipin, makakatipid pa sya. It's not like we've never shared a roof before

Ako: What? Ngayon ka pa magpapaka-demure? Nasan ang demure-ness mo nung binahay

mo ko years

Jerwin: Excuse me, hindi kita "binahay". That just sounds... wrong. -__- We were
engaged, and you
needed a place--

Ako: Yeah, yeah. Same thing.

I didn't miss the fact na "were" ang ginamit nya. "We were engaged" raw. Haaayyy
.. Pero un naman
talaga ang usapan, di ba? As soon as I leave, wala nang engagement. But now that
he's here... Well, wala
akong balak na biglang maglupasay at magsisigaw ng: "Jerwin! Marry me! Take me n
ow!" Josko.

Although pag wala pa syang ginawa soon para i-semento ang-- kung anumang relasyo
n namen -- baka
nga maglupasay na ko sa sobrang frustration.

Jerwin: No, it wasn't. We didn't even share a bed.. except that last night... bu
t, you know what I mean.

Ako: Ahsusssss... If I know, every night, pinapangarap mong nasa kama mo ko noh.
Wag kang mag-alala,
may mga gabi na pinapangarap rin kita.

Jerwin: What?!?

I laughed at the startled expression on his face. I know, many years in the Stat
es corrupted my mind.
Tame pa nga yang comment na yan.

Ako: So? Are you gonna move in with me again? Ikaw naman ang binabahay ko ngayon
- although, sa
apartment tayo, pero you get the idea.

Jerwin: Haayyy.. okay. I'll check out tomorrow. You'll pick me up after work?

Ako: Yup.

That was how Jerwin found himself in my apartment. It worked for me. He cooks me
breakfast and
dinner. Minsan, hatid-sundo nya rin ako -- hurray for international driving lice
nse. Nagliliwaliw kami
paminsan-minsan tuwing gabi. Nood ng sine or kain sa labas... or mag-bar or kahi
t anong magpag-tripan.

Next thing I know, three weeks na syang nandito. When I asked him kung kailan sy
a babalik ng Pinas, he
just shrugged. Indefinite leave of absence daw sya from work. Shosyal.

One weekend, he took me out for a "date". Hindi ko alam kung bakit biglang "date
" na ang tawag sa mga
lakwatsa namin. I wanted to ask him kung ano ba kami, dahil for sure, hindi kami
friends... pero, we're
not exactly in a romantic relationship yet... yata?

Iba ang pag-fuss ni Jerwin nung gabi na un. I watched him rummage through my clo
set, naghahanap ng
susuotin ko. Finally, he pulled out a dark red cocktail dress. I looked at the d
ress questioningly, tapos sa

Ako: San tayo pupunta at kailangan naka-dress up ako?

Jerwin: Secret.

Ako: I'm not gonna wear that thing unless you tell me why. Alam mo ba kung gano
kalamig sa labas?

Totoo naman. With winter approaching, manginginig ako kung susuotin ko ung nilab
as nya. It's a fitted,
sleeveless dress with a plunging neckline to showcase a bit of cleavage. The hem
falls to my knees. I
bought that dress nung minsang napag-tripan kung magpaka-landi kaya ahyun - mala
ndi rin ung damit.

Jerwin: Wear a coat... and a scarf if you want. It's gonna be warm sa pupuntahan
natin anyway.

Nilagay nya ung dress sa kama, then took my hand, and practically threw me in th
e bathroom para magshower.

Jerwin: Fifteen minutes.

After saying that, he closed the door. I stared at the piece of wood in front of
me. Hindi ko alam kung
ma-cconfuse ba ko sa actions ng mokong, o mapipikon dahil tinapon nya ko sa bany
o. At naloloko ba
sya? Ilang linggo na syang nandito, feeling nya enough na ang fifteen minutes pa
ra makaligo?!? Anong
gusto nya, magwisik-wisik na lang ako?!

Sighing, I turned on the shower para maligo. I didn't bother locking the door. T
ignan ko lang ang tapang
nya kung bigla syang pumasok. Nabbwisit ako dahil I don't what he's so worked up
for. Gusto ko na nga
sanang ihampas ung lamp sa ulo nya, just to make him stop pacing all over the pl
ace and mumbling to

Hayy. Bahala sya sa buhay nya. I'll take a shower, just like he ordered me to do
, pero I doubt I'd be done
by fifteen minutes. If I know, baka lalo syang mabaliw pag one minute late ako s
a intended nyang time. I

I was right. I finished my shower twenty more minutes after ng 15 minutes nya. W
hen I opened the
door, I found him standing outside with an impatient look on his face.

Ako: What?

::Chapter 88.2::

Destiny Fulfilled


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

I'll give it to Jerwin, I didn't expect him to take me here. Nung pinagsuot nya
ko ng dress, at nung nakita
ko sya naka-dress shirt and slacks, akala ko sa mamahaling restaurant kami pupun
ta. Feel na feel ko pa
naman ang high heels ko. Instead, he drove to Clearwater, a live stage theater 2
0 minutes away from my

Ako: You made me dress up para manood ng kung anong small play na pwede namang p
anoorin nang
naka-jeans at t-shirt?

Jerwin: Of course not.

Ako: What are we doing here then?

Jerwin: Sumunod ka na lang.

He locked the car. He took my hand and led me towards the theater's door. Napati
ngin ako sa paligid.

Ako: I don't think it's open...

Jerwin: Of course it is. It's a Saturday.

Well, not everything is open on Saturdays.... I think. Besides, kung bukas sya,
bakit walang tao sa paligid?

I would have told him that, pero bago ako makapagsalita, he pulled the door open
and stepped inside.
Okay, so bukas nga sya. Still, wala pa rin akong nakikitang tao.

Jerwin: Close your eyes.

Ako: What?

Jerwin: Close your eyes, or you'll ruin the surprise.

Ako: I hate surprises.

Pero sinarado ko naman mga mata ko.

Jerwin: Of course you do.

After making sure na wala na kong nakikita, he took my hand again and led me to.
... wherever we're
going. Parang nagkakaron ako ng deja vu... -___-

Ako: Are we there yet?

Jerwin: Almost. Watch out, may limang steps ng hagdan in front of you.

I carefully trudged up the mini-stairs, grumbling under my breath on how I shoul

d have worn sneakers
instead of high heels kung paglalakarin nya pala ako without my beloved eyesight
. -__-

Jerwin: Okay, stop here.... and open your eyes.

I took a deep breath, and then, very slowly, afraid na baka maliwanag sa loob, I
opened my eyes........
and gaped at the sight in front of me. O_O

Ako: What? How? When? What? O.O

It's a relatively small theater. We're standing on one side of the stage, with t
he rest of the theater so
dark na hindi ko man lang makita ung mga seats. May apat na spotlights na nakatu
tok sa stage -- or
particularly, dun sa nakalagay sa stage. There are cut-outs of buildings in the
background. A small table
for two is situated in the middle of the stage. Maya-maya, may soft melody na ng
mga violins ang nagfloat sa background.

I turned to Jerwin, wide-eyed. This definitely looks somewhat familiar.

Ako: How...?

Jerwin: I ran into the theater manager when I dropped by the last week.

Ako: And pinayagan ka nyang gawin lahat toh?!?

Jerwin: He's a big supporter of romance... and with a few bucks added to his ban
k account, he was more
than willing to rent me the theater for the night.

Hinila nya ulit ung kamay ko papunta sa table namin. I stared at the table, half
-expecting na nananaginip
ako at mawawala na sya any minute now. But it stayed there.

Ako: Why here?

Jerwin: Well, the original plan was to take you back to the music hall where we
had our first date[1].
Pero, matagal ang flight, at masyadong malayo ang Pilipinas. So I settled for so
mewhere closer. I tried to
make things as similar as possible. You like?

Ako: Very.

Nanlalaki pa rin yata ang mata ko. I blinked twice para hindi mahulog ang mga ey
eballs ko. Panira yata
ng moment if ever biglang tumalbog sa table ang mata ko. Eewwww. -__-

As soon as we sat down, may lumabas na waiter. He smiled, and then put a plate o
f something in front
of me and another one in front of Jerwin. After filling out glasses with champag
ne, he walked away.

Jerwin: Mag-rrequest sana ako ng sinigang, pero wala silang Filipino cook, and I
didn't have time na
magluto. I hope okay lang syo ang breaded chicken and mashed potatoes?

Ako: We can always eat at home pag nagutom tayo ulit.

We ate in companionable silence, may paminsan-minsan na small talk, with the sof
t music playing in the
background. I wonder what Jerwin is thinking. Ano kayang ibig sabihin nito bigla
-bigla nya ko nilalabas -at ganito pa ka-chuva ang event ni kuya! Are we going to try the boyfriend-girlf
riend thing now? I know,
ang abnormal... Engaged muna kami, tapos break, tapos tsaka kami nag-bf-gf. Tala
gang kinarir namin
ang pag-mess up sa normal cycle noh?

Patapos na ung dessert namin when Jerwin suddenly leaned over and took my hand.
I looked up in
confusion. Bakit nya iniistorbo ang very much enjoyable na relasyon namin ng bro
wnie fudge ko?

Jerwin: Venice. Look to the side.

Tumingin ako dun sa mga "buildings" na nakasabit sa tabi ko.

Jerwin: No, not that side, the other side.

Tumingin ako sa kabilang side ko -- where it's completely dark. Anoh? May multo
ba dito na dapat

Ako: What---?

Suddenly, I saw it. Hundreds (maybe thousands?) of tiny lights glimmering in the
darkness. They look like
stars. Nag-mukhang starry, starry night ung theater. I was completely awed.

Ako: Stars. @.@

Jerwin: Yep. Kung titignan mong mabuti, baka may makita ka pang constellation.

Ako: Really?!

Ako namang si naive, naniwala nga, at talagang tinutok ko ung mata ko para magha
nap ng kahit isa man
lang na constellation. I don't know how they would do it. I mean, the lights are
coming from the stage
lights above... May kung anong papel siguro na nilagay para maging maliit ung st
ream ng lights... So..
pano kaya nila gagawin ang Orion? Or ang Big Dipper?

All of a sudden, a few other "stars" appeared in addition to the already starry
theater. These new stars
are brighter than the rest, kaya nag-ppop out sila. Ang weird pa kasi napansin k
ong magkakalapit sila....
magkakatabi... nasa gitna ng "sky"... at may letter "R" na na-shape ung isang gr

I squinted and leaned even closer para panoorin ung mga new "stars". As one lett
er and another and
another took form, I felt my heart start beating faster. At kahit anong gusto ko
, hindi ko matanggal ung
mga mata ko.

Finally, the words were finished. I stared at the finished phrase. I rubbed my e
yes, baka namamalit-mata
lang ako. Pero nung tumingin ulit ako, ganun pa rin ung nakita ko. Ganun pa rin
ung message.

"Marry Me."

I turned to Jerwin in bewilderment. He was watching me the entire time. There's

a mask of nervousness,
excitement, fear, and hope on his face.

Jerwin: Venice, maybe it's expected na magsimula tayo sa boyfriend-girlfriend na

relasyon. But, I don't
see the point of doing that. I'm not here to take a step back; I'm here to make
a step forward. We were
engaged, and I wouldn't dream of denying it happened. It gave me the chance to m
eet, to know, to
understand, and to love everything that you are. Now, I'm asking you to give us
another chance.. to start
all over again. This time, because you want to. This time, without outside press
ure, without
reservations. Because after all these years, I still love you. I loved who you w
ere, I love the woman
you've become, and I'm certain I will love the woman you will be in the years to

I opened my mouth to speak, pero walang lumabas. I turned to the message again,
and then to him. I
still couldn't form a coherent thought, much less a sentence. Is he really doing

He stood up from his seat, and I swear, maluha-luha ako nang bigla syang lumuhod
sa harap ko. He took
out a small velvet box from his pocket, and I could almost feel my heart jump ou
t of my chest. He
opened the box and I gaped at the gorgeous ring inside.

It wasn't the engagement ring I had last time. Instead of a diamond, the ring ha
s a heart-shaped
aquamarine stone surrounded by diamond accents. The silver band is plain. It's b
eautiful, and I really,
really hope he's giving it to me.

Jerwin: I've had this for years. I don't know if you still remember it. It's the
first ring you looked at that
day we went with our moms to get an engagement ring.[2] It took time to track, b
ut I was able to find it.
I've had it even before you left. I figured, if I was gonna be engaged to you, t
hen I'll make sure you have
a ring that you liked and that I bought, not because I have to, but because I am
choosing to commit to
you. I'm making that choice now.

He took a deep breath as he looked straight in my eyes.

Jerwin: Will you make me the luckiest man on earth and spend the rest of your li
fe with me?

Oh my god...

Jerwin: Sardines, will you marry me?

Hindi ko na napigilan. Nagtuloy-tuloy na ang luha ko as I flung myself and gave

him a bone-crushing hug.

Ako: Yes! Yes! Of course, I'll marry you!

He gave a small, relieved chuckle as he hugged me back. After a few moments, he

pulled back and took
my left hand. He was grinning as he slipped the ring on my finger. I stared at t
he ring in utter joy before
wrapping my arms around his neck again.

Jerwin: If I knew you're going to be this happy, I would've proposed weeks ago.

He affectionately wiped my tears away. Tumawa lang ako. I looked at the "stars"

Ako: At talagang may ganito ka pang nalalaman ha...

Jerwin: Well.. I do remember you telling me one time na papakasalan mo kahit sin
o na makakapagarrange ng stars sa message na yan. I figured, if you say no, I can always black
mail you or guilt-trip you in
following through with your words.[3] Good thing it didn't have to come to that,

::Chapter 89::

Strength For The Journey


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Eight months later...

I stared at my reflection for about the hundredth time today, and for the hundre
dth time din since this
morning, isa lang ang pumasok sa isip ko: Anak ng tinapa, ang ganda ko!

Walang magulo, araw ko toh! Okay, so technically, araw rin ni Jerwin, pero never
ko pang naririnig ang
phrase na "This is the groom's day", kaya wag kumontra.

Eight months. Eight months naming pinaghandaan ang "The Big Day". Eight months n
g mga clueless na
tingin sa mga centerpieces, pagpili ng motif, paghanap ng reception hall at simb
ahan, sending out
invitations, pakikinig kung bakit mas appropriate ang roses kesa sa lilies, pags
usukat ng mga gowns,

making sure na hindi ako magiging "too big" for the gown, pagiging negotiator be
tween Sheena (Maid of
Honor) vs. Nicole & Jean (very vocal na bride's maids) tungkol sa style ng gowns
nila, at pagbugbog kay
Jerwin dahil iniwan nya ko sa mga mala-monster na kamay ng mga nanay namin.

Kung hindi ko lang mahal ung mokong, malamang tinakbuhan ko na sya from the day
na bumulaga ang
mga nanay namin sa pintuan ng apartment ko six months ago. Samahan pa ng mga pag
tatalo nina
Sheena, Nicole, at Jean, ang constant na pagkapit ni Anthony (dahil dalaga na ra
w ung alaga nya... wth. __-) sa leeg ko, at ang paglalandi ni Kenny sa mga nagliparan na pinsan ni Jerwi

I knew dapat kinidnap ko na lang si Jerwin at nag-Vegas na lang kami! Wala nang
hassle, Elvis-look-a-like
pa ang magkakasal sa'min!

Haayyy. Pero syempre, hindi pumayag si kuya. I deserve a "memorable wedding" daw
. Chuchu nya.
Ayaw nya lang masakal ng nanay nya.

After months of suffering, dumating na rin ang araw. For the past ten minutes si
nce dumating kami sa
simbahan, nakailang beses na kong tumakbo dito sa restroom. Walang awat ang acti
on ng bladder ko sa
sobrang nerbyos ko. It's a miracle na hindi kami nagkakasalubong ni Jerwin. Ang
last na bulong sa'kin ni
Anton, hindi rin raw mapakali si Jerwin, at panay rin ang tawag ni nature sa kan

I really don't understand why we're nervous though. It's not like may isang tata
kbo sa'min, or may ex na
biglang susulpot para magpaka-kontrabida (Nasa Paris pa rin si Geena, di ba? I h
ope. )

Sandali na lang, magsisimula na. I checked myself out one last time. Di ko napig
ilan ung ngiti ko as I
looked at my wedding dress. It's not the traditional all-white gown our mothers
wanted. I chose a satin
pearl white Princess-styled wedding gown. The bodice is accented with crystal be
ading sequins and
rhinestones. It's very pretty. What makes is scandalous to my mother's and mothe
r-in-law's eyes... ung
bust and ung train nung gown color red. As in dark red.

I have elbow-length fingerless gauntlet glove with red embroidery dun sa little
triangle, intricately going
around my wrist. I refused to wear a veil. Ayokong biglang sumabit at kung ano p
ang mangyaring panira
ng araw. Kaya naka-French twist na lang ang hair ko, with a few loose ringlets f
alling around my lightly
made-up face. I adjusted a couple of the small red flowers beautifully stuck on
my hair, bago ako
tuluyang umikot para lumabas na sa aking hideout.

"Finally! Akala ko kailangan na kita kaladkarin palabas!"

I almost jumped nung muntik ko nang ma-run over si Sheena. I smiled at the tiny
bump beneath her red
dress. Nagpakasal sila ni Anton last year, and finally, mukhang papalakihin na n
ila ang family nila. I can't
help but envy the natural glow emanating from my best friend. I wonder kung maggglow rin ako ng
ganon once I get pregnant with Jerwin's child?


Oh my God. I'm getting married.

Sheena suddenly grabbed my hand and practically dragged me papunta sa waiting en

trance. Dun ko lang
na-realize na nagsimula na pala talaga ang procession.

Sheena: I-mmeet ka ng mom mo at ni Tito Rem sa dulo para ibigay ka. Ehwan ko ba
naman kung bakit ka
pumayag na maglakad ng isa sa aisle. God knows kung hindi ako hawak ni dad nung
naglalakad ako sa
aisle, malamang wala pa ko sa kalahati, bumigay na ang tuhod ko.

Oh my God. I'm really getting married.

Sheena: Okay, time ko na maglakad. See you later! Wag kang iiyak! Wag mong i-tes
t kung waterproof ba
talaga ang mascara mo. Panira sa pictures!

And with that, she bounced past the double doors, sa waiting arms ng isa sa mga
pinsan ni Jerwin, who's
standing as his best man.

I froze on the spot. Sa tinagal-tagal ng panahon, ngayon pa talaga nag-sink in n

a ikakasal na ko. I'm
gonna spend every waking moment, sleeping moment, annoyed moment, drunk moment,
at kung anuano pang moment with the person waiting for me at the end of the aisle.

And doesn't that sound amazing? You'll spend every moment of the rest of your li
fe with the love of
your life.

I know it's not normal, pero I quickly tuned in to the small voice na kumakausap
sa'kin. I think I'm about
to hyperventilate, at kung hindi tumigil ang puso ko sa pag-mamarathon nya, I'm
gonna need a paper
bag to breathe.

You love Jerwin. You're ready. You can do this. Just walk inside, and when you s
ee him, everything will
fall to its place. You won't want to be anywhere else.

Okay. That sounds right. I can do this. Just walk.

I heard the music change para sa entrance na ng bride. I gulped as I peeked insi
de. I saw people stand up
para hintayin akong pumasok. Even Gerard's parents are here. I sent them an invi
tation out of courtesy
since medyo naging close rin naman kami ng mom nya simula two years ago na binis
ita ko ung actual na

libingan ni G. They liked me and treated me like the daughter they would have ha
d, kaya more than
happy silang umattend ng kasal ko.

I noticed some people craning their necks para silipin ako. I realized na kanina
pa pala ako nakatayo sa
may side ng pinto - unseen by the people inside. I should move. I should go insi

Damn it. Bakit nga ba pumayag akong maglakad mag-isa?!? What I would give to hav
e some strength to
make my legs move... T^T

Deep breaths. You've been waiting your entire life for this. You deserve it.

I took one shaky step.. then another.. and another. Finally, nasa doorway na ko.
People smiled when
they saw me. I took a deep breath to calm my nerves. My eyes immediately flew sa
harap nung
simbahan, where Jerwin was standing, waiting patiently, with an awestruck smile
on his face.

Napangiti rin ako ng konti, kahit medyo nag-bblush na ko dahil sa mga matang nak
atutok sa'kin. Now I
know kung san nanggaling ang term na "blushing bride."

Okay. Time to do this. Just walk. I just need to walk... Nawa'y hindi bumigay an
g tuhod ko.

I need to be strong. Be steady.

Be happy, V.

I was about to take a step forward when I suddenly felt a gentle push behind me.

It wasn't hard na mapapasubsob ako, pero it was enough to make me really take a

Napatingin ako sa likod ko in confusion. The area is a closed space, and there's
absolutely no one else
there. I turned my head back sa nilalakaran ko.


After deciding na baka imagination ko lang un, I finally looked up again and met
with Jerwin's eyes.
There's so much pride, hope, joy, and affection in his gaze, na kung hindi lang
ako naka-heels at nakagown, baka tinakbo ko na ung aisle at dinemand kay father na ikasal nya na kami
- now na.

I finally reached him, and as Tito Remy gave me to Jerwin, I couldn't help but f
eel a burst of belonging in
my heart. Di ko alam kung pano i-explain, pero I just knew right then and there,
that this is how it's
supposed to be, and this is how it's always going to be.

Jerwin smiled lovingly at me and I smiled back.

This is where the rest of our lives start.


Life Goes On


(Venice's POV)

---------------- .

Nine Months Later...

This is horrible. Kahit anong pilit kong paliitin or ipitin or kausapin, my very
pregnant stomach still
looks...well, very pregnant. -___-

Ngayon pa kasi naisipan ng mga bubwit na reporters dumaan! Bakit hindi pa sila m
aghintay ng ilang
araw!?? At least by then, baka sakaling naluwa ko na ung melon sa tyan ko. If th
e morning sickness, the
cramps, the mood swings aren't enough, ngayon, ma-pipicturan pa ko na mukhang ba
lyena. ARGH!!!

Ako: Why are these reporters coming here again?

Jerwin looked up from where he was tying his shoes. I can immediately see his ey
es calculating kung
may hidden meaning ba ko sa sinabi ko. Seriously, porket moody ako, hindi ibig s
abihin na lahat ng
sasabihin ko, may kung anong hidden agenda noh.

Jerwin: They're doing a feature piece. People kind of got excited when news leak
ed out that we still
ended up together after everything that happened. They're curious.

Ako: So curious na lumipad pa sila dito sa States?

Jerwin: Yep. They're also wondering about the small music school I founded. I th
ink one of the students
went to the Philippines. She got pretty famous. She called me a week ago. May of
fers na raw sa kanya to
record songs. She wants me to write a song for her.

I stared at the mirror again. Sinubuksan ko uhlet na i-re-arrange ung sash para
ma-cover ung tyan ko. It's

Ako: I look like an inflated beach ball. If you roll me down the stairs, I'll pr
obably bounce. -_-

Jerwin finished putting on his shoes. Nung narinig nya ung sinabi ko, he slowly
stood up and walked
behind me. He looked at my reflection as he snaked his arms around my waist to c
over my bulging

Jerwin: Sardines, you're 9 months pregnant. You have every right to look like a
beach ball.

Ako: So you do think I'm huge!?!?

Jerwin: What?!? No! Ang ibig kong sabihin, people won't care if -- if -- you loo
k rounder than usual.
There's a life growing inside you. It's a magical thing. And besides, I think I'
m really liking this pregnant
look on you.

Ako: Oh, do you now?

He tenderly
a. It never
amaze me na
a he helped

ran his hand over my tummy. There's a soft glow of wonder sa mata ny
fails to
parang hindi sya makapaniwala na there's this little person inside n

Jerwin: Yep. So, please don't call our baby a beach ball again. You might hurt h
is feelings.

Ako: "His"?

He nodded vehemently.

Jerwin: Mabuti nang merong kuya ang anak nating babae.

I shook my head in amusement as I twirled around to face him. I have a feeling n

a, if ever magkaron nga
kami ng anak na babae, Jerwin's the type of father that will dote on her. I can
even see him chasing away
guys. Daddy's girl ang anak namin, if ever. Pag lalaki naman, he'll teach him al
l the trades. I'm gonna
have to worry about our little boy breaking hearts left and right.

I can't wait to see Jerwin as a father.

I was patiently watching the interview go on. Malapit na yata sila matapos. Ang
tagal. -__- We took the
pictures earlier, kaya ngayon nakatunganga na lang ako as they ask Jerwin questi

Oh well. I stood up to get something to drink nang biglang--

Ako: Ugh.

Napahigpit bigla ung hawak ko sa upuan as another contraction hit me -- this tim
e, a LOT more painful
than the previous ones. When the pain subsided, I stood still for a minute... I
wonder if I'm in labor?

If I am, then that's just great. All I wanted to do is sleep, ngayon, kailangan
ko pang manganak muna
bago ako makatulog.

This is not my day.

Hindi napansin nung mga lalaki ung nangyari, so I had to hobble palapit sa kanil
a nang konti.

Ako: Jerwin?

Jerwin: Yes, Venice?

Ako: The beach ball is coming.

Napatingin sa'kin si Jerwin with a confused look.

Jerwin: What beach... beach ball? Beach ball?!?!

Napatayo bigla sya nung na-realize nya ung sinasabi ko. I would have laughed at
the clueless expressions
sa mga mukha ng mga bisita namin, pero, just then, another contraction hit me ag
ain. This one was even
worse than the one before -- and I don't normally curse -- pero as I clutched my
stomach, I think I let out
a whole sentence of expletives.

Ako: Are you just gonna stand there or am I gonna have to drive myself to the ho

That snapped the four very shocked men out of their reveries. Next thing I know,
tumakbo na si Jerwin
sa'kin, yelling at one of the guys to grab the bag near the front door.

Between the four men, they managed to get me to the car. One of the guys stayed
with us, while the
other two jumped in their own cars para sumunod sa'min sa ospital. Jerwin quickl
y looked around to see
if we're forgetting anything.

Jerwin: Okay. Wife, check. Baby, check. Baby bag, check. Venice's bag, check. Ce
llphone, check.

He backed out of the garage and tore through the streets, not caring too much ab
out the speed limit.
Dahilan nya, kung hulihin man kami ng pulis, eh di tumulong ung pulis na magpaan
ak sa'kin. Susuntukin
ko na sana sya, kung hindi lang ako pinigilan ni Kuya Ralph.


(Jerwin's POV)

---------------- .

"I don't care what you do! Smoke it out! Pull it out! Crack me open! Just get th
is thing out of me!!!"

Venice's screams reached all time high the past few hours. Mas lalo na ring tumi
tindi ung sakit ng
contractions nya. Umiksi na rin ung time between each contraction. I suppressed
a groan as she was hit
with another stab of pain. I can barely feel my hand anymore sa sobrang lakas ng
hawak nya. At hindi pa
sya nagsisimula sa actual na labor.

I looked at the doctor na tinitignan kung ready na ba si Venice. I almost sent a

prayer na please, for the
safety of everyone in the 2 mile radius, let's start giving Venice what she want

Doctor: Well, it seems like everything's in place.

I felt my legs tensed up. This is it. It's happening na. I gripped Venice's hand
with my own as we watched
the doctor position herself to help deliver the baby.

I gave her hand a quick kiss, hoping na kahit papano, it'll give her some sort o
f comfort..... coz Lord
knows I'm about to go crazy with anxiety and excitement.

Doctor: Okay, Venice, I want you to start pushing with everything you got. One..
. Two... Three... Push!

Lalong humigpit ung hawak ni Venice sa kamay ko. I think some of my bones broke.
. Her face turned red
with the effort. I bit my lip, trying to keep myself quiet, just in case ma-dist
ract ko sya.

She stopped to take a breath. The doctor urged her to push again. She screamed i
n frustration and pain.
Then she'll pause again. After a few moments, the doctor will tell her she has t
o push na ulit. The cycle
went on for what felt like forever. I stood there, whispering encouraging words
to Venice when her
hands started to shake. I wiped away her tears and the perspiration out of her f
ace. I kept my firm hold
on her hand.

Finally, she slumped back on the bed. Next thing I know, strong cries of a newbo
rn filled the delivery
room. Napatingin kaming dalawa dun sa doktor na may hawak na... very.. bloody ba
by. The baby's cries
were echoing all throughout the room. Parang napikon yata na inistorbo sya sa wa
rm and comfortable
na cocoon nya sa loob ni Venice.

Doctor: Congratulations, it's a boy!

Ako: A boy?

I saw the doctor hand the baby to one of the nurses to get him cleaned up. Him.
My boy. Both of us
were happily dazed hanggang sa may lumapit nang isang nurse.

Nurse: Do you want to see your son?

Ako: Of course.

I took the small bundle in my arms. He looks so... tiny... and wrinkly. He has h
is mom's pale skin. A soft
nestle of curls on top of his head. This is my baby -- my son. The life Venice a
nd I created. He's...

Ako: Hey, baby. It's me, your dad. You don't look like a beach ball at all.

I heard Venice snort right behind me. I slowly turned around para makita rin ni
Venice ung anak nya.

Ako: And this is your mom. She threatened to never have sex with daddy again on
our way here. Tell her
na gusto mo ng little brother or sister soon.

Venice: Jerwin!

I chuckled as I sat down next to her on the bed. We barely noticed the doctor an
d the nurses leave the
room to give us some privacy. We were too engrossed on this bundle of miracle in
my arms.

Venice: He's beautiful. What are we gonna name him?

We paused for a while and watched our baby fall asleep.

Ako: How about... Michael?

Venice: Michael?

Ako: Yeah! After Michael Jackson! Baka maging legend din ung anak natin someday.

Venice: Uh... no. He doesn't look like a "Michael".

Ako: Albert?

Venice: Einstein?

Ako: Galileo?

Venice: What?!?

She glared at me. Toh naman, di mabiro. Buti nga hindi "Policarpio" ang sinunod
kong i-suggest eh.

Natahimik kami. Venice finally settled back on her pillows to make herself comfo
rtable. Umurong ako
nang konti para nakikita nya pa rin ung baby sa bago nyang posisyon. I was looki
ng at the baby when I
suddenly remembered something Jean told me nung binalita naming buntis si Venice

Ako: Raymer.

Venice: Huh?

Ako: We can name him Raymer. You know, after my father and your stepfather. "Ray
" is my dad's
nickname, then, "Remy" spelled backwards is "ymer". He's named after special peo
ple in both our lives.
What do you think?

Venice: Raymer... I like it. Pero, di ba magrereklamo mga nanay naten?

Ako: When we have our daughter, we'll name her after them.

Venice: "When" ha... Sigurado kang magkaka-babae tayo?

Ako: Well, I won't stop until we get a daughter.

Venice: Anong you won't stop?

Ako: Na akitin ka?

Venice: Psh. Kilabutan ka nga.

I smiled at her. Tama na nga ang pang-aasar, baka nga hindi na ko bigyan ng anak

Ako: So, it's official? We're naming him Raymer?

Venice: Yeah. I like it.

Ako: Good. Coz I know what I want his second name to be.

Nilipat ko ung tingin k okay Venice, who's looking back at me expectantly. I too
k a deep breath. I've been
thinking about the name for a few months now. I think it's perfect, pero Venice
would have to agree
first. I wonder if she'll smack me... Well... uh.. I have to prevent violence in
front of my child.

Ako: You want to hold him now?

Venice: Huh? Oh, yeah. Okay.

Dahan-dahan kong nilipat si Raymer sa waiting arms ni Venice. Oh, ahyan, hitting
two birds with one
stone. First, Venice finally got to hold her son -- and she looks really happy a
s she coos to him. Second,
she won't be able to hit me if ever man na isipin nyang nababaliw ako.

Ako: Okay, so, as a second name, iniisip ko... How about... Gerard?

She paused, parang nag-iisip kung tama ba ung rinig nya or anoh. Then, very slow
ly, tumingin sya sa'kin.

Ako: I mean, since we're naming the kid after special people anyways, I think Ge
rard deserves the
recognition, right?

Tinaasan nya ko ng kilay. That usually means she's listening, but she has no ide
a what I'm trying to say.
So, at least, hindi pa rejected ang proposal ko.

Ako: Gerard is special to you, right?

Venice: Well, yeah...? I mean, he was my first love... Na-ggets mo ba kung gano
ka-awkward sabihin un
sa harap ng asawa ko?

Ako: I'm not jealous. Besides, that just helps my point. He's one of the main pe
ople who molded the
person you are - including your flaws and everything. If it weren't for him, you
'd probably be a very
different person, Venice, and I would never have found you as intriguing. At isa
pa, kung hindi rin dahil
sa kanya, baka hindi ka rin nagpakalasing nung gabing nagkakilala tayo.

Venice: You really want to name your son after him?

Ako: Yes. It's the least I can do. I would have wanted to meet the guy and thank
him for making you the
most loving, most amazing, most beautiful girl I've ever met.

Venice: Sige lang, bolahin mo pa ko.

I was about to respond nang biglang may kumatok sa pinto. I yelled for the perso
n to come in. The door
opened and pumasok sa loob sina Kuya Ralph, kasunod ung dalawang buntot nya. Hin
di pa rin pala
talaga sila umuwi.

Kuya Ralph: Hi. Sabi ng nurse, okay na raw na bumisita kami. We just wanted to m
ake sure na okay lang
ung mag-nanay.

Ako: What? What about me? Di nyo ko kakamustahin?

Kuya Greg: Bakit, ikaw ba ang nanganak?

Venice: Oo nga. Manahimik ka dyan.

Ako: Why are you so mean?

Venice: Yeah, yeah. Kuya, gusto nyong makita ang anak ko?

Ako: "Naten". Anak naten.

Lumapit ung tatlo para tignan si Raymer. Syempre, they immediately started with
the compliments.
Lalaki raw na heartthrob ung bata.

Kuya Vince: Uh, kung okay lang, pwede bang makakuha ng picture ng anak nyo for t
he feature piece? I
mean, kung gusto nyo lang naman na i-release na sa publiko na lalake ang anak ny

Nagkatinginan kami ni Venice. She shrugged, as usual, basta business, ako nanama
n ang mag-decide.
Usually, I don't mind, dahil ibig sabihin she trusts me, pero this time, parang
ang bigat ng responsibility.
This is our child we're talking about. Kakapanganak nya pa lang, i-eexpose na na
min sya?

Ako: Uh, I think we'll withhold any photos of our son for now. He's too young.

Kuya Vince: Okay. We understand. No pressure.

Kuya Ralph: Is it okay na i-publish namin kahit ung pangalan man lang?

Venice: I don't mind. People will know soon enough anyways.

Ako: Are you sure?

Venice: Yep.

Nilabas kagad ni Kuya Greg ung notebook nya, tapos excitedly tumingin sa'kin.

Ako: This is our son, Raymer Santos.

Kuya Greg: "Raymer"?

I spelled the name for him. Venice explained the reason kung bakit un ung pangal
an nung baby. They
thought it was clever. I think kailangan kong ibili si Jean ng regalo for coming
up with a clever name.

Kuya Greg: Is that it? May second name ba sya?

Nagkatinginan ulit kami ni Venice. I would have told them yes, pero the decision
is still Venice's. I smiled
at her, telling her na sya na ang bahala. It took a few more seconds bago sya ng
umiti pabalik sa'kin.

Ako: Yeah, he has a second name.

Kuya Greg: Oh, what is it?

I gently ran my fingers through Venice's hair. Tumingin si Venice kay Rayver, an
d with a tender smile on
her face, she answered,

Venice: Gerard. Raymer Gerard.

The three journalists stayed for a few more minutes before they bid their goodby
es. Maya-maya, may
dumating na rin na nurse to take Raymer to the nursery. Venice settled on the be
d, feeling exhausted. I
pulled a chair next to her bed, assuring her na paggising nya, nandun pa rin ako

Venice: Sunshine?

Ako: Hm?

Venice: Thank you.

Ako: For what?

Venice: For showing me, na kahit anong mangyari, life goes on, and most of the t
ime, it only gets better.
So, thank you.

Ako: You're welcome.

She yawned and then closed her eyes para matulog. I pulled the sheet up to her,
and kissed her
forehead. She gave me a small smile kahit na ayaw nang bumukas ng mata nya sa so
brang antok.

Venice: I love you, Sunshine.

Ako: I love you too, Sardines.

I settled back on my seat, and for about the thousandth time and most certainly
not the last, I started to
sing "You Are My Sunshine" hanggang sa makatulog na ang asawa ko.


The End