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Published on June 2016 | Categories: Topics, Books - Fiction | Downloads: 14 | Comments: 0
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All Over Again Written by: Ayreezh Started: 16 June 2009 Ended: 18 July 2010

I've read somewhere that the length of time a person should be able to move on f rom 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 that person? Is it just the time when you start being with that 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 kind 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.

Prologue: 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 already gi ving 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. :P two rings.. three.. four.. "Hello?" 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

turn.. 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 lefts.. 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 too young to be parents.. unless they buried an infant. -__- But then again, what's with the number of the teenagers scurryin g around? 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.. o_O

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

Chapter 1: Aquarius

(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- .

about 2 years later...

"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 tchen.. 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 :D Ako: What's so funny about that?? Jean: If only they know how "un-princely" you are.. I doubt they'd dub you that title.. 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 now.. 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 d one and over with... 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.. O__O 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!?? -___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 >__< o__o >__< o__o Girl: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! <'OoO'> Ako: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!! OoO OoO 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? O.O Ako: You don't know who I am? o_O 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 new?? 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 ts.... 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 atch. 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 again...

And now that I think about it.. Have we met before?? She looks so familiar... ----- .. --(Venice's POV) ---------------- . "TAXIIIII!!!!" 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.. "Hello?" 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 tes.. 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 mag-check.. 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.. BEEP! BEEP! 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 bathroommm! O___O *gulp* 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.. HAAAAAyyyyy... 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 head on the dashboard (for the second time.. hehe malay ko bang babagsak syang paharap.. and besides, it would' ve been just my luck if that impact would wake her up), fasten her seatbelt, and finally, sitting mys elf in the driver seat.. T-T 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.. Nothing.. 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 h.. Ako: You WOULDN'T! You know she'd freak out if she hears about 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 girl.. *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 bed.. 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 believ e 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-o__o ?__? Bakit iba ang kulay ng ceiling ng kwarto ko?? Bakit iba ang kulay ng kumot ko? Bakit may humihilik sa tabi ko?? OoO 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 humihili k-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 ko!??! 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 hindi ko rin ma-take ang boomboom-pow ng veins ng head ko.. at hindi ko rin alam kung kaninong ulo tohng nagcconcert 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... -___>___< -___>___< O___O 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 ko n atuwa 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 ta? O__O WAH! Teka!

Ako: (biglang turo sa kanya) Ikaw ung guy dun sa concert hall! Anong ginagawa mo dito!??!? 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 ka.. Skandaloso: What are you talking about?? Anong panaginip?? O.O 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?!?!!? OoO 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. OoO 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.. :D 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.. -__"JERWIN!?! JERWIN?!?!" 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.. ;D 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?!??!?! OoO "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 over..... and I'm still wearing my underwear.. So, that's one more sign na WALA talagang k alokahang nangyari....... 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: Collide

(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 ku nwari 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 dumire tso dito sa bahay para kausapin ang mother ko.. At hanggang ngayon, wala pa ring news kung anong nangyayari sa discussion nila.. T-T "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, lumapit ako para maki-tsismis 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.. -___OoO

Ako: WAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! 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 ha d 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" O__O

*gulp*

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

<'OoO'> 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? . OoO "S-stupid"?!? Pak! 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 , tapos 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 om. Ako: Like? o_O 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.. :P 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 kita? I ran my finger slowly on his shoulder, smiling at his bewildered expression.. O h di vah, enjoy~? ;D 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 "AHEM." Napatalon kaming dalawa nung may biglang sumulpot dun sa doorway nung living roo m. 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 awa.. Ako: A-anoh.... O__O Mom: Sige lang, alagaan mong mabuti ung bisita naten ha.. (tingin kay Jerwin) Se e you later, Jerwin. o_O 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 ha Lumapit uhlet ako sa kanya, pero this time, umupo na lang ako dun sa tabi nya.. Ahyan, wala nang malice yan.. :P 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 ingin, 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. -__o__o O__O Jerwn 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, what I saw and what my maternal instinct 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 -asawa.. 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 announce the engagement.. :D 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 n ilang 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. ;D 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! :D Ako: B-but I have class to go to! And-- And.. Jerwin! Wala ka bang klase? Work? Whatever?! 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! :D 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.. :P Jerwin: Yes? Teenager: Pwede poh bang magpa-picture? :D Jerwin: Sure. Okay. Anoh ako? Kasama bah ko? I should probably step out of the way... Teenager: Ate, pakuha naman nung picture oh! :D 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.. ;D Ako: Okay.. Ready? 1.. 2... 3... Smile.. Flash! Teenager: Ate, pwede isa pa? :D 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 :D 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. . :D 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... O_O Anoh naman sasabihin ko?! Fiancé? 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 sa'kin.. *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 fiancée. OoO Sinabi nya! Sinabi nya talaga! At nakangiti pa si kuya! Nakangiti pa talaga sya! OoO Ai josko ang puso ko! Ang dugo ko! Ang mukha ko! @[email protected] 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.. ;D Ate: Fiancée?!? ;D 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 aaaaaa!!! Teenager: Eh di, ate. Pwede pa-picture uhlet? Tayong dalawa naman? ;D

Ai! Picture! :D 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. :P 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! :D 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 fiancée. 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! :D *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.. :D Ako: Diamond?? O_O Diamond?! 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? ;D 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 *Sigh* "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 singsing? :D 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~ Tumayo sa tabi ko si Jerwin. Nilapit nya rin ung mukha nya dun sa ring na tiniti gnan ko, nakikitingin din.. Jerwin: Do you want that ring? Ako: Ha?!? Ay nagising akong bigla dun sa lust ko for the ring! Magtanong ba naman nang gan on, with all seriousness in the voice pa! ..But it's so preeettttyyyy~ T-T Sigh. Pero syempre, hinde naman kaya ng budget ko yan, so I might as well stop t he dream, the fantasy, the hoping, the loooveee~ Haaayyyy.. Tumayo na lang ako nang ayos and quickly looked somewhere else. Jerwin straightened up too, pero nakatingin pa rin sya dun sa singsing.

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, shocki ng. -__- Bahket, pag sinabe ko bang "oo, gusto ko!" bibilhin ba nya?!? .....baka nga.... O_O ayyyy asa! :P Just in time nung na-reach ko ung nanay ko, the last of the three chosen rings w as 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 da ting ng singsing na toh. O_O Ung second naman, josko, bonnga... @[email protected] ung white gold na band eh may nakadikit r in na maliliit na diamonds.. and ung center diamond, complemented by "pave-set of diamonds" (ehwan ko ibig sabihin 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 r in ung white-gold band, at least maliit lang ung center diamond. Hindi makakabutas ng sinuntok. :P The center diamond is round, wala nang kung anu-anong arte. The classic engagement ring. Pag nanuntok, parang kagat lang ng lamok ung 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 agreed to take the ring na pinili ko. Takot lang nila, baka bigla akong mag-walk out dito. :D

The saleslady took the ring, put it in a box, and told us to wait.. blah blah bl ah.. 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.. :D 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 kailang ang pag-vent outan 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 engkanto. I slid my new diamond engagement ring on the appropriate finger.... Weh, engagem ent ring.. kilabot... ___Sigh... 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-att end pa ko ng dalawang klase ko.. at paglabas ko ng last class ko, nahagilap ko pa ang dalawa sa suppor t systematics ko: ang long-time best friend kong si Sheena, at ang malanding baklang breast friend ko na si Kenny.. 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 akakalaglag underwear na si kuya driver. :D "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~" Bubwit. Ako: Uh, Sheena, Kenny... This is my.. m-my.. (T-T) fiancé... Jerwin.. Jerwin: Hi! :D 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 t o the bone cells sina Sheena at Kenny, nag-hyperventilate nung nakita nilang si Jerwin Santos -- THE J erwin 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 tel epono ko mamaya. __----- . end of flashback . ----Haaayyyy... 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 fiancée 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 m abubuhay 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 ng... 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 inside. 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.. :D Jerwin: (hila sa'kin) Seriously! How can someone with your size have so much str ength!??! 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.. =__= O.O 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. =__= PAK! 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. :P Jerwin: Wha-!? What are you?!? Six?!? Ako: BEHHH!!! :P 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! XD

-__Ako: Who is she and why is she still laughing at me? -__Jean: Oh! Sorry.. :D The girl stopped laughing, pero malaki pa rin ung ngiti sa mukha nya, and walked 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. "Sister-in-law"?!?!? Jean immediately linked her arm with mine and walked me papasok nung bahay nila. 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, nakaka-intimidate na.. He seems busy looking at his laptop, hanggang sa narinig nya nang pumasok kame.. Jean: Hey, dad, look! She's here! :D "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! O_O 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 to. 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! :D Jean: What do you think, dad? Doesn't Venice look perfect for kuya? :D Manahimik kang bata ka.. Wag mong kontrahin ang dasal ko! Mr. Santos: I see... So you've won over Jean.. Ako: Eh? o_O And then.. And then.. he SMILED!!! He actually smiled! @[email protected] 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 media. . :) 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? o_O 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..

OoO Ako: (pointed at one photo) What were you doing?!?!? O_O In one of the picture, from the angle nung camera, it looks like.... it looks li ke Jerwin and I were kissing.. OoO 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.. :P 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? :D O_O 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 vol ume.. Haayyy.. 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-"VENICE! VENICE! VENICE! VENICE!!!!" 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 kumakain..

Anthony: Venice! Venice! Is it true!?!? (biglang tingin sa nanay ko) Good morni ng, Tita Mel! :D (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 sa'kin.. 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? :D 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' Fiancée?" 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! :D 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.. o_O

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! :D Sheena: Nasa TV ang picture mo! Nasa TV!!! :D Kenny: At gusto pa nilang malaman kung sinoh ka! WAH! Dadami ang stalker mo! :D 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.. :D Anthony: Anoh pa bang bago sa mga taong pinagbubulungan ka? o_O Ako: Haller?!? Ang pinagbubulungan kaya nila ngayon-Sheena: eh ang lovey-dovey engagement mo sa isang superstar na walang nakakaalam na lovey-dovey mo? :D 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_ O Manong Guard: Nako, Venice.. Wala ka bang sundo ngayon? Ako: Eh? bahket poh? o_O Kelan ba ko nagkaron ng sundo? Manong Guard: Kanina pa naghihintay ung mga reporters syo.. Nadagdagan na nga ng nadagdagan habang tumatagal.. Baka matabunan ka habang naglalakad.. O_O 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.. :D 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 gate.. :D 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 es.. 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 hara p 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.... "Hello?" 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 nagsi simula 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 gpapaka-amazona ako sa mga photographer sa labas, and yell at them to leave me alone.. o magpapa ka-media's 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 fiancée 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 saying.. 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 arrives... 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 a. :P Ako: Hello? Jerwin: I'm outside.. Run to the car as fast as you can, I'll meet you halfway.. Understand? Ako: Okay.. Nag-hang up na ko.. Josko, tatakbuhin ko ung sea of cameras.. @[email protected] 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!!! Takbo! 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... "Venice!" 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 rs. 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.. :P 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.. :D Jerwin: What are you doing?!? Ako: Lumilipat ng upuan. :D 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 na.. 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 celebrity!! 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. People 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.. o_O 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...? o_O 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? O__O >__< O__O Jerwin: Be my fiancée.. 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 :D 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 na man sya condensed sa harap noh! >:( 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.. :D 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-istalk sa'kin! Abah! Na-bbuild 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 fiancé..... Yak! wahah ahaha ;D 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! "Venice!" Oh my golay! I completely forgot this girl works here! :D Biglang nagising lahat ng cells ng katawan ko nang tinapon ni Ate Marian ung kat awan nya sa'kin --- her way of saying hello.. :P

Ako: Ate! Hello! :D Ate Marian: Uyy, binibisita mo boylet mo? :D 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? :D

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?.. years.. 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" :D 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 hpaste-commercial 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? o_O 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. :D OoO 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! :D Ako: W-wa--Jerwin: That's it then. O_O 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?!? Jerwin: What? I'm thirsty. o_O 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.. ;D

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? o_O 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 m inutes 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 concert th at has been the most awaited event of the year -- daw -- has finally arrived! :D ..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.. ;D).. The crowd loves him. It's really a mag ical feeling 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! :D 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 ou t 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! ;D 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. :D 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 fiancée.. 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.. ;D 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 fiancée.. ---

I gave my final bow to the audience and finally ran out of the stage to the clo sing 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 uwi.. 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.. :D 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.. ;D I got up from my chair and then threw the sweaty f ace 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 fiancée 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? Umbrella? Jerwin: I was looking around for an extra umbrella so we won't get soaked. So ar e you ready? Payong? 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!!! :D Ako: Gano kalayo ka ba nagpark?!? Ang layo naman!

Jerwin: We just reached the parking lot! Ako: Dapat ikaw na lang--O__O Shwoosh! OoO >__< SPLASH! ARAAAYYYYYYY!!!!!! 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 coordinatio n 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?!?! O.O 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.. ;D -__- 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.. :D Splash! 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.. :D 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. . . . o_O 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-SPLASH! O__O 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.. @[email protected] Ako: Jerwin Santos! Porket hinde ako nag-shower after the show, mabango naman ak o!! Bahket mo ko pinapaliguan?!!? 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.. :D 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: Fever

(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.. ;D 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.. ;D And mukha naman masaya si Jerwin.. :P Sheena: Ay.. ay.. ang smile??! Anong meron? :D 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! :D Sheena: (pressed herself closer to me) Uyyyy...... may tinatago.. Anoh yan?? May happening ba kagabi? Ay, can this be love?!? :D 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 chikka.

Just then biglang nagskandalo ung cellphone sa bulsa nung uniform ko.. And you know naman ang nangyayari pag biglang may nag-vvibrate-vibrate sa pocket mo.. Napatalon akong b igla at madaliang inisda ng cellphone.. :P 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!!!!! :D O_O Ai josko! Sigawan ang cellphone!?!??! Ako: Jean, anoh ba? Wag kang sumigaw.. Jean: Ay, sorry.. Bakit ka bumubulong? o_O 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 nama n, 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, mal amig na corpse na sya.. Eh di ba mabuti nang nandun ka, at least matatawagan mo kame pag hinde na sya humihinga? :D 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 kita kay Manong Ponce! Ok? Byeeee!!! :D 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. ;D 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 flip-flops.. 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! Geez! 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 igla.. 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 Subic for a social party chuchu.. Si Tito Ray daw, late at night pa dadating dahil na rin sa work.. Ung housekeeper 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.. :D 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.. @[email protected] 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..? o_O 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..... O___O Ako: Oh my gosh, Jerwin! You're burning up! O.O 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 isa na r ing 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.. @[email protected] 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. *blink* *blink*

Ako: Ha? o_O 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.. : D 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 know? Napatingin bigla sya dun sa orasan, and she groaned.. I guess she didn't mean to stay this late.. :P I crawled 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 turned 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. :D 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 question.. 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 were.. 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 fiancée? She jumped from the sound of my little endearment, and her face turned pink agai n.. Now that's cute.

Venice: "M-My fiancée" ka dyan! Geez, and akoh tong all serious sa pakikinig.. Hay nako.. Ako: (natawa) Has anyone ever told you how fun it is to tease you? ;D 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? o_O 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.. @[email protected] I laughed again, and then for some effect, started to massage the side of my hea d.. Truth is, I just really like hearing her voice.. and maybe, the singing will wip e off the solemn look off her face.. 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.. :P I turned towards her again and closed my eyes, just as she turned to face me as well.. Then, she started singing.... Venice: (sings) Di kita malilimutan.. Di kita pababayaan... O___O 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 matino.. 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 sleep..

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 a BOOG! 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 ed.. 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.. ;D

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.. :D 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... o_O 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. :D Palusot ko na lang, gusto ko matapos 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! :D Nalipat ung topic nung dalawang nanay sa boyprend ni mother.. Oh di vah? Ang lan di! :D Feeling teenager talaga si mother.. Kinikilig pa habang nag-kkwento tungkol sa fafa nya. . ;D 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-Pak! 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~ :D

Jerwin: Good morning po, tita. (looked at his mom) Good morning, mom. What time did you guys arrive? 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 airs.. 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.. :D 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 kuya? 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 me. O__O 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?! ? Geez.. 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 bigla.... 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! :D 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 Anthony? Kenny: As in, know KNOW? :D Sheena: Gusto mo ligawan na namen para syo? :D 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? o_O 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.. :D 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 adik.. 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? ;D 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. :D 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 started to st rap my book bag around me, when I realize na nag-ppark sya sa side nung bahay namen.. Ako: What are you doing? o_O 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 ko.. In the end, I just shrugged at Jerwin.. bahala na sya.. Sya naman tohng professi onal pagdating sa mga ganyan.. 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 fiancée'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! :D Thank you for your time, Mr. Santos, Ms. Veni ce. 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.. :P Ako naman si shocked, sumun od 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.. ;D 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? o_O Ako: Magtatagal ka ba dito?!? Jerwin: Yes, sweetheart. :)

Eew. O_O PAK! Ako: Ouch! What??! Napaikot ako sa nanay kong nakapamewang sa likod ko.. Tama ba namang batukan ako sa harap ng others?!? 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.. ;D 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? :D 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? o_O 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.. :D

Eh??

She blushed.. O__O I guess totoo ung sinabi ni Venice na may pagka-"young at hea rt" pa ang nanay nya.. ;D 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 yo u two will eventually 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 yoursel f, "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: Eccentric

(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! :D 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 -POK 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?? o_O "Jerwwwiiiinnnn!!!" :D 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! :D 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 -law! :D O.O Cousin-in-law?!?

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 interesting. 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 aky... But c'mon.. what's to fear? How can someone so pretty be scary? Nicole: Hi! I'm Nicole, Jerwin's cousin! :D 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--O.O All of a sudden, Nicole grabbed ang boobs ko! O.O 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? :D 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! Ciao! :D OoO She just completely ignored what I said, didn't she? Completely ignored what I s aid! 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. ;D 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... :| T-T 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! :D It's almost 9:00, and I can't believe 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! :D 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? o_O Nicole: Oh Venice! :D 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! :D 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... ;D 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.. ;D Nicole: Bye, tita!! :D 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! :D 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.. Ka ya 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.. :D 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.. :D You mean, you're normally loud, and giggly, and flirty, and hyper? I ordered myself a virgin piña 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 whore. 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.. ;D and yes, that's what they do.. or at least, that's what they used to do.. Maybe not anymore.. I mean, you' re waaayyyy better than the beeeyaaattccchhh. 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 na na g-rrise up from my stomach.. Pero dahil sa pagka-careless ko, I accidentally knocked over my drink.. Ung kata bi ko tuloy na babae, nagtitili nung natapunan ng piña 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 bartender.. :P 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 fiancé.. 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! o_O 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-SLAP! OoO Oh my golay, I just slapped a stranger! And ung stranger pa na tinapunan ko na ng piña colada ung bago nyang dress! Girl: H-How dare you?!! >:( Oh well, lubus-lubusin na naten ang pang-aaway.. :D 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 ba?!? 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.. ganun 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--?!? PUNCH! <'OoO'> 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. :D Two of them pulled Angel and Nicole apart, and t wo 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 me.. Ako: Now that I think about it.. Kawawa naman pala si ate.. Natapunan na nga ung dress nya, nasampal na, nasuntok pa.. ;D Nicole: I know! How can someone be so unlucky? ;D 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 arlier? Policeman: Oh! Mr. Santos? Uh, sandali lang poh.. He went through some papers, discussed the offense charged to my cousin and my f iancée, 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?!? -___"Romance"? Ako: Uh, ahem. Napatingin silang lahat sa'kin, and Nicole immediately flew over and grabbed the bars separating us.. Nicole: Cousinnn!!! :D Ako: Hello, Ate.. So what happened to the promise of not getting in trouble toni ght? 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.. :P 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 home. 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 Manag er 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 naccompanied? 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 ever an swer 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. hahaha 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 shopping.. 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 y... 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 do 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 ganito..... NOT that I should complain, dahil nagpa-"padpad" din naman ako... -__Dapat kumontra ako! Magkamatayan na muna bago ko sinurrender ang daliri ko! Pero hindeeeee~ 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. O__O 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? heehee 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 ganito-Tumingin ako kay Jerwin and Brrrrrr.. Ang fanget ng visual image.. si Jerwin.... shirtless.... sweaty...... breathless.... dark room..... at... AIIIII JOSKOOOO!!!!!

Napatingin sa'kin si Jerwin sandali nung hinde ako sumagot.. Hinahabol ko muna kaseh 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 road. 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 Geena? I saw him clench his jaw. I think I hit a sore spot. :P 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 be.. o_O 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: Sprung

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . Ako: You know... Now that I think about it... Siguro, uuwi na lang ako. O__O Jerwin: Uh, nah. :D 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 yan?!? 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. :D 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 es... 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 finge rs.. Itsura na lang namen.. "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 now. 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. :D 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? o_O Nicole: Angel was being a stupid b-- I mean, Angel was drunk and saying mean thi ngs. Venice just acted like any other fiancée 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. :P 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 anxiously. 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 father-slash-manager. 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 ment.

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. :D 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! :D Nalunod ako sa yakap ni Nicole. I was so shaken by everything na hinayaan ko na lang si Nicole na isuffocate ako. :D 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? :D Ako: Shut up. Jerwin: What? I thought sobrang ayaw na ayaw mong mag-live dun sa bahay by yours elf? 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 aloooneee.. I don't really want to be alone again in that big, empty house.. But.. who am I to hinder my mom's wishes? Arrrgggghh!!!

Chapter 20: Invitation to the Blues

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . "MMMOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!" 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. :D 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. :D 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 ;D 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. :D 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 ko, 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. Liar. 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. :D So, bakit ka napatawag, Su nshine? 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 . O_O 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. : P 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! :D Sasama mo talaga ako sa beach? Three days tayo dun? :D 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 fiancée 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. ahihihihihihi :D 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~ :D 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. :D 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. "GOOD MORNING, VENICE!!!!!" O___O 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 naten! :D 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.. :D 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! "KNOCK KNOCK??" 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~ :D Anthony: We're going to the beach! :D Jerwin: Uh.. ha.. ha.. Sigh.. 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.. :P 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! :D 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.. @[email protected] Ako: Eh?!? Wahahahahaha ;D No. Anton is as straight as a ruler. ;D 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. Madalda l 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 soak 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?!? :D 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.. Dal awang 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 Sheena. Anthony: Here, Shee, I'll take that for you. Sheena: Talaga? Bahhh ang gentleman naman~ :D Anthony: Oo naman. Baka mapagod ka pa pagbuhat nyan. :)

Ha.... 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! :D 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 fiancée.. :P Ako: I hope you don't mind. I brought my fiancée and a couple of her friends with me. 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! :D 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 iiiceee? :D If looks could kill, Sheena would probably be dead by now. ;D 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. ;D 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 fiancé. 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. 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? o_O Ha! I knew she was still pondering about that. ;D 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) ---------------- . Hmmmmmmmmmmm... -___HMMMMMMMMMMMMM... Jerwin: Keep staring at him like that and I'll start getting jealous. O___O 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 ngiti 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. :D 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? o_O Obvious 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 maghu gas 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 n. 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 with over grown tree branches almost covering the sky, grass growing everywhere, unknown animal sounds piercing the s ilence, 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. ;D Oh well, at least she's not freaking out every single time na may lu milipad na kung ano na malapit sa kanya. :P She suddenly points at something beside her. Venice: Ai look! Ang colorful nung insect! Picturan mo! Baka rare species! :D 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. :D 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! :D 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 a.. 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 enviro nment.. Venice: Now I'm sure. Ako: That we're here? We exited from the trees, and we both froze. O___O Venice: Now, I'm sure that we really are lost. :D 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 ar tificial sources of light in the houses are sufficient enough for a whole family to see in the dark.. Well , at least may kuryente sila.. I guess growing up in a brightly-lit city.. I'm just not used to this kin d of sight... 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?!?! O___O Oh. Crap. Ako: Well.. Uh.. O__O Napatingin kagad ako sa paligid. May portable comfort room ba dito!?? Restaurant ?!? Hotel?!? Gasolinahan?!? 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.. :D 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. :D He immediately ushered us papasok sa bahay n ya, 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.. :P 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 kusina-slash-dining room.. 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 bedrooms.. Everything was a few steps away from everything else. After a while, Venice emerged from the bathroom, looking relieved and finally at ease.. ;D 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 shoulder. Ako: Anoh, Manong Ben, may jeep poh ba dito na pwede naming sakyan papunta sa La Plaiya? 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. ;D 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! :D 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! :D Ako: Uh, haha.. kung ganun poh, makikigulo poh muna kami ngayong gabi. ;D 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. ;D 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. ;D Biglang natawa si Manong Ben nung napansin nya yata na I could barely contain my laughter dahel sa mga reaksyon ni Venice. :D 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? ;D 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. :D 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! ;D Ako: Sana naman ay hindi maging ganon si Venice! :D 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. -__"Anoh...." 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 ka-hyperan. 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! :D 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 the wind w histling 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 neve r 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 orrow... 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 nu ng binigyan tayo ni Aling Marie na pamalit na damit, although di mo alam kung anong detergent ung gi

namit panglaba.. I

mean, tinikman mo pa ung lambanog. Samantalang nung dinalhan kita nung minsan ng kwek-kwek, halos mamatay ka na sa intensity ng pagtanggi mo. :P He rolled over and looked at the ceiling. Nahiya? ;D 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 bles sed 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? o_O Why are you looking at me like that? Ako: Wala lang. Ang profound ng mga pinagsasabi mo eh. Gusto mo nang maging phil anthropist? 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... :D 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.. :D 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 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 ko?!? 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? o_O 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 outside.. 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 flying. 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--O___O Ako: WAH!!! SHOVE -- BOOG! 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. :D 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 pa. 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.. :D I can hear Jerwin talking to Aling Marie, maya-maya, narinig ko na rin si Man ong Ben.. 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.. o_O 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. :D 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. *gulp* 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. :D I took the glass. Well.. Here goes. I took a sip... and.. heeeyyyyyy... it really is good. ;D 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. ;D Aling Marie: Ay naku, kumain na nga kayo at nang maabutan nyo pa ung jeep na wal a pang masyadong sakay. 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 baho. 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. :P 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? ;D Hindi naman kami madalas nakakatangga p ng 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 rapher. 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! ;D 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! ;D Sige, family picture! :D 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. :D 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 maghin tay 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 shrugged. 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 start i n 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. :P We're supposed to shoot a Guess Swims uit ad with two models.... pero.. missing one pa kame -- ung important one pa. :P "Yo! Jerwin!" I turned around and saw Venice walking towards my special chair -- the one with "Jerwin Santos" taped on the back. :D 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? o_O 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? :D 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? o_O 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. wahahahaha ;D Venice: Aray ko! wahahahaha ;D Compromise.... Ako: Hey, Venice! Hold on! She stopped and turned to face me -- namumula -- probably because she knows I sa w her trip.. :D 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 mag-wander 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. :D 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. :P 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. ;D 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. :D Ako: I think Venice can take over the female model's place. Venice: An--?!? O.O Pinisil ko ung kamay ni Venice. Ako: What do you think? :D 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. :D 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. O_O 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-"Hallloooo!!!!" :D 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~? :D 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..... O.O 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! :D Venice: I know! (turo sa chest nya) Parang lumaki ang future ko! ;D

-___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~ :D 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 nt. 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 go od. 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 audience.. Venice: And the whole world is a stage.. :P 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. :D 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, Venice? 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. ;D 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 talaga. ;D

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. ;D I started w alking 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 lumayas... 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. :D 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. ---

Later.. 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. :D Jerwin: Hey, look, Venice.. Ehto nanaman kame.. -__Jerwin: They're selling chicken feet! :D Why are they selling chicken feet?? Can we get some chicken feet?? :D

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? o_O Jerwin: Can we buy that? :D 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? ;D 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 t. Pak! 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 basket.. 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.. :| Pak! 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 n.. Jerwin paid for our purchases -- kahit na wala ung mga mala-alien nyang gustonggustong bilhin.. :P ---

Much much later... Mayaman sa stars ang sky ngayong gabi. Everybody is busy sa pag-BBQ or sa tsismi san nila habang nag-iinit 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.. "Yo!" 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? :D Ako: Thank you. Jerwin: You know, you should go and heat your own marshmallow. Ako: Eh bahket ba? Nandyan ka naman. :D 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. :D 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. :D 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! :D Ako: Haller...

Napatingin ako sa plato nya.. BBQ... Mukhang bagong luto.. -__- Mukhang masarap. ... Ako: Sunshine.... :D Jerwin: Anong "sunshine" ka nanaman dyan?? Kakakuha ko lang ng s'mores mo ah! Ako: Kuha mo rin ako ng BBQ~ Sige naaa~ :D 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. :D 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.. ;D Ahihihi.. Sarap utusan ni kuya.. sunod ng sunod.. :D Nung wala na sila, biglang umusog sa tabi ko si Sheena. Sheena: Uy, best prend, you're smiling~ :D Ako: Eh bahket??! Masama ba ngumiti eh sa naaliw ako. :P 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. Huh... I looked at Jerwin na nanghihingi ng BBQ kay Mrs. Gordon.. Naglolokohan pa sila ni Anton -- nag-pplot yata ng kung anong revenge.. :D So I guess, what Sheena means is... I look genuinely happy.. It's been two years since I felt something like that.. :) "V..." O__O 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? o_O 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.. the little dots 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. -__?__? O__O 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.. T^T 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.. T^T 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. Pak! 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 ---

Later... 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 anything.. 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? o_O 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 case.. 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-BUMP! Aw. 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.. o_O 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: Celebration

(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. :D 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 d aw 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? o_O 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 ko.. 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 ako--O___O OoO 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? :D 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. ;D If I'm gonna kill somebody, I'd just burn the corpse. I won't chop it all up and put it in a perfectly good dress bag. :D 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? o_O 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? ;D Nicole: Of course! My mom tailored this one especially for you.. It fits me, so I think it should fit you too. :D 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! :D 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! :D 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 dialed 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. :D 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 p hoto 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 give me a hug. Nicole: Cousin! Hello! My, my, you look nice. :D Ako: You don't look too shabby yourself. :) Nicole always looks good. Well, I guess that's why she became a model. :P 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... @[email protected] I took a deep breath and completely forgot to exhale. Nicole: I'll go inside first. Take care of my masterpiece? ;) Hasta luego, primo ! :D

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. She's wearing an ivory-colored dress that falls just above her knees.. Her hair is in loose curls, cascading a few inches past her shoulders. Her make-up is soft and flawless -- everything about 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 sa'min. 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, señorita, 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? ;D Siguro kung di ko lang hawak ung kamay nya, kanina pa kumaripas ng takbo toh. :D 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. :P We just stood there for a few seconds wondering what going on.. Should we run wh ile we still have a chance? All of a sudden, the doors burst wide open -- revealing a crowd lauding in front of us. O.O "SURPRIISEEEEE!!!!" :D

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 acañang... "So, are you surprised?? :D" 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 greeting 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? o_O Jean: Yup, si lola! Ang tagal-tagal nya nang tinatanong kung kelan ka nya makiki lala.. :D 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.. :D 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? o_O Dustin: I invited someone. Nicole: And? Dustin: She's on her way. Jean: Ooohhh.. "She"?? May girlfriend ka na, kuya? :D 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.. :D 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, field trip namen nung 3rd year high school. ;D 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? :D NAGTULOOOOYYY-TULOOOYYYY sa wind pipe ko ung tubig. O.O 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! ;D Nicole: *gasp* You two! Don't tell me you've been trying to-Jerwin: NICK! Nicole: Kidding. :D 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..." PAK 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. . O.O 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? *gulp* 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? o_O 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 fiancée here. *gulp* 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.. :P Jerwin: You have always said better late than never. ;) Anyway, Grams, this is V enice.. 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 come.. Tita Merryl: Suegra, Venice has an incredible voice. Grams: Hm? Does she now? OoO 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! @[email protected] 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. Host. Grams: My grandson and his fiancée will be singing a song for everybody. Oh my golay. I knew it! Jerwin: Okay, Grams. Listen, and be amazed. ;) "Okay"?!?!? 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? @[email protected] 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. ;) Eh?!?! He went to the band and borrowed the guitar. I looked over dun sa dancefloor, ma y dalawang staff na naglalagay na ng tatlong mic stands sa gitna.. Then, Jerwin stepped beside me -may hawak na syang gitara.. 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. T-T 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 fiancée, 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 :D

{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 pleased. :D 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 haha 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.. :D 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 meet. 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 topic?!? 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 fe el 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? O_____O Sa sobrang panic ko -- I curtsied! CURTSIED! C-U-R-T-S-I-E-D!!! 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?!?! XD Ako: Shut up! I panicked, okay?!? Jerwin: So you curtsied? XD 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 "fiancé" ko. -__- Napahiya na nga ako, pinagtatawanan pa ko!? Ako: Mabulunan ka sana. Jerwin: But.. HAHAHAHAHA you curtsied XD 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 glanced 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 id. =___= Jerwin: You kidding me? She loved you! :D 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! :D 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 absol utely 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. It's either Geena or the big bowl of punch na katabi ni Geena... :P 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.. :P 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. :D She's so easy to read. :D 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 impatient.. Naalala kong bigla ung pag-curtsy nya kay Grams kanina, and in spite of myself, I started chuckling. :D 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 nt? 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 away.

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: Hiram

(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 lves.. 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.. :D Jerwin... 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." O.O *cough!* *cough!!* 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?? o_O I took a few deep breaths.. Bumabalik na ang abilities ng lungs kong huminga.. * inhale* *exhale* *inhale* Lumapit sa'kin si Jerwin.. PAK! Hinampas ko ung tyan-slash-abs nya -- nakatayo kaseh si kuya, hindi ko tuloy mab atukan.. :P 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.. :D Ako: Bakit ka ba nandito? Jerwin: Kaseh bigla kang nawala dun sa loob. Ako: *gasp* :D I poked his arm. Ako: Na-miss mo na kagad ako? Uyyyy, iba na yan.. :D 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 lya? 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. :D 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 a ko kumaripas ng takbo. *sigh* Kaya ehto, lumabas na lang muna ako.. Baka makahalata na sila pag every t ime 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? :D 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?" ;D 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 . ;D Jerwin: Yo, cousin! Nicole: Don't "yo, cousin" me! Mr. Perez has been looking for you! Get your butt inside! Ako: Mr. Perez? o_O 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 me. 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. ;D 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?!? "Venice."

O_O 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? o_O 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 had pr ivate, 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.. BOINK 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. :P Wag ka na nga masyadong serious dyan, ate. Alam mo, Jerwin a nd 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? ;D 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! :D 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. *gulp* 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. Whooohh! Ako: (bulong sa sarili ko) Baahhh.. ang taray.... "Veni--" BAM! Bumukas bigla ung pinto, at syempre, ako tohng nakatayo dun mismo sa harap, pagb ukas nya, diretso kagad sa mukha ko. X__X Kanina pa namumuro tohng si Jerwin. Jerwin: Oh my god! Are you okay?!? PAK! 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. @[email protected] 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! ;D You should've seen your face! ;D PAK! 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.. :D 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! :D Oh di ba.. Bi-polar.. ;D 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 eh. :D 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? :D 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"? o_O Ako: Bahket?! May iba pa bang sagot dun?! Kenny: Ay! Oo nga noh! :D Sige, breastie, oo! Maganda ka! Patok sa masa ang beau ty naten! Mga dyosa tayo! ;D Ako: Friend! Kung dyosa tayo, eh anoh na lang sya?!? 5 times pa ang ganda ni ate ! Breast friend, tinalbugan tayo! Kenny: *gasp* Bounced?! O_O 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? :D 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! :D Sheena: Sinoh yan? o_O 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. o_O Jean: (bulong) Prince Charming.... o_O Eh!? 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! :D Kenny: Ay! Where? :D Oh di vah, ang vakla, "where" kagad ang reaction. ;D Jean: You! :D 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 nan gyayari, avah, humagalpak ng tawa ang mokong! Kenny: Uh, excuseeeee me! (tingin sa'kin) Sinoh ba tohng bubwit na toh at bakit sya nakalambitin sa'kin?! Jean: Oh.. Tinanggal ni Jean ung arms nya and stared giddily at Kenny. Hinde ko kinakaya an g powers ni sister-in-

law! Hinde ako makapagsalita! Jean: My name is Jeanette. You can call me Jean. I know we just met, but, Prince Charming.. I love you already. :) Kenny: Ay! Bruhilda ka! Anthony: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA I love you daw, Kenny! ;D 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! :D 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 maging. :D 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 ;D 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. O_O OoO Sheena: M-M-Manang?!?! M-Mukha ba kong "Manang"?!?! "Ate"! "Ate" ang dapat na ti natawag mo sa'kin! 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 pa. Jean: (balik tingin kina Sheena at Kenny) Bye, Prince Charming! Manang! :D T^T 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 relationships? Eh.. Relationship-kuno lang naman kame.. :P 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 wa? 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! :D Ako: Uh huh.. Last time na nagluto ako, muntik nang masunog ung bahay namen. :P Jean: Ate.. What can you do? O.O Aling Ligaya: (natawa) Mag-aasawa ka, hindi ka marunong magluto? ;D 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 uto. Ako: Weh?!? Talaga?!? :D 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? ;D 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. :D

Chapter 35: Kiss

(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. :D Ako: This is good. I'll take it. ---

--- .. --(Venice's POV) ---------------- . "Aiya! Why are you so mean to me??" O_O 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 stalker. :P 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? o_O Jean tried to reach for my phone again.. and iwas nanaman ung kamay ko sa kamay nya..

"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. :D 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 exactly 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. :D 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 fiancée, I have the right to ask for gifts. Jerwin: Abah..... Talagang sineseryoso mo yang pagiging future Mrs. Jerwin Santo s ha. :D Ako: Oo na.. Kaya honey, anong regalo mo sa'kin sa Valentines day? :D Jerwin: Hmmm.. pwede ba ung tig-pipiso na lang na candy? Recession ngayon eh. :P Ako: Ang cheap mo naman. Jerwin: Buti nga may regalo pa eh! ;D Bakit ikaw? Anong regalo mo sa birthday ko ? Ako: Birthday mo? o_O Jerwin: What? You didn't know? :P hehe Ako: Ang alin? o_O Jerwin: Ang galing mo rin na fiancée noh.. Birthday ng future husband mo, hindi mo alam. Ako: Eh bahket, ikaw?! Alam mo ba kung kelan birthday ko?!? Natahimik si Jerwin.. Nag-iisip yata. :P Sa 365 days in a year, sige, manghula k a ng date. ;D 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. :D 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. :P 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. ;D 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 ko. 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! ;D 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 fiancée's home is my home, right? Ako: Home-home ka dyan?!? Jerwin: Oh don't look at me like that. :D 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. :) OoO Ako: A-A-A-Ano?!?!?!?!?

Mom: Oh my, have you two kissed already? :D Ako: Mom!!!! Jerwin: Hindi pa poh, tita. Mom: Ahhh I see. :D Jerwin: But we'll get there soon. ;) Mom: Oh! That's good! That's good! Kwento nyo kagad sa'kin ha! :D <'O.O'> 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? :D PAK! 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 r. 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 fiancé ko. Not that I have any complaints. :D Mabuti nga un! Tagal-tagal ko nang di nakakas akay ng jeep. Avah, nakaka-miss makipagsiksikan noh! Ako: Bayad pohhhhhh~ All smiles at talagang cheery-cheery pa ang pagkaka-abot ko nung bayad ko.. :D 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. :P Tinignan ako ng masama nung katabi nyang manang. I know. Minsan talaga, lumalabas ang pagka-"Lucifer's underling" ko. :D 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. :D ---

--- .. --(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.. ha nggang 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! :D 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? "Jerwin?" Hm? 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 fiancée? 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. "Jerwin?" 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! :D 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 people's. 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 a! "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.. @[email protected] -___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 fiancé" 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? :D

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! ;D Sheena: Ai! May suggestion ako! :D Ako: Anoh? Sheena: "Come On Over" Ako: Huh? o_O 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 'Cause-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! :D 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 ng." :D PAK! Ako: ANOH BA YANG PINAGSASABI MO?!?! 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?

*blink* *blink* 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? :D Sheena: H-Hoy! Wag kang maingay! Anoh ka vah?! Ako: Defensive much? Crush mo pa rin ba ngayon? :D 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? :D 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! ;D 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 ;D ---

"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. :D" 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. :D

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 anunugod.. ;P I stopped in front of my house gate.. Bubuksan ko na sana nang bigla akong napat igil at napatakbo dun sa side nung gate. @[email protected] What!? What?! What!? May nakasabit na wooden sign sa gate.. at in BIG, RED letters nakasulat ang: "HOUSE FOR SALE" OoO Napasugod ako bigla sa loob! Ako: MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM!!!!!!! <'OoO'> Wha?!?! Wha?!? Lalong nanlaki ang mata ko nung pumasok ako ng bahay. There are boxes everywhere ! At ung mga furniture, may mga taklob na!! ..at 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. Mom: ANOH?!? MAY SUNOG BA?!?! ANONG NANGYAYARI?!?! 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. @[email protected] 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.. ..it 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 destination. 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 Gerard. 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! o_O 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 thing.

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? o_O 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 am.. 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. :D 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. @[email protected] 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! ;D Dahil mukhang nasa good mood si kuya, pinagbigyan ko na.. Baka ma-offend, itapon akong bigla sa ilog.. :P 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.

o_O 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. o_O 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?!? *gasp!* 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 :D I cracked open one eye.. isaaang maliit na silip-Bigla akong napamulat WIDE OPEN nang nakita ko ang nasa harap ko! Ako: W-W-W-W-WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?! Jerwin's face was just inches away from mine! O.O 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 :P Ahyan.. Kaseh naman.. Relax ka lang, Venice.. :D Ako: Ayoko na. Baka pag sinarado ko nanaman ung mata ko, baka ma-rape mo na ko n oh. 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? :D Ako: And...? Pumasok si Jerwin sa loob. He turned on the lights. Wala talagang tao. Oooohhh... 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? o_O Jerwin: Your mom doesn't want you to live alone anymore. And since I'm your very responsible and sensible fiancé, 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 fiancé is? Ako: Iba rin ang hangin mo ngayon noh? So anong ginagawa natin dito? o_O Jerwin: *sigh* Really..... You'll be living here from now! O____O 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. "Us"!?? Ako: Dito ka rin titira?!? O_O 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 arried? :D 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.. ;D 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. :D 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 something. 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. :D I'll be living here. Ako: Sunshine.. When are you planning to move in? :D Jerwin: As soon as possible. Maybe the day after tomorrow.. Hmmm.. What do you t hink?

The day after tomorrow... ahyun ung araw bago umalis si mom. That'd be reasonab le. Ako: Sounds good. I looked around the room, which is to be my bedroom. Look at the size of this th ing! :D And a walk-in closet! Jerwin: So... you're really moving in with me? Ako: Yea-ha! :D 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 around. Ako: So.. what time dadating ung mga furniture? And are you sure na pwedeng-pwed e ko silang utusutusan kung san at pano nila aayusin ung rooms? :D Jerwin: Oo nga.. Just make sure the house looks presentable. Ako: I shall do my best. :D 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. :D 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-"VENICEEEE!!!" O_O 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?! :D 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.. :P ---

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. :D Sheena: He bought you a house?!?!?!? O_O Ako: No. He rented a house for him -- sabit lang ako. Sheena: BUT YOU'RE MOVING IN TOGETHER!!! O.O Ako: SSSSHHHHHHHH!!!!!! 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! :D I dragged Sheena out of the store, and nung all clear na, tsaka ko lang tinangga l ung kamay ko from her mouth. 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? :D Ako: Loka. Hinde.. I'm going there later, gusto mo sumama? :D Sheena: Ay! Really? Anong gagawin natin dun? :D Ako: Magpapaka-interior designer. :D Sheena: AYYYY!! Sali ako! :D 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? o_O Ako: Hmmm.. manggugulo tayo sa kung anong ni-rrecord ni Jerwin.. :P Pero syempre , para 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 bumili. :) ---

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? o_O Ngumiti lang si Sheena, and nung tumalikod na si kuya para papasukin kami, hinam pas ko kagad si best friend. Ako: Mag-behave ka nga! Sheena: Bakit ba?! Eh ang cute ni kuya eh! :D 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? :D Ako: Syempre naman, kuya. Bribe itoh para sa lahat ng trabaho nyo sa bagong albu m ni Jerwin. ;) Kuya Trey: Woohoo! Banana cue! :D He bent down tapos nagsalita dun sa mic sa harap nya. Kuya Trey: Jerwin, may dalang merienda ung asawa mo! Labas ka muna dyan! :D Sheena: (bulong) Pffft. Asawa ka na raw. ;D Ako: Shut up. -__-

Nilagay ko ung bag ng banana cue dun sa maliit na table, tapos pinatong na rin ni 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... :D 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.. o_O 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. :P Buti na lang, mabilis si Sheena. She immediately offered him one of the cups ng sago at gulaman nung nag-uubo si Jerwin.. :D 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 studio. 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 table. 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 rnoon... 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 n.. Jerwin: Hey, this banana-Q actually tastes good! Wag nyo kong uubusan, pag-uuntu gin ko kayong dalawa! Napangiti ako kahit papano.. At least.. natuwa sya sa banana-Q ko. :D I kinda fe lt 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 before.. I walked her to her car, just because I'm a nice gentleman.. :D I thought I'd be able 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 reveale d. 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 Sheena . :D 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. :D Bakit vah.. Binigyan ko naman sila ng malamig na tubig. ;D 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 d. Ay buti naman dahil wala akong ipangbabayad snyo. :D 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 longer? Sheena: Haaayyyy na ko.. Gustuhin ko man, baka makaistorbo-- Wait. Kasama nya ka ya si Geena? :D 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! :D Pero dahil wala naman akong masasagap, lalayas 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 accomplished..

The living room looks cozy.. Pwedeng-pwede nang manood ng TV dito buong araw, at masaya ka pa rin.. :D 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 bare.. 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. :D I immediately opened the door para hintayin sya.. Yakk.. anoh ba yan.. Parang akong housewife na i-wwelcome ung husband nya.. Ew. O.O 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. :P Eh bakit ba!? I quickly stood up para di na sya makasabat uhlet.. Ako: So?? Anong rating mo sa interior designing skills ko? :D Jerwin looked around the room.. From his expression, mukha namang satisfied sya sa nakikita nya. :D Avah, dapat lang noh! Ang hirap-hirap kaya mag-arrange! ;D 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.. :D 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.. :D Ako: So? What do you think? :D He cautiously stepped inside.. Looking at the walls.. at his bed.. at his study table.. Jerwin: Are you sure this isn't your room? O_O Ako: Duh! I specifically made everything here for you! :D I glanced around my handy work.. I'm so proud.. nyahahaha ;D 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.. :D Malapit na ang Valentines.. Kaya kailangan, mapagmahal ang kwarto nya.. :D Binil i ko lahat ng parapernalias. 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! ;D 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.. ;D 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. :D Main Parapernalia #3: Red & Pink Fluffy Ballpen Ehto ung mga ballpen na may fluff feather ball sa other end... soft to the touch ! :D Nilagay ko sa penholder nya ung dalawang fluffy ballpen.. Ang cute cute talaga nila.. Match na match sa concept ko. ;D

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! ;D Si kuya! Trying hard not to hurt my feelings, pero ung face naman nya: absolute dread! ;D Tumawa na ko nang tumawa.. ;D Jerwin just looked at me as if I've gone crazy. :D Jerwin: Do you mind explaining what's going on? Ako: Sunshine naman kaseh! ;D Seryosong-seryoso ka sa pag-consider nitong kwarto mo! Syempre naman, ung furniture lang ang inayos ko.. Tingin mo ba papatulugin talaga kita w ith all these hearts around? ;D hahahaha Jerwin: You little--! Akala ko pa naman seryoso ka sa mga pinaglalagay mong "des ign" dito! >:( Ako: Wahahahahaha Sunshine! You're so funny! ;D 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 ow-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. :P 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? o_O 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. ;D OoO He laughed out loud bago nya ni-lock ung main door behind us and jumped in his t ruck.. I was dumbfounded. O_O Ako: W-W-What?!? YAH!!! JERWIN! ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?!?!

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 bintana.. 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... Eh?? 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! :D -___"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 School props.. sa study table

My last picture with Gerard... sa night stand.. I smiled as I surveyed what I've accomplished.. Oh di vah? Eh di organized na! I wonder kung ilang araw bago magkagulo ang lahat? :D 5:00 na.. Jerwin should be coming home soon. Tinambak ko ung mga empty luggages sa sulok nung closet, and then I took my phon e to call Jerwin.. ..pero as usual, hindi nanaman sya sumasagot. -__- Talaga naman! Gagawan ko nga ng paraan ung taong un para pag tumawag ako, wala syang choice kung hindi sagutin! I went downstairs para magluto ng dinner namin.. Oh yes, may fruition na ang mga afternoon cooking lessons ko with Aling Ligaya.. Nakakapagluto na ko ng mga simpleng dishes! Wahah a be proud! :D Jerwin made sure na may fully loaded ang aming ref today.. Kaya it wasn't hard t o look for meat at ingredients.. I turned on the TV para di ako mabingi sa katahimikan.. and I star ted cooking.. Sabi ni Aling Ligaya, dapat raw, tama lang ang lahat.. wag masyadong maasim, per o wag rin masyadong walang lasa.. :D Ganyan ang sikreto ng sinigang.. nyahaha After a while, natapos na ko sa cooking project ko.. As soon as pinatay ko ung s tove, biglang nag-ring ang cellphone kong nakapatong sa counter. Si Jerwin. Sa wakas. Ako: Halllerrr?!? Jerwin: Hey.. Pauwi na ko. Naligo ka na ba? -____Ako: Anoh naman tingin mo sa'kin!? Mabango pa ko noh! At di man ako maligo, maba ngo pa rin ako! Jerwin: Oh?? Ako: Bakit ikaw, naligo ka na ba? Jerwin: Mabango din ako! Ako: Ang labo mong kausap.. High ka ba? -___Jerwin: Ay bastah.. I'll be home in an hour. Ako: Okay. ......

Jerwin: Bye? Ako: Anoh? Wala man lang, "I love you, honey" dyan? :D Jerwin: Ahh.. Just because you admitted to loving me doesn't mean I have to say it back. :P OoO I felt my blood rush up to my head.. and I'm so glad na nasa telepono lang si Je rwin, dahil kung hinde, nakooo lalo akong mapapahiya sa kung gano ka-pula ang mukha ko ngayon! Tama bang i-bring up ung--- ung-- ung MISTAKE na un!?!?!? Ako: Che! Umuwi ka na nga! =__= Jerwin: Ohh, now you sound like a wife--I didn't let him finish. Binabaan ko na sya, sabay tapon nung cellphone sa kabil ang ibayo nung couch. Josko. It's almost 6:40.. He's right, though.. Dapat nga maligo na ko.. nyahaha I turned off the TV and stood up from the couch.. Naglalakad na ko papunta sa st airs nang napatingin ako dun sa door kaharap nung 1/2 bathroom.. Anoh nga ba tohng pinto na toh?? Syempre, dahil ako ang type ng tao na kailangan na mabilisang curiosity satisfac tion, binuksan ko ung pinto.. Ako: Ahhh.. closet? coat closet?? It doesn't look that big para maging storage closet.. Kumbaga sa sizes ng lata ng sardinas, sya ung small can ng Ligo Sardines.. Ako: I wonder kung kasya ako dito... I stepped inside the cramped closet to try it out..

Ako: Waahhh kasya nga ako! :D Nag-rotate pa ko 360-degrees.. Ganito pala ang feeling ng mga sardinas ng Ligo.. ;D I wonder if I can close the door.. I reached for the doorknob and shut the closet door.. Madilim..... Pero waaahhh... kasya pa rin ako! :D I'm so slim.. nyahahaha ;D Ako: I am now a sardine. bam! :D Tumingin-tingin ako sa paligid ko (baka sakaling may makita akong kapwa sardinas ).. Ako: Aish.. Anoh ba tohng ginagawa ko? Maliligo pa nga pala ako.. I turned the doorknob to get out-Ako: Eh?! O_O The doorknob WON'T turn! Ako: W-What is this?!?! O.O I tried to rattle it to see kung may na-stuck bang kung ano dun sa loob.. Nung w a-epek ang pag-rattle, I tried pushing the door.. Ako: Uh. O_O It won't budge.... Napaupo ako in surprise. I'm stuck. Sa loob ng closet. Dahil gusto kong maging sardinas. And isang oras pa bago umuwi si Jerwin....... Ako: WAAAHHHHH!!!!!

Chapter 43: Let s Go Party

(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . After what felt like 100 hours of being stuck in rush hour traffic, nakarating n a rin ako sa bahay. Binaba ko ung mga maleta ko sa may hagdan, and then gently closed the door behind me.. That's weird.. I looked around.. Bakit tahimik? Where's Venice? o_O Pumasok ako sa loob nung bahay, umikot-ikot.. Did she go somewhere with her mom? She didn't even leave a message? I walked to the kitchen and found a pot on the stove.. Aba.. What's this? Tinanggal ko ung takip and saw normal-looking food.. Sinigang? Ako: Ha.. I wonder if her mom made this.. Otherwise... Venice doesn't cook, righ t? Is this edible? -___It looks edible... Kinuha ko ung sandok na nakapatong dun sa counter.. I was just about to dip it in the pot nang may narinig akong biglang kumalabog s a may hallway. @[email protected] 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.. Awhoooo~~" O___O 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.. @[email protected] 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...... o_O All of a sudden.... GRAB! @[email protected] Ako: (screams) aaAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!! OoO 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?!?! Venice: Yea... argh.. -__She crawled out of the closet and then collapsed on the floor, groaning.. I can still feel my heart beating twice its normal rate!

I waved the sandok sa kanya.. Ako: What were you doing inside?!? Aish! Are you trying to give me a heart attac k!??! Venice: (groans) Na-lock ako sa loob.. I couldn't move around, kaya naupo na lan g ako.. Argh.. I can't even feel my legs anymoreeeeee... T^T Ako: Pano ka naman na-lock sa loob?!? Venice: I tried to be a sardine.. -___I blinked in surprise.. and confusion.. Did I hear that right or na-apektuhan na ba ng panic attack ko ang pangrinig ko? !? Isn't a "sardine" a fish? Ako: What? She pulled herself up from the wooden floor, tapos sumandal dun sa wall.. She started massaging her legs.. Naputol yata talaga ung daloy ng dugo sa legs n ya.. Venice: Sardinas.. The closet reminded me of a Ligo Sardines can.. I really heard her right..... -__Hindi ko talaga yata maaabot kahit kailan ang ka-abnormalan ng utak ng taong toh .. Saan ba nanggagaling ang mga thoughts na pumapasok sa isip nya?!? Nararamdaman ko nang bumabalik sa normal ang naalog kong brain.. Medyo bumabalik na rin sa normal ung heartbeat ko.. Ako: How stupid are you?!? Tinuro ko uhlet ung sandok sa kanya.. Ako: What are you gonna do kung hindi kagad ako nakauwi?! Venice: I'll cryyyy. T-T And bakit ba kanina mo pa winawagayway yang sandok sa'k in? Kukuha ka lang ng weapon, sandok pa ang kinuha mo.. Ako: Eh ano pang makukuha ko?! You took me by surprise! Napatingin ako sa relo.. Aish.. It's already 6.. Tumayo ako from where I staggered earlier, and binalik ung sandok sa kitchen cou nter.. tapos, lumakad

ako dun sa may hagdan, where I left the things I was carrying when I came in. Ki nuha ko ung isang paper bag, and then bumalik kung nasan si Venice. Ako: Maligo ka na, and go change in this. Venice: Eh?? Anoh yan?? Ako: We're going to a party. Venice: Party?!? Jerwin, I have to be at the airport by 9:30! Ako: We'll leave before your mom's flight... And really... mag-ayos ka ha.. Ayok ong dalhin si Cousin It sa party na un.. Venice: Cousin It?? Ako: The hair guy -- or thing.. Adams Family.. Hello? She stared at me confused. Ako: Nevermind. Umakyat na ko ng hagdan to get ready for the party.. I heard Venice drag herself up the stairs kasunod ko... mumbling in every step..

---

--- .. --(Venice's POV) ---------------- . Ako: Are we late? Whose party is this anyway? Are we late? Jerwin: Aish.. Be quiet. I tried to smooth the red cocktail dress Jerwin bought for me as we hurriedly wa lk towards the hotel entrance.. I didn't know Jerwin would have such a good sense of style.. nyahaha :D Sabi nya , he bought the dress especially for tonight.. In other words, impromptu buying.. But the dress is gorgeous! It's a cute, satin tube dress that falls mid-thigh.. It has a poufy, bubble skirt with pull-ups, and a purple satin sash around the waist.. It fits perfectly pa! Ako: Heeyyy.. How do I look? Jerwin: For the tenth time, you look fine. Ako: Tumingin ka naman muna! I didn't have much time to get ready after that little incident with the closet. . -___- Kaya, I just

straightened my hair, put on light make-up, grabbed the first matching silver je welry I could find, and then slipped in my black, high-heeled pumps.. and still, somehow, nauna pa rin sa'kin si Jerwin.. -__Nakaligo na sya, nakapag-gel ng buhok, nakapag-cologne pa.. But then again, kase h naman, pants and red polo lang ang kailangan nyang alalahanin.. We finally stopped in front of a banquet hall's doors. Ehto nanaman kami sa mga fancy hotel parties. -__Jerwin: Let's go. He grabbed my hand and then he opened the door. I immediately scanned the place. The crowd, this time, doesn't look old.. They a ctually look like they're around my age.. and OMG isn't that Papa Piolo!? O.O As soon as pumasok kami ni Jerwin, nalipat ung atensyon ng lahat ng tao sa'min.. and then, all of a sudden, they burst into hoots and applause.. People: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! :D Oh.. It's a birthday party... or advance birthday party.. Jerwin acknowledged the crowd with smiles and waves and nods.. Nung medyo na-dis perse na ung attenstion, lumapit ako kay Jerwin para bumulong.. Ako: It's your birthday? Who threw the party? 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 _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... Aish! PAK! Jerwin: Hey, it's free food! PAK! 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!?? :D 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? (biglang tingin kay Gee na) Doesn't he used to do that for you, Geena? Napatingin ako bigla sa kaharap ko, who's calmly stirring the martini in front o f her. Geena looked up and met my eyes, then she smiled.. I'm really starting to hate that stupid smirk of hers.. -__Geena: Oh yes.. like a private concert.. Krystal: Awww.. that's so sweet.. And you two weren't even dating! Farrah: (chuckles) But you two were together often, right? ;D Honey: Oh yea, especially at night.. :D I forced a smile on my face as they all started laughing.. Ang mga bruha! Di man lang ba sila nahiya na sa mukha ko pa talaga nila pinagkakalandakan ang kalandian ng ka-tribo nila?!?!

Farrah: By the way, Venice, I saw Mr. Gordon last week.. He mentioned you did a photoshoot with him and Jerwin? Honey: Oh? I thought you... don't do those things? Ako: Uhmm.. yea.. It was kind of sudden.. Geena: So are you planning on entering the modeling world now? Ako: Eh?? No.. I mean, I've never really thought about it like that.. Farrah: Maybe you should. Surprisingly, Mr. Gordon was really pleased with your work.. (looked around the table) And we all know Mr. Gordon and his high standards.. Geena: Oh my god! I know! Once, we went to Greece to do a photoshoot.. I swear, he was ready to kill the amateur model I was working with.. I can't blame him though.. I have no idea how that amateur could even call himself a "model". The started blabbing about their "experiences" with co-workers, bosses, staff.. Syempre, na-out of place ako.. Anong laban ko sa "promotional posters", "Greece pictorial", "company adve rtisements", at mga kachuchuhan nila?? Isa lamang akong hamak na dyosa ng kagandahan.. nyahaha :D I looked over kung san nakatayo si Jerwin with his friends.. He looks so at ease .. They're probably talking about "showbiz stuff" too.. mga bagay na di ako makaka-relate.. Nag-ssink in talaga.. This is his world.. I just can't fit in...

Krystal: Oh, you're looking at your fiancé. How cute.

Napabalik ung tingin ko sa kanila.. and they're all looking at me as if may bitb it akong supeeerrr cute na puppy.. -___- Ung mga tipong sapilitan na pa-awwwww... Anoh kaya un? o_O Ako: Huh? Oh.. Farrah: Don't worry about him.. He's in good company. Ako: Of course. Ininom ko ung iced tea sa harap ko.. For some reason, kahit anong daldal nila, f eel na feel ko pa rin ang pressure.. Dahil ba alam kong plastic ang mga ngiti nila... at kanina ko pa naha halata na they've been trying to make me feel as uncomfortable as possible? Some party hostess.. -___Farrah: You know, it's really cool that you managed to snag one of the hottest b achelors in the business considering that.. well.. no offense, but, you're a nobody.

Oh.. Is it time for diretsuhang paninira na? Geena: What are you girls talking about? She's not a nobody. I looked up in surprise.. Pinagtatanggol ako? Geena: I heard she's famous..... in her school. ;D The other girls snickered at Geena's remark. Pfftt. I knew it. Mahuhulog na ang langit at lahat, kontra pa rin sa buhay ko an g babaeng toh! -___I want to get out of here... :| "Excuse me, girls." Napalingon akong bigla at the sound of that voice. Halos mapatalon pa ko sa tuwa ..:P Jerwin finally came.. Di ko napigilan ung ngiti ko nung humarap ako sa kanya.. :D I must have looked r eally happy kasi napangiti rin si Jerwin nung tumingin sya sa'kin.. :P Geena: Oh, hello, Jerwin. Are you here to join our little party? :) Sige lang.... Ngumiti ka pa nang ganyan, baka sakaling maglabasan na ang mga lan ggam.. -__Jerwin: Actually, no. I'm here to borrow my fiancée, if you girls don't mind. :) Napa-blink ang mga fake eyelashes nung mga Mean Girls. Bwahahahahaha :D What?! Ha?! What!? Kala nyo makiki-upo sya para makipag-flirting fest snyo?!? Ch aka nyo! ;D Jerwin offered me his hand, which I very gladly took. I flashed a smile at the g irls, and then hinayaan ko nang i-lead ako ni Jerwin away from the table -- and the awestruck girls (plus o ne death glare from a certain someone). Ako: You're done talking with your boys? Jerwin: Ha.. Kinda.. Nakakabanas na silang kausap eh. Ako: Bakit? Jerwin: Well, they're all gushing about how pretty you are tonight, and how I sh ould introduce them to you.. Sunud-sunod pa nga ang paalam kung pwede ka raw isayaw.. Psh. They're acti ng like fanboys..

Ako: Ooohhh.. Is that why you escaped and came to me? Jerwin: Yea.. That, and I saw you looking extremely uncomfortable around those g irls. I thought you might need a little saving. ;) Ako: So nagpapaka-Superman ka? Jerwin: Hey, at least I didn't think na maging sardinas noh! ;D 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? :D Jerwin: (laughs) That's a good idea. ;D Ako: Hmm.. May potential suitor ba ko dun sa mga fanboys na un? :D 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.. :P 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?? o_O 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 But I hardly know this beauty by my side I'll never forget The way you look tonight.. When the song finished, halos ayokong bitawan ung sabit ko kay Jerwin.. I know, ang manyak.. wahahaha ;D But I had to let go dahil Jerwin let go. T-T He took my hand and led me out of the dancefloor.. One dance lang.. T^T Jerwin: We should go. Ako: Huh? We're going?!?! Sayaw pa tayoooo~ ToT Jerwin: It's 9:15.. We gotta catch up with your mom, right? Oh.. my mom. @[email protected] Dang.. I completely forgot. Ako: 9:15 na ba? Ha.. I didn't even realize na ganun na pala ka-late.. Jerwin: Yep.. Uhmm.. Mag-CCR lang ako, ok? I'll be back and then we'll leave. He gave me a pat on the head and then off he went palabas nung banquet hall. I w ent to the mini-bar and smiled at the server who handed me a punch.

I sat down on the empty table in front nung mini-bar, sipping my drink. Aliw ali w pa ko sa panonood sa mga people nang may lumakad na dalawang guys dun sa bar.. I would have ignored t hem, pero right after they ordered their drinks, narinig ko kagad ung pangalan ko. Guy 1: Man, I was hoping to dance with Venice.. but Jerwin got really possessive . He told me to back off, and then he went himself and took her. Psh. Guy 2: (laughs) Dude, if you were after my fiancée, I'd be all up your case too, y ou manwhore. :D Guy 1: Hey! ;D But seriously, man, I was really surprised the Santos clan let Je rwin end up with a commoner. She hasn't done any sort of showbiz work.. Guys 2: What's so bad about that? Oo nga! Anong masama dun?!? Guy 1: C'mon, don't pretend you don't know.. Jerwin's family is like the enterta inment industry's monarchy. Look at the people in this room! Only the most successful of celebriti es and business heirs and heiresses are here. Don't tell me you actually think Venice will survive thi s world without any experience under her belt? Guy 2: Hey, at least she's hot. Guy 1: Ha! You're right! ;D The two of them laughed.. completely unaware na ako ung babaeng nakatalikod sa k anila.. Binaba ko ung baso ko on the table, lahat ng kaaliwan ko kanina biglang nag-evaporate.. Ganun na lang ba ako kaliit sa mga taong toh? I looked around again.. Totoo naman.. lahat ng tao dito prominent figures.. They all accomplished so much in the short time they've been living.. Sigh... Just in time, I saw Jerwin come back inside. He immediately scanned the room loo king for me, kaya napataas tuloy ung kamay ko and waved, trying to catch his attention. He saw me and smiled. Habang naglalakad sya papunta sa'kin, dinaig nya pa ang ka ndidato sa dami ng mga kinawayan and kinamusta.. People must really think he's amazing.... And he's mine.. Napangiti ako nung naisip ko un.. Maybe it won't be true forever, pero at least for now, it's real. He's mine.

When he finally got to where I was, he immediately gently tapped my head. Jerwin: Sardines, let's go. Natulala ako.. Tama ba ung rinig kong tinawag nya sa'kin?!? Ako: "S-S-Sardines"?!? Jerwin: Di ba pangarap mo un? :D Ako: What?! Jerwin: Don't worry. I won't tell other people the reason I'm calling you that. ;) O_O Ako: Eh?! So you're planning to actually call me that?!?!? He bent down para malapit ung mukha nya sa mukha ko.. Akala nya naman mag-bback down ako kahit na ganun sya kalapit.. Neknek nya.. Masyadong napuno ang brain ko nung pagtawag nya sa'kin ng sardinas, wala nang brain cells na available para magprocess pa ng hiya noh! Jerwin: You call me "Sunshine", don't you? See? Now we're fair. :D O.o Anong fair dun?!? At least ako cute ung tawag ko sa kanya!! 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. :P 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 herself...i n 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 "fiancée".. Venice smiled at him before getting i nside.. 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? :P Habang nasa kung anong music session si Jerwin, pumunta naman ako sa ABS para sa rehearsal 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.. :D 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. :) I turned in one corner and halos marinig ko ung SCREEECCHH sa sobrang bigla nang pagtigil ko.. Gano kaliit naman ba ang mundo?!? At sa dinami-dami ng taong makikita ko, talaga ehto ng bruhilda pang toh!??! Maybe if I tiptoe back.. slowly.. baka di nya ko mapansin.... "Oh. Venice??" NOOOOO!!!!! I slowly looked up, sabay plaster ng surprised smile sa face.. Ako: Geena.. I didn't even see you.. Hello... ^-^ Geena: I didn't expect to find you here.. Jerwin is filming something? Ako: Uh.. no.. I went to this rehearsal thing for Jerwin's birthday tomorrow.. Geena: Oh.. the annual birthday show segment.. You're making an appearance? Ako: Yea.. They kinda asked me to.. Tumingin ako sa relo ko.. I know, hindi naman talaga ako nagmamadali.. pero hind i naman talaga alam ni Geena un.. bwahaha :D

Ako: Uhmm.. ano.. I need to go now. It's nice seeing you. Not. Ako: I'll see you around. I gave her a slight nod, and then, tumingin ako dun sa kasama nyang girl, and no dded a little bit din to excuse myself.. Nung una, casually lakad lang ako.. Para naman may poise.. Hanggang dun sa corne r palabas ng building.. After making sure na hindi na nila ako nakikita, I made a run for it. O__O Just being around that girl... ay my golay! Daig pa ang pure taba ng baboy sa pagpapasikip ng dibdib ko. Hay na ko. ---

---..--(Geena's POV) ---------------- . "Sya ba un?" I watch as Venice briskly disappears around the corner, and then I looked at my companion, Artie. Artie is a successful newspaper gossip columnist. Her career has always been helpful t o me when I need to get a few things done. She's also one of the very few people who knew about my real relationship with J erwin Santos. Of course, she didn't disclose the details because I told her not to. Me: Yea. That's her. Artie: Hmm.. She's pretty in a way.. I smiled when I heard her that. I came up with the perfect plan to take that lit tle nobody down. Of course she has to be pretty for everything to work. Oh and this plan is perfct.. It's going to hurt her.. It will be epic. Me: I want you to help build her career. Write good things about her, make spons ors, directors, composers or whoever notice her. Artie: What?? Career? I thought she's not doing the whole showbiz thing?? o_O Me: Oh, who can resist the spotlight? The little show tomorrow will suck her int o the business without her even knowing it. Artie: Okay okay.. But.. Uh, if you're trying to get her out of the picture, why are you helping her? Me: Artie, haven't you heard? The higher you fly, the harder you'll crash. Her l ife is gonna get so messed up, she'll run away and never come back.

Artie: Hay nako.. That sounds so mean.. Are you sure Jerwin is worth all of this trouble ha? I glanced at my little friend. The extremities of her ignorance still escapes me , but then again, her being ignorant makes it so much easier for me to manipulate her. Me: Of course. Jerwin belongs to me. And soon, he'll realize that too. ---

---..--(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . I finished early from my meeting with the composers. Usually, ganitong oras, nag -vvocal practice ako or dance practice.. But since magsisimula na ang lahat ng new albums activities soo n, I might as well get as much rest as possible. Dumating ako sa bahay, only to find it empty. Venice did say na may lakad sya.. Naaliw yata sa lakwatsa nya. I threw my car keys on the table and then collapsed on the couch. I turned on th e TV since there's nothing else better to do. It wasn't even ten minutes later when I heard the fro nt door open and then gently close.. Maya-maya lang, naglalakad na si Venice papasok. Ako: Yo, Sardines! :) She just stood there.. eerily quiet. o_O Usually, she's all hyper and ready maki -gulo.. And pag naririnig nyang tinatawag ko syang "sardines", laging ready na ung pangontra nya.. So... Why does she look so blank right now? Ako: Uh... Are you ok? She let out a heavy sigh. ?__? Then, lumakad sya to where I'm sitting, and sat down beside me.. Hindi pa natuwa , talagang umusog pa sya at sumiksik sa tabi ko. Umiral nanaman ang pagnanasa nyang maging sardinas? -__-

I looked at her, but she's just staring at the TV.. So.. uhmm.. what am I suppos ed to do? I decided to just let her be for a while.. Baka time of the month? Di ba nagiging moody raw ang mg a babae pag ganung panahon na? She started to squirm a little bit, at talagang kinakarir nya na ang pagsiksik s a tabi ko. I finally gave up. I grabbed the remote, turned the TV off, and then turned to face her. Ako: Okay. Just tell me what happened. She pouts her lips and started tracing shapes on the couch. Ako: Just talk, will you?! You're creeping me out. Venice: *sigh* Sumakay ako ng FX pauwi.. Punong-puno ng pasahero.. -__Ako: Uh-huh? Venice: I had my huge purse on my lap... clutched close to me.. Ako: Na-hold up ka?!? Venice: No. -__Ako: Eh ano? Venice: Ano... ~__~ All of a sudden... may naramdaman akong gumagalaw.. I though t may daga sa bag ko.. I felt something na gumagalaw dito oh.. She pointed at her tummy.. Venice: But then I realized.. kung daga un, di ba dapat nag-ssqueak squeak sya? Tsaka, dapat maliit lang ung movements nya.... Ako: Okay? Venice: So I looked.. *gulp* Medyo tinaas ko ung bag ko.. and-- and-- *sniff* Su nshine.. the guy sitting next to me... He had his hand hand on ME.. T^T 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 panget. Ako: Then, we'll track him down! Venice: Oh for crying out loud.. -__- Alam mo ba kung gano karaming FX meron sa Pinas?!? Ako: I don't care! That little--!! How dare he touch my girl?!?! Venice blinked in surprise.. and for a few moments, there was some sort of shock ed silence in the room. Napatigil rin ako nung narinig ko ung sinabi ko.. Ako nga ba nagsabi nun? O.O Then.. Just leave it to Venice to ruin the moment. -__- She started laughing and laughing and laughing. Ako: Nababaliw ka na ba? o_O Venice: Aish.. Sunshine..;D Ang corny kaseh eh! ;D o_O She stopped laughing after a while, pero nakangiti pa rin sya as she looked at t he dumbfounded me. Venice: Is this it? :D Ako: Is this what? o_O Venice: Is this when you're going to say you've fallen in love with me? bwahahah aha ;D Ako: What?!? You're nuts! Venice: Ahsusss.. Thiz iz it na noh! Namumula ka na! ;D I walked out on her peals of laughter. Sya na nga tohng na-manyak, sya pa tohng may lakas ng loob magpakabaliw sa kakatawa.. Psh.. Ibang klase talaga ang utak.. I grabbed my keys from where I threw them, and then went back to the living room . Venice was just finishing her laugh parade. Ako: Let's go. Venice: Huh? Where are we going?

Ako: I won't let you ride any sort of public transportation again -- unless you wear 2 layers of armor. Venice: Ang exagge mo. -__Ako: Better safe than sorry. Now, let's go. Venice: San nga tayo pupunta? o_O I grabbed her hand and pulled her up to her feet. She looks confused, pero sumunod naman sya palabas ng bahay. Ako: I'm teaching you how to drive.

Chapter 46: Precious Moments

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . "Okay. Let's go." For the 100th time since lumabas kami, tinaasan ko nanaman sya ng kilay.. Sure n a kaya talaga sya sa ginagawa nya? He'll let me drive his oh-so-precious truck? Pero sige lang~ Go Go Go! :D Jerwin let me watch as he took his Ford truck out of the driveway.. Kasama pa un g mga lectures kung anong tatapakan.. kung anong pwedeng pindutin.. kung alin ung speedometer.. kung pano i-adjust ung mga mirrors.. Nung naayos nya na ung posisyon ng truck sa labas ng bahay namin, pinababa nya k o, and then nagpalit kami ng upuan.. Ang taas ng confidence sa'kin ni kuya~ Hinayaan nya kong maupo s a driver's seat! wahahaha :D Jerwin: Okay.. Step on the brake, and then put the car on drive. Ok. Jerwin: Now take your foot off the brake, and step on the gas very slowly Very.. slowly.. stepp--Vroom!! O.O Jerwin: BRAKEEEE!!! O.O Screech! Kung di kami naka-seatbelt, siguro lumipad na kami sa windshield ngayon.. :P Jerwin: Ang sabi ko, "slowly"! Step on the pedals slowly! Ako: Eh kaseh naman! 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 akoBOOM! OoO 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 ko! "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 laug hed to himself. o_O Jerwin: I-shift mo sa 'park' ung kambyo, and step out. Sumunod kagad ako.. Halos madapa-dapa pa sa pagmamadali -- wag lang akong masiga wan.. 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? *gulp* 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? ;D Ako: Hindi ba? :| Jerwin: Well, I was going to.. But when I heard you curse, then cover your mouth .. and namula ka pa! :D He stepped closer to me and pinched my cheek. Jerwin: Ang cuuuttte mo! :D Now, give me the keys. O_o 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? o_O Jerwin: My mom has an old car we rarely use. At least un, kahit ibunggo mo, I do n't think anyone would mind. And thus.. the torture continues. -__---

"Ate Veniceeeee!!!" :D

As soon as Jerwin dropped me off the front, sumalubong kagad sa'kin si Jean. As usual, hyper nanaman sya. Jean: Anong ginagawa nyo dito? Kamustah ung bagong bahay? (biglang silip sa liko ko) Kasama nyo ba si Prince Charming ko? :D Ako: Jean, ilang beses ko bang sasabihin syo, never magiging "Prince" si Kenny. -__- "Princess", mas posible pa kung princess. Jean: I don't care. :P 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? :D 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 ;D 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 Ponce! :D Ako: Di ka ba makalabas nang wala si Mang Ponce? Jean: Mom doesn't like me taking public transportation. Napatingin ako kay Jerwin. May pinagmanahan naman pala tohng taong toh. Maarte. Jerwin took the car keys. Nagpaalam na si Jean. Gagawa pa raw sya ng homework. T awagin na lang namin sya pagbalik namin.. And since mag-isa lang si Jean sa bahay, I told Aling Ligaya na dun na kami kakain ng dinner. Kaya yata hyper si Jean pag nakikita ako, sabik sa tao. :P Jerwin drove the old car hanggang sa labas nung gate nila. Luma na nga ung kotse. Hindi naman sa kalawang, pero parang kasing edad ko na ya ta.. :P Jerwin put me in the driver's seat again. Deserted ung street nung bahay nila -syempre, anoh pa nga ba ang expected ko, eh high breed ang mga tao sa neighborhood na toh.. Walang mg a taong kalye. :D

Jerwin: Okay.. Just drive straight. And remember! Slowly lang ang pagtapak sa g as. I nodded. I shifted to 'drive'.. and ahyan na! umaandar na kami..:D Step on the pedal slowwwllyyy VRoom! Napahawak bigla si Jerwin dun sa handle. Jerwin: Dahan-dahannn!!! Ako: Sorry poh. :P Jerwin: Ipatong mo kasi ung paa mo sa sahig, then slowly step on the gas.. Sunod naman ako sa instructions.. Both hands gripping the wheel tightly.. I can do this! Just drive straight! .... 20 minutes later.... Jerwin has started gripping the door handle with both hands. Jerwin: HOW CAN YOU KEEP ON SWERVING IN A STRAIGHT ROAD?!?!? GANO BA KAHIRAP MAG-DRIVE NG DIRETSO?!?!? Ako: Eh ung kotse ang ayaw dumiretso eh!! Jerwin: (screams) AAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! OoO STOP THE CAR!!! I'M GETTING OFF!! STOP THE CAAAAARRRRRR!!!! Ako: Hey! Mas diretso na ung pag-ddrive ko ngayon kesa kanina noh! *gasp* Oh no! Suicidal na askal ba un? O.o Jerwin: Aish! Are you driving with your eyes closed!?!? WAH! Stop the car!!! I D ON'T WANNA DIE YET!! Let me outtt~~ ToT

Chapter 47: Trick for Treat

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . The next day: Happy Valentines~! Hindi ko alam kung anong multo ang sumanib sa'kin, sobrang aga kong nagising nun g umaga.. Kaya halos dalawang oras pa bago kami lumarga papunta sa shooting nung show, all set na ko. :P Dahan-dahan pa nga ung pag-plantsa ko ng buhok ko dahil alam kong maaga pa... Na gpalit ako ng outfit nang ilang beses.. Completely flawless ang pagkaka-apply ng medyo subtle na make -up.. *sigh* Hanggang sa naubusan na ko ng gagawin at ang haba pa rin ng oras.. -__- N akaupo na lang ako sa living room, nakatunganga sa TV na hindi naman bukas. Hindi ako sanay nang hindi ako nagmamadali.. Lagi akong late kaya lagi akong nag mamadali.. Kahit anong gawin ko, late pa rin ako.. Sa klase, late. Sa pagpasa ng projects, late p a rin.. Sa mga lakwatsa, na-lalate pa rin. Kakaiba pala ang feeling ng maagang natatapos. Nakakabato! At ang tagal tagal tagal tagal pa ni Jerwin! Inabot na nga ako ng syam-syam bago sya magising kanina.. Kinaladkad ko na rin pababa nung kama nya -- joke. Sinipa ko sya, hanggang sa na hulog sya sa sahig. Oh, eh di gising kagad! :D Pero, ang tagal nya pa rin! Ilang dust particles na ang nagpalipad-lipad sa paligid ko, wala pa rin sya. Inikot ko ung ulo ko paharap sa hagdan, dahil tinatamad akong tumayo at umakyat para katukin sya. Ako: (sigaw) JERWIN!! HALIKA NAA!! . . . -___Ako: JERWIN SANTOSSSSS!!!! . . . Wala pa ring sagot. Anak ng tutubi.. Sapilitan kong tinayo ung sarili ko from the couch, and trudged up the stairs para magsimula ng skandalo sa kwarto nya.

Ako: Knock~ Knock~ I cautiously opened the door to his room, sabay tingin sa paligid.. Wala pa rin sa loob si Jerwin.. -_I walked around, sabay upo sa kama nyang hindi nanaman inayos pagkagising. Naliligo pa rin si kuya... Nalamon na yata nung shower. I hate waiting. I really hate waiting. -.I collapsed on the bed, burying my face in the pillow, and started the rain of c omplaints.. I made sure na ung mga sounds are muffled by the pillow dahil may tendency akong mag-scream pag katapos ng total rants ko.. Ayoko naman magkagulo ang mga kapitbahay.. :P All of a sudden, habang nasa kalagitnaan ako ng pang-aaway dun sa unan, narinig kong bumukas ung pinto. Napaupo akong bigla, diretso tingin sa bagong pasok na si Jerwin. O__O Jerwin casually strolled in, pakanta-kanta pa, pasayaw-sayaw.. O__O Talagan pinandigan nya ang pagiging FRESH out of the shower.. *gulp* Kinukuskos nya ung isa nyang hawak na tuwalya sa dripping wet hair nya -- rough love para lang matuyo ang buh ok.... and.. he's not wearing anything but another towel wrapped around his hips -- a v ery loose towel. @[email protected] Finally, he turned around, and dun nya lang na-realize na nakaupo ako sa kama ny a.. Staring at him.. He dropped the towel he was using on his hair, and biglang lumipad ung mga kamay nya dun sa towel sa lower portion of his body para higpitan ung pagkakatali -- and para na rin takpa annn ang dapat takpaaannn (for the sake of both our eyes and pride. bow) Jerwin: V-Venice!?!?!! Nung narinig ko ung nag-ppanic nyang boses, dun lang ako medyo natauhan.. Hindi pala ako pwede mag-stay sa kwarto nya.. :D I slowly stood up from his bed, keeping my calm kahit na gusto ko nang humagakha k ng tawa. Ako: Uhmm I should probably wait downstairs.

I walked past him para lumabas.. Pero bago ko tuluyang isarado ung pinto, tinama an ako ng isang malatopak na kalokohan na kinaaliwan naman ng malalandi kong brain cells.. ;D Lumingon ulit ako at the still wide-eyed Jerwin, sabay ngiti.. :D Ako: Sunshine~ :) Jerwin: @[email protected] I made a quick flirty glance at his half-naked body, making sure na pinapakita a ng pagiging pleased with the muscles and the lack of cloth, and then I winked at him. :D His mouth dropped open. ;D I stepped out of the room, and gently closed the door behind me. I think I heard him drop on the floor. XD ---

An hour later... Ako: Sunshine!!! Hindi mo pa rin ba ko kakausapin?!? Jerwin and I finally left the house to go to the studio para dun sa TV show na m ay guest birthday appearance si Jerwin (and ang still secret surprise pagsulpot ko later). Ever since bumaba sya ng hagdan, ang katangi-tanging salita lang na sinabi sa'ki n ni Sunshine is: "Let's go." After nun, hindi na sya nagsalita.. at hindi nya ko tinitignan! ;D 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! :D Ako: Valentines na Valentines, dinedeadma mo ko.. Tama ba naman un? Di ba dapat binibigyan mo ko ng chocolates? flowers? ... -___- Silence... Ako: Okay, fine... Sorry na about what happened earlier.

Umupo ako dun sa chair na katabi nya. Ako: I just couldn't resist. You're hot! :D THAT made him look at me -- finally! nyahaha ;D Jerwin: When did you become such a pervert? Ako: Ay kinakausap mo na ko! WAHAHAHA ;D And I'm not a perv.. Naaliw lang ako da hil hindi arawaraw nangyayari ang makita kitang naglalakad nang tuwalya lang ang suot mo. ;D Jerwin: Ssh! O.O Napatingin kaming dalawa dun sa hairstylist na nasa kwarto. She looks astounded nung narinig nya ung sinabi ko..:D I'm starting to love this day. Wahaha ;D Ako: Wala poh akong nakita, ate. Promise. :) Jerwin: Aish. Ate Li, can you leave us alone for a minute? I just need to get Ve nice's brain back in its place. Ate Li: Oh sige.. Just hurry up, malapit na magsimula ung shooting. ;) As soon as the hairstylist stepped out of the room, umikot kagad paharap sa'kin si Jerwin. Jerwin: Don't ever talk about that incident again, understand? Ako: But it's funny.. You should have seen your face! And you were even singing and dancing.. If I know, nag-cconcert ka sa banyo noh! :D Jerwin: Why were you in my room anyway?!? Ako: Eh ang tagal mo kasi eh.. Kanina pa ko naghihintay.. :P Jerwin: Sinoh ba naman kasing may sabing sumama ka dito? 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.. ;D Jerwin: Of course. I need to take good care of what's mine. Ay? Nakiki-ride na si kuya.. Nasa good mood na sya? :P

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 ked. 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-ant icipating if he has the guts to do it. Jerwin: Hmm.. naked, half-naked.. It's still the same.. I should get something b ack, right? To make us even? 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?!?! OoO 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 o.

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.. 6.. 7.. 8.. Pagdating ng 10 at wala pa rin ung "kiss", I cracked one eye open na. It can't p ossibly take him that long to...do it right? >_o o_o 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. :D 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? ;D O_O 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. ;D 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 again.. Jerwin: And, Venice? If you want a kiss, all you have to do is ask.. :P OoO I grabbed the small pillow behind me and threw it with all my might papunta kay Jerwin! 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 oras.. 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. WTH? 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.. :D Ako: Ay, obvious na obvious ba? :P What's going on? The two sat me down on the stool at the center of the stage.. and dun na nag-sin k in sa'kin ung nangyayari.. Is it that time na ba?

Carlo: Syempre, kailangan nating i-celebrate ang araw mo, bro! Ako: Ahh.. Valentines day na ba ang araw ko ngayon? ;D Mark: (natawa) Pwede rin.. Anoh ba, alam mo namang weekend show tayo.. next time , sabihin mo sa birthday mo tumapat naman sya sa weekend. :D Hayyy.. Sabi ko na nga ba.. Ang walang kamatayang celebration ng birthday ko.. I wonder what they have in store for me this time.. I looked around the studio, not paying attention dun sa mga sinasabi nung dalawa ng hosts.. Venice still isn't here. Where could she have gone? Di naman siguro sya na-kidnap, right? Carlo: Let's listen to the heartfelt greetings ng mga taong malapit sa puso ni J erwin! Napatingin lang ulit ako dun sa dalawa nung naramdaman ko ung kamay ni Carlo sa balikat ko.. They're 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.. :D 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.. :P "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 sumusulpot 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 y ou a song.. Alam ko naman how much you love hearing me sing.." Hala.. Kelan ko sinabi un?!? I mean, it's true.. Pero.. kelan ko sinabi un?!? :P "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 a bout to do, pero wala nang tigil-tigil.. I landed a soft peck at the tip of Venice's nose. :P-- much t o the delight of everybody 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?!? :D Mark: Oo nga! :D 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? o_O I smiled at her and then pulled her in my arms. She was surprised by the gesture , but she didn't push me away. 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? -___-

*sigh* I let her go, sabay tingin sa kanya. Ako: You--! You really know how to ruin a moment! Venice: Pssh.. Moment-moment ka dyan.. Ahsssuuuusss.. Na-touch ka sa song ko noh ! You loovvveeee me na noh? Uuuyyyyy.. :D Ako: Wala na! Ayoko na! Hinde na ko magpapaka-sweet syo ever again! Venice: Wah.. Tampo na? Sunshine.. Time of the month mo ba talaga? O_O Ako: Aish.. Ehwan ko syo!

Chapter 49: Turning Point

(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . After mag-wrap up nung show, Venice and I walked to the main lobby -- making sur e na wala nang umaaligid-aligid na fans. I still have to go to the music studio to do a quick r evision of a song. Pero, si Venice, gusto nang umuwi.. Ako: It won't take long.. Bakit di mo na lang ako hintayin? Venice: Uwi na ko. May gagawin pa ko eh.. Ako: Okay.. Well, hahatid na kita. Venice: Eh?! At bakit naman?? Ako: Pano kung may mangmanyak nanaman syo?!?! Venice: -__- Sunshine.. I don't think things like that would happen everyday.. Ako: Kahit na ba! Venice: Okay.. Then.. I'll make sure to beat him up.. after I remember his face, para pag pumunta tayo sa sketch artist, I can describe him clearly -- at nang ma-hunting mo sya afterw ards. Okay? -_____Kailangan talagang ipaalala ang pag-ooverreact ko last time noh? Ako: *sigh* Fine.. Pero mag-taxi ka. Venice: Taxi? Simula dito hanggang sa bahay? O_O Ako: Yea.. why not? Venice: Hello? (turo sa sarili) Broke. Ako: I'll give you money. Pumayag ka na. This is the only compromise I'm willing to make. Tinitigan ako sandali ni Venice in disbelief. I don't know what she's thinking, pero siguro, na-realize nya na wala nang patutunguhan kung makikipagtalo pa sya. :P Venice: Fine.. -__- May "compromise-compromise" ka pang nalalaman dyan.. :D Ako: Syempre.. Isn't that how relationships work, my dear Sardines? :) Venice: Oh shut up. -__Lumakad kami palabas ng building para mag-abang ng taxi. It didn't take long sin ce mayaman naman sa dumadaan na taxi ung lugar na toh. When a cab finally stopped in front of us, I gave the destination to the driver. Pumayag naman si kuya na ihatid si Venice.. I handed Venice a few cash, tapos I opened the back door for her. Ako: Call me when you get home.

Akala ko papasok na si Venice sa loob, but to my surprise, she jumped in front o f me and threw her arms around my neck. O_O Natulala tuloy ako sa gulat. Venice: Uwi ka kagad, Sunshine, ha.. :) After that unexpected display of affection -- or.. uh.. display of randomness? - tumalon na sya sa loob nung taxi. I closed the door after her, and then waved as they drove away. I stood there smiling sheepishly. Parang kaming bagong kasal.. :D -___Aish.. Anoh ba naman tohng pinag-iisip ko?!? ---

The recording took three hours to do. I know.. ang tagal.. Hindi pa full song un g ni-record namin, small part lang nung isang track.. but what can I do? I'm a perfectionist. :P I've been toying with idea of tweaking a few lines and verses, and this is the o nly day I can try it out. In the end, mas nagustuhan ko ung second version. I just need to wait for the pr oducers to hear the new sample. Bumaba na ko to the main lobby, all set to go home, nang nakita ko ung desk ni A te Cha, ung receptionist. Puno ng flower baskets.. Roses of all colors.. For Valentines day, I guess. Lumapit ako dun sa receptionist, checking out the merchandise na naka-display. Ako: Ate Cha, kinarir mo na yata ang pagbebenta? Parang nung isang araw lang, pu to ang binebenta mo ah. :D Ate Cha: Abah syempre naman! Sa hirap ng buhay ngayon, lahat na dapat ng negosyo , sabakin mo! Ako: Magkano naman tohng mga toh, ate? Ate Cha: Murang-mura lang. Tignan mo.. Anoh bang favorite color ni Venice? Lahat ng kulay meron ako! Oo nga.. Napansin ko nga.. :P May red, pink, white, yellow, blue, violet.. Artificially dyed syempre ung iba.. Akala ko nga may makikita na kong rainbow-colored, pero hindi yata ganun ka-dali mag-dye ng rose na iba-ib a ang kulay.. :P

Ako: Sige, ate.. Balik trabaho ka muna.. Pag may napili ako, tatawagin na lang k ita. Sumunod naman si Ate Cha, bumalik nga sya dun sa mga papeles na inaayos nya. Busy-busyhan pa ko sa pagtingin-tingin nang may biglang tumayo sa tabi ko.. Syem pre, napatingin ako.. Sa laki ba naman nung sahig, kailangan talaga, dumikit sya sa'kin.. o_O But then, again, joke lang pala. :P Ako: Oh, Dustin.. Naligaw ka yata ng building? Dustin: Yea.. Geena called me earlier, asked me to bring her some food. Ako: Oh.. Tumingin sya dun sa mga tinitignan kong bulaklak. Dustin: You're getting flowers? For Geena? Ako: What? No. Dustin: ... For Venice? Ako: Of course. He suddenly grabbed my arm. I was taken by surprise dahil hindi naman violent pe rson si Dustin. He's one of the most laidback person I know. Kaya nung halos madapa-dapa ako sa paghi la nya sa'kin papunta sa sulok nung building, natulala talaga ako sa kanya. What did I do? Ako: Bro, ok ka lang? Dustin: Why are you doing this?! Ako: Doing what? Buying flowers? Masyado bang corny? Isn't that what people do f or Valentines? Dustin: Why are you giving it to Venice?!? What about Geena?!? Ako: It's different now. Dustin, I'm engaged to Venice. Dustin: I know the truth about that engagement, Jerwin. You didn't choose to be engaged to that girl! Sumandal ako dun sa dingding sa likod ko. I feel like I'm being interrogated. Ma n. -__Ilang tao pa ba ang nakakaalam tungkol sa simula ng engagement na toh? Do they a lso know na seryoso naman ung commitment namin ni Venice? Ako: You're right. I didn't choose to be engaged. Dustin: Then why are you being like this? You're practically ignoring Geena! Whi le.. while, with Venice.. Ako: Considering the way this all started, I guess it is absurd how things are g oing right now.. But, man, I'm completely happy with Venice. I can't even imagine myself with anyone else.. Tumingin ako sa kanya.

Ako: At first, I thought I can use Venice for entertainment habang wala si Geena . Or maybe, pwede na ring gamitin para pagselosin si Geena.. Dustin: It's absolutely working-Ako: Kaya lang.. The more time I spend with Venice, the more I enjoy being in he r presence. Bro, I would wake up every morning with a smile on my face because I know I'll get to s ee her later on. Is that weird? Nagkamot ako ng ulo sa mga pinagsasabi ko. This is the first time I said those t hings out loud. Ang corny palang pakinggan. :P 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. Venice and I.. We're comfortable with each other. Ang layo na ng narating namin since the first time we met. Maliit na ang possibility na magpapatayan kami...

I doubt na magpapatayan kami. :P Ako: Would it be too cliché if I say that.. I think I'm falling for her already? Dustin: J.... Ako: I know, I know. It's weird.. I'm falling for my fiancée. But what can I do? S he's... She's amazing, man.. Dustin ran his hand through his hair.. I can tell he's feeling frustrated or som ething. He never messes with his hair unless he's hearing something that baffles him. I, on the other hand, feel like a high school boy gushing on about his crush. -_ _- What the hell.. Dustin: And Geena? What are you going to do about Geena? Ako: Geena and I are friends. We've always been friends. Dustin: She doesn't think so. Ako: What? Dustin: Geena wants you back -- and I don't mean, she wants her "friend" back. Ako: What are you talking about? Geena was the one who clearly told me she didn' t want a relationship. She would flirt with other guys openly, while she was seeing me on the side -- a way from people's eyes.

I met Dustin's gaze.

Ako: You know everything about it, D.. I would have proudly declared her mine, b ut she didn't want me to.. wouldn't even give me a chance.

Dustin: So, you moved on? Just like that? Ako: I didn't expect this to happen, either. But, I found my rightful place.. an d I'm happy with where I am right now. C'mon, man, di mo man lang ba ko susuportahan? "Support for what?" Napaikot kaming bigla ni Dustin nang may sumulpot out of nowhere sa tabi namin. And as if hindi pa sapat ung tension na bigay ni Dustin, talagang Power of Two pa ang pinadala sa'k in.. -__Ako: Oh.. Geena.. Hi. Geena: Hi! What are you two doing hiding in the corner? Dustin: Nothing. Jerwin is just asking me about my opinion on those flowers over there. Geena: Ohh!! I--Dustin: He's giving them to Venice. Geena's mouth dropped open in surprise, pero syempre, trained international mode l, she quickly hid her distaste with a smile. Geena: Oh.. Venice.. Hmm Well, why don't you get her flowers from the floral sho p at the mall? They have gorgeous bouquets. Remember? You bought me one last year. Man... -__Ako: Yea.... Geena: I'll go with you. What?!? Dustin: But Geena, don't we have somewhere else to go to? Geena: Oh, but Jerwin needs me more. I'm helping a friend pick flowers for his g irlfriend. It's their first Valentines day. He shouldn't disappoint. Ako: Uh.. Geena: And.. Jerwin, I hope you remember that you still owe me dinner. Ako: Oh.. yea.. Of course.. :| Geena: Great! Then, let's go get dinner first, then we'll go to the floral shop. :D I thought Dustin just brought her food??! Kakain nanaman sya?!?

Ako: Can't we just do the dinner thing some other time? I kinda have something p lanned for tonight.. and Venice is expecting me home early.. Geena: I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you eat dinner with a friend, right? Come o nnnn!!! Just for a couple of hours~! Nagkatinginan kami ni Dustin. One side of me wants to seriously decline the invi tation.. But the other side knows how Geena gets really persistent when she wants to do something. Maannnnnnn.... -__Ako: *sigh* Okay, okay.. But just for a couple of hours.

Chapter 50: End of the Night

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . Hmmm... Let's see.. -___I stared at the recipe in front of me.. I'm pretty sure it's not that hard to co ok beef steak.. I tried it once before... kasama si Aling Ligaya.. pero what's the difference kung mag-isa na la ng ako ngayon? Kaya ko toh! *__* Tumingin ako dun sa bowl sa harap ko, then dun sa mga ingredients na nilabas ko as soon as I got home.. Kalamansi, check.. Soy sauce, check.. Garlic.. Ground pepper.. Oil.. Onion.. par ang may kulang pa... -__Oh yea! The beef! Hello.. Kinuha ko ung beef from the other side of the counter, and tinabi sa other ingre dients. Yan, kumpleto na sila. Let's get this party started! :D I rolled up my sleeves and started working on the... thing na ipang-mmarinate ko . Don't ask kung alam ko ba ung ginagawa ko.. Bastah sabi nung recipe ganun daw, susunod na lang ako. I'm sure matutuwa si Jerwin pag-uwi nya.. Lalo na since favorite nya ang bistek. :) Sana lang di ko masunog ung bahay bago sya umuwi. :P ---

---..--(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . I looked around the restaurant. It's packed. I wonder why Geena chose this restaurant.. Sa dinami-dami naman dito pa talaga sa maraming tao... Speaking of Geena, nasan na ba sya? She left n ung cellphone nya.. Simula nung dumating kami, kanina pa sya may Valentines people going on dates... ng mas private na pwedeng puntahan, in the middle of eating para saguti ka-text..

-___- This is awkward. Si Dustin kaseh eh! Halos maglabas na nga ako ng laser sa mata sa kakatitig sa kanya para sumama sya, in the end, wala.. He still bailed out on me. "Sorry to keep you waiting." I looked up and saw Geena bouncing back to her chair. Ako: It's okay. No worries. She looked around the place, as if looking for something.. Waiter? Is she expect ing to see someone? Pero that's impossible. Sino or ano naman ang hahanapin nya? Ako: Are you okay? Napabalik ung tingin nya sa'kin.. Geena: Oh yea.. I'm just.. This restaurant is really packed. I didn't expect it to be this crowded. :) Ako: Oh yea.. (took a bite of my food) I guess, people want to celebrate Valenti nes.. Geena: Oh! Ako: What? Geena: You have something stuck on your cheek. Ako: Oh really? Where? I tried to wipe off whatever it is, pero parang unsuccessful yata ako.:P Geena l eaned in towards me and reached for my face. Geena: Here, let me do it. She wiped the spot tenderly.. Something she's never done before. This is really getting awkward. Ako: Thanks. Tumingin ako sa relo ko. I can't believe we've only been here for an hour.. Why does it feel like it's been far, far longer than that? T-T I wanna get out of here... Geena: Hmmm I think I'm craving for something sweet. Do you want some dessert, J erwin? Ako: Huh? Dessert? Geena: Yea.. you know.. cake.. ice cream.. sweet things.. Ako: Oh.. I know what you mean.. Uh, sure.. I guess.. 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 yy.. Ako: I just need to make a phone call.. I'll be back. I left Geena in front of the flower shop across the restaurant, while I went to one corner to use my phone. Napatingin ako sa screen.. 6 missed calls... all from Venice. Hindi ko siguro na rinig ung phone since medyo maingay sa restaurant. She must be furious by now.. This night sucks. I dialed another number and waited for someone to pick up. "Good evening! Calliope Music Hall. How may I help you?" Ako: Hello. This is Jerwin Santos........ Uhmm, yea, about that.. Something came up. I don't think I'll be able to come in tonight. Do you think I can reschedule? ........... Yea, I'll st ill pay for tonight....... I don't care if I need to pay extra to reserve the place for another night. I listened to the person in the other line talk. The place won't be available ti l Tuesday. The 16th.. my birthday.. Hindi na Valentine gift un if ever.. But better late than never.. rig ht? Maannnn... -___Ako: *sigh* That's alright then. I'll take Tuesday night........ Yes.. Thank you . I hang up and jammed the phone back in my pocket. I want to wring someone's neck . How can things get out of hand one after another?!? I'll just get Venice the flowers and then speed back home. That should work for now.. I saw Geena already looking at the display in the flower shop. I walked over to where she was.. Ako: Did you find one?

Geena: Hmm.. it seems like most of their merchandise are already gone. They only have these things... Can this night get any worse?!? I looked around the store.. They have a few bouquets left.. They're nothing spec ial.. But at least they're not wilted yet.. -__- I grabbed the prettiest one I can find. Ako: How about this one? The roses still look alive.. Bright red roses with a few Angel's Breath around t he edges.. They're pretty. Geena: I guess.. It looks good. Let me smell them. I handed her the bouquet, and watched expectantly as she took a sniff. I don't r eally get the point of smelling flowers. But I guess, girls do it all the time when they receive a bouq uet or something... Ako: Well? Geena: I think they smell nice. Smell it. Ako: Uh... *sigh* Yea, sure.. I bent down while she holds the flowers and I smelled the roses. They stink. I m ean, they don't stink.. I just never liked the smell of roses. -__I looked up to speak to Geena, but to my surprise, I found her face just inches away from mine. I completely froze, trying not to jump 10 feet away and act like a moron. I counted to 5 before slowly taking a step back.. Ako: I think I'll just take this one. I took the bouquet from her and almost ran to the cashier. Damn, I hope no one saw that. With people's probing minds these days, who knows what kind of speculations they'll make.... ---

---..--(Venice's POV) ---------------- . Where is he??

He must have gotten caught up with work.. What else could it be? Dahan-dahan kon g pinatong ung cellphone ko sa mesa, after another unsuccessful attempt of calling him. I swear, kukunin ko talaga ung cellphone nun and make a ringtone na mawawalan sy a ng choice kundi sagutin. -__I blew out the candles na sinindihan ko para sa dinner namin.. Then I stood up a nd put the bottle of wine back to the cupboard. Yes, ganyan ako ka-shosyal.. :D Naisip ko lang na hindi ya ta masarap ang bistek at orange juice together, kaya wine na lang.. :D Lumalamig na ung rice at ung specially made kong beef steak.. Nabubusog na rin ako sa kakapapak ng kung anu-anong supposedly eh pampalipas gut om lang.. -__Where is he? ---

---..--(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . Traffic was horrible. It was almost 11 PM nung nakarating ako sa bahay. I hurrie dly got out of the truck, the bouquet of roses in one hand, and the keys on the other. I slowly opened the door, kinda expecting a good cold stare from Venice... I wal ked inside cautiously, nagdadasal sa mga santo in every step I take.. I heard the TV kaya dumiretso ako sa living room -- ready to take the "Where hav e you been-I told you to come home early!" lecture... But instead.. I found her sprawled on the couch... sleeping. Oh man... She must've waited for hours.. I turned to the dining room para ipatong ung mga bulaklak, and that was when I s aw it. The dining table had two candles in the center.. Two wine glasses were also out.. There were a plate of beef steak and a bowl of rice also laid out.. This is probably the reason she told me to come home early... She wanted to eat dinner with me.. She cooked a special dinner for me.. Great.. I can just die from too much guilt now. -__-

Pinatong ko ung bouquet on the table and then walked back to the living room. I stared at Venice's sleeping face for a while.. She must be tired.. Pinatay ko ung TV.. Then, I bent down on the couch and scooped her up in my arms . Inayos ko ng konti ung pagkakabuhat ko sa kanya para di ko sya mabitawan.. I guess I rattled a litt le bit too much coz her eyes fluttered open.. Venice: Sunshine.. You're finally home. -__Ako: Yes.. I'm sorry.. Venice: *yaaawwwwnnnn* It's okay.. Kumain ka.. na ba? I cooked........ She didn't even get to finish her sentence. She nuzzled her face on my chest and then fell asleep again. Talking while half-asleep.. one of her talents. :P Binuhat ko sya papunta sa kwarto nya and gently laid her on her bed. Now that I think about it, dapat pala tinanggal ko muna ung kumot para mas madali ang buhay namin di ba? Sige, next time.. :P I tucked her in, making sure she's all covered up, and then I walked back to the dining room and got the flowers. I put the flowers on her nightstand, attaching a small post-it note whe re she can easily see it. After doing that, I walked out of the room, gently closing the door behind me.. I stood outside her room for a few moments, fighting the urge to wake her up and drag her somewhere nice so I can make it up to her.. 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. Kailangan 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. :D It's a bouquet of red roses.. one dozen red roses for moi? :D May post-it note na nakadikit dun sa plastic.. "Sorry for coming home so late. I'll make it up to you." Avaaaahhh.. May ganun-ganun pang nalalaman ang mokong... Pero naaliw naman ako.. nyahahaha ;D Nilapit ko ung mukha ko dun sa bulaklak and took a quick sniff... ....... -__Abnormal ba ko o talagang masakit sa ilong ung amoy? Hay nako, magpasalamat ka na nga lang at binilihan ka pa ng bulaklak noh.. I took the bouquet to the kitchen at naghanap ng vase na paglalagyan. Nakailang ikot na ko when I noticed ung plato dun sa dining table na may cover.. at isa pang post-it note.. "It was delicious. Thank you for the meal." Avahhh.. Umaarriba si kuya.. :P Hee hee hee~ Natuwa si kuya sa beef steak ko. Halos kalahati pa ung nakain nya.. :D Touched naman ako.. :P

I finally found a vase duuunnnn sa pinakataas nung isang cupboard. I arranged th e roses the best I can, tapos nilagay ko ung vase dun sa coffee table sa living room. Bumalik na ko ng kwarto ko to get ready for school. Ehto lang yata ang kaisa-isang Monday na nagising ako in a good mood. :D ---

Two hours later, I'm all dressed and pretty, all set to go to school -- pero tul og pa rin si Jerwin. Hindi ba sya ang morning person sa'ming dalawa? Bakit tulog pa rin sya? Wala ba syang tra baho?? Pano kami mabubuhay kung hindi sya kakayod? Ano na lang ipapakain namin sa mga anak namen? :D YAK! wahahahaha ;D I tiptoed to his room.. Nagdadasal na sana, kung nainitan sya kagabi, at naisipa n nyang mag-shed ng mga dapat eh naka-cover sa katawan nya.... nawa'y may kumot sya ngayon. -__I slowly opened the door and peeked inside. Jerwin is sprawled on the bed -- sno ring, as usual -- wearing a loose sando shirt, and at least, he's covered with his blanket (Thank God). Tulog na tulog si kuya.. I looked around the room for a while. Mukhang basta-bas ta na lang tumalon sa kama after nya mag-shower.. Iniwan lang sa sahig ung suot nya kahapon--Oohh.. cellphone.. :D As quietly as I'm capable of doing, I tiptoed to the nightstand right next to hi s bed, and then dahan-dahan kinuha ang cellphone. When I got what I want, I tiptoed ulit palabas ng kwarto. Nung nasa safety na ko ng sarili kong kwarto, I bounced on my bed, Jerwin's phon e in hand. @[email protected] Hm. Stalker. Kelan toh?!? I stared at the wallpaper nung phone ni Sunshine. It's my picture. MY picture. S tolen shot? Siguro, since I wasn't looking at the camera. Was this during his birthday party? -___-

Lokong un.. Nagiging stalker ko na. wahahaha ;D Ay, anyway, back to the task at hand.. Nagpipindot ulit ako sa cellphone nya and went dun sa settings para sa ringtone. Five minutes kong pinaghirapan ung ringtone ko. :D I'm sure next time na tumawag ako sa kanya, isang ring pa lang, sasagutin nya na! bwahahahaha ;D I tiptoed back to his room and put the cellphone back in its place. Wala yatang balak gumising si Jerwin. Tinapat ko ung kamay ko sa harap ng ilong nya. Oh, okay. Humihinga pa pala. Buti naman. :D Ako: Hoy, Sunshine, papasok na ko. No answer. Ako: Tulog ka ng tulog dyan... Parang wala kang trabaho ah! Still no answer. Hay nako, makalayas na nga. Ma-llate pa ko. At anong idadahilan ko? "Teacher, kinakausap ko po ung tulog." Avah, baka batukan ako ng teacher ko! I skipped out of the house -- yes, "skipped", bakit ba?! eh sa masaya ako. :D Ka kalabas ko pa lang ng gate nang nakita kong may nakasaksak nang bundle ng newspaper sa mailbox namin. Bampira ba ang mga nagdedeliver ng mga dyaryo!?? Bakit ba kahit anong aga ng gis ing ko, hindi ko pa rin sila naaabutan?!? I tugged the bundle out of the box para itapon sana papasok ng gate. Pero nung n atanggal ko na ung bundle, may nahulog na brown envelope. o_O I bent down to pick it up, pero ung d yaryo naman ang nahulog. Anak ng tinapa. May butas ba ang kamay ko?!? And that was when I saw it. I think 5 seconds akong natulala before I decided to pick up the newspaper. Mayb e my eyes are deceiving me... Ang aga pa kaseh eh, baka hindi pa sila gising.

But no... Totoo ung nakita ko.. I stared hard at the front page of the Entertain ment Section of the newspaper. Shocked, speechless.... I unfolded the newspaper and almost collapsed at the full-blown picture on the f ront page. It was Jerwin and Geena.. having a seemingly intimate dinner together. I felt myself trembling as I stared at the picture. Geena is gently touching Jer win's face. And Jerwin... Jerwin looking down bashfully. Parang high schooler in front of his ultimate crush... Napatingin kagad ako sa paligid. I can't let people see me like this, baka ako p a ang sumunod sa front page bukas. Fortunately, except for a couple of cars parked on the street, the s treet is deserted. I immediately ran back inside the house. As soon as I shut the main door behind me, I dropped everything else I was holding, all except for that section of the paper. Dun ko lang nabasa ung malaking headline sa taas nung picture: "Jerwin and Georg ina: Valentine Fling?" He wouldn't... I can feel the heat rising up to my face. My vision is getting blurry. I don't k now whether it's from shock or anger... or jealousy? I scanned the article, but I couldn't really grasp everything I was reading. Onl y a few of the most important phrases registered in my already overloaded brain: "Jerwin Santos and Georgina Schmitz were seen frolicking together in a highend shopping mall yesterday." Valentine's Day... "The two seem to be in a date ... They dined in a restaurant famous among couples ... 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 fiancée 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 back. 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 box... I stared at the envelope, feeling a sense of apprehension kahit na wala pa kong ginagawa. But I chose to look anyway. I slowly opened the envelope and took out the contents. ..and I started to wish I left it alone. Pictures. Jerwin and Geena's pictures. The first one was the same picture on the newspaper, with Geena touching Jerwin's face. The second one was the two of them laughing in the restaurant. The third, Geena gently caressing Jerwin's arm.. I can feel my chest tightening as I went through the pictures one after another. I should probably stop, but I couldn't. I looked at each and every one of the eight pictures. Until finally, I reached the last one. As if intentionally, talagang pinahuli un g picture na un. It was designed to be the finale. Pagkatapos ng asin at paminta na pinaligo sa puso ko, ehtong picture na toh ang sili. I stared at the last picture, finally feeling the numbness spreading all over my body. I was so numb that I didn't even care when the pictures all fell from my hands and scattered on the f loor around me. That picture.... It was Jerwin and Geena.. with their faces only inches apart.

Chapter 52: Hide and Seek

(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . -____I think I overslept. Considering how quiet the house is, Venice might have left for school already. I grabbed my phone from my nightstand to check the time. -____Oh.. hey.. it's not that bad.. I have time.. I wanted to go back to sleep, pero baka mamayang gabi na ko magising. I didn't k now na masarap pala matulog pagkatapos mong kumain ng kumain. :P I jumped out of bed and started my morning rituals. I took a shower, shaved, cut my chin from shaving, tried to punch in the bulge appearing on my stomach (I need to start hitting the gym).. Whoever said being a man is easy? I grabbed a white shirt and a pair of faded jeans from my closet. Today is the a lbum jacket's photoshoot. So, since iibahin lang rin naman nila ung damit ko, eh I might as well wear some thing comfortable on my way there, right? I stepped out of my room, ready to leave. Pagbaba ko ng hagdan, I noticed the bo uquet of flowers arranged in a vase dun sa living room. I couldn't help but smile. Venice must've loved it.. :) I was grabbing my keys from the keyholder when my phone started ringing in my po cket. I fished it out and looked at the caller ID. To my surprise, it's Sheena. Sheena never calls me. o_O Ako: Hello? Sheena: JERWIN SANTOS!!!!!!!! >:( O___O WTF?!?

I cringed in pain as Sheena yelled full blast from the other line. Aish... I can also hear Anthony talking in the background, as if pleading for Sheena to calm down. Anthony: Sheena! Wag mong sigawan! Relax ka muna! Sheena: Manahimik ka dyan, Anton! HOY! JERWIN! Anthony: Sheenaaaa-*gulp* I think I heard something breaking. I'm not sure if it's Anthony's neck o r my eardrums. O_O Sheena sounds furious at ME. It's enough to make my hair stand in fear. I would have hang up, pero mas natatakot ako. Baka bigla akong sugurin. Ayoko pang mamatay. Mas mabuti nang saluhin ng tenga ko lahat ng galit nya. Kung anumang dahilan nyang magalit. O_O Mabuti nang bingi kesa patay di ba? Sheena: JERWIN SANTOS! Ako: Yes, ma'am?!? O_O Sheena: Anong "yes-yes, ma'am" ka dyan!??!? What were you thinking, ha!?? ha?!? ANOH?!?! Ako: I don't know! I can't think! You're scaring me! O.O Sheena: You little punk! How could you do that to Venice!?! At talagang ibinalan dra mo pa sa buong madla!! o_O Ako: Uh... Huh? Sheena: Anong "huh"!??! Don't tell me you haven't seen the papers yet!? Anak ng tokwa!! I can't believe na nilabas mo ung impaktang malandi na un! On Valentines day pa! .. .... ....... Oh my god.. I suddenly hang up on Sheena -- wala na kong pakielam kung sugurin nya ko. I ran out of the house towards the mailbox, only to find it empty. That's weird. The newspapers should be delivered early in the morning.... I ran back inside. I frantically checked the kitchen counters, the dining table, the coffee table, even the bathroom, but there's still no sign of today's newspaper.

Maybe they didn't deliver it today...? Napatingin ako bigla sa hagdan. There are only the bedrooms and one more bathroo m upstairs. Venice.. Could she.... Oh damn. I ran up the stairs and barged in Venice's room. The room is empty. Her school u niform is laid out on the bed. Doesn't she have class today? Then, my gaze fell on her study table; particularly, on the stack of papers scat tered on her table. There's the bundle of newspaper I was looking for. I slowly walked over to the d esk. The object of Sheena's fury immediately caught my eyes. Who would miss this full-blown picture ? I scanned the article, feeling my own rage mounting at every word I read. How ca n they publish stupid speculations like this?!?! What "date"?!? Napatingin ako dun sa brown envelope na katabi nung mga dyaryo. The envelope had been opened and a few edges of the contents are sticking out. Curious, binaba ko ung hawak kong dyaryo, and grabbed the envelope to have a look. 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?!? Aishtt.. 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 . Crap. 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 Kenny n a. 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? :D Sheena: Bruha! Lumandi ka nanaman! Akin na nga yan! I heard Sheena grabbing the phone again. Sheena: Jerwin.. She sounds worried. Why wouldn't she be worried? Her best friend's fiancé was caug ht cheating, and now, her best friend is missing in action.

Jerwin, you idiot! Ako: I'll look for her. Don't worry. After that, I hang up and called another number. There's a thousand of excuses r unning through my

mind, pero parang walang papasa. Kahit anong tingin ko, I'm really the one to bl ame. I'm sure the manager will kill me. T-T "Good morning! Ray Santos' office. How may I help you?" Man.. I'm really dead. Ako: This is Jerwin. As soon as the secretary found out na ako ung tumatawag, I was immediately trans ferred to the manager's direct line. Pangalawang ring pa lang nung telepono, the manager's voice already boomed on th e other line. Manager: JERWIN! You--! Ako: Yes I know. I have a lot of explaining to do. But I'm in a hurry right now. I just called because... Can you clear all my schedule for today? Manager: What?!? Alam mo ba yang sinasabi mo?! You have an album jacket photosho ot. Do you have any idea how hard it is to reschedule that kind of thing?!? Ako: Yes I know. But.... -___- I really need this day off. Manager: Give me a reason -- and this better be a good one. Ako: .... Venice saw the pictures. And I don't mean just that one picture on the paper. Manager: What?? Ako: Someone sent the whole package to our house. I don't know who. I don't know what's going on.. But Venice's friends called earlier. They said Venice didn't go to school. Ahyan na, nagtuloy-tuloy na ang labas ng mga katotohanan. I didn't even bother t o cover up my mistake -- like I normally would. This is annoying as hell. There was silence on the other line as the manager ponders on what to do. I don' t know why I'm still waiting for his decision. I'd still go even if he doesn't give me the permission to look for Venice. Manager: *sigh* Okay. I'll try my best to reschedule the photoshoot for a later but still reasonable date. Ako: Thank you. Manager: Jerwin. This is your mess. Find Venice and make sure you fix it. He hang up after that. Ehwan ko kung paalala ba un as a father or as a manager.. . But.. Oh well. It's the only non-work related advice I've heard from him in a long while. Of course I'll fix everything. I ran out of the house and jumped in my truck. I know exactly where to go. I jus t hope Venice is really there.

Chapter 53: Trump Card

(Geena's POV) ---------------- .

"What are we doing here?" I looked innocently at Dustin and flashed him a small smile. I didn't really nee d to him to come with me in this so-called mission of mine, but he insisted to tag along. Oh well, as long a s he doesn't do anything stupid, then he can do whatever he wants. Besides, making him drive saves me fro m wasting gas. Me: I'm here to inquire about some classes Dustin: You're going back to school? Me: Maybe. Dustin: But.. why here? He looked around the ordinary-looking college campus as we strode towards the Ad mission Office, ignoring the whispers and the stares the other students are giving us. I know ve ry well what they're whispering about. I saw that newspaper article too -- after I directly dropped o ff a little gift for Venice at her house. :) Me: I heard a lot of interesting things about this school. Dustin just looked at me all weird, but he didn't say anything. We finally reach ed the office; but of course, since I didn't call prior to my arrival, I had to wait before a counselor can ac commodate me. I have no problem with that. Dustin and I sat down in the waiting lounge, where a few other students are also waiting. Dustin grabbed a magazine, while I tried my best to look as approachable as possible. If I want my plan to work, then I should drop to these people's level right? After a few moments, someone finally had the guts to come to me. "Excuse me..." Two female students stand in front of me. What luck I have... Girls tend to be m ore talkative than guys. This will be easy. Me: Yes? Girl 1: You're Georgina Schmitz, right? Me: I am.

The other girl suddenly nudged her companion with an "I told you so" look. Sigh. . College girls. Girl 2: Are you enrolling in this school? Me: I'm thinking about it. Do you think I should? Girl 1: Well.. Uh.. It's a good school.. If you don't really mind being around V enice--Dustin: Venice? 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? Ye a 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? Girl 1: They were in love. The two of them.. Seeing them together.. Just the way they looked at each other, it was like they share the most wonderful secret in the world. What?? That's pathetic. Girl 1: That's why almost every student in this school was happy when Venice and Jerwin Santos got together. We really had no idea.. Girl 2: But, whatever. It's just nice seeing Venice smiling and laughing again. She walks around campus with the same aura she used to have when Gerard was still alive. She look s really happy. Girl 1: So... They suddenly leaned towards me. The nervous glimmer was gone from their eyes. I nstead, they're looking at me intently, as if they're willing lasers to shoot out of their eyes. Girl 1: I think it's about time Venice receives her happy every after. Oh I see.. So this is they're real intentions.. Protect your own, ha.. Little girls trying to beat me in my own game. Who do they think they are? I looked at the girls mockingly. I have what I need, I don't need to play nice a nymore. Me: My, my.. I didn't know happy ever afters still exist in this world. Isn't th at such a pre-historic idea? Dustin: That's enough. Let's go. Dustin suddenly stood up and grabbed me by the hand. This guy.. What is wrong wi th him!? He nodded a quick farewell to the two little witches, and then hurriedly pulled me out of the office. Me: Aw! Dustin! What the heck are you doing!?!

He ignored my complaints and continued to drag me through the hallways. All the while, his hand was tightly clasped on my wrist. He's really bent on getting me out of here. It was only when we reached his car that he decided to let go of my hand. Me: What has gotten into you!? Dustin: Me?!? What has gotten into you?!? You were going to start a fight with t hose girlsl! Me: I wasn't going to "fight". I was merely responding to their stupidity. I slammed the car door as I jumped in the passenger's seat. Dustin was shaking h is head in disbelief over what I said. I really don't know what's gotten into him.. He used to be so much more supportive than this. Dustin: Why are you being like this? Me: Like what? I'm being resourceful. I can't go to battle without knowing about the enemy. Dustin: Don't tell me you're actually going to use Venice's own heartbreak again st her?! Me: Oh, of course not. Do I look that heartless to you? Dustin looked at me with suspicion, before returning his attention to the car. Dustin: I don't even know what you consider "heartless" anymore. I chose to ignore that. He probably woke up on the wrong side of the bed. He'll come around later on. Dustin drove in silence as I ponder on my newly acquired knowledge. I can't help but play a small smile on my lips. Gerard... His story will be my trump card.

Chapter 54: Truth Be Told

(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . I halted the truck to a screech in front of the cemetery. I didn't even bother t o check kung diretso ba ung pagkaka-park ko, I just jumped out and made my way towards the booth where the s ecurity guards were happily playing cards. I know I can just walk inside and look for Venice, but for some reason, this tim e, I decided to ask first. "Excuse me.." Both of them looked up. The older guy wheeled his chair towards the door, where I was standing. Guard 1: Sir Jerwin, ano po un? Ako: Uhmm.. Venice.. you know the girl who frequently comes here.. Guard 1: Ahhh opo.. Bakit po? Ako: Nandito po ba sya ngayon? Nagtinginan silang dalawa as they try to think kung nakita ba nilang pumasok si Venice. I wonder if they would have noticed her walking in kung sobrang focused sila dun sa card game nil a.. Guard 2: Kaninang umaga pa po ako nandito. Hindi naman po sya dumaan. Ako: Really? O_O Guard 2: Opo. Wala pa nga po bumibisita ngayong araw na 'to. That's weird... I thanked the two guards and then walked back to my truck. I was feeling torn. Half of me was somewhat happy that Venice didn't run to Gera rd again. But 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 ut ak ko. I was sure people will make a big deal out of this. I didn't want to deal with t heir curious and pitying glances. 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. :D 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 ;D 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 e. 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 uuwi? 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), th en I took the stairs up to Sheena's room.

Pagbukas ko nung kwarto, nakita ko si Sheena nakahilata sa kama nya. Mukhang nal antang gulay.:D She suddenly bolted up when she saw me. Sheena: Anak ng! Venice!!!! Dinaig pa ni best prend ang bilis ni Flash sa pagtakbo sa'kin at pagkaladkad sa' kin paupo sa kama nya. Sheena: Saan ka ba nanggaling!?!?! Alam mo bang mamatay-matay na si Jerwin kakah anap syo?!?!?! Ako: Weh? Talaga? Sheena: Oo noh! Kawawa naman si Fafa J. Ako: Hoy.. Kung sya, kawawa, eh pano naman ako? Sya na nga tohng nakipag-date sa iba nung Valentines Day. -__Sheena: Ay! Oo nga! Alam mo, susugurin na namin talaga yang Georgina na yan eh! >;( Ako: "Namin"? o_O Sheena: Ako tsaka si Kenny. Abah! Ang lakas ng loob kumapit sa punong may nakaka pit na! Mukha ba kong tarsier na nakakapit sa puno? -__Ako: Mga bruha. Manugod ba.. Dagdag gulo lang un noh. Sheena: Eh sya tohng nang-aagaw eh! Those words... parang malamig na tubig na pinaligo sa mukha ko. Si Geena? Nag-aagaw? Eh sya naman talaga ang original, di ba? If I think about it like this.. Then, isn't only right na sya ang kasama ni Jerw in nung Valentines? Sheena: Huy. Natutulala ka dyan. Ako: Sheena. Can you keep a secret? Sheena: It depends. Anong klaseng sikreto ba itoh? Ung mga tipong pag nalantad a y gyera? or--Ako: Anoh vah.. Seryoso toh. Promise you won't tell anyone. Not Anthony, not Ken ny. No one. I think na-sense na ni Sheena ang seriousness ko, dahil biglang lumabas ang "Uhoh I hope I won't have to visit you in jail" expression sa mukha nya. She sat down next to me.. Sheena: What's going on? This is gonna go against the contract. I know I'm not supposed to tell anybody a bout the real situation. Pero I really, really need to rant. Isa lamang akong tao na minsan eh kailangan din ng advice noh! So, I started the story of how Jerwin and I met. I told Sheena how we got "engag ed", and how we're deliberately just playing the role of a perfect couple.

Sheena's eyes were literally like this . O_O as she listens to the facts. When I got to the part of how Geena and Jerwin used to secretly kind of date, ak ala ko mahuhulog na talaga ung mga mata nya. I told her everything -- as in everything -- that has anything to do with Jerwin and our so-called relationship. I didn't leave anything out . Ako: And that is how it goes. Sheena: Wow... Ako: I know, right? -__Sheena: You and your lucky drunkass self! ;D .... o_O What?!?!? Ako: Lucky?!?! Anong lucky?!?! Nakinig ka ba?!? I've been in a continuous loop o f "unlucky-ness" ever since I met Jerwin! Sheena: Pero, best friend! Tignan mo naman.. Nalasing ka lang at lahat, na-engag e ka na kagad sa isa sa pinaka-fafable na fafa! Di ba lucky un?!? :D Ako: Eh kung batukan kaya kita?!? Sheena: Hay nako, best friend.. Anoh bang inaalala mo? Si Geena? Ung past quoteunquote relationship nila ni Jerwin? Ay suz! Bulag ka ba?!? Ako: .... I think so, dahil hindi ko alam kung bakit sa dami-dami ng rational na tao sa mundo, ikaw pa ang best friend ko. -__Sheena: I know. I'm charming.:D Anyway, dahil halata namang hindi gumagana ang u tak mo, ako na ang magsasabi syo ng obvious. Ako: Obvious na...? o_O Sheena: Na Geena is the past. Ibig sabihin, tapos na un. Nakaraan na. End. Finit o. Closed case na. Anoh bang pinagsasabi ng babaeng toh? High ba sya? Ako: Your point? Sheena: Iba talaga ang level ng ka-stupidan mo minsan, Venice. Ako: Ganyan talaga, nahawa na ko syo eh. -__Ako pa ang tinawag na stupid?!? Sinoh kaya sa'min ang nagpapakamanhid sa mga sobrang straightforward na "actions of love" ng isang tao dyan sa tabi nya?!? *ahem* Anthony. wahahaha ;D Sheena: Hay nako. Ang sinasabi ko lang naman, best friend -- at ito ay sa point of view ng taong nakaka-witness 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 magiging future. o__O Ang corny. Sheena: Di vah!? Ang sweet! :D At lahat ng yan, dahil lang sa isang gabi ng kalo kahan mong magpakalasing! Best friend, this is FATE! :D 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 k o.. :P 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...? :P Receptionist: Ganun? Alam mo, Venice, nung nakita ko ung balita na un, hinde ako makapaniwalang magagawa ni Jerwin un. Ako: Oh? Receptionist: Oo! Kasi pag nakikita ko kayong dalawa, ang cute-cute nyong tignan ! Para kayong tuko. :D 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! Receptionist: Gusto mo ba syang tawagan? Ako: Gusto ko sanang i-surprise eh.. Naalala ko ung ginawa ko sa cellphone nya... Parang ang awkward yata kung tatawagan ko sya ngayon. -__Ako: Anyway, thank you na lang poh.. Alis na ko, naghihintay ung taxi sa labas. Receptionist: Sya, oh sige. Mag-ingat ka. I walked out of the building, feeling kinda guilty na Jerwin canceled his photos hoot for me. -__- Minsan lang talaga, I really wish na hindi ako bumibili ng hiya, para hindi rin ako mas yadong affected much. I absentmindedly waved at the guards, pero hindi pa man ako completely nakaka-st ep out from the compound, tatlong camera at tatlong mic na kagad ang bigla-biglang sumulpot and shoved right in front of my face. O_O Reporters. Can this day get any worse? -__Ako: Uh.. excuse me.. Pero syempre, deadma sila sa personal space ko dahil nakasalalay ang evening ent ertainment news nila dito. -__- Anak ng tipaklong. Gusto na yata nilang ipakain ung mga mic sa'kin eh ! Reporter 1: Just a few questions lang po, Miss Venice!

Reporter 2: Pinuntahan nyo po ba si Jerwin Santos kaya kayo nandito? Ahyan na.. Nagsisimula na ang mga tanong nila. O_O Ako: No comment. Please, excuse me... I tried to squeeze myself out of their great wall of pushing bodies, pero talaga ng mataas ang adrenaline rush ng mga reporters na itoh! Ayaw matinag! Fortunately, ehto na ang mga security guards to the rescue! Mukhang nakahalata y ata na na-haharass na ko dito.. They tried to push the reporters away from me, samantalang ako nama n, nagmamadaling lumakad pabalik sa taxi. Reporter 3: Miss Venice! Isang comment lang about Jerwin Santos cheating on you! O_O I know I shouldn't say anything. I know I'm not in the place to talk. Pero promise, Tito Ray, isang hirit lang, okay na ko. I stopped in my tracks, and turned to face the cameras again. Ako: I'll just say one thing--Lalong nagkagulo ung tatlo! Mga sabik sa tsismis! O_O Ako: Please, hinay-hinay lang poh. I'm not a celebrity, hindi ako sanay sa mga g anitong dinudumog. I tried to give them a small smile. Nung medyo kalmado na sila, the guards loose ned up a bit. Lumapit ung tatlong reporters sa'kin. At least this time, hindi na sila mga mukhang bull dozer na sasagasaan ako. :P Reporter 1: Sorry po, Miss Venice. We didn't mean to scare you like that. Ako: (chuckles) Thank you. Now, regarding to my opinion about that article... Bumalik nanaman sa mga mata nila ung mga nakakatakot na pagkasabik sa balita. O_ __O I guess I really can't ask them to calm down.. -__-

I gathered up all my determination and courage. I have to be careful of what I'l l say. I know everything that comes out of my mouth right now will be analyzed. It can make or break Jerw in's career and reputation. Ako: Don't talk about Jerwin having an affair as if it's a fact. Jerwin did not -- and he will never -- cheat on me. He's not that kind of person. Avaahh... Kapani-paniwala the sound of the voice ah... :D Reporter 1: Then what can you say about the newspaper article and the picture? Reporter 2: Before Jerwin introduced you as his girlfriend, there were speculati ons that he and Georgina were dating. Are these speculations true? *gulp* Okay... So what do I say now? -__-' Okay lang yan, Venice. All the world is a stage! Gumawa ka ng sarili mong script ! Yea.. Easy for you to say..-__- Eh tatlong camera ba naman ang nakatutok sa'kin, sa tingin mo may leftover braincells pa kong ready magpaka-scriptwriter!?? Ako: Uhmm.. kasi.. alam nyo kung anong problema sa mga pictures at ung panandali an lang na sightings? Those things can't tell you the whole story. Whoy! Mukhang may left-over braincells pa nga ako! Good script! Good script! :D Ako: I'm a graduating college student. Do you know the amount of schoolwork grad uating students have to do? Essays.. Reports.. Journals.. I have all these things to worry about. Nag kataon lang na nung Valentines Day, I was extremely busy. That wasn't a complete lie. Busy naman talaga ako nung V-day.. di nga lang sa sc hoolwork. Ako: Georgina Schmitz is one of Jerwin's closest friends. So, I don't see anythi 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. :P To me, February 14 is just a nother 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. :D The reporters laughed at this little remark. Akala ba nila nagbibiro ako? Gusto ko talaga ng flowers araw-araw noh! :P

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.:D Bawas kasal anan~ 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. Liar. 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!". :P Talagang pinagkahabol-habol pa nila ako, buti na lang pinigilan na uhlet sila nu ng mga guards. 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, bigla-bigla silang sumugod eh. Ako: Ha.. Oo nga poh eh.. ;D 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 answer ed kung narinig ko lang ung phone ko. :P So, instead, I just decided to finally break my silence and send him a text mess age. "I'm on my way home." Will you be waiting for me? Pero syempre, hindi ko itatanong un.

Chapter 56: What Should I Do

(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . As soon as I got Venice's text that she's coming home, nagmadali kagad ako umuwi . I was driving around the city, hoping to check the nightclubs and bars -- then I realized, masyado pa palang maaga para magbukas ung mga un... It was a good thing she finally texted me when she did, d ahil I was already on the verge of having a panic attack. I hastily parked the truck in the driveway. Madapa-dapa pa ko sa pagtakbo papaso k ng bahay. "Venice!!" I frantically ran around the dead quiet house. There's nobody here. Okay, Jerwin. Relax ka lang. Sabi nya pauwi na sya.. She should be here any minu te. I decided to patiently wait in the living room. Patiently..... hanggang sa tuluy an na kong nabato sa paghihintay, and I just had to start pacing back and forth. What's taking her so long?! Is she messing with my mind here?!? Doesn't she know how worried people are because of her?!? Why didn't she at least tell somebody where she's going?! Those are the kind of things running through my mind as I grow more and more fru strated. Then I froze. I heard the front door opening. I practically ran para tignan kung sino ung dumating. If it turns out na magnana kaw ung pumasok, I swear I'd beat the pulp out of him! Nanadya ba sya?!? Ngayon pa sya magnanakaw kung ka ilan may hinihintay ako!?!? Fortunately, it wasn't a thief. I watch the woman reluctantly come in. If I didn't see her face before she turne d around to close the door, I could have sworn it was a stranger. I've never seen Venice look so... stylish before. She finally turned around and almost jumped when she saw me. I felt a whole range of emotions rushing in my system. Amusement, frustration, r elief, anger.... I can't even start explaining the reasons those emotions suddenly appeared.

I opened my mouth to tell her how relieved I am to see her safe, pero, to my sup rise, iba ang lumabas sa bibig ko. O_O Ako: Where the hell have you been?!? Aish! Why are you yelling at her, you idiot?!?! Venice just stared at me for a few seconds, then she shrugged and walked past me . I clenched my jaw, trying to calm my nerves. Ayoko ng gulo. I took a deep breath and followed her inside the house. When I was somewhat calm er, I tried again. Ako: I've been looking everywhere for you. Venice: I'm sorry. She's not looking at me. Why isn't she looking at me? Is it because of the pictu res? 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 okay. 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 stairs. ---

"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 hindi 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?!?! Ako: I shall do something about it now. -__Nicole: Hell yea you will! Seriously! What were you thinking?!?! And with all pe ople, you have to be spotted out with that witch! >:( I clamped my mouth shut. Nicole hates Geena's guts, though I can't figure out wh y. Based on my experience, when Nicole starts dissing, it is best not to say anything -- unless you want to be clobbered next. Ako: Sige na, Nic, I'm hanging up noww~ Nicole: Fine. I'll see you tomorrow. Make sure you two are back to your sweet us ual selves by then! Sweet, usual selves? Has she seen us together? Kailan pa kami naging "sweet"? -_ __Nicole finally hang up. I think my eardrum just declared malfunction after those few minutes of listening to Nicole's exaggerated screams and threats of bodyslamming me next time we see eac h other. Napatingin uhlet ako sa orasan. I wonder if Venice is really sleeping.... I got up from the couch and made my way upstairs. I paused in front of her door. It's quiet inside. Maybe she really is sleeping... Ako: Venice? Dahan-dahan kong binuksan ung pinto and peeked inside. Yep, there she is. She's sprawled on her bed. She's clutching a pillow close to her as she sleeps s oundly. Pagod siguro... I walked inside and sat on the bed, careful not to wake her up. She looks so pea ceful, it'd be a shame to disturb such heavenly peace. Ako: Venice...

I gently brushed stray strands of her hair away from her face. She didn't stir. Ako: The photoshoot was important... but it's not as important as you.. and I re ally wish you wouldn't think I'd pick Geena over you dahil that's simply not true. I took a deep breath. Bakit ba mas madaling kausap ang tulog? Mabuti na rin un. Nakakapag-vent out ako dahil hindi ako nakakontra kanina. Ako: Those things you said a while back... Nung sinabi mong I'm with you only fo r entertainment, that was unfair. I mean, siguro nung una, I admit, you amused me kaya pumayag ako sa engagement na toh.. But, you know things change. Now, just being with you makes me genuinely h appy. Man.. when did I learn to sprout cheesy things like this?!? =__= Ako: And.. You said this thing between us is just an agreement between our paren ts. In a way, maybe that's true. Maybe you think I don't have the right to meddle with your business .. But, Venice, anong magagawa ko? Aish! I furiously scratched my head. Ayoko nang ganitong mga bagay na mahirap isipin. I hate complicated things. Naghahalo-halo na lahat ng iniisip ko. Ang sakit sa ulo! Ako: Venice, what am I supposed to do?? I can't help but worry about you. We started out on the wrong foot. Maybe things would have been a lot easier if w e met under different circumstances. I wonder if we still would have gotten together if she didn't stu mble in front of me that one night. Natawa ako nung naalala ko ung gabing un.. To think, ang layo na nang nar ating namin since then.. I softly ran my hand over Venice's hair, watching her sleeping face intently. Sh e's beautiful. I wonder why I never saw that before. A fragile beauty.. And I was stupid enough to bring nothing but headache to her. What can I say to make you forgive my stupidity? Siguro dapat sinigaw-sigawan mo ko at the top of your lungs.. You should've cursed at me.. You should wake up and start hitting me han ggang sa mapagod ka. Just don't hate me. I let out a sigh. Wala naman akong mapapala kung itutuloy ko pa ang pagkausap sa tulog noh? Ako: I'll make it up to you, Sardines. After that, I stood up and silently sneaked out of the room again.

She's had a long day. I should just let her rest. ---

--- .. --(Venice's POV) ---------------- . As soon as narinig kong sumarado ung pinto, I immediately opened my eyes. I thou ght mamatay ako sa atake sa puso nung biglang nagpaka-mellow si kuya sa tabi ko. My golay. O_O When I heard him call my name from outside the door, for some reason, natulala a ko. Kung papasok sya, baka mag-away nanaman kami bigla. Ayaw ko na makipag-away. Let there be pea ce on earth. Kaya hindi na lang ako sumagot. Kaya lang si kuya! Biglang binuksan ung pinto! Abah! Syempre na-panic ako! Ang unang pumasok sa utak ko: "Tulog! Tulog ka!" OoO Sumunod naman si body, kaya ahyun.. Kunwari tulog nga ako. Kunwari lang. :P Kung alam lang ni Jerwin kung gano ko ka-gustong silipin kung anong expression n ya sa mukha.. :D Haayyyy... I sat up on the bed and threw the pillow aside. Psh. Jerwin na un.. Ang dami pang sinabi.. All he had to say was "I'm sorry", ma hirap ba un?!? Pero napangiti ako nung naalala ko ung ka-cornihan ng mga lines nya.. Yak! wahah aha :D Pano na lang ako mag-ccontinue ng anger act ko pagkatapos akong hiritan ng mga g anon?

Chapter 57: Rushing Back

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . Nagising ako kinabukasan nang halos mamilipit na ko sa gutom. Dahil sa mga drama kagabi, hindi nga pala ako nakakain ng hapunan. No wonder nag-wewelga na ang mga alaga ko sa tyan. -____I rolled out of bed and halos gumapang papunta sa pinto ko. Then I stopped. Daha n-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. "Sardines, I had to go and have lunch with my family. I wanted you to come, pero tulog na tulog ka. I felt bad waking you up. Anyway, I cooked you some scrambled eggs and may tinapay pa dyan. Don't forget to 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. :P

---

---..--(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . This must have been one of the most awkward lunch I've had in a while. It's an annual thing. Every time someone in the family celebrates a birthday, mo st of the Santos clan gather in a fine restaurant for lunch. Not everyone is able to make it all the t ime though. Sometimes, one of my parents won't be able to make it. Sometimes, I won't be abl e to make it. Sometimes, Nicole and her parents won't be there. Grandmother has her own busine ss most of the time. With the line of work we ventured into, this family is always too busy for littl e gatherings like this. But... today is different. Everyone's here. -___Nicole is looking at me as if she's going to start biting my head off in a minut e. Jean is trying to kick my leg under the table, constantly nagging me about Venic e. My parents are looking like they'd wring my neck as soon as we finish dessert. My aunt and my uncle are shooting me questioning glances. I don't think I've ever wished so hard for the floor to swallow me whole. Suddenly, Grams cleared her throat. The tensed atmosphere broke and everyone tur ned to look at the old woman sitting at the end of the table. Grams: Did someone die? Why is everyone so quiet? Nicole: I'm ready to kill somebody right now. Tita Lina: Nicole. Nicole mumbled something to her mom, then she went back to murdering the poor ch icken on her plate. Grams: *sigh* Since everybody seems to be preoccupied with the issue, why don't we talk about it right now? Napatingin akong bigla kay Grams. She can't possibly mean to put me in the spotl ight right here, right now. O___O Ako: Grams... Grams: Where is Venice, Jerwin?

Oh. Her eyes are ready to drill holes on my forehead. O_O I'm in trouble, aren't I? Ako: She's at home. She's a little bit exhausted from yesterday so I decided not to wake her up. 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? o_O 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~? :D Ako: S-S-Shut up! =__= Nicole: WAH! You're blushing! :D Ai, Grams! My little cousin is in la la love! : D What's this?!? 360-degree mood change nanaman?! Nicole really needs to get her b rain checked up by a therapist. 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! :P 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 ina? 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! :D Ako: How can I NOT answer my phone!?!? Venice: Oh, so my personalized ringtone worked? :D 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 time. I couldn't help but smile. Kung may makakakita siguro sa'kin ngayon, mapapagkama lan akong baliw sa laki ng ngiti sa mukha ko.:P Bahala sila sa buhay nila. My birthday is just improving more and more by the minute. :D 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 possible. Nicole: Ooohh~ Coming home to the missus eh? :D 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. Grams: Go ahead and go home, hijo. Patch things up with your fiancée. Tell hijita I'll visit her some time. Ako: Thanks, Grams. I gave a quick hug to everybody in the table -- even my parents, whom I've alway s felt awkward hugging. They actually looked surprised. :P When I reach Nicole, she practically jumped i n my arms. And this is the same girl who was on the verge of killing me just a while ago.. I gave Grams a quick kiss on the forehead and then I ran out of the restaurant. I just need to drop by somewhere real quick and then I'll go home. "Umuwi ka kagad ha..." Those were Venice's last words before she hung up. Of course.. If she said so, uuwi talaga ako kagad. I did promise I'll make it up to her.

Chapter 58: Birthday Cake

(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . After two hours of driving from one place to another, nakauwi na rin ako sa waka s. I jumped out of the truck and walked over to the gate para isarado. Kinakantahan ko pa ung sarili ko ng "Happy Birthday" habang nagsasarado ng gate. Naglalakad na ko papunta sa pinto nang bigla kong narinig na may malakas na alarm na nagsskandalo . I froze from shock. And then I realized the alarm is coming from inside. It's the smoke alarm. "VENICE?!?!?" Sunog?!? May sunog?!? I hastily jammed the key to unlock the door, and then I just barged inside. The house seems fire-free, although there is smoke everywhere. Ako: Venice?!! Where is she?! Did she lose consciousness?! Ako: Venice!? I ran from one room to another. Hanggang sa finally, I burst into the kitchen, w here all the smoke is coming from. Ako: Venice... I finally found her. She's sitting on the floor in front of the oven, staring, j ust staring at whatever is inside the appliance. I don't think she's even aware that all smoke detectors in the ho use are alarming. I opened the windows para palabasin ung usok. I'm just relieved to see that she' s fine and there's no fire or anything... although the house is probably going to smell like smoke for one or two days. Venice: Sunshine...

I knelt down next to her on the floor. Tinignan ko kung anoh ung tinitignan nya. .. I'm not even sure kung anoh ung itim na bilog na nilagay nya sa loob nung oven. -___Ako: Are you okay? What happened here? She suddenly turned to me, and I was caught in surprise to see tears brimming in her eyes. Konti na lang, iiyak na. O___O Venice: I wanted to bake a cake for you. I did everything fine. I followed the r ecipe to a T. T^T I looked at the black object inside the oven again. So.... Cake pala un. Venice: Tapos nung nilagay ko na sa oven, I went out to the patio to get some su n. *sniff* I didn't mean to fall asleep. Nagising na lang ako nung nag-aalarm na ung buong bahay and smok e was coming out of the oveennnn~ ToT Ohh. She tried to bake a cake for my birthday. No one's ever baked a cake for my birt hday. And kahit na pumalpak, it's the thought that counts. :P I bit my lip to stop myself from smiling. I should probably be aggravated that s he almost caused a fire, in which she could have been seriously hurt, but.... looking at her right now... with her messy ponytail, her Winnie the Pooh apron, her face stained with soot.. Sinong hindi matatawa? :D But I need to keep a straight face. Baka bigla ngang umiyak pag nakita nyang ups et na nga sya, natatawa pa ko. Pano na lang kung ako ang isunod nyang ipasok dun sa oven? :P Ako: It's okay. Don't cry, Sardines. She stared at me, those tears dangerously brimming in her eyes. She looks like a little kid. It's ridiculously cute. I gently took her in my arms and gave her a hug -- simply because I can't stop m yself from laughing anymore. While she has her face buried on my shoulder, tumawa na ko ng tumawa as silently as possible. ;D

I took a deep breath, trying to control myself. Ako: Why don't you go wash up? I'll clean up the mess here. Then, lumabas na lan g tayo, okay? She pulled away from me, wiping her tears away as she did so. Di nya alam na kum alat din ung itim sa mukha nya.. Should I tell her? Hmmm..... nope. hahahaha Mukha syang taong grasa. ;D Venice: Where are we going? I looked at the clock. It's still too early.... Ako: We can go shopping? Venice: Shopping? Are you sure? Ako: Yea, why not? I pulled her up to her feet. Venice: Okay. I'll go wash up then. She turned around and was just about to leave the room nang umikot ulit sya para tumingin sa'kin. Venice: I think this is the proper time to tell you this... Yesterday, I spent a bout 1000 pesos on clothes. And I used your card. Thank you for taking me shopping again today, Sunshine! :D OoO As soon as she finished her little confession, she immediately ran up the stairs . A... A thousand pesos?!?!? Ako: (sigaw) YAH!!! Did you buy the entire store?!?!?!

Of course, she'll choose to ignore me. -___Aish.. that girl... -____I started to turn off the smoke detectors. When everything is quiet, I walked back in the kitchen and tumingin sa paligid k o. The smoke is starting to clear up, though the house still smells like something's burning. The oven lo oks like it's gonna need some major cleaning (We're probably gonna need to buy a new one -__-). Even the counters near the oven are stained.. How can one person create this much chaos? Naalala ko ulit ung itsura ni Venice when I walked in... Ridiculously cute. :D I picked up the black object inside the oven -- only to have it crumble into pie ces. How long was she asleep for the cake to be burnt to this degree?!? This does not resemble a cake in any way AT ALL. ^-^ That girl...

Chapter 59: Moments Like This

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . Jerwin and I spent the whole day outside. Naglalandian. nyahahahaha joke! :D Ano h bah, demure ako noh... walang kokontra! ;D 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 mar aming tao, kinakarir nya ang pagiging celebrity-undercover nya. Complete sa headgear, shades, minsan nga may scarf pa. :P I know. Mainit sa Pilipinas. ;D 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 un. -___- Adik ba sya??! Eh may mata ako, pano kong hindi makikita?!? Pinasok namin halos lahat ng stores na may mga damit, sapatos, purses, jewelries ... Ang bait nga ni birthday boy. ;D Hindi nagrereklamo, kahit na dumadami na ung mga bitbit nya. ha haha Don't get me wrong. Hindi lang ako ang nag-shopping. Pumunta rin naman kami sa m ga stores ng mga lalaki. We bought Jerwin a few shirts, a pair of new shoes, and a couple of new hats. At dahil mabait ako, I got him a bright pink shirt that says, "Out of my mind. Be back in five m inutes." Yes, it's bright pink. Yes, Jerwin really almost went out of his mind sa sobrang pagtanggi. And yes, I still bought him the shirt. :D Nung napagod kami, we went up to the 4th floor para lang umupo. He bought us som ething to drink habang nagpapahinga. When he got back, I think may apat na babae ang sumusunod-s unod sa kanya. Mga engkantong toh... Lumayo kayo sa Sunshine ko! RAWR! Jerwin: What are you glaring at? 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?? @[email protected] 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. :P 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 tion. Ako: Duh. I don't want people invading my privacy noh. "JERWIN SANTOS!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!" 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 :D 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, right?

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, special?!? 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 o?!? 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. OoO 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." O.O 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 makalayo. Jerwin gave an awkward smile to the old couple. As soon as malayo na sila, he su ddenly slumped on the table. 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: Trapped

(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. =___= Jerwin: I think we better leave. Jerwin started grabbing all our shopping bags. I looked at the number of people around us. I bit my lip in worry. How are we supposed to get through all that?! Kayang-kaya kaming pisatin ng mga taong yan eh! O_O Jerwin: You ready? I nodded reluctantly. He carried all the bags in one hand (much to my amazement) , and then he wrapped a protective arm around my shoulder. Jerwin: Just keep your head down. We tried to walk past the increasing number of spectators. Jerwin tries to shiel d me from all the shoving and pushing, pero what can he do kung napapaligiran kami ng mga kalaban? :P People aren't making it any easier for us to get through. Some are trying to tak e pictures. Some are blocking Jerwin's way. Some are shoving pens and notebooks in every direction. J erwin had to repeatedly say, "It's my private time. I'm sorry." Hindi yata ma-gets ng people na ang ibig nyang sabihin is: private time = no work related activities (ie autographs, photo ops, fans) Good luck na lang... -__We were halfway through when I suddenly felt someone grabbing one of my arms. It stings, like something grazing my skin. Before I knew it, I was pulled out of Jerwin's arm an d thrown into a sea of strangers. OoO Everywhere I look I see these unknown faces. I can feel some touc hing my hair, my arms, my shoulders.. I can feel panic rising up in my system. "Venice! Take a picture with me!" "Venice! Hindi ka ba talaga naapektuhan nung lumabas si Jerwin tsaka si Georgina ?!?"

Venice! Venice! Venice! All around me, I can hear my name and these questions... Close ba kami at ganon na lang sila kung makatawag at kung makapagtanong!?? I frantically looked around, hoping to see kung nasan na ba si Jerwin. Kahit ung tuktok man lang ng ulo nya... Pero wala talaga akong makita. Why are these people pushing too much?!? I need to get out of here. Sunshine!! NASAN KA NA?!? Ako: Please let me through... I tried to push my way out, pero anoh pa nga bang inaasahan ko? Anoh naman ang l aban ng sexy kong katawan sa sandamakmak na katawan sa paligid ko? Feeling desperate, I finally called out to Jerwin. Nawa'y marinig nya ko.. Dahil kung hindi, feeling ko lang, iiyak na ko dito. T^T Ako: Jerwin!?!! "Nag-ddate ba kayo lagi ni Jerwin dito?" "Can I have an autograph?" "Anong birthday gift mo kay Jerwin?" People are pushing against me even harder now. I feel like I'm suffocating sa so brang panic at takot. I'm getting pushed from one place to another, from one person's face to another. Make them stop! Ako: JERWIN!!! I suddenly felt someone wrap an arm around me and hurriedly stirred me away from the mob. When I looked up, I almost cried. It was Jerwin. His jaw is clenched tightly as he forcefully pushed his way out of the cluster o f people.

Nung medyo nakalabas na kami, dun lang nagdatingan ung mga security. Apat na sec urity guards ung humarang kagad dun sa mga tao. Jerwin and I nodded a quick thank you, tapos nagm adali na kaming umalis. All the while na mabilis kaming naglalakad pabalik sa parking, Jerwin was tightl y holding my hand. And I'm thankful for that. Dahil kung hindi, I'm afraid I'm gonna burst out in tears. ---

---..--(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . We finally reached the truck. I threw the shopping bags in the back, and then I jumped in the driver's seat. That mob was rough. What annoyed me even more was that someone actually dared to grab Venice and throw her back in the middle of all those people -- just to delay time?!? WTF?!? Pinatong ko ung ulo ko sa steering wheel, trying to cool off my head. If I could , I would have yelled at all those people to leave me and Venice alone. Is it so wrong that we want to spend some time together doing normal activities? Is that so wrong?!? "Sunshine...?" I turned my head and saw Venice looking worriedly at me. Venice: Are you okay? Are you kidding me?? Ikaw na nga tohng muntik nang malibing ng buhay, ikaw pa ang nagtatanong kung ok ay ako? Sometimes, she's too kind for her own good. I know she was scared half to death when we got separated. When I found her in t he middle of the crowd, she looked like she was about to cry. She looked pale with fright. Di ba nakita nung mga tao na mahihimatay na sa takot si Venice?! She's not a celebrity. Why would they do that to her? Ako: I'm okay. How about you? May masakit ba syo? Venice: You mean, bukod sa paa ko?

Napaupo akong bigla. Did somebody accidentally step on her foot?! or maybe kicke d her leg?!? What if more than one person stepped on her feet?! Ako: Where??! Which one?!? Halos mag-dive ako dun sa sahig ng truck para lang makuha ung paa nya, pero bago pa ko makapangisda, she already grabbed my shirt and pulled me straight up. I stared a t her wide-eyed, confused, anxious, and panicky. @[email protected] Venice: WAHAHAHAHA Relax ka lang, Sunshine! ;D I'm not injured or anything. Masa kit ang paa ko, dahil baka nakakalimutan mo, ilang oras tayong nagpaikot-ikot sa mall noh! ;D I can only stare at her as she laughs like crazy dun sa tabi ko. Parang ayaw mag -register sa utak ko kung bakit sya tumatawa.... @[email protected] Pero seeing that she's okay, I guess, medyo naba wasan ung init ng ulo ko. Medyo nag-calm down ung puso ko. Medyo nagsisimula nang gumana ulit ung utak ko. This crazy girl.. Ako: Hoy. Nababaliw ka na ba??! Do you know how worried I was na bigla kang nawa la?!? Venice: Abah, kasalanan ko ba, eh sa may humaltak sa'kin?!? Ako: You should have punched him straight in the face! Venice: Gunggong! Hindi mo ba nakita ung dami ng tao kanina?!? Sa tingin mo ba, malalaman ko pa kung sino ung humaltak sa'kin!? At anong tingin mo sa'kin, boxingera?! Ako: Ay.. Hindi ba amazona ka? O_O Venice: Eh kung tadyakan kaya kita dyan?!?!? I started laughing. I-ddeny pa, eh talaga namang violent person sya. ;D I looked at my watch again. We better go. I turned on the engine and started to drive away. Venice, as usual, leaned in to the radio para maghanap ng station na nag-pplay ng kantang alam nya. It's sort of like a habit now. Ever y time na aandar na kami, she always spends at least five minutes jumping from one radio station to anothe r. It used to be irritating as hell, pero I got used to it -- and I learned it's better not argue with her. :P We're driving sa highway. It's a good thing na hindi pa nag-bbuild up ang traffi c. Napasilip ako kay Venice when I noticed na she's absentmindedly running her hand on her left arm. Nung tumigil kami sa stoplight, I turned to completely look at her to see why sh e's so preoccupied with that arm. I noticed three red lines on her milky white skin. Scratches. Ako: Where did you get those?!?

Venice suddenly snapped out of her dazed state and tried to cover her arm, but i t's too late. I already saw the injury. Three red claw marks from her elbow to her wrist. Someone must h ave had really long nails to make those scratches on her skin! Venice: It's nothing, really. I clenched my jaw as I looked at her. If I ever see that person who left marks o n Venice's arm, he's dead. The light turned green so I had to turn back to driving. I can see Venice going back to gently caressing her arm. She's probably trying to soothe the stinging pain. Ako: Give it to me. Venice: Eh?? I reached over to her arm and started to lightly run my hand on the scratches. I don't know if it really eases the pain, but if it does, then I might as well do it for her. Venice didn' t argue. Hinayaan nya lang ako. Ako: I guess, next time, I shouldn't step out without some sort of disguise, huh .. Venice: Why? Ako: Coz things like this happen when people go crazy Venice: Hmmm.. That's too bad kung magpapaka-celebrity undercover ka na lang lag i. Ako: Bakit? Venice: It's a free country. Dapat nakakapagliwaliw ka nang hindi na kailangan m agtago. Doesn't walking around without a disguise give you a sense of freedom? I guess freedom comes with a price. I'd rather give up that feeling of liberty than to have people mobbing Venice wh en we're together. She shouldn't go through anything like that. Ako: That tiny bit of freedom is nothing compared to your safety. I don't want y ou to experience something like that ever again. Venice: Yeah.. It was scary. I never knew people can actually be so.... brutal. Ako: Yea... Venice: But it's okay. :) Ako: Okay? Venice: If it's part of being with you, then it's okay. Coz I like being with yo u. :) I threw a glance at Venice. She's smiling brightly at me, as if she doesn't know the impact of her words to me. Ni hindi ko nga rin alam kung bakit, but just hearing her say that she likes being with me, it's enough to make my heart swell up with happiness. Man. Anong ka-cornihan nanaman ito?

Venice: Oh! Sunshine! O_O She jumped from her seat, frantically looking around. We've been on the road for 30 minutes, and parang ngayon lang sya natauhan. Yep, inabot sya ng 30 minutes bago nya na-iprocess na hindi ito ang daan pauwi. ;D Venice: Nasan na tayo?!? San tayo pupunta? Ako: It's a secret. Venice: Secret-secret ka pang nalalaman.. Baka naman kung anong kababalaghan nan aman ang plano mo! Ako: Anong kababalaghan?!? When did I ever do anything weird?! Venice: Gusto mo ba talagang isa-isahin ko pa? -__- Ah, don't change the subject ! Where are we going?!? Ako: Relax ka lang dyan. I took her hand and held it firmly. Ako: I can assure you, it will be a moment to remember.

Chapter 61: Two Less Lonely People

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . Ako: Pag ako nadapa, wag mo nang asahan na mabubuhay ka pa Jerwin: Pag ikaw nadapa, I'll catch you. So stop complaining. I mumbled a few more complaints under my breath. This is just getting more absur d by the minute. -___Jerwin and I arrived in the music hall where he had his latest concert some time ago -- yep, the one where I was officially "introduced" to the public as the soon-to-be Mrs. Jerwin Santos. Iniisip ko na manonood kami ng concert, but... I looked around the parking lot, besides three other cars, the lot is empty. So it's either maaga kaming dumating, too late na kami dumatin g (that's impossible dahil 8:45 PM pa lang), or walang bumili ng ticket nung kung sinoman ang mag-cconcert. Kawawa naman. Pero sabi ni Jerwin, everything's okay raw. So I followed him pababa nung truck. Nung pumasok kami sa main hall, biglang sinabi ni Jerwin na isarado ko raw ung mga mata ko dahil " surprise ito, at ganito ang ginagawa sa mga romatic movies". -__- Anak ng tokwa. Papahirapan pa ko para lang sa drama nya?!? Nung hindi ako sumunod, he took the initiative to just cover my eyes with his hu ge hands. At kahit anong palag ko, talagang feel na feel ni kuya na takpan ang vision ko. Kaya since then, pinalakad nya ko nang wala akong nakikita. Parang ang layo na n ga ng nilalakad namin eh! Ilang beses na kong muntik mabunggo, muntik madapa... Pero ayaw nya talagang tanggalin ung takip ko sa mata. Bubwit. Finally, after what felt like forever, sinabi ni Jerwin na almost there na raw k ami. Jerwin: Malapit na tayo. Dahan-dahan ka lang dyan, may hagdan. Ako: Papaakyatin mo ko ng hagdan?!?! Jerwin: Oh relax. Hindi naman mahaba ung hagdan noh. Ingat-ingat lang sa mga ste ps... Ako: Wag mo kong bibitawan, ta-tumbling-an kita! Jerwin: Yea, yea.. I went up five steps, then after that, I realized na nasa flat surface na ulit a ko. Sobrang ikli naman nung hagdan na un. Jerwin led me about ten more steps, then he told me to stop.

Jerwin: We're here. He carefully took off his hands from my face. I had to squint my eyes para ma-ad just ung eyesight ko. Hmmm.. It's dark. May dapat ba kong makita? Nakapikit pa ba ko??! Suddenly, the lights turned on. Well, actually, it's more like the stage lights turned on, the rest of the music hall is still dark. Na-realize kong bigla na ang pinasukan pala namin ni J erwin is ung backstage door, kaya pala may hagdan. We're standing on the stage. May mga scattered rose petals dun sa floor. Bilang lang sa isang kamay ung mga ilaw na nakabukas dun sa sides ng stage. Limi ted lang tuloy ang nakikita ko. There are tiny twinkling lights above us. They look like stars. *__ * Tapos, dun sa likod nung stage, may mga stage props na nakalambitin. Huge cut-ou ts ng mga buildings. The whole stage looks like a romantic, city night scene from a musical. It's bea utiful. Just when I thought I've seen it all, biglang may nag-turn on na spotlight. The bright light revealed an intimate table for two at the center of the stage. As soon as the table was revealed, mellow music filled the hall. I was left speechless. May magandang results pala ang pamimilit kay Jerwin na ma nood ng mga cheesy romantic comedy movies. :D Jerwin: I know it's not much, but... this is the best I can come up with. Ako: It's beautiful... Jerwin: Not as beautiful as you. :) YAK! Anu ba un?!?! ;D Napatingin ako kay Jerwin. Talagang nakangiti pa sya. In fairness, naapektuhan n a yata ng romantic atmosphere ang brain cells ni kuya. Lumalabas nanaman ang pagka-corny nya. :D 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. I don't think I've ever had the feeling of wanting to strangle Geena before. Per o ngayon, ahhh!! I can't believe she made me miss all this! This could have been our Valentine dinner!

Jerwin: Uhmm.. so although it's late, I hope you like it. Ako: (smiles) I love it. :) Jerwin smiled back at me, then he straightened up and signaled at something or s omeone from behind me. Nagulat ako nung may biglang lumabas na server, pushing a tray of food. Talagang planado ni kuya lahat. O_O I watch in awe as the server laid out the food in front of us. Lalo akong namang ha dahil, instead sa usual na formal dinner, sinigang at kanin ang nasa plato namin.;D SINIGANG!!! Lumalang oy-langoy pa nga ung kanin sa sobrang dami nung sabaw sa pinggan ko. :D Jerwin: I was gonna order some formal dining, pero baka hindi ka mabusog sa ganu n eh. Kaya I thought it's better na lang kung favorite food mo ung ipalabas ko. Ako: Ohhh, talagang inalam mo pa ang favorite ulam ko. Pinanood ko ung server as he filled our glasses with cold water. Naglagay pa sya ng patis dun sa maliit na bowl sa gitna ng table. Yes, patis. Sinoh ba namang hindi matatawa sa ganitong setting!?? ;D Ako: I prefer this over formal dinner. :D San ka pa makakakita ng romantic dinne r for two, tapos sinigang ang kakainin? :D Jerwin: Right?!? ;D The server finally left, and Jerwin and I were left alone to eat. Ako: I can't believe you rented the entire music hall. Hindi ba mahal toh? Jerwin: No, it's okay. I wanted this place especially for our first date. :) O.O *cough* *cough* *cough* WAH! I'm choking! *cough* Jerwin: Are you okay?!? Ngumuya ka kasi muna bago ka lumunok!

I took the glass of water he was handing me, and halos tinungga ko ung buong bas o. Ako pa ang sinisi nya?!? Eh sya tohng nangbibigla! Batuhan ba naman ako ng "first date" chuchu nya ! Ako: F-F-First date?!?!? Jerwin: Yea. It IS the first time we have an official date, right? *blink* *blink* Jerwin: I mean, we've been engaged for a while.. So I thought it'd be good to fi nally take you out. *blink* *blink* Jerwin: Oh for crying out loud! Will you just say something?!? Ako: Uh.... There are at least a hundred things running through my mind right now. I know wh at he's saying makes sense, pero parang nag-panic alarm ang brain ko nung na-process nyang "we're on a date". Ako: And... why did you choose this place then? Kung magsisinigang lang tayo, eh di sana, sa turo-turo na lang tayo kumain. Jerwin: But this place is special. Ako: Special? Jerwin: Yea, don't you remember? This is where we first met. :) Ako: Ohhhh!!! Yea! You screamed like a little girl! :D Jerwin: I DID NOT! Ako: wahahaha Yea right. ;D Jerwin: What?!? I did NOT scream like a little girl, that was you! Ako: Sira! Dinaig mo pa nga ako! ;D Jerwin: Eh siguro kaseh mukha kang multong nakatayo sa stage. Tapos nung bigla k ang sumigaw, syempre, napasigaw rin ako. But I did not scream like a little girl. Ako: Anong multo?!? Eh ikaw tohng bigla-biglang sumusulpot! Jerwin: It was my concert! May karapatan akong sumulpot! The dinner went on like that. The both of us reminiscing about the past. We laughed about the insane turn of events that brought us together. Me being drunk and passing out on him -- of all people. Our mothers, being the crazy moms that they are, engaging us to one another. The many times I tried to kill him with my psychic powers. The many times he wishes he can dump me in the Pasig River.

See? We lived happy lives. ;D I can't believe it's only been two months. It feels like I've known him for year s. We were having so much fun talking na hindi namin na-realize na ubos na pala ung kinakain namin. Jerwin signaled for the server again, and obediently, the server came out. He to ok the empty dishes out and wheeled them back inside. After a few minutes, he came out with dessert. Banana foster over vanilla ice cr eam. It's heaven. T^T Ako: Isn't he gonna bring out a cake? Jerwin: For what? You don't like the ice cream? Masarap naman ah. Ako: It's heavenly, what are you talking about? I meant, a birthday cake for you . Jerwin: I told you this was planned for Valentines day. The menu was already fix ed. Besides, I don't mind not having a cake. Ako: I wish I didn't burn the cake earlier. T_T Jerwin: (chuckles) You can make me one next year. ;) Ako: Next year? You think we'll still be together next year? Tumigil ung spoon ni Jerwin dun sa ice cream nya. He looked up at me. I can't pl ace the expression on his face. He doesn't look surprised. He doesn't look mad. There's just something grave about his expression. Jerwin: Why would you say that? Ako: Errr... well, we did talk about breaking up eventually.... right? I mean, i t's not like you're doing this engagement thing because you want to.... right? Jerwin: So you want to break up before my birthday next year? Ako: Uh... I haven't really thought about it... Whoo! Pinagpapawisan yata akong bigla! Jerwin just looked at me for one more second, then he went back to digging in hi s ice cream. I think I just ruined the mood here. He looks upset. -____I reached over to the other side of the table and held his other hand. He looked at me in surprise. Ako: How about we just focus on the present for now and worry about the future s ome other time? He nodded and then finally, he smiled back at me. Jerwin: Yea. I'd like that.

A new song just started playing. Jerwin stood up, and as I watch him in wonder, he walked to my side and bowed down while offering his hand to me. Renaissance style. haha Jerwin: Would you like to dance with me? Ako: I would love to dance with you. I put the napkin on the seat and took his hand. He led me to an ample space on t he stage and twirled me around once before catching me and putting his hand on my waist. I put my hand o n his shoulder, 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 lonely. :) -----..--(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 background and an amazing girl in your arms. Ako: This is the start... Venice: Start of what? She didn't stir or anything as she waits for my answer. Buti na lang, dahil I di dn't really mean to say it out loud. Now I need to come up with a safe response. But what am I supposed to say? This is the start... of me not wanting to let you go. of me unable to imagine my life without you. of me just wanting to be with you.

of me wanting to protect you. I planted a light kiss at the top of her head -- one she'd probably wouldn't eve n feel, but that's okay. This amazing girl.... who knows how she'll react when I tell her those things? What i f she runs away? No one really knows... So should I also consider saying that it's the start of me being afraid to lose you? Psh. Who am I kidding? I know exactly how that sentence ends. This is the start of me falling in love with you... Two less lonely people in the world And it's gonna be fine Out of all the people in the world I just can't believe you're mine In my life where everything was wrong Something finally went right Now there's two less lonely people In the world tonight... I can't believe I'm finally accepting this reality in my mind. I should have seen this coming. Watching Venice, getting to know every little th ing about her... How can I not fall for her? Venice: Sunshine? Start of what? I hugged her closer to me. Ako: The start of the inevitable.

Chapter 62: Sleep Well

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . "Really?!? Ginawa nya un?!?" Classes just ended. Nagmamadali na sana akong umuwi para makaiwas sa mga probing questions nina Sheena about "their favorite star's birthday", pero dahil mahal talaga ako ng ta dhana, paglabas na paglabas ko sa huling klase ko, ahyun ung tatlo, nag-aabang na sa'kin. -___Anoh pa bang choice ko kung hindi ikwento sa kanila ang mga events of last night ? Sheena: Ang sweet naman ni fafa J! :D Kenny: Oo nga! Kahit na sinigang lang ang pinakain nya syo, bawing-bawi naman sa pag-rent nya ng entire venue! Shosyal! :D Sheena: May mga ganun pa palang lalake... Bigla syang tumingin kay Anthony, then let out a huge sigh. o_O Anthony: Hala?!? Anong ginagawa ko syo dyan?! Sheena: Ahyun nga ang problema syo. Wala kang ginagawa. -___Anthony: What's that supposed to mean?!? Hay nako tohng dalawang toh. Ang sarap pag-untugin. Isang pakipot at isang torpe. Anoh na lang ang mangyayari sa mga buhay nila nyan?!? Kenny: Kayong dalawa! Ang landi nyo! Maghalikan na nga kayo! Sheena: Hoy, bakla, excuse me lang noh! Kahit halikan ko yang palaka na yan, nev er pa rin magiging prinsipe yan noh! Anthony: Yabang nito... Kala mo dyan! If I know, patay na patay ka naman sa'kin! Sheena: Eh kung patayin na kaya kita ngayon?! Ako: Ay tama na nga kayong dalawa! Bahket ba sobra kayong mag-away lately?! Kenny: Mga pakipot pa kaseh. Sheena: Isa na lang, vakla, bibingo ka na. Ipagtatanggol ko sana si Kenny kaya lang ayoko rin namang masabunutan ni Sheena. :P At isa pa, nadistract ako. When we stepped out of the gate, ang una ko kagad napansin ay ung mga pasimpleng nakatagong photographers. -___- Mukha ba kong bulag na akala nila hindi ko sila mapapansin?! Kenny: Bakit may mga paparazzi dito? Sheena: May bagong chikka ba? Ako: Not that I know of.

Nagmadali kami sa paglalakad namin, just in case na biglang sumugod ung mga came ras. Mabuti nang safe kesa madumog, di ba? But I still don't understand kung bakit sinusundan pa rin ako ng mga un.. I alre ady said my piece about the issue nung Valentines... Pero may lumalabas pa rin na tsismis na on the verg e of break-up raw kami ni Jerwin, or better yet, sinugod ko si Geena at nagsimula ng WWIII. O_O Oh di vah, amazing? :D Mabilis nakatawag si Sheena ng jeep. Halos magkandarapa pa kami sa pagsakay.:P A s soon as all four of us were inside, nag-drive na kagad si manong driver. Napansin nya rin yata na may umaaligid-aligid. Kenny: Graveh ha.. Palpak ang sense ng pagtatago nila. :D Ako: Napansin mo rin? ;D Sheena: Anthony? Anong nangyari syo? o_O Napatingin kaming lahat kay Anton, na nakaupo dun sa dulo, mukhang nalantang gul ay. o_O Anthony: They were taking pictures. Ako: Uh-huh? Anthony: Na-realize ko ngayon lang... Bigla syang tumingin sa'min, and nagulantang namin kaming tatlo dahil mukhang na g-ppanic talaga sya. O_O May utang ba toh sa mafia?!? Sheena: Anong na-realize mo?? Anthony: Hindi pala ako nakapagsuklay! T^T @[email protected] Sheena: Pigilan nyo ko! Ihuhulog ko talaga toh palabas ng jeep! ---

--- .. --(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . I'm so tired. -___We did the rescheduled album photoshoot today. As usual, that took most of the d ay to do. What made it worse was that I had to do a lot of moving shots -- which meant running, twir ling, and jumping repeatedly. Ang sakit tuloy ng katawan ko. -___- But I couldn't complain dahil m ay kasalanan na nga ako dun sa crew nung bigla kong pinalipat ung araw ng shoot. Good thing mabait sila. They understood. Actually, they were even telling me tha t I should get more rest.

I guess halatang-halata na puyat ako. -__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 day--"AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!" O_O WTF?!? 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. :D @[email protected] Ako: Anong "hello"?!? Why were you screaming?!? Venice: Ah, wala lang un. Vent out lang. :) Ako: Vent out? About what? Venice: Haaayyyy nako! She trudged upstairs and I followed behind her. I would've went straight to my r oom and just throw myself on my bed, pero parang ine-expect yata ni Venice na sumunod ako sa kanya at makinig sa kung anumang reklamo nya sa buhay. Better safe than sorry.

She went in her room, throwing her book bag on one corner. I crawled on her bed as she then went to the vanity table to take off her jewelries. Inayos ko pa talaga ung unan just so I can lay down comfortably. I don't think a bed has ever felt this heavenly before. I can go to sleep right now~ Venice: Sunshine. Or maybe sleep after listening to Venice's rants. -__Venice: Would you believe na may mga reporters nanaman kanina sa labas ng school ?!? Ako: For what? Venice: Dahil pa rin siguro dun sa incident nung Valentines. Ako: Oh. Venice: Pinapalaki pa talaga nila ung issue. After taking her all jewelries off, she then went inside her walk-in closet. I j ust followed her with my eyes until she disappeared inside. Dahil nasa kabilang side ung closet, I can't see i nside. Naghahanap siguro ng pangbahay na susuotin... Anoh pa bang pwede nyang gawin dun sa loob di ba? :P Venice: Isa pang sobrang nakaka-frustrate, yang si Sheena at si Anton! Ako: What about them? Venice: You know.. Ung "thing" between them. Ako: Oh, so they're still not going out? Venice: Psh. Pano naman mangyayari un, eh kinarir na nilang dalawa ang pagiging denial king and queen. She stepped out of the closet wearing a loose shirt and cotton shorts. Talagang dun sya nagbihis, ni hindi man lang sinarado ung pinto.. di man lang na g-alala na baka bigla akong sumilip---NOT that sisilip talaga ako! O_O Sinasabi ko lang na BAKA sumilip ako -- kahit h indi ko naman talaga balak gawin dahil alam kong nagbibihis sya sa loob....... Ah basta! I'm not a pervert! She suddenly stopped and stared at me. For some reason, she looks puzzled. Ako: What? Venice: Dude. You look like a corpse. O_O Ako: I've been up since 5:30 this morning. I had a long day. Anyway, tama bang t awagin mong "bangkay" ang husband-to-be mo?!? Venice: Sabi ko mukha lang, hindi ko sinabing bangkay ka. :P She jumped on the bed. I winced when the bed bounced. Ang sarap na ng higa ko, b igla ba namang talunan ung kama.... Naalog tuloy ung mga nag-rrelax kong muscles. Venice: Anoh pang ginagawa mo today? Bakit daig mo pa ang 90-year-old kung makah ilata ka dyan? Ako: I did a photoshoot. I was short on sleep and did a shoot full of running, j umping, and all sorts of high-energy action. -___- You can't blame me for being tired.

Venice: Kawawa ka naman, Sunshine. She suddenly started running her finger over my arm. I looked at her confused. W hat is she doing? Venice: Gusto mo ng masahe~? :D Ako: Yea. Venice: Eh?!? O.O She suddenly jerked her hand away and looked at me in shock. I know she was just messing with me, and normally, I would have rejected her offer, pero right now, a massage sounds really good. Ako: What? Venice: Di nga?!? Ako: Sardines, masakit talaga ang katawan ko. A massage actually sounds wonderfu l right now. She blinked at me in confusion. Tignan mo tohng taong toh... Last time she threatened me with a massage, I dared her to touch me because I ho nestly thought she wouldn't dare. But what did she do? Binigyan nya kagad ako ng masahe. Tapos ngay ong seryoso ako na talagang gusto kong magpamasahe, na-mental breakdown naman sya. Baliktad ba talaga ginawa ang utak ng babaeng toh?! Ako: C'mon... You can just use that lotion over there at your nightstand kung ay aw mong kunin ung oil sa kwarto ko. Venice: You have massage oil in your room? o_O Ako: Well... yea? I take it with me tuwing may concert or a show. My muscles ten d to tighten when I'm stressed. There's always a physical trainer in the backroom to massage my legs o r back to prevent cramping. Venice: Ah. I turned to look at her again. Wala. Hindi yata talaga gagalaw tohng taong toh. -___I slowly rolled out of her bed. Ako: Okay, fine. If you don't want to give me a massage, I'll just go to a spa o r something--Venice: What?!?!? O_O Nagulat ako nang bigla syang tumalon pababa nung kama. Talagang hinarangan nya p a ung daanan ko. O_O Ako: I said I'll just go to a spa to get a massage Venice: At bakit naman?!? Fine! Dumapa ka dun sa kama, mamasahihin kita! Ha.. Sudden change of heart. Nabuhayan ng loob at mukhang determined na sya ngay on na bigyan ako ng masahe. Amusing~ :D

Ako: Di na, wag na. Napipilitan ka lang yata eh. Venice: Hindi nga, sige na. Bumalik ka dun sa kama, I'll massage your back. I gi ve good massages. Promise. Di mo na kailangan magpahawak-- I mean, magpamasahe pa dun sa mga masse use na nasa spa noh! Ako: Hmmm... but--Venice: Anong "but" ka pa dyan?!? Tinulak nya ko pabalik nung kama. Tohng babaeng toh... Kung makasugod.. Di nya ba alam na kayang-kaya ko sya ibato sa balikat ko at itali sa kama? Yang liit nyang yan... Venice: Bakit kailangan mo pa pumunta dun, eh nag-ooffer na nga akong masahihin kita??! And besides, ako ang fiancée mo! .... -____She stopped talking. Parang nag-iisip yata ng kasunod na argument na related sa pagiging fiancé at sa pagmamasahe. Ung argument ba na hindi sya mapapahiya.. :D 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. :D 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 ako? 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. ;D I haven't even completely taken off my shirt yet, mu kha na syang hihimatayin. ;D 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 off? :D 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?! ;D Crazy. :D

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. :D Bumukas bigla ung mata nya. Akala ko ibabato nya sa'kin ung buong nightstand. Ta ma bang tignan ako ng ganun kasama? :D Venice: Sinong nagpapasalamat ha?!? After grabbing the bottle of lotion from her nightstand, she jumped on the bed a s well. I closed my eyes to relax. I can hear her taking deep breaths sa tabi ko. Pero di na ko nag-comment. Baka bigla akong i-suffocate ng unan habang nakahilat a ako dito sa kama eh. :P After a few moments, she sat on my lower back. Pinindot-pindot nya pa ung likod ko. I heard her pumping lotion on her hands, and then she finally started rubbing my shoulders. Ahhhhh~ I can almost feel my muscles rejoicing. A massage after a long day of work. I can definitely get used to this. ^_^ ---

--- .. --(Venice's POV) ---------------- . I can feel my heart beating four times its normal beating rate. I don't think it's healthy. Aish.. Anoh ba naman tohng napasok ko?!? I can't help but stare at Jerwin's bare wide back. Nanginginig-nginig pa ung kam ay ko as I massage his tight muscles. This is definitely not good for the health. Halos atakihin na nga ako sa puso kanina nung nakita kong tatanggalin nya ung Tshirt nya. Eh anoh pa ngayon na hinahawakan ko na ung katawan under that shirt?! Ay josko!

Buti na lang nakasubsob ung mukha nya dun sa unan.. Otherwise, nakakahiya ever a ng kapulahan ng mukha ko! Jerwin: Sardines.. Ako: *gulp* Hm? Jerwin: Stressed ka rin, di ba? O__O Kung balak mong mag-propose na i-massage ang likod ko, ay hinde na! Hinde na tal aga! Ako: B-Bakit? Jerwin: I'm just thinking... Later tonight.. I know it's a school night and all. . But, do you want to invite your friends for a quick night out? Ako: Really? Jerwin: Yea. If they're not busy.. I want to spend some time with your friends t oo... Ha... Fascinated ako. Gustong makipag-bonding moments ni kuya. :D Ako: Okay. Jerwin: Great. After that, tumahimik na uhlet sya, except for the occasional moans pag may mina masahe akong sensitive spot. Kawawa naman si kuya. Mukhang talagang pinag-acrobatic nila kani na... :P Ilang minutes later, napansin kong iba na ung paghinga nya. I carefully got off him tapos sumilip sa mukha nya. Tulog na sya. Kawawa naman tohng taong toh. Lalo yatang na-sstressed dahil nag-wwrap up na ung new album nya. Sige lang, Sunshine, pagbutihin mo ang trabaho nang may makain tayo, ha? :D wahihi..:D Pero mabuti na rin na nakakapagpahinga sya. I slowly crawled out of bed, careful na hindi sya magising. I somehow managed to cover him up with the other side of the blanket. Mukha syang sushi. Buti nang sushi kesa naman lamigin ung likod nya. Huhubad-hubad pa kasing nalalaman. :P

I grabbed my school bag and dragged it with me palabas ng kwarto. I'll do my ho mework habang umiidlip sya. Pero in fairness, ngayon ko lang na-notice na ang laki pala ng likod nya.. Paran g hindi ko kase masyadong natitigan nung last time na nasa beach kami. But now, ahyan sya, paran g isda na binebenta sa palengke. Parang ang sarap hawak-hawakan ng malapad nyang likod~ *__* O__O Aish. Kelan pa ko naging manyak?! Tsk tsk. I better get out of here. Ako: Sleep well, Sunshine~ And with that, I gently closed the door behind me.

Chapter 63: In The Club

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . tiptoe tiptoe tiptoe Hmmm... tulog pa rin? Binalik ko sa sulok ng kwarto ko ung schoolbag ko pagkatapos kong silipin si Jer win na nagpapakaSleeping Beauty pa rin sa kama ko. Ang sarap ng tulog... Kainggit.. Samantalang ako, ilang oras nakatutok sa mga homework at libro ko. In fairness, I feel like a real student! I mean, I AM a real student, pero iba pa rin ang feeling pag kinarir ang pag-aaral. Tinignan ko ulit si Jerwin. Wala na yatang balak gumising. o_O Umupo ako dun sa kama, katabi nung naghihilik na tao, tapos pinindot-pindot ung pisngi nya. Ako: Sunshine.. Gising na.. Baka hindi ka na makatulog mamayang gabi.. Gising na ... Huy~ -___Tama bang deadmahin ang pagiging good samaritan ko dito?? At humihilik pa habang dinedeadma ang beauty ko?!? Tinakpan ko nga ung ilong nya. And in 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5 seconds! Tada! Nag-papanic na bumukas ang mga mata ni Sunshine! bwahahahaha :D Jerwin: What in the world are you doing?!?! Ako: Yehey~! Tulog mantika, gumising ka na dyan. Apat na oras ka nang tulog. 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 ;D 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? :D 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! :D Tama ba namang ngitian ako nang may kung anong bahid ng pang-aasar?! 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. :D 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. o_O After a few moments lang, tsaka nya binuksan ung i sang 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. :P 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. :D 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. Na-papanic nga si Kenny kasi ang dami raw ma susungkit na papa. (Nawa'y hindi kami masipa palabas -__-) Umakyat kami sa 2nd floor, kung nasaan ung VIP section nila. All around, may mga artista at kung sinusino pang celebrities ang nakakalat. @[email protected] Nakaka-starstruck. Kailangan hawakan n ang maigi si Kenny, baka biglang may ma-rape nang wala sa oras. Jerwin would stop once in a while para mag-hello sa mga ka-close nya, tapos onwa rd na ulit kami papunta sa table namin.

"COUSIN IN LAWWWW!!! :D" Oh crap. I know that voice. O___O It's not very hard to find her, lalo na at nagtinginan rin ang mga people sa dir ection nya. At ang pag-wave ng kamay! Matatanggal na yata ang buto nya sa sobrang excited ng kaway nya! O.O Ako: What is Nicole doing here?!? Jerwin: I invited her. Relax. She won't cause any trouble...... I hope. Ako: "I hope"?!?? Kenny: Oh my vegetables! Si Nicole Suarez ba yan?!?! O.O Ako: Yea.. bakit? Kenny: (squeals) I can just go to heaven right now! :D Anthony: Aba, Ken, lalake ka na? O_O Kenny: Che! Wag kang magulo dyan. Idol ko yan~ :D Kung hindi mo alam, isa si Nic ole Suarez sa mga top models ng country. And kung anu-anong world-renowed companies ang kumuha sa kanya para mag-model ng mga products nila. She's a goddess. :D Ako: Eh!?? Napatingin ako kay Jerwin to confirm. I know na model si Nic, pero di ko alam na ganun sya ka-big! Ako: EH?!?! Jerwin: Yep. She's really successful. With her attitude, it's still a puzzle to the whole family kung pano nya na-mmaintain ung mga clients nya. :P Anthony: Ahhh... She's hot. *__* Sheena: Ohh.. Hot pala ha.. Anthony: What?!? What?!? Masama bang umappreciate ng maganda?!? Sheena: Oo na nga eh. Anthony: Bakit affected ka? Gusto mo na ko noh? :D Sheena: Gustong ihulog sa balcony. Mabuhay ka pa kaya? Hayy.. umariba nanaman tohng dalawa. Lumapit kami dun sa table na kinuha ni Nicole for all of us. For some reason, pa g nakikita ko si Nicole, ang naaalala ko eh ung babaeng nagbagsak sa'ming dalawa sa detention center.. na kakulong.. naghihintay ng piansa... -_____Hindi ko tuloy makita ang sophisticated, world-class model na sinasabi ng ibang tao. Inintroduce ko ang mga friendships ko kay Nicole. Ngayon ko lang yata nakitang n ag-starry starry eyes si Kenny sa isang babae. :D Nicole: Oh.. So you're Kenny. Kenny: Yes~ :D Nicole: Jean mentioned you to me some time ago. She said you're her prince charm ing. :) Biglang umikot ung tingin sa'kin ni Kenny. Nawala ang mga stars sa mata ng bakla . Napalitan ng kutsilyo at daggers. Scary~

Kenny: Wag mong ipapakita sa'kin ung batang un. Ilalambitin ko patiwarik un. -_ _Ako: Yes, ma'am. Jerwin: Have you guys eaten yet? Sheena: Ay, konti lang. Nicole: Oh let's order some food then. Ako: Real food? Jerwin: Yep. That's one reason I like going here. They serve real entrees to VIP guests. :) Kenny: Wah shosyal~ We took our seats. Hinati namin ung ilang menus na nakapatong na dun sa table. R eading the list, talagang pagkain nga.. Hindi ung pinapapak-papak lang.. Ay, I love this club na rin! :D Magkatabi si Nicole at si Kenny sa right ko... Naaaliw ako dahil mukhang nag-cli ck ung dalawa. I won't be surprised kung someday, silang dalawa na ang nasa detention cell dahil sa kun g anong kalokohan na ginawa nila. -___"Hi! Are we too late?" Napaikot kaming lahat -- at halos mabato ko ung menung hawak ko sa mukha ni Jerw in. @[email protected] Anak ng tinapa at dilis! Pati ba naman tohng dalawang toh inimbitahan nya?!? Okay na sana si Dustin eh... pero si Geena?!? SI GEENA?!? Gusto nya bang magka-gyera dito?!? Nicole: Dustin! Uh, why do you have a witch behind you? I nudged Nicole under the table. Ehto na, nagsisimula na ang starting shots ng w ar. Nicole: Aw! what? Dustin: Magkasama kasi kami kanina when I got your call. She wanted to come. I h ope you don't mind... Oh. Si Dustin lang pala talaga ang invited... Geena: Of course they don't mind, right Jerwin? Kenny: Ay, girlie, actually I do mind. Tanungin mo rin kami. Biglang napatingin si Nicole kay Kenny. Nicole: Oh my gosh! I like you! :D Kenny: Ay! I like you too~! :D 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? o_O 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? 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 nakaupo... 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 ight?! 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. T itingin 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. T_____T 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. Dustin let out a soft sigh. He pushed the menu to my hands, as if trying to dive rt my attention away from the so-called "couple" on the other side of the table. This is not what I planned. Jerwin is supposed to be glancing at me. Venice is s upposed to look hopeless. Why does it seem like the both of them don't even care that I'm here?! Dustin: Geena, you should really give it up. I took you here to have fun. Me: I'm planning to have fun -- with Jerwin next to me. Dustin: Can't you see it yet? It's not gonna work. Jerwin's attention is entirel y focused on Venice. Me: You don't know that. They're just pretending because there's a lot of people in here. Dustin: Geena, look at them. I followed his gaze. Jerwin and Venice are sharing a menu. He whispered somethin g in Venice's ear. Venice smiled and nodded. He then points at something on the menu, which she che cks out... I suddenly noticed that their other hands are tucked under the table. They maneuve r the menu without moving those hidden hands. Could it be they're holding hands? No. That's impossible. Jerwin can be affectionate, but he's not showy. Dustin: Look how natural they seem together. Are you telling me that they're sti ll pretending? I suddenly stood up. All eyes switched over to me.

Me: I forgot... I have something to attend to. Sorry to leave so quickly. Nicole: Oh, we don't mind. :) Of course you don't, you little wench. Me: Let's go, Dustin. Dustin: Uh.. It's okay, I'll stay. I suddenly turned to him in surprise. I can't believe this. He's actually choosi ng to stay with these lowlife people over me!? Me: What are you talking about? I drove us here. How are you supposed to get hom e? Jerwin: He can squish in my truck. Dustin: Or I can get a cab. Jerwin: We'll figure something out. Dustin: Yea. Don't worry about me, Geena. He's really staying?!? What in the world is he trying to do!? Me: Fine. I'll be going then. I shot one last glance at Dustin before grabbing my purse and stomping away. Passing by Venice and Jerwin's side, I couldn't help but see how Jerwin has casu ally draped his arm on the back of Venice's chair.... He didn't even spare me one glance. Look how natural they seem together huh... Don't make me laugh. I'll deal with her tomorrow. And when we're done, she won't be able to look at Jerwin in the same way again.

Chapter 64: Be My Girl

(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . The night is young and people are happily partying. What more can you ask for? : D I keep my eyes focused on the dancefloor below us. Dustin, Sheena, Venice, Kenny, and Nicole ar e in the middle of the rowdy crowd downstairs. I told Dustin to make sure no one will touch Venice. I t rust him. :P Anthony and I stayed in the VIP lounge, drinking and watching over the little gr oup. Bonding moment daw sabi ni Venice. Anthony: Should you be drinking? Di ba mag-ddrive ka pa mamaya? Ako: This is my last one. Anthony: Oh.. This guy... Ehwan ko ba naman kung anong klaseng utak meron toh, pero tama si Ve nice. Obvious na obvious naman na may kung anong interest sya kay Sheena, ayaw pang gumawa ng mov e. Kanina pa ko dito sa harap nya, ni isang minuto man lang, hindi nya ko tinignan. Nakatitig lang sya kay Sheena, nagbabantay.. Tatalon na nga yata kanina sa balcony nung nakita nyang ma y lumapit kay Sheena para sumayaw. Buti na lang nahaltak kagad ni Dustin kaya umalis ung lalak e. Natahimik ulit si Anton. Ako: I don't understand you. Anthony: Huh? Ako: Bakit hindi 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 eh.. :P Anthony: Anoh ba naman kasi yang sinasabi mo, bro?!? Wag kang magpapasabog ng mg a ganyan, lalo na pag umiinom ako. @[email protected] 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. :P 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? o_O 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. :P Pero d i naman alam ni Anton un. hehe 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 rl? Tinungga nya nanaman ung bote nya. Pumapasok na yata sa utak nya lahat ng sinasa bi ko. :D 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! @[email protected] 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. :P 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 fiancée. 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. :P

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 idea. 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. He was dancing behind me, his hands wrapped around my waist possessively.. I cou ld feel his heavy breathing malapit sa mukha ko. +__+ Whooh!! Hotness overload! :D Kenny: Hoy, bakla.. Bahket nag-bblush-blush ka dyan?? PAK! Kenny: Ouch! What chu make batok-batok me for?!? Ako: Manahimik ka dyan. Mainit lang sa loob noh! Sheena: Pero nasa parking lot na tayo--Tinignan ko nang masama si best friend. Sheena: --but I guess matagal-tagal mag-adjust ang katawan sa temperature? We're all piling up in the parking lot. Kami nina Kenny, Shee, at Anton nakasuno d kay Driver Jerwin. Tapos si Dustin, napag-usapan na ihahatid na lang ni Nicole. We stopped in front of Nicole's car. Nakipagpalitan ng number si Nicole kay Kenn y (bffs na yata sila @[email protected]). Maya-maya, sumabit na sya sa leeg ng pinsan nya. Ganyan na lang yata ang pagmama halan between Jerwin and Nicole. Cousin love~ . wahahaha Kahit na parang one-sided lang.. Dahi l as soon as lumambitin si Nicole, pilit kagad na tinatanggal ni Jerwin ung braso from his ne ck.

Jerwin: What is wrong with you?!? Nicole: Aren't you gonna miss me~? :D Jerwin: Magkikita pa tayo bukas or the day after that! Nicole: Why are you so mean to your ate? Jerwin: Because my "ate" doesn't act like one! Dustin: Nicole.. Stop harassing Jerwin. Let's go. Nicole: Fine... Binitawan na ni Nicole si Jerwin, who immediately ran to my side. Akala nya nama n mapagtatanggol ko sya if ever biglang talunin nanaman sya ng pinsan nya. Neknek nya. Nicole moved on to me and gave me a quick hug. Nicole: Cousin-in-law, let's hang out again soon. :D Ako: Of course. Nicole: And and and.. I'm still waiting for a little baby cousin. :D Jerwin: NICOLE!!! @[email protected] Kenny: Ay, can I be the godmother? :D Sheena: Che! I'll be the godmother! Di ba, best friend? :D Ako: W-W-What are you guys talking about?!? We're not even married yet! @[email protected] Nicole: Weeeh!! You're so cute when you're embarrassed! :D She gave a quick peck on my cheek before jumping inside her car to start the eng ine. I just stood there frozen. My brain is not capable of handling too many events in a span of five mi nutes. @[email protected] I felt Jerwin wiping something on my cheek. Probably lipstick. Jerwin: Sardines? Buhay ka pa ba? I nodded. Dustin: Oh well, we'll be going now. It's nice meeting all of you. :) To my surprise, Dustin gave me a hug. Dustin... Ang ever-so-loyal minion ni Geen a -- niyakap ako! @[email protected] Am I drunk? Bakit parang ang daming nangyayari!?? Dustin: Let's get together again sometime. I can see why Jerwin chose you. :D Ako: Uh.. yea.. yea.. O_O He let me go and then turned to Sheena. Dustin: Hey, Sheena, nice meeting you. Let's hang out again. Give me a call.

Sheena: O-of course. =__= O_O Nagising akong bigla from my dazed state. Oh is this true!?? Nag-bblush si Sheen a?!? Could it be na na-apektuhan ng killer smile ni Dustin ang brain ni best friend?!? Napatingin akong bigla kay Anthony. Nanlalaki rin ang mata ni Anton. Jerwin: This is gonna be epic. :D Ako: What? o_O Napatingin ako kay Jerwin na may kung anong ngiti sa mukha nya as he watches the little 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? OoO 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.. :D 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 ruck. 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. O_O 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: Anthony: SHEENA!!! WILL YOU BE MY GIRLFRIEND!!?!?!

Chapter 65: Invited

(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 spac e out for the whole hour and a half na break ko. -___- I can tell na ganun din si Kenny. Unusually q uiet ang bakla... 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 t inginan nila?!? Ako: Nakakapatay ng langgam ang insecticide? Kenny: . . . Hindi ba? Sabi naman snyo, pareho kaming lutang. -__- Parang hindi na take ng katawan ko a ng mag-clubbing sa gabi tapos pumasok nang maaga the next day... Samantalang dati.... Oh well. :p We stepped out of the school gates at liliko na sana papunta dun sa sakayan ng j eep, nang may biglang tumawag sa'kin. Napalingon kaming lahat dun sa kotse na naka-park sa may tabi. Sheena: Sinoh yan? Ako: I dunno.

Lumakad kami palapit dun sa kotse. And then BAM! Nawindang ang lahat ng brain cells ko nang nakilala ko kung sinoh ung nakasilip sa bintana. O_O Kahit na may suot syang mala-bubuyog na sunglasses, panong hindi mo makikilala ung gan da nyang yan?! Kenny: Should we run? Baka sagasaan pa tayo nyan! Ako: Hindi naman siguro.. Maraming witnesses! @[email protected] Binitawan ko ung hawak ko kay Kenny. Ako: Tignan ko lang kung anong gusto nya.. Dito lang kayo. Anthony: Sure ka? Ayaw mo kaming isama? Ako: Di na. -__..baka kung anong unwelcomed paragraph pa ang biglang lumabas dyan sa bibig nung isang bakla dyan na parang nagbabalak nang magpasabog ng isang certain car. I walked over to the car trying to calm my nerves down in every step I take. Tum igil ako dun sa tapat nung bintana. Geena lowered the window completely. Ako: Geena... What are you doing here? Geena: I was waiting for you. I heard you have your lunchbreak around this time, so I dropped by. Do you want to join me for lunch? @[email protected] Is it the end of the world?!? Ako: Uh, actually, I'm already going somewhere with my friends... Geena: Oh I see. Tumingin sya sandali sa likod ko then looked back at me smiling. Bakit kaya parang nagiging mabait toh? Geena: Well, I really want to talk to you. Dustin was telling me how I should tr y to get to know you better. Maybe he's right.. Oh? Oh? O_O

Geena: How about after school? Are you free then? Ako: Uh.. :| Geena: We don't have to bond immediately, of course. Maybe.. just talk over coff ee? Anong kababalaghan ba itoh? Is she giving up on Jerwin? Na-impluwensyahan na kaya sya ni Dustin? Bati na kami? Ako: I guess.. that's... okay? Geena: Oh great! There's a Starbucks around the corner, do you want to meet up t here? Ako: Uh--Should I go? Or should I not go? I was about to answer nang biglang... MAHAL?? MAHAALL?? What the H?!? O_O Mahal, si Jerwin toh~ Sagutin mo naman ung phone~ Inisda ko kagad ung purse ko. Anong kalokohan itoh??!? I grabbed the phone na muntik pang mahulog sa sobrang panginginig nung kamay ko. MAHAAAALLLLL~ I looked at the caller ID. OoO Si Jerwin nga! Napatingin ako kay Geena. I can't see kung anong reaksyon nya behind those huge sunglasses. I don't think my mind can even wrap on the thought na baka may kung anong negative react ion nga si girl. Ako: Starbucks? Okay! I'll be there! I gotta go! See you later! Tumakbo kagad ako palayo, sabay sagot nung phone. Ako: Anak ng tinapa! What did you do to my ringtone?!?! Jerwin: Hello to you too, Sardines.

Ako: Anong "hello-hello" ka dyan?!? Narinig mo ba ung nilagay mo?!?! Narinig mo ba kung gano kacorny!??! NARINIG MO BAAAA?!?!?!? Jerwin: Oh.. would you prefer na "Sardines" ang sumigaw every time na tumawag ak o syo? :) Err.. -__I stalked pass my friends na automatically followed me papunta sa aming destinat ion kanina. I guess nasanay na sila na kapag kausap ko si Jerwin sa cellphone, nawiwindang ang utak ko. Kaya sumunod na lang sila without asking or kahit anoh.. 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. Anime? :P 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... Gusto ko nang tunggain ung kape kung hindi lang sya mainit.

Geena: But you know.. after hearing your story, I realized something. Ako: Realized what? o_O At anong story? Geena: You.. When you fell in love, it just radiated throughout your entire bein g. Hmm.. Something like the two of you would look at each other, and suddenly everything seems perfect? Anoh bang pinagsasabi nito? @[email protected] Ako: That's.. nice.. Geena: It must be really magical, huh, Venice? Ako: I guess? I wonder kung pinaparinggan nya pa rin ako tungkol kay Jerwin? Geena: So no matter what the two of you do, people can just immediately tell tha t the two of you are in love. She suddenly cleared away the table, putting her cup on the other side. Tapos, i nikot nya ung laptop para humarap sa'kin. Geena: Just like this... Binaba ko ung cup ko sa table para mag-focus dun sa kung anuman ung hinarap nya sa'kin. I squinted at the screen... and then I realized what I'm watching. My heart started to pound hard on my chest. I felt the need to tear my eyes away from the screen pero my body won't listen. I just sat there staring at the video, frozen in my seat. It's the last musical I did for the school. The Christmas special Ate Marian herself directed and wrote. That's me delivering my lines... ...and that's Gerard getting ready for his final song. Gerard... G... Geena: His name is Gerard, right? People kept mentioning him when I asked about you. I got curious so I looked him up. I stumbled on this video. This must be what it's like to love, hu h? I can totally feel something whenever the two of you look at each other.

My hand flew to my mouth. I can hear Geena talking in front of me, pero parang h indi na nag-rregister ung sinasabi nya... I just stared at the screen.. I've never watched a recorded video of that play. It's been two years, hasn't it? Two years since I last saw Gerard's face.. since I last heard his voice.. But here he is right now in front of me... singing.. dancing.. alive... Geena: From what I heard, he's really in love with you. But... they also said he 's sick? Some sort of heart problem? Is that why you looked for someone else? 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 tell me 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 forehead? 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 words.. 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. NOW.

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 on. I called the first taxi na dumaan sa'kin and frantically gave the driver my dest ination. 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? o_O I just got here a nd she 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 e. 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 me. 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 anyways.. "Hello?" 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... Tumakbo ako papasok nung entrance. I'm not even sure kung nandito nga si Venice, pero... from what Dustin told me.. this is the first place that popped in my mind na pupuntahan ny a. I can barely see dahil sa sobrang lakas ng ulan. But after a while, I immediatel y recognized the shadow of a figure hunched over a particular gravestone. She's really here... I slowed down until I was just a few steps away from her. She has her back on me so I couldn't really tell whether she noticed that I came .. Ako: Sardines... How long has she been here? Her hair and her whole body is already soaking wet. I took one more step towards her. Venice: You know.. now that I think about it.. I really suck at following throug h with resolutions. Ako: What? Venice: Tuwing New Year, I'll make a resolution na I'll start studying harder... or that I should go on a diet... or nung na-realize kong nagiging pabigat ako sa mga tao sa paligid ko, I told myself I'll make sure not to make them go through that again.. I'll be better... Her voice sounds shaky. She's been crying or she's been holding it all in too lo ng. Ako: Sardines.. Venice: I don't need anyone to take care of me.. It's alright.. I'll be okay by myself.. She slowly turned around to look at me. It was then that I realized: I've seen her before.

Images from two years ago flashed in my mind. In this same place.. The burial.. The crying people.. That certain girl.. The girl whose life seems to have been snatched away from her.. It was Venice. Venice: But really.. I always end up breaking those resolutions anyway.. I don't study any harder than I used to.. I still eat a lot most of the time.. She smiled bitterly. Venice: And now, here I am again.. in the same hopeless state I was in years ago .... I thought I was moving on... Kahit na hindi ko na ulit sya makakausap.. Kahit na hindi ko na uli t sya makakasama... I'll be okay... Her hands are tightly balled on her lap. She seems to be staring at them intentl y, but I don't think she can really see anything.. She's lost in her own whirlpool of thoughts. Venice: Bu.t.. When I saw his face again... When I heard his voice... I couldn't lie to myself anymore!! Ako: Venice... Venice: Even though I tried to deny na naaalala ko pa rin sya... Kahit na I pret ended I forgot how his voice sounded like... It was all a lie! She started crying. Even in this heavy rain, I can almost see her tears.. and it hurts. Venice: I can still see his face every time I close my eyes! I can still hear hi s voice sa tuwing mag-isa ako! I thought I'll be okay by myself.. but.... but... I really hate being alone! She finally broke down. She buried her face in her hands as she let out all the vent up pain from the pa st two years.. Venice: I miss you... I miss you, Gerard!!

She cried harder.. She cried as if her whole life depended on it.. I couldn't help it anymore.. Ako: Venice... I knelt down in front of her and put my hands on her shoulders. She shakes violently as she sheds tears for the love forcefully taken away from her.. Isn't she supposed to be mine? Ako: Venice.. She looked up at me, as if finally realizing that I was there. I gazed at her ge ntly, playing a small hopeful and pained smile on my face. There's so many questions running through my mind. What am I to you? Can't you forget him for me? Won't I be able to take his place? All those things we went through together, don't they matter? Can't you see that I love you too? But in the end, the question that escaped my lips was: Ako: Am I... not good enough? Her eyes grew wide in surprise upon hearing what I said. Hindi pa rin ba nya nap ansin? After everything I've done, hindi pa rin ba sapat? I tightened my grip on her shoulders, hoping, praying she'll finally see me.. Maybe she'll finally... see me.. Ako: Am I not good enough?

Chapter 68: Heart to Heart

(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . "I wish I was able to do more..." I was finally able to persuade Venice to leave the cemetery. But as soon as we g ot in the truck, she told me to take her here.. in Marian and Anthony's apartment.. ..and as I later on found out, Gerard's old apartment as well. Marian and Anthony scrambled all over the place when Venice and I showed up in t heir doorstep drenched with rain. Anthony lent me a dry shirt, while Marian took Venice to hel p her change out of her 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 understand w hat's going on. 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 place 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 case bi gla 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 circumstances. 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 right to do that. What was she thinking anyway? Tomorrow.. I should probably go back home early tomorrow to grab some things for Venice. I'll drop it off before I go to work. What time does the meeting start again tomorrow? Is it arou nd lunch time? And Dustin.. Dustin said Venice left her bag in the cafe so he took it with him. I should meet up with him to get that too.. "Jerwin?" I heard the door open. I suddenly feel completely drained of energy that I didn' t even bother to look around. Alam ko namang si mom lang ung pumasok... Probably to nag me about the w ay I ran out of the meeting with producers earlier... Ako: I'll make sure to catch up with work tomorrow. Don't worry about it. Mom: That's not why I'm here. Really? If it's not for work, then why else would she be talking to me? Mom: Jean and Aling Ligaya saw you come in a while ago. Jean? I didn't even see her.. Mom: They're worried. Sabi nila you look miserable daw. Jean is freaking out dow nstairs dahil hindi mo kasama si Venice. Nag-away ba kayo? Ako: Nag-away..?

Hindi naman... It would have been better kung nag-away nga kame.. Coz then, at l east, I know na magbabati rin kami in an hour or so. But with this situation? How do you deal wi th this? Ako: Mom.. did you know that Venice had a boyfriend? Mom: Hmmm I think her mom mentioned it before... But.. didn't he pass away a lon g 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 care . 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 her.. 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 talkin g, right? 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 lonely. 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?!? @[email protected] 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! :D This is p robably what they call "a mother's instinct". Ako: Didn't you just say it was fate? =__= Anyway, what about Venice? Why did Ti ta Mel agree to give her daughter to a total stranger? Mom: Oh we're not "total" strangers. :P 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? o_O Ako: What?!? N-Nothing. O_O Mom: So the engagement was decided. :) You look a whole lot better, and Venice l ooks 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. ;P She flicked the switch on just before she s tepped out of my room. This is perhaps the first time in my life that I had a heart-to-heart conversati on with my mom... It's kinda... nice.

Chapter 69: Fix You

(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . The next day... "Your voice sounds husky... Okay ka lang ba?" I looked at the music director who's watching me anxiously from the other side o f the mirror. This is the fourth time I'm recording the same part of the song. He's probably getting frust rated. I'm getting frustrated too. It usually doesn't take me this long to hit the notes or to get the rhythm. Ako: Sorry, kuya. I'll try again. Kuya Troy: Jerwin, alam kong stressed out ka dahil malapit nang mag-wrap up ung album. If you want to take a break, it's okay. Ako: No. Let's finish this as soon as possible. Kuya Troy: *sigh* Okay, if that's what you want. Try singing the first line agai n. I nodded and concentrated on the music streaming out of the headphones. It's jus t a tiny portion of the song... This shouldn't take long. I'll be out of this recording booth in a littl e bit. ---

Three hours later, I was finally out. -___- Not exactly the amount of time I exp ected, but at least we didn't stay more than that. It's already 5:00 PM. I'm running late -- again. Seriously, this day, no matter what I do, I can't seem to catch up with time. I woke up late, got to work late, got out of work late, and now driving to Marian's apartment still late. Aish. Dahil na-late ako sa paggising, wala sa mga plano ko ang natuloy. I wasn't able to drop by Marian's apartment to bring Venice her clothes. I wasn't able to meet up with Dustin to get Venice's bag. Ahhh~ Kung nakatulog lang sana ako nang maaga kagabi!! Kamusta na kaya si Venice? Rush hour traffic was horrible. Ehto ung mga tipo ng panahon na I really wish ma y mag-imbento na ng lumilipad na kotse. Baka sakaling mabawasan ang traffic! I got to the apartment after an hour and a half. Geez..

I grabbed the bag of clothes sitting on the passenger's seat and walked towards the apartment door. I rang the doorbell, and wala pang limang minuto, bumukas na kagad ung pinto. Marian: Oh, Jerwin, you're here too. Ako: Yea, hello. I brought Venice some clothes. "too"? Who else is here? o_O Marian took the bag I was carrying and set it on the table. Pumasok kami sa loob and dun ko nakita ang madlang people. Everybody was cramped up in the living room. Sheena, Kenny, Anth ony... O_O ..Dustin and Jean?!?! Dustin: Hey, Jerwin. Ako: Anong "hey"?? Anong ginagawa nyo dito? Dustin: I figured you're gonna be busy so I took the liberty to deliver Venice's bag to her. :) Ako: How did you know she was here? Dustin: Well, I figured she'd be at school.. So I went there nung uwian na.. I r an into Anthony. He told me Venice is staying here for a few days. Tinuro ko si Jean na nakaupo sa tabi nya. Ako: And you?! What are you doing here?! Jean: I was worried about Ate Venice. Sheena: Nag-text sa'kin si Jean. Sinabi ko sa kanya na pupunta kami dito kaya ah yan, sumama sya. Ako: Who drove you here? Dustin: We picked her up from your house. Jean: *sigh* Kuya.. Why is Ate Venice locking herself in that room? Nagtinginan kaming lahat. If we tell her, will she be able to understand? Jean h as never had a loved one pass away before.. Jean: I want to go shopping with her again.. and I want to play with her.. Ako: Jean.. She's just going through a rough time right now. Jean: Hindi ba lagi nyang sinasabi na pag depressed daw, ang pinakamabuting gamo t is mag-shopping? Venice will say that, won't she? +__+ Sheena: I guess this is one of those things na hindi magagamot ng retail therapy .

Jean: I don't understand.. I want my clumsy sister-in-law back.. :| Bigla syang tumingin kay Kenny. Jean: Prince Charming, hug me. Kenny: Ay! Bruha! Wag mo kong chansingan! Jean: But, Prince, isn't it your job to comfort the princess? Kenny: Excuse me noh! Kung prinsesa ka, reyna ako! Jean: Why do you keep on pushing me away? Alam ko namang gusto mo na rin ako. :) Kenny: Sheena. Sheena: Oh? o_O Kenny: Pigilan mo ko. Ilalambitin ko na yang batang yan. +__+ Sheena: Ay, tumigil ka nga. -__This is like a recipe for disaster. Putting Kenny and Jean in the same room.... =__= I turned to Marian, who's standing next to me with an amused look at her face. N aaliw yata sa kapatid ko. :P Ako: How's Venice? Marian: Well.. she didn't go to school today. It's lucky na Saturday bukas. If e ver, isang araw lang ng school ang mamimiss nya. Hopefully, she'll be back by Monday. Malapit na ang fin als... She can't afford to miss classes. Ako: I see... Kumain naman ba sya? Marian: A little.. Ayaw nyang kumain ng kahit anong mabigay sa tyan. Wala raw sy ang gana. Ako: That's not good.. Marian: Oh, at least she's eating. Last time, we practically had to shove the fo od in her mouth. -__There's something else that worries me though.. Ako: Hm? Marian: I kept checking up on her last night. She was constantly moving. I mean, maybe that's good? At least she's not staring into space or things like that... but, she barely had an y sleep. It won't be good for her kung hindi sya matutulog tuwing gabi. Tumingin ako dun sa pinto nung kwarto kung nasan si Venice. What is that girl th inking?!? Hindi ba isa ang matulog sa mga favorite hobbies nya?!? Ako: Is it okay if I go inside? 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 side 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 ngayon?" O_O 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 turned to him. How did he know na hindi ako tulog? o _O I slowly turned to my other side para humarap sa kanya. I almost didn't recogniz e him. He looks like he's aged 10 years overnight. Did he get sick again from the rain? Ako: I just feel really tired... Jerwin: Marian said you stayed up all night.

Ako: Yea.. But it's not like I wanted to. Jerwin: No? It's the truth. I tried my best to go to sleep dahil maaga pa ang pasok ko sa sc hool the next day. But no matter what I did, I couldn't fall asleep. All these thoughts and memories kept on seeping in my brain. I couldn't keep my eyes closed. The bed isn't as comfortable as I remember it to b e either. I was too aware that I'm not in my own room. Sleeping was just impossible. In the end, I was too tired to go to school or do anything today. I just continu ed to lay on the bed.. imagining this room the way it was two years ago with Gerard walking to and fro. . I constantly played with the ring on my right hand as I stare into space.. the silver ring.. the final me mento from the invisible man walking around the room. Ako: I couldn't sleep last night. Jerwin: Why? Ako: I don't know. Makatulog man ako, I'll wake up after 10 or 15 minutes. Jerwin started to stroke my hair. I don't know why -- it's such a small act, and he probably doesn't even realize what he's doing -- but, that tiny gesture is really comforting to the he art. Jerwin: Do you want me to sing to you? Ako: Huh? Jerwin: Didn't I say it last time? Pag ikaw naman ang nagkasakit, ako naman ang kakanta syo. Ako: Wala naman akong sakit. Jerwin: You don't want a song then? Ako: No-- I mean, yes.. uhh.. =__= Jerwin: Ano ba talaga? I cuddled closer to him and closed my eyes. Ako: Please sing me a song, Sunshine... Jerwin: Silly girl... I felt him shift to a more comfortable sitting position. He didn't stop stroking my hair -- I was glad. After a few seconds, the lullaby started... Jerwin: You are my sunshine My only sunshine You make me happy When skies are gray You never know, dear,

how much I love you... His voice sounds a bit different than usual. I guess he really did get a little bit sick from the rain yesterday. Fortunately, it doesn't sound bad. A singer is always a singer no matter what he sings in whatever condition he's in. Jerwin's voice is soothing and gentle. It almost feels like I 'm being cradled to sleep... I can feel the fatigue and the lethargy creeping in just before the song ended. Jerwin leaned over to me a little bit, speaking in a soft voice. Jerwin: Sardines, I have to go now since I still have to take Jean home.. I wanted to hold him back for a few more minutes, but I couldn't even open my ey es anymore. Ako: Now? Jerwin: Yeah.. I didn't answer. He didn't move. For just a few moments, he just sat there strok ing my hair. Jerwin: Sardines... I know it's not my place to say this.. maybe you don't even want to hear it right now.. but.. His hand stopped caressing my hair. I finally cracked my eyes open to look at hi m. Trust me, I was finally feeling extremely sleepy, opening my eyes was really hard to do. Nakatingin sa'kin si Jerwin. There isn't any sign of the desperation and hopeles sness na nakita ko back then in the cemetery. Right now, he's just looking at me with so much warmth... like he knows something I don't, and he's trusting that knowledge. Jerwin: Venice, when you're ready... Just come back home, okay? I'll be waiting for you. My heart just skipped a beat.. or at least, I think it did. I wish my brain is still functioning. I think it already fell asleep. Nothing seems to be registering in my mind. Ako: Sunshine... Jerwin: Hmmm? Ako: Before you go.. Can you sing me one last song?

I closed my eyes again. If I wasn't so exhausted, I would have given him a hug. I wonder if he'd like that..? :P *yaawwnnnnn* Maybe I'll find out next time... But for now, I just really want to get that sleep. Why am I thinking of giving h im a hug anyways? Jerwin: You're becoming spoiled. ;P Ako: I know. I heard him chuckle. Magrereklamo pa, alam ko namang gagawin nya rin kung anong gusto ko. Jerwin: (sings) When you try your best but you don't succeed When you get what you want but not what you need When you feel so tired but you can't sleep Stuck in reverse. And the tears come streaming down your face When you lose something you can't replace When you love someone but it goes to waste Could it be worse? Lights will guide you home And ignite your bones And I will try to fix you... I don't think I even heard the 2nd half of the song. I don't think he finished the song either. When he realized that I was already a bout 95% asleep, he stopped singing. It was good enough. I drifted to sleep no problem.. ..but not before I felt something light touch my forehead. My fiancé has given me a good night kiss.

Chapter 70: Hurry Home

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . Nothing beats a cold shower after waking up. :) Kahit na ung mga tipong tanghali ka na gumising, at lahat ng mga tao sa mundo ay gumagalaw-galaw na.. :P Ikaw, slow motion pa rin sa pag-s shower. :D Amazing~ After stepping out of the bathroom, bumalik ako dun sa dating kwarto ni Gerard. Nilagay ni Ate Marian ung dinalang bag ni Jerwin dun sa may sulok ng kwarto. It's a good thing Jerwin brought me some clothes. Mababawasan ang mga kailangan kong labahan at ibalik kay Ate Mars. :P Sinalpak ko ung maduduming damit dun sa bag. Nilagay ko naman sila sa plastic ba g para hindi mahalo dun sa malinis na damit. Mahirap maglaba noh! "Venice?" I looked up and saw Ate Marian peeking from the door. She looks confused as she watches me pack up. Ako: Good morning, ate. :D That made her even more befuddled. :D Pagkatapos ba naman ng gloomy episode ko, mangbati ba naman ako with all smiles and happiness. Baka bigla ko pa syang kantahan ng "Wha t A Wonderful World".. ;D Tipong moodswings ng mga nasa mental hospital, di ba? :D Ate Marian: Uh, good morning.. Mukhang may lakad ka ah...? o_O Napatingin ako sa damit ko. I'm wearing a loose white shirt, cropped jeans, and flat gladiator sandals. I have my hair loosely tied in a side ponytail. Feel na feel ko ang comfort. :D Ako: I'm going home, ate. Ate Marian: Eh?! Ako: Yep. Thanks for taking me in kahit sandali lang, ate. I stood up and swung the backpack over my shoulder. Tumingin ulit ako sa paligid .. 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. I don't have a reason to hold on to any memory this room might give me. Gerard isn't coming back. Ate Marian: Sure ka na ba? B-Bakit naman parang biglaan?

She's probably thinking of that time in the past.. Ilang buwan akong hindi umali s sa kwarto na toh. It was the only place where Gerard's scent still lingered. No one tried to take me out. No one dared to approach me and tell me I was not a lone. It's different now. Ako: Ate, I don't have a reason to stay here. Ate Marian: You don't? o_O Ako: I have someone waiting for me back home. :) She looked surprised for a minute, pero as soon as she realized what I meant, ng umiti kagad sya -ngiting konti na lang eh aabot na sa hairline nya. :D She threw her arms around my neck sa sobrang tuwa. Ang kanyang signature show of affection -- kailangang magmakaawa na bitawa n dahil konti na lang, suffocation na ang mangyayari. Ganun sya kasaya... After that, halos ipagtulakan nya na ko palabas ng apartment nila. O_O Tama ba namang halos sipain na ko paalis?!? What are prends por kung papalayasin nya pala ako nang ganito?! Ibang klase talaga magmahal si ate! Ate Marian: Ingat sa byahe! :D Ako: Bye-bye, ate. Paki sabi na lang kay Anton na umalis na ko paggising nya. :)

---

"Dito na lang poh, manong." The taxi rolled into a stop in front of cemetery's entrance. Inabot ko sa driver ung bayad, then jumped out of the cab. I walked inside, adjusting the bag as I go along. Mabigat sya, in fa irness ha. -__I stopped by the little storage building a few feet away from the entrance to ta lk to the caretaker. After exchanging a few words, I went along my way. I know I should have rushed home and told Jerwin, "Nandito na ko. Hindi na kita iiwan.." ...... ~__~ yak! wahahaha :D Pero this stop is important for me. I have to do this before anything else. I finally reached my destination. I stand in front of the very familiar gravesto ne. Ilang taon kong tinitigan, hinawak-hawakan, at kinausap tohng batong toh. It feels weird knowing na matagal -tagal na bago ko ulit makikita toh... Who knows when I'll be back? Sa araw ng patay? Sa death annivers ary nya? Those days are months away... I used to never let a whole week pass by without d ropping by. Ako: But you know it's different now, right?

I sat on the grass and took out the trowel I borrowed from the caretaker. I dug a tiny hole sa tabi nung gravestone. When I decided that it's deep enough, I rummaged through my bag and took out a tiny box. Ako: I'm sorry I have to do this. This is the best thing I can come up with.. I stared at the box. Nakakapanghinayang naman.. -___One last peek~ I opened the box and looked at the ring inside. The silver ring Gerard gave me t wo years ago... well, actually, he didn't give it to me -- he left it. Anthony discovered the ring hid den in Gerard's drawers a few days after Gerard passed away. Hmm.. I remember the letter that came along with it too.. I've always wondered if he would have given the ring to me kung umabot lang sana sya nung Pasko... *sigh* I closed the lid again. There are things I'll never know. Ako: Maybe... I was holding on to you so much because I never really got to say goodbye. It all happened so suddenly.. Ni hindi ko nga inaasahan.. Bigla ka na lang nag-poof! I put the box in the hole na hinukay ko, then I started filling the hole up with dirt.. covering the box.. burying the ring.. Ako: This will be my closure now, G. I'm letting you go and I'm moving on. It's a couple of years late, but... you're happy for me, right? :) I completely covered the hole. I took an artificial flower (kupit from Ate Maria n's vase) and stuck the flower on the freshly covered soil. X marks the spot. :D Ako: Jerwin is a great guy. He really cares about me... I'm sure, boboto ka rin sa kanya. :) When he and I end up together... *gulp* "When"...? Hindi "if"? My face is definitely burning up. =___= I know, parang akong tanga. Nag-bblush s a sarili kong thoughts. Adik. :P I just can't believe I'm considering it... I am actually considering a future wi th Jerwin. Weird... Ako: I don't think it'd be bad... it probably won't be bad at all... :) The breeze feels really good today. It's very refreshing. I wish I can stay long er and enjoy the breeze, but I didn't come here to do that.

Ako: I wonder... sana naman hindi ka nagmumukmok dyan sa langit. Kung gusto mo, maghanap ka na rin ng girlfriend dyan. Pero sisiguraduhin mong mas maganda sa'kin ha.. Avah, na sa langit ka na nga at lahat, tumaas naman sana ang standards ng mga pagpipilian mo. Ang sagwa namang i sipin kung panget na anghel ang girlfriend mo. -___I finally stood up and swung the bag on my shoulder. I looked around one last ti me -- parang naghihintay na biglang may sumulpot na multo at magbigay sa'kin ng thumbs-up sign. :D Di ba ganun ung madalas nangyayari sa movies? ;D Pero, syempre, there's nothing here except the grass, the stones, and the wind. Despite the solitude, I smiled. It's time to go. Ako: Goodbye, Gerard. I turned around and took my first step away from Gerard's shadow. This time, unlike the previous times I've been here, I walked away and I didn't look back. ---

---..--(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . Maybe... it was a wrong idea to come home after all. -___Just as I expected, the house is dead quiet without Venice. Walang TV na nagsska ndalo pagkapasok na pagkapasok ko -- tipong maririnig hanggang sa kapitbahay. Walang kumakanta-kanta -- kala mo may kung anong major concert sa bahay. Walang bigla-biglang sumisigaw dahil nasusuno g na ung niluluto nya... I should have stayed another night at my parents' house. -___But, what if she comes home? I know it's hopeless thinking na baka sakaling umuw i nga sya, pero I did tell her I'll be waiting for her. Pano kung umuwi sya tapos wala ako? Minadali ko pa lahat ng trabaho ko para lang makauwi kagad.. para lang maghintay sa wala? *sigh* I'm really going crazy. I turned on a couple of lights, then I trudged to the living room. I'm hungry. = ___= I should start cooking or

heating up something.... maybe after a nap? I just plopped myself down on the couch when I suddenly heard the front door ope n. Napaupo tuloy akong bigla. O_O Who could that be?!? I heard something shuffling in the hallway. I can feel the anticipation and the anxiety build up inside me. Did my parents decide to drop by? Could it be one of family members checking up on me? Pano naman sila nagkaron ng susi? Then.. Could it be... Venice? May himala nga ba talaga sa mundo?? I slowly stood up... just in time, the person walked in and carefully placed her bag on the table. She looked at the kitchen first, then she turned around. That was when she saw m e... She's here.. She's really here... or nag-hhallucinate na ba ko sa sobrang gutom? I took one step forward. Ako: Venice... She looked at me confused, probably because I have a really stupid bewildered ex pression on my face right now. But then, she smiled... There's something different with the way she smiles. I don't know what it is. Somehow, it just looks brighter.. more genuine.. more beautiful. And I don't think I'm hallucinating. Venice: Sunshine... I'm home. :) That broke the ice. I ran up to her and immediately enveloped her in a tight hug . I don't care if I'm squishing her. Let me squish her for a few more minutes. If any of her bones break, I'll rush her to the hospital.

She's really here. She came home. It took a few slashes to the heart, a river of tears, and whirlpool of worries.. but she came back.. to me. And for some reason, it feels like she'll never leave again. Ako: Welcome back, Sardines.

Chapter 71: Three Little Words

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . I randomly surf through the TV channels, not really minding kung anong palabas. My attention is solely focused on Domestic Jerwin in the kitchen. Seeing him in an apron at naghuhugas ng pinggan... nasaniban na yata ng kung anong engkanto si kuya. -___Jerwin: You know you're gonna break the TV if you continue to switch channels li ke that. Ay~ Nakahalata~ :P I threw the remote sa kabilang side nung couch. Mahal ang TV. Bawal sirain. I continued watching Jerwin as he puts away the clean dishes. Feel na feel nya t alaga ang housechores tonight. Pagkatapos naming kumain ng hapunan kanina, talagang all-out volunteer syang linisin ung lamesa, maghugas ng plato, at ilagay sa ref ang konting tira. Maupo lang daw ako at mag-relax. Pano ako mag-rrelax eh kinakarir nya ang pagiging housewife!? Ako: Sunshine. You sure you're okay? Jerwin: Yea. Ako: Wala ka namang nabasag na pinggan? Jerwin: Uh.. muntik na.. Ako: Won't your mom kill me for making you wash the dishes? Jerwin: We won't tell her. This spoiled little rich brat... -__I see him drying his hands on the apron. Naglagay pa sya ng lotion. :D Akala ko ako lang ang may karapatang magmalandi pagkatapos maghugas ng pinggan.. Malandi rin pala tohng si Jerwin. Ayaw maging rough ang hands~ ;D He turned off the lights ng kusina at nung dining room, tapos pumunta na sya sa living room. He plopped down next to me. For a few moments, he just stared at the TV. Feeling ko may gustong sabihin si kuya, pero either nahihiya sya or hindi nya alam kung pano sasabihin. Ako: You wanna talk? Jerwin: Huh? What? Ako: (shrugs) Just asking. Tinuro ko ung noo nya.

Ako: Usually pag lumalabas yang mga wrinkles mo sa noo, it only means na may kun g ano kang iniisip. Serious much? Jerwin: What wrinkles?!? Namamalikmata ka lang! He averted his gaze. Hay nako. Sige fine, kung ayaw pag-usapan, wag pilitin. In denial pa sa worry wrinkles nya.. :P I stood up from the couch and stretched. Ako: Oh well. I'm getting sleepy. Matulog na tayo? Jerwin: What?!? Now?! Ako: Why not? o_O Jerwin: Wala lang.... Dito ka muna.. Okay. First, naging domestic housewife (houseband?) sya. Tapos ngayon, uber nama n sa pagka-clingy. May nakain bang kung anong damo tohng taong toh?!? Jerwin: Just watch TV with me sandali. Pag nakatulog ka, I'll carry you to your room. Ako: Whoa.. Talaga? O_O Jerwin: Yea. Ako: Bridal style ba itoh?! :D Jerwin: You're not my bride yet. I'll just carry you -- fireman-style. :P Ako: Wala ka talagang ka-romance romance noh? -__Jerwin: Hey. It's better than dragging you up the stairs. :) Ako: Sadista. -___He just laughed at me. I plopped down on the seat next to him again. Nakapatong ung braso nya dun sa sandalan nung couch. I took the liberty na sumiksik sa kanya and use his arm as my pillow. Mukha namang he doesn't mind dahil tumuloy lang sya sa paglipat sa mga channel nung TV . Eventually, he settled on HBO. Re-run ng Pirates of the Caribbean. Si fafa Jack Sparrow.. "But why is the rum gone?" ;D We watch the movie in silence. I shift positions once in a while dahil nag-ccram p na ung legs ko, but I still use Jerwin's arm as a pillow. Ako: Posible pa kayang magpaka-pirate sa panahon ngayon? Jerwin: Huh? o_O Ako: Imagine, ang saya sigurong magpaka-lost at sea. Tapos maghahanap ng treasur e chests sa kung saan-saan. Tapos magkakaron ako ng Wanted poster. Ay shosyal~! Iisipin ng mga ta o, ang ganda ko masyado para maging pirate. :D Jerwin: What are you saying? Ako: Pero.. dapat siguro may doctor sa crew ko. Dahil feeling ko lang magiging s easick ako. -__- Ay. Teka.. Kailangan ko pala muna mag-imbento ng gamot pangontra seasickness! Ugh.. Living on a ship is probably gonna be tough... :| Oy, Sunshine, sasamahan mo pa rin naman ako kahit na sa bangka tayo titira, di ba? Jerwin: Sure. If you want to live in a ship, I'll live in a ship. If you want to live under a bridge, I'll live under a bridge. Kung gusto mong magpaka-squatter sa Hollywood sign, I'll even build us the house. Ako: Oooh.. at kahit na magpaka-pirate ako, sasama ka pa rin? Jerwin: If you're gonna be a pirate, then I'll be a pirate too.

Jerwin saying, "But why is the rum gone?!?" wahahahahaha epic! ;D I looked up at Jerwin, flashing a bright smile. Naaaliw ako sa mga thoughts ko. :D 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 y... 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. *blink* *blink* 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. *blink* *blink* Jerwin: I can wait until you realize it for yourself. I suddenly snapped out of my daze.

Ako: Eh? Realize what? Sumandal ulit sya dun sa couch and focused his eyes on the TV. A small smile is playing on his lips. Tinotopak nanaman yata talaga sya. Anong realize-realize pinagsasabi nya?!? Ako: Hoyyyy, realize what? Jerwin: Secret. ;) Ako: You're annoying. +__+ Jerwin: Oh. Is that how you talk to someone who just told you he loves you? ;D I feel my blood rushing to my face. Talagang-- Talagang may pagka-arogante sya n oh?!? Wala man lang hiya-hiya sa system nya! Sumandal ulit ako. Mukmok time. -__- Pero mabuti na sigurong magmukmok kuno. Really... how do you respond to something straightforward like that? ---

---..--(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . Two hours later... I can barely feel my arm anymore. +__+ Ehtong si Venice... Sabi nya inaantok na sya kanina.. But around the time she falls asleep, so does my left arm. Nakatapos pa ng isang movie! I peered at her sleeping face. She looks so beautiful.. calm.. Ahhhh~ My muscles are going numb.. -____- But how can you disturb a sleeping ang el? Oh well. Time to keep my end of the bargain. I slowly pulled my arm out. So she wants me to carry her bridal-style ha? Hindi ba dapat gising ung bride pag binubuhat sya? :P I turned off the TV and then I knelt down in front of Venice. I carefully gather ed her in my arms, making sure I don't wake her up. I carried her up the stairs. Maka-ilang beses na munti k tumama ung ulo nya sa dingding. :P I gently kicked her bedroom door open. After much trouble getting her bedsheets out of the way, I finally laid her down on her bed.

Man, parang exercise ko na tohng for a whole week! I collapsed on the floor next to her bed. Ang hirap pala magtanggal ng kumot ng kama habang may buhat-buhat ka. Geez. Na-strain na yata ang lahat ng leg, arm, at back muscles k o. Mahirap ang tumatanda... -___I look at Venice who's deeply asleep in her bed. I reached out my hand to gently caress her face. Ako: "I love you", huh... I haven't told anyone that since.... what? 2nd grade? when my mom bought me the new Street Fighter action figure? What possessed me to say that to her now? Pwedeng-pwede akong ma-basted kanina.... -___Maybe I was? She didn't really say anything, did she? She just blinked at me in astonishment. Venice and her moments of naivete.. She's so fascinating. Looking at her face earlier, I almost couldn't believe she really came home to me. Something welled up inside me... ung tipong pag walang ginawa, sasabog. I wanted to tell her I was happy -- but that sounded like an understatement. Joy ous? Exuberantly glad? I wish had better words to explain the rush of emotions, but maybe... Those three little words summed it all up perfectly. "I love you." Ako: You're really something, Venice. Nagiging corny ako dahil syo. =___= I stood up and tucked Venice in. After making sure she's all comfy, I bent down and gave her soft peck on the forehead. Ako: Good night, Sardines.. I love you.

Chapter 72: Confrontation

(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . The next night, after a hard day's worth of work, Dustin and I met up in a nearb y club for a few drinks. I invited him to celebrate dahil halos tapos na ung album ko and Venice and I are doing well again. He, on the other hand, accepted the invite dahil na-sstress nanaman sya sa trabaho. Oh well. Kahit anong reason pa namen, it's good to catch up with a few beers in hand. We haven't done this in a while. For some reason, napunta ang usapang trabaho namin sa usapang Venice. Dustin is a really close friend, kaya siguro.... ganun na lang kadali madulas sa mga pinagsasabi ko. I even told him I finally confessed. Dustin: No way, man! You told her?!?? Ako: Yea. Dustin: What did she say? Ako: Nothing. Dustin: Na-basted ka? Ako: I don't think so. It doesn't seem like na-basted ako.. -__Dustin: Dude, call her right now and tell her to come here! Bakit ba kasi hindi mo sinama?!? Ako: I asked her to come, but she said she has to study. Finals na raw kasi nila . Dustin: How am I supposed to interrogate her then? Ako: Why would you do that? o_O Dustin: Why not? Pano natin malalaman kung mahal ka rin nya? Nagtinginan kaming dalawa -- tapos sabay na sabay kaming biglang tumungga nung m ga beer sa harap namin. Ako: Dude, we sound like a couple of girls talking about their boyfriends. +__+ Dustin: We should be talking about work, or sports, or cars. Ikaw kaseh eh! Ako: Hala! Ikaw ang namilit eh! Tumungga ulit kami. Hindi man kasi halata sa itsura nya, talaga namang may pagka chismoso tohng si Dustin. Kaya siguro sila nagkakasundo ni Nicole. Pareho silang may mga kung anon g "curiosity" sa mga buhay ng mga tao sa paligid nila. "Jerwin! Dustin!" I turned around -- and almost choked sa nakita ko. O_O I frantically turned to D ustin, na nanlalaki rin ang mga mata. I guess 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. :D 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 him, he turned around and left the table. Iniwanan talaga ako. Wala 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 ing... 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 fingers on my arm, I pretended I don't feel anything. I finished my beer in one gulp, then I subtly pulled my arm our of her reach. I should leave. I'm afraid that if I stay here any longer, I'm gonna grab her by the neck and fling her across the room. Jerwin: Geena, how many times do I have to tell you? I'm already engaged. The th ing between us... It won't happen again. Geena: Stop being all noble, Jerwin. I know you. ^-^ Jerwin: Then you should know that I'm serious when I say this: Stop messing with me and Venice.

She froze on her seat. The smile on her face disappeared in a matter of seconds. I took out my wallet and grabbed a few bills to pay for my share. Geena: Are you insane?!? You're choosing that bimbo over me?!?! Ako: She's not a "bimbo". Geena: She's just an attention-seeking whore! Why else would she stay with you?! She doesn't love you! Not when she's still hang up on that dead boyfriend of hers! I whirled around to face her so fast I thought my neck would break. Did I just hear her right? Did she really just say that? Ako: You knew Gerard was dead? Geena: Of course! That's what makes her so stupid-That did it. I grabbed her arm. She flinched in pain and looked at me in shock. I don't care what she thinks or what she says. From behind her, I saw Dustin scu rrying towards us. He must be thinking that I'm really gonna hurt Geena. Well, he's right. I'm an inch closer to actually hitting this girl. I don't hit girls, but this is just too much! >:( Ako: You knew Gerard was dead and you still used that against Venice?!? Are you out of your mind?!? What is wrong with you?!? Geena: Me?!? What is wrong with YOU!??! Why are you choosing her over me?!? I kn ew you before you got famous! I'm the one who's in the same social circle as you are! THAT GIRL IS A NOBODY! Ako: At least "that girl" is not covered head to toe with issues! Geena: She's foolishly mourning her dead boyfriend for years! She even drove you to this drinking escapade! Ako: I came here to celebrate for my album! Stop acting like you know everything , Georgina! You don't! A few of the tables around us are starting to notice the outburst. I roughly let go of her arm. A scandal is the last thing I need right now. Dustin finally reached us, but he chose to stand behind Geena for now. Geena looks beyond furious and bewildered. I took a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves. At this rate, if I start yelling , I'm sure Geena will start yelling too. For the sake of both our careers, I have to avoid that. Ako: Just stop, Geena. I'll never come back to you. And just so you know, Venice is at home, and we're doing fine-- actually, we're doing great. Geena: No.. You can't be... That's impossible! Ako: Move on with your life, Geena. I've already found the place I belong to. Yo u should find yours too. Geena: She's manipulating you! Ako: No, she's not. I nodded my goodbye to Dustin. I was about to turn to leave when Geena suddenly grabbed my arm. I looked at her hand, and then I looked at her. She reluctantly let go.

Geena: Are you falling for her? Ako: . . . I think I already love her. With that, I turned around to leave. I saw Dustin approach Geena, probably to es cort her out as well. I was only able to take a few steps when, all of a sudden, I heard bottles crashin g on the floor. I looked back surprised. Geena has swiped all the bottles off the table in her anger. Dus tin is barely stopping her from turning the table over. Geena: IT'S JUST AN ARRANGED MARRIAGE!!! IT'S ALL FAKE!!! YOU CAN'T POSSIBLY MAK E ME BELIEVE WHAT YOU JUST SAID!! JERWIN!! I stared at her in alarm. The whole bar's attention is already diverted to us. A t this rate, everything that happens will surely leak to the public. O_O My mind completely went blank. I don't know how to react, what to do. Dustin: Stop it, Geena! Let's just go. Geena: NO!!! NOT UNTIL HE TELLS ME THE TRUTH!! Nagkatinginan kami ni Dustin. How are we gonna clean up this mess?!? Nagpuputukan na yata ang mga blood vessels ko sa ulo as I try to come up with ef fective ways to cover up for what Geena screamed for the entire bar to hear. Dustin: You should leave. Ako: I... Dustin: I got this. I looked at the rampaging girl in his arms. Nagbubulungan na ung mga tao sa pali gid namin. I can see some people taking out their camera phones. Dustin is right. If I don't leave, this will only get worse. I briskly turned around and quickly walked out of the place. Dustin will take care of it. He always does. 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 incident will create. Should I push back the album's release? What kind of damage control am I gonna do? People will talk. The manager will undoubtedly behead me... even though it's not my fault, he will BEHEAD me! I dragged myself out of the truck and to the door. I feel like I lost all my ene rgy.

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. :P I looked over her head para tignan kung ano kayang subject ang binabasa nya.. and then... -____What the--? Isn't that Vogue magazine?!? @[email protected] 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. :D 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?!? I laughed again as she tries to wiggle out of my arms para siguro batukan ako.

Nung na-realize nyang wala syang takas, she just went back to cleaning up. Pero tuloy-tuloy pa rin naman ang reklamo nya under her breath. And of course, I chose to ignore her complaints. :P I still kept my arms around her and my chin on top of her head. I try not to press down too much though para hindi sya mabigatan. Just being like this, talking, teasing, annoying her... I feel a whole lot bette r now. Amazing talaga ang talent ni Venice in cheering up people. :P Ako: Sardines? Venice: Hm? Ako: Thank you. Venice: Ha? Para saan? o_O Ako: For being weird. :D Venice: Nakikipatong ka lang ng ulo, kung anu-ano pang sinasabi mo! Maligo ka na nga! Amoy beer ka! Di ka man lang nagdala! Eh?!? Binitawan ko syang bigla, sabay amoy sa sarili ko. How can I smell like be er eh konti lang ang ininom ko--Oh. -__Oo nga. Amoy beer nga ako. +__+ Pero bakit sya nagrereklamong hindi ko sya dinalhan?!? First of all, hindi pwedeng umorder ng beer to go. Second, sya ang ayaw umalis kanina noh! Ako: Sinasama kita eh! Venice: Nag-aaral nga ako! Ako: Eh bakit ka iinom kung nag-aaral ka?!? Venice: Dahil na-sstress na ko! Sunshine, na-pprito na ang mga brain cells ko! K onti na nga lang sila, nag-eevaporate pa isa-isa! Ako: Talaga lang ha.. Pero magazine naman ung binabasa mo kanina. Venice: Shut up. You stink. -__Ano kayang kinalaman nun sa pinag-uusapan namen? ;D I laughed again before turning around to go upstairs. Makaligo na nga. Baka bigl ang mag-decide si Venice na para sa susunod nyang "study break", kuskusin ako hanggang sa mawala a ng amoy ng beer sa katawan ko. :P Mahirap na. Baka gawin akong labahin nyan. :D Venice: Hey, Sunshine? I stopped in my tracks and turned around again. Nakatingin sa'kin si Venice with a worried look on her face.

Venice: Hmm.. What's up with the hug? Okay ka lang ba? I smiled at her. So nakahalata pala sya na bothered ako? Well, it's all okay now. Ako: What? I can't hug my fiancée, whom I loooveeee so much? :D Venice: Why do I even bother talking to you? -___Ako: Coz you looooveeee talking to me~ :D Venice: Shut up! You're drunk! I started laughing again, lalo na nung binato nya sa'kin ung magazine nya. I was barely able to dodge her flying bullet. Parang kanina lang, pinagkatago-ta go nya pa ung magazine na un. Ipapalipad nya rin pala sa'kin. ;D Sumilip muna ako pabalik sa kanya bago ako tuluyang umakyat ng hagdan. Ako: Sardines, you're the best! :D Venice: Shut up! I know!

Chapter 73: Sudden Realization

(Venice's POV) ---------------- .

"VENICE! VENICE! VENICE! VENICE! WAAAIIIITTTTTT!!!!!" I whirled around -- at muntik nang madapa. Masama pala ang bigla-biglang tumitig il pag nagmamadali kang naglalakad. :P School was just let out. Nagmamadali akong lumabas dahil may date-- err.. get-to gether kami ni Jerwin. But.. He should still be in a meeting. Last time I texted him, which was five mi nutes ago, they're still discussing pa raw some strategies to promote the new album. So, ehwan ko rin ba kung bakit ako nagmamadali. :D Siguro kasi iba talaga ang pa gkaprito ng utak ko today. Dahil magsisimula na ang finals, nilubos-lubos ng mga professors ang pagp apahirap sa mga estudyante. I've been running from one class to another turning in papers, proje cts, at kung anu-ano pang pakulo ng mga teacher na yan. +__+ Makarma sana sila. Mataas pa rin yata adrenaline rush ko kaya feel na feel ko ang pag-rush ko. :D Anyway, back to the main event, lumalakad ako palabas ng campus nang may biglang tumawag sa'kin. When I turned around, nakita kong humahabol sa'kin ang three stooges ng buhay ko , aka sina Kenny, Sheena, at si Anton na forever na yatang bubuntot kay Shee. Nung tumigil lang sila sa harap ko napansin ang mga unusual aura nila. May kung anong bewildered expression sa mukha ni Kenny. Sheena looks anxious. Anton looks more confused th an usual. Anong meron? o_O Kenny: VENICE! VENICEEEE!!!! Ako: Ay vakla, anoh vah?!? Nasa harap mo na ko! Wag kang sumigaw! Kenny: PERO PERO PERO!! 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) ARRANGED LANG DAW ANG LAHAT! O.O 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 kanino. 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. :D 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~ :D 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 pa rin na-focus ang atensyon nila! Haayyy.. Buti na rin siguro un. :P Kenny: Venice~ Sabihin mo sa mommy mo, i-matchmake nya rin ako. Gusto ko rin ng fafa~ :D Ako: Loka. Di ba may Jean ka na? Kenny: Ew. Hindi kami compatible noh. Gusto ko ung a la Jerwin Santos~ :D *gasp* Jerwin! OoO Napatingin ako bigla sa relo ko. Oh my golay, may 15 minutes na lang ako para ma kapunta dun! Ako: WAH! I have to go! Sheena: San ka pupunta? Ako: Dadaanan ko si Jerwin. Kakain kami sa labas tonight eh. Anthony: Bakit hindi sya ang sumundo syo? Ako: Kasi nauna akong lumabas -- at dapat on the way na ko ngayon! Kenny: Anong okasyon? Sama kame! :D Ako: N-Next time na lang.. Anoh.. kasi anoh.. :| uh.. two.. two months na kasi s ince na-engaged kami... Nagwala ung tatlo. -__- Kulang na lang confetti, pwede na silang magparty. Sheena: Monthsary ba today ha!? Monthsary?! ;D Kenny: Kelan ka pa naging ganyan ka-cheesy??! ^o^ Ako: Mga bruha! Masama bang kumain sa labas at mag-celebrate?!? Sheena: Uy, celebrate daw~ :D Ako: Che! Lalayas na nga ako! Kenny: Sabihin mo kay fafa J, miss ko na sya~ :D Ako: Maghanap ka ng sariling boylet mo noh! Anthony: Woohhh! Possessive na! ;D Iniwan ko ung tatlong mokong dun. Tama ba namang sa gitna pa talaga ng kalsada m anukso??! Hindi ba nila nakita ang dami ng people na tumitingin sa'min?!? Tumawag ako ng taxi -- thankfully, mukhang nagkalat sila sa kalsada today. I have about 10 minutes bago ako maging officially late. Mukhang sermon nanaman ang aabutin ko kay Sunshine... ang walang kamatayang "be punctual" sermon nya. -__Hay. -----..--(Geena's POV) ---------------- .

"Geena! Please, just let it go!" I ignored Dustin's pleas and continued on my way inside the building. What is he talking about?! How can I just "let it go"?! Jerwin was just drunk last night, that's why he was sprouting nonsense. He should be sober now. I'll demand the truth from him today, and he'll tell me that it was a mistake.. that he still wants me. I stopped in front of the receptionist's desk. I was about to ask for Jerwin's w hereabouts when I caught sight of a figure running through the main door. I can't believe it. This commoner... She doesn't have the right to walk in here! I stalked pass Dustin and headed to the little runt. She was obviously surprised when she bumped into me. Me: What are you doing here?!? Venice: Uh.. I'm meeting Jerwin. Actually, I'm already running kind of late, soMe: You--! You're blackmailing him, aren't you?!? Why else is he staying with th e likes of you?!? Venice: Why is he staying with me...? =__= She looked down as if she remembered something embarrassing. I was about to gril l her some more when, all of a sudden, I was blinded by flashing lights. I took a step back in s urprise. Before I knew it, we were surrounded by cameras, mics, and fired up reporters. I saw Dustin pushed to the side. "Miss Venice! Is it true na pre-arranged ang engagement nyo ni Jerwin Santos?!?" "Is it true that you're pregnant?!" "Miss Venice! What can you say about the allegations that you're using Jerwin Sa ntos for your own benefit??" "Miss Georgina! What is your relationship with Jerwin Santos?!" Me: Please, stop pushing. There's about ten or so reporters around us. Probably.. the event from a few nig hts ago has finally leaked to the press. I can't believe they've been lurking in this building. They were p robably waiting for Jerwin. Just their luck, they spotted Venice and me instead. I immediately put on a poker face. Years of experience taught me that it's bette r not to give out anything with your words nor your expressions. The reporters will either admit defeat 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 e. 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. Jerwin. 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 w hile, 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 fiancée 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. @[email protected] 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 ung t ruck. 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 clench his jaw -- a clear sign na pinipigilan nya ang sarili nyang magsisigaw ng isang nobela ng profanity. Kailangan yatang mag-anger management ni Sunshine... Masama yata s a dugo kung lagi syang na-hhigh blood. We swerved into the other lane -- nabusinahan pa nung kotseng siningitan namin. Road rage itoh~ T_T Lord, tinatapos Nyo na ba ang buhay ko? I've lived a full life, kaya sige, okay lang... Pero kung maaksidente naman po kami, sana hindi magasgasan ung mukha ko. Ako: Gusto ko po maging maganda sa pink kong kabaong. Napatingin sa'kin si Jerwin. Dun nya lang yata napansin na namumuti na ung butobuto ko sa takot sa sobrang galing nyang mag-drive. He finally slowed down. Napabuntong hininga ako sa sobrang relief. I loosened my grip on the seatbelt. Mabubuhay pa yata ako. Jerwin: What are you talking about? Ako: Eh? Napalakas pala ang final sentence ng dasal ko. Kasi naman, may nakita akong truc k sa harap namen! My golay! Truck un! Buti na lang at naisipan ni Jerwin na bumagal at magpaka-normal na driver... T^T Ako: Wala. Jerwin: Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. Ako: I really wish you wouldn't drive like that pag galit ka.

Jerwin: Sorry. Ako: Pano na lang pag nag-away tayo in the future??! Avah! Eh kung ma-aksidente ka?! Ma-bbyuda ako nang maaga! At pano ung mga anak naten??!? Mawawalan sila ng tatay! Mahirap luma ki nang walang tatay ha! Tumingin ako kay Jerwin para sana ituloy ung sermon-slash-drama ko. Pero nung na kita ko ung amused expression sa mukha nya, napatigil ako. Ako: What? o_O Jerwin: Naririnig mo ba yang sinasabi mo? Ako: Bakit, hindi ba? Mag-ppropose-propose ka, hindi mo pala ako papakasalan?! A noh pa't nagpropose ka under a starry starry night at sinabihan ako ng, "You.. complete me"~ ? :D Jerwin: When did I do that?!? Nanaginip ka ba?!? Ako: Anoh ba? Bakit ba kumokontra ka sa pag-ddaydream ko? Jerwin: Ang corny naman kasi ng "daydream" mo. Ako: Ang killjoy mo. +__+ He seems to be in a better mood now. :) Konting tukso lang dyan kay Sunshine, ma g-iiba na kagad ang aura nya eh. Ganyan talaga pag simpleton. nyahahaha :D I gently touched my arm -- ung ginasgasan nung cameraman kanina. Napansin pala n i Jerwin ung galaw ko. Akala ko busy-busyhan sya sa kalsada. Jerwin: Does it hurt? Ako: Konti. It's okay. Tumingin ako sa labas nung bintana para umiwas sa mga possible questions nya. Sa totoo lang, masakit talaga. Nagsugat kasi ung gasgas kaya mahapdi. Bubwit na cameraman yan. Mahulog sana ung camera nya at mahulog sa paa nya. -__After a few seconds, na-realize kong parang familiar na ung mga streets na dinad aanan namin. Ehto ung daan pauwi. May malapit bang restaurant sa bahay? o_O Ako: Saang restaurant ba tayo pupunta? Jerwin: We're not going to a restaurant. Ako: Eh?!? Why not? Jerwin: *sigh* I'm guessing na nagkakagulo ang mga reporters ngayon. We won't ha ve a quiet dinner..... unless you and I both wear masks. He sounds disappointed. He was really looking forward to this dinner. The past t wo nights, wala syang

ginawa kundi magtatalon sa paligid ko at ipaalala na wag raw akong gagawa ng pla no for tonight... Magaral na raw ako at gawin ko na lahat ng homework ko dahil lalabas raw kami... Tapos di lang pala kami matutuloy. Kawawa naman si kuya. Sa bahay lang pala ang 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 nsi. :D 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. :D Ba ka sakaling di nya mapansin.... :P

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: Sardines, we don't know kung san naka-store at kung san-san galing ung c amera na humagip 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 lumaki nang walang tatay, di ba? :D Ako: Ulol! Hindi pa tayo kasal! Geez. I can't believe na talagang uulit-ulitin nya pa un. Nakakahiya palang pakinggan. -__Napatingin ako sa labas para itago ung pula ng mukha ko. Dun ko lang na-realize: may mga taong nagkumpol-kumpol dun sa may sidewalk. Nakatitig silang lahat dun sa truck namin. . parang may hinihintay. Ako: What are they looking at? Jerwin: They probably think I'm raping you or something. You were screaming pret ty loud. OoO I turned to him in horror. He's calmly putting away the cotton and the bottle of anti-septic dun sa plastic bag. How can he be calm in this situation!?!? PAK! Binatukan ko nga. Nag-papanic ako dito, tapos sya pa-easy-easy lang dyan?!? Jerwin: Ouch! What?! Ako: Shouldn't we be escaping by now?!? Pano kung tumawag ng pulis ung mga taong un?!? Jerwin: We'll tell them we're engaged. Ako: How is that gonna help!?? Jerwin: Ummm.. We can tell them that we're young adults? We have needs. OoO Ako: You--!!!! I continued hitting him. Baka sakaling magising ung mga brain cells nya! Anong " we have needs"?!? Naririnig nya ba ang sarili nya?!? >:o

Jerwin: S-Stop! I was just kidding! How am I supposed to drive kung hinahampas m o ko?!? I slumped in my seat. Oo nga naman. Kailangan makatakas kagad kami bago pa dumat ing sina Manong Policeman. Baka mag-celebrate pa kami ng monthsary sa kulungan. +_+ "Fishball! Squidball!" Napatingin ulit ako sa labas. May tindero ng fishball.... Hmmmm... Ako: Sunshine, stop! Jerwin was just about to pull out of the sidewalk nung sumigaw ako. Napatapak tu loy syang bigla sa brake. He turned to me bewildered. Jerwin: What?! Ako: Wait lang. May bibilhin lang ako. :) I quickly jumped out of the truck. Kinawayan ko pa muna ung mga spectators namin . :D Nung nakita nilang napansin kong nakiki-tsismis sila, they immediately scurried in different directions. :P Tumakbo ako dun sa sari-sari store. Ako: Ate! Pabiliii~!

Chapter 75: Worth Every Minute

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . After buying the things I needed from the sari-sari store, pinag-drive ko si Jer win sa sinehan. Nung una akala nya, manonood kami ng sine. Pero nung sinabi kong wag syang baba at hintay in nya lang ako, naconfused si kuya. :D I ran inside the theater and asked for two black plastic 3D glasses. Tinanggal ko ung... uh.. salamin ba ang tawag dun kahit hindi naman talaga sya "salamin"? o_O Basta. Ang kailangan ko lang naman eh ung rims nya. :P Nung nakuha ko na ung kailangan ko, I went back to where Jerwin was waiting. He looked at me all weird nung nakita nya ung dala ako. He didn't say anything t hough. 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? o_O 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! :D Jerwin: What are we doing? Are we kidnapping somebody? o_O He threw the cap on his head. Ehtong si kuya, puro tanong, pero sunod naman nang sunod. :P 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. :D Jerwin: Ninjas? o_O 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 makikilala. Tinignan ko ung sarili ko sa salamin. I look gangstah~ nyahahaha :D With the glasses, I look like a dork -- kaya hindi ko na lang sinuot. :P I don't think 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. ;D I can't blame him though. Never in his life siguro sya lumabas ng ga nito 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. :D Pasilip-silip dun sa mga half-naked na naglalaro ng basketball... Tumitingin-tingin sa mga batang kalye na naghahabulan kahit lumulubog na ang ara w... 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. ;D 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? o_O Ako: Bibinyagan ka. Jerwin: Huh? o_O 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. :D After ilang minuto, nakita ko na ung lugar. Hinila ko lalo sya para magmadali. Ako: Tada! Here we are! Street food heaven! :D

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~ :D 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. ;D 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. Sinubukan nyang tumusok rin, pero ehwan ko ba naman dito. Kulang talaga sa practice. :P Kahit anong pilit nya, nag-bbounce pa rin ung fishball palayo sa stick nya. Ako: Di ganyan. Ganito oh.. Kinuha ko ung kamay nya. I guided his hand kung pano nya successfully matutusok ung fishball. Pagkatusok nya sa isa, may maliit na alambre dun sa side nung kawali, ipasok nya ung stick nya dun para umusog ung fishball. Tapos, kuha ulit sya. Parang akong nagtuturo mangisda. :D

Nung nakakuha na sya ng tatlo, tinuro ko sa kanya ung mga sauce na nasa bote. Sumawsaw na ko dun sa sweet n sour. Tumingin si Jerwin sa'kin, tapos dun sa bote , tapos sa'kin ulit. Jerwin: Is this sanitary? Ako: Ay anak ng tinapa.. May street food bang "sanitary"? Sumawsaw ka na lang! P ag hindi kinaya ng sikmura mo, ako pa ang magdadala syo sa ospital. Nag-hehesitate pa sya nung una, pero eventually, sumawsaw din sya sa sweet n sou r. Tinitigan nya ung mga fishball nya... Naghahanap pa yata ng tissue o plato kaseh tumutlo ung sauce . ;D Ako: Oh, dahan-dahan sa pagkagat, mainit. He nodded. He bit a small part of the fishball. Pinanood ko ung reaksyon nya. Tatakbo na ba? Hihimatayin? Iiyak?? Ako: Well? Jerwin: Mhmm.. Mainit nga. Ako: Di ba? Bagong luto kasi eh noh? >.> He chomped on his fishball again while looking around. Ako: Sarap? Jerwin: Yeah. Let's try the next one. What's that orange thing? Binayaran namin si Manong Fishball tapos lumipat dun sa susunod na stall. For at least 40 minutes, dun lang kami sa area na un -- kumakain, palipat-lipat sa mga push-cart... Nilubos-lubos ko talaga ang introduction ko ng street food kay Jerwin. :D Tinuro ko ang pinagkaiba ng kwek-kwek sa tucneneng. Ang proben ay parte ng manok -- kahit hindi ko alam kung anong parte. Masarap man kainin ang pure taba ng baboy, masama sa health ito dahil talagang m aninikip ang dibdib mo. Ang scrambol ay mas masarap kung mas maraming gatas. Ang sago at gulaman ay magaling kapag nauuhaw ka na -- pero siguraduhin mo lang na hindi ka mabubulunan sa gulaman. Ang "black box-like things" na un ay tinatawag na "betamax" at favorite food ng mga bampira dahil dugo un ng manok at baboy. (pareho naming di take kainin) Kapag uhaw na uhaw ka na, pumunta sa malapit na tindahan at bumili ng isang mali it na bote ng Coke o Royal -- and yes, nilalagay nila sa maliit na clear plastic bag kaya siguraduhin mong walang butas ung bag.

Ang huling stop namin eh ung isaw stand. Sa totoo lang, ang pinunta ko lang dun eh ung barbecue. :P 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?!? O_O 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 napatitig na lang ako... @[email protected] Jerwin: Hey, it's good! :D 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?!?!? :D 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? o_O 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. ;D Pero wala namang reklamo si ku ya. Busy sa panonood nya nung basketball. I'm not really a sportsfan. Mas gusto ko pang panoorin ung mga reaksyon ni Jerwi n. nyahahaha :D 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. :D Jerwin: Oh, he's leaving. Napatingin ako dun sa tinitignan nya. May isang player nga na aalis na -- pinata wag na yata ng nanay. ;D Yan, one player short na tuloy ung isang team. Siguro mag-uuwian na rin sila--"Uy, bro! Kanina ka pa dyan! Gusto mo maglaro?" OoO 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! :D 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. :P 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. :D 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. Crap. Nakita ko si Jerwin na napatigil sa posisyon nya. Nung na-realize nya ung nangya ri, he quickly went and put the cap back on -- but it was too late. Nakita na sya nung mga kalaro nya. Napatakbo kagad ako sa kanya. "Jerwin?!? Jerwin Santos?!?" "Tol, si Jerwin Santos ba yan?!" When I reached him, nagtipon-tipon na ung mga kalaro nya sa isang likod ni Jerwi n, nagbubulungan sa sobrang gulat. I took Jerwin's hand, which was lying flatly on his side.

Ako: We better go.. Jerwin: Yea... "Uy! Ayan ba ung girlfriend raw nya? Ung Venice?" "Sila nga un?!?" "Tol, nakalaro natin si Jerwin Santos!" You idiots. Kung magbubulungan lang rin naman kayo eh siguraduhin nyo nang hindi namin maririnig. Jerwin stopped in front of them and gave a weak smile. Jerwin: Thanks for letting me play. Alis na ko... Salamat ulit. He sounds really disappointed. He must've wanted to stay and continue playing. I t's not everyday na nakakalabas at nakakapaglaro sya nang ganito... Pero anong magagawa namin? Baka pag nag-stay pa kami, madumog pa sya. Pano kami tatakas? Walang guardya dito. We were about to leave the court nang biglang may humabol na player. Player 1: Jay! Napaikot kaming dalawa. Player 1: Pag hindi ka ulit busy at napadpad ka ulit dito, maglaro ulit tayo! Player 2: Oo nga! Wag kang mag-alala, i-lolock pa namin ung court para walang ma nggugulo! Player 1: Di rin namin pagsasabi na nandito ka! Kaya bumalik ka ulit! Tayo naman ang teammates next time! I felt Jerwin's arm twitch. Pagkatapos nyang marinig un, napangiti kagad sya. He held up his other hand and waved at the guys. Jerwin: Yes, sure!

Player 2: Dalin mo ulit si Venice! Ang ganda ng girlprend mo! Player 1: Gunggong! Wag kang maingay! Ay, maganda raw ako~ nyahahahaha :D I waved at them too. After that, sumakay na kami ni Jerwin sa sasakyan para maka uwi na. Tinanggal nya ung sumbrero nya and threw it in the backseat. Pawis na pawis sya pero talagang nakangiti pa rin sya hanggang ngayon... Nako.. Na-bakla na yata dun sa mga kalaro nya. Pano na lang ako? Mahirap magkaron ng boyfriend na iba ang preference. O_O Ako: You look happy. Jerwin: Yea. I haven't played basketball in years. At ehtong basketball na toh p a, walang pressure to win. It was great. Ung basketball ba? O ung mga taong nakalaro mo na hindi nagtitili kahit na nalam an nila kung sino ka? Ako: So when will you come back? Jerwin: I won't be coming back. Ako: Eh?! Why not? He pulled out of the sidewalk and started to drive. Nakatingin lang ako sa kanya dahil di ko getz. Kung nag-enjoy sya, bakit hindi sya babalik? Di ba ang normal na tao, pag nag-enjoy, bumabalik-balik? Jerwin: Gustuhin ko mang bumalik, it'll be safer for both you and me if we stay away. I had fun tonight, and that's good enough. Ako: But still... Jerwin: Venice, do you honestly believe na walang makakaalam na pumunta ako dyan ? At least one of them will mention it to someone, who'll mention it to someone else. Magpapasa-pa sa ung balita. Next thing I know, may mga camera na.. nasa news na. I don't want that. Ako: You're right... -__Man.. Not having any privacy sucks. -___- Kawawa naman si Sunshine. No wonder ig norante sya sa world. 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~

hahahaha :D 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 na kaharap 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 second. Ako: You're welcome, Sunshine. :)

Chapter 76: Sparks

(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! :D 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? :D 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 dapat? Manong Driver: Hintay lang kayo dyan, ma'am, ha. Wag kayong magpapakita. Kukunin ko lang ung gwardya. 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 favoriiitteeee kong question, "Miss Venice! Bunti s ka ba?!" Ay anak ng tipaklong. Eh kung ilantad ko kaya sa kanila ang tyan ko nang makita nilang walang kung anong lumalaki sa loob!?!? All-out war na talaga itoh. Mahirap na nga na dalawa lang ang nag-eescort sa'kin , ung dalawa pang un, mas focused dun sa mga reporters. Tinatamaan pa rin tuloy ako ng kung anu-anong mic at camera. I want Jerwin to escort me next time. T^T At least si Sunshine, willing mabugbog. nyahahaha ;D Ako: Please let me through! I'm gonna be late for my exam! Pero syempre, kung nakikinig sila sa ganyang usapan, magiging ganito ba naman ka hirap ang buhay ko? -__Finally, nakarating na rin kami sa gate! Ang usual na 3 minutes papasok, naging 10 minutes! Nagusot pa ang uniform ko! At ang hair ko! Ilang beses nahila kung saan-saan! Dapat na sigu ro akong magpagupit.... -___Sinarado kagad ni Manong Guard ung gate. I collapsed on the bench na nandun sa m ay booth ng mga guards. Na-drain ang energy ko.... Ang aga-aga ha! Tumingin ako kay Manong Driver.

Ako: Nako, manong, sorry. Pati kayo nadamay pa. Manong Driver: Ay, okay lang ho un. Sinakay ko na rin naman kayo't lahat, lulubu s-lubusin ko na ang pagtulong. :) Ako: Swerte ko na lang at kayo ang nasakyan ko. Iniwan ko na po ung bayad dun sa loob ng taxi. Kung anuman po ung sobra, snyo na lang po. :) Manong 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 nag-aabang 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? o.O 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 fiancée 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~ :D 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. Ehto ako tohng si tanga, hindi ko rin maintindihan kung anong nangyari. Pagbukas ko nung pinto, napalakas yata ung hila ko, dumireto sa mukha ko ung pin to! BAM! Hanggang ngayon, namumula pa rin ung noo at ilong ko. Si Jerwin, hindi maintindihan kung tatawa ba o magagalit sa sobrang kagalingan k o. -___Ako: Sunshine, mapula pa rin ba?

Jerwin: Konti na lang. Ay, ehwan ko ba naman syo! Anong klaseng tao ka ba?! Pati pinto, sinasalubong mo ng mukha mo! Ako: Eh malay ko bang didiretso sya! T.T We just turned around the corner para makalabas ng building, when all of a sudde n, I ran into someone. Seriously. Anoh bang meron sa mga solid barriers at sa mukha ko today?!? My hands quickly flew to my face. Hinila ako ni Jerwin sa likod nya -- kung kela n naman nabunggo na ko't lahat. -__"Oh. Small world." O_O Napatingin ako bigla dun sa binunggo ko, at tignan mo nga naman ang lupeeettt ta laga ng tadhana. Sa dinami-dami ng pwedeng bungguin, ung bruha pa ang hinarap sa'kin! Jerwin: Geena. What are you doing here? Naramdaman kong humigpit ung hawak ni Jerwin sa kamay ko. So I guess hindi pala nya ko hinila dahil bubunggo ako (kahit too late na), hinila nya pala ako dahil sa nabunggo ko. Geena: I'm here for a photoshoot. Jerwin: This late? Geena: Well, I'm trying to finish everything tonight since I'll be leaving tomor row. I don't want to be sued for a breach of contract if I just leave without finishing my projects, you know ? Ako: You're leaving? Where are you going? Geena: I'm going to Paris. I'll probably stay there for a while to work and to g et my college degree. Ohhhhh... Shosyal. :D Sa Eiffel Tower pa sya magpapaka-estudyante. Jerwin: That's good. You're moving on. Geena: Yes. I'm giving up on you, Jerwin. So, when time comes, don't go running after me and ask me to take you back. ;) Ay. "Giving up on you" daw, tapos biglang ganon ang banat! O.O

Jerwin: I won't. :) Geena: Good. Anyway, I have to go now. Nagulat ako nang bigla syang tumingin sa'kin. For the first time since I met her , she actually looked at me straight in the eyes at walang bahid ng malisya ang ngiti nya. And for the first time since I met her, I didn't feel intimidated. Geena: Good luck with everything, Venice. Ako: Thanks. Good luck to you too. She then turned to Jerwin and gently touched his face. I gritted my teeth trying to calm myself down. Pagbigyan na, last moment nya na toh. Take a deep breath... Inhale.... Exhale.... Geena: Goodbye, Jerwin. She pulled back her hand..... Okay na sana eh. Pero talaga namang hihirit pa! She suddenly tiptoed and landed a quick kiss on Jerwin's cheek! @[email protected] Inhale! Exhale! Inhale! Exhale! Inhale! Exhale! After that, she turned around, flinging her luscious locks sa mga shocked expres sions namin ni Jerwin. I stared at her in bewilderment hanggang sa sumakay sya ng elevator. A b!tch all the way to the end. Napatingin ako kay Jerwin. Mukhang iniwan na ng kaluluwa nya ung taong toh. Ako: Anoh? Tititig ka na lang dyan!? He suddenly snapped back to reality and turned to me. Jerwin: I totally did not see that coming! If I did, I would have stopped her!

Ako: Yea yea. Wipe that lipstick mark on your cheek. Baka kung ano pang isipin n g mga tao. He frantically rubbed the cheek na hinalikan nung bruhildang un. I pulled my han d out of his grasp and stalked away. Syempre, sunod naman sya. Jerwin: Are you mad?!? Are you mad at me?!?! Why are you mad?!? Ako: Nakoooo hinde. Bakit naman ako magagalit, di ba?!? Jerwin: Why are you walking so fast then?!? Ako: Maybe because you're walking too slow! Parang kaming timang naghahabulan dun sa hallway. Alam ko namang hindi nya naman talaga kasalanan, pero ehwan ko ba! Na-bbwiset pa rin ako! Jerwin: Venice! I ignored him. Jerwin: Sardinessss!!! Magsskandalo pa! Jerwin: MAHAAALLLLL!!!!

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. :P 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. :D 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? "Bakla!!" I turned around and saw the Three Stooges approaching me. Di ko mapigilan ngumit i. :P Holding hands while walking sina Anton at si Sheena oh~ Anoh yaaannn~ wahahahaha :D Kenny: Shosyal ang mga paparazzi sa labas! Pang-Britney Spears ang taray! :D 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. :D 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-uu sap! 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. :P Ako: Ay! Ay! Ay! Hindi nga!?!? Hindi nga?!? :D Buti na lang at wala pa kami sa library dahil, sa lakas ng tilian naming tatlo, baka nasipa na kami nung librarian! ;D Ang taray ng dalawa! Kaya pala iba na lang ang aura nila! :D Ako: Pano naging kayo?! Umepekto na ba talaga ang gayuma ni Anton?!? Anthony: Anong gayuma? Pure charm yan! Charm! :D Kenny: Charm-charmin mo mukha mo! Ay! Hindi ko kinaya! Sila na talaga! :D Ang ingay namin hanggang sa makarating kami sa library. Wala pa ngang balak tuma himik si Kenny kung di lang sya binato ng pamatay na tingin nung librarian. :P Napatahimik tulo y kaming apat. Ako: Kaya ba kayo biglang nagyaya na magshopping mamaya? Sheena: Syempre noh! Celebratory shopping itoh! Ako: Ay, I love your celebrations, best friend! :D ---

---..--(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . Man..... Doing nothing is boring. -__- I flipped through the channels one after another. Anoh pang sense ng cable kung sa dinami-dami ng channels, wala pa ring mapanood? Since the album is already done, ang kailangan ko na lang gawin is maghintay for the release. I'm gonna do some pre-release promotions, but that won't start til next month. I'm so booooreeeeeeedddddddddd. Should I clean the house? But everything looks clean already. Should I go do some grocery shopping? We did that just last week. Maybe I should get a dog.

... I can't buy a dog out of impulse. =__= I was about to roll out of the couch to crawl around the house when my phone sta rted ringing. I checked the caller ID and groaned. It's the manager. I really don't want to talk to him. Ehhh but what choice do I have? -__If I'm lucky, maybe he'll give me something to do. Ako: Hello? Manager: Jerwin. Ako: Yea? Manager: Have you talked to Venice yet? Oh, it's this again. Ako: No. Manager: Jerwin-Ako: I know. I know. I'm still thinking about it, okay? When I'm absolutely cert ain that it will be good for her, then I'll talk to her. Manager: Don't think too long. I'm looking at some tabloid reports, and I can te ll you now, if we don't do something soon, this is gonna get ugly. Ako: Okay. I hang up and stared at the phone for a few seconds before flinging it to the ot her side of the couch. Stupid tabloids and their insane speculations.

Chapter 79: Cry Baby Cry

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . That afternoon, pagkatapos ng mga pamatay naming mga exams, we went straight to the mall. Pagalingan pa ng paglusot pass the mob of reporters outside school grounds. :P This is like a tradition. Every year, pagkatapos ng isang taon, diretso sa mall para mag-celebrate. Although, this time, bittersweet sya. Graduating na kaming lahat. Ehto na ang la st time na magcecelebrate kami na tapos na ang school year... Ilang araw na lang, graduation c eremony na... Pero okay lang! Toast to the future itoh! Para sa pagpasok namin sa society at sa kawindang-wind ang na official relationship nina Anton at Sheena! Ako: Naiinis ako. Sheena: Bakit? Ako: Kahit anong tingin ko sa mga stores, wala akong magustuhan. -__Kenny: Ang sakit sa heart na mag-mall nang walang nabibili noh? Ako: Oo nga. After halos dalawang oras ng pag-iikot, nag-settle na kaming apat sa Jollibee fo r merienda. Buti pa si Sheena, may nabili na. Si Anton, wag na yan. Taga-bitbit lang yan. Pero kami ni Kenny?!? Bahket walang nakaw atensyon sa'min?! Buti na lang masarap ang Jobee~ At least man lang sa merienda, nakabawi kami ng bakla. :D "Haayyyy.. Mga tao nga naman ngayon. Gagawin ang lahat para lang sumikat. Kulang talaga sa pansin. Buong Pilipinas pa ang lolokohin. Kukupit pa ng superstar! Ambisyosa! Engagement for publicity stunt ang drama!" Napatigil ako bigla sa pag-murder sa palabok ko. Nanahimik ung buong table namin . I didn't look up kahit na nakikita ko sa blindspot ko ung babaeng nagsasalita. Ang bruha, talagang dito pa sa sulok namin dumaan para lang magparinig. "Magkano kaya ang binayad sa kanya noh? Pulot siguro sa kung saang eskinita un! hahahaha" I took a deep breath to calm my nerves. Hindi maganda kung gumawa ako ng skandal o dito--Pero I guess, hindi ganon ang naisip ni Kenny. Dahil ang bakla, hindi pa man ako nakaka-exhale, bigla nang tumalon sa upuan nya! @[email protected] Kenny: Hoy babaeng kabayo! Kung magpaparinig ka na lang din naman, eh lumapit-la pit ka na dito noh! Ingungungod ko yang mahaba mong nguso sa sahig! >:o

Pasimple kong hinila si Kenny para umupo uhlet. Tinitignan na kami nung mga naka palibot na lamesa. Ung babaeng kabayo, tumigil rin sa paglalakad at nakatingin kay Kenny. Ako: Ken-Kenny: Ay, wag mo kong aawatin! Sinoh ba sya sa tingin nya?!? Kilala ka ba nya!? Insecuradorang kabayo sya! Mukha kasing aso ung boyprend nya! >:( Napatingin ako dun sa kabayo at aso... Ngayon ko lang na-realize na magkasama pa la sila. Buhat-buhat nga naman nung aso ung tray nila ng pagkain... Asong Boyprend: Hoy, bakla! Ingat-ingatan mo yang sinasabi mo kung ayaw mong-Anthony: Kung ayaw nyang ma-ano ha?!? Bumilis na ang tibok ng puso ko. Pati si Anthony ngayon tumayo na rin at humarap kay Asong Boyprend! Asong Boyprend: Oh anoh?! Boyprend ka nitong baklang toh?!? Anthony: Hinde! Boyprend ako ng kabarkada ng baklang toh! Kung sasapakin mo toh, parang pinatulan mo na rin ung girlfriend ko! Kaya wag kang magulo dyan! Asong Boyprend: Sapakan ba ang gusto mo ha?!? Ngayon na ha?!? Kenny: Hay nako, Anton, wag mong patulan yan. Baka may galis yan, mahawa ka pa. Kabayong Girlprend: Hoy, watch your mouth! Kenny: Ay naiinggit ka? Oh sige, kung sya may galis, ikaw may fleas! Yan, masaya ka na?!? Napatayo na ko sa sobrang panic at pagpigil kay Kenny. Si Sheena rin nakakapit s a braso ni Anthony. Wag naman sila mag-away dito... Masikip na nga, marami pang tao. Pero in fairness.. panalo ang mga insults ng bakla! Kung hindi lang ako masyadon g concerned, naaliw na ko sa bangayan nila! :D Ako: Tama na. Halika na, umalis na tayo. Tinignan ako ni Kenny. Magrereklamo pa sana sya, pero nakita nya sigurong desper ado na kong alisin sila sa gulo kaya nagpaawat na sya. Sumusunod na ung tatlo sa'kin palabas, hindi ko na nga tinignan sa mata ung kabayo nung dinaanan ko sya, pero ehwan ko ba naman sa babaeng un, gust o na yata talagang malibing nang buhay. Kabayong Girlprend: Pwede ka na rin palang best actress. Nagpaawa effect ka rin ba kay Jerwin Santos kaya ka pinulot sa kung saang eskinita? Kaya siguro di ka mabitawan ni Je rwin Santos, noh? Naaawa syo. Parang kang muchacha! ;D Kenny: Ay! Lumapit ka nga dito at nang makilala ng panget mong mukha ang madumin g sahig! >:o 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! O.O Napaupo talaga ung babae sa sahig! Syempre, nung nakita ni Asong Boyprend ung nangyayari, susugurin nya na si Kenny ! Pero humarang

kagad si Anthony! At bago pa man masipa nung aso si Ken, nasuntok na sya ni Anth ony! Lumipad si Aso papunta sa'kin! OoO Buti na lang, nahila ako ni Sheena patabi! Pero di man ako tinamaan nung katawan, lumipad naman ung contents ng tray na haw ak ni Aso. I didn't even see it happen, pero naramdaman ko na lang na may tumama sa mukha ko, and na hulog sa uniform ko. Pagtingin ko sa blouse ko, stained with Pepsi na ung puti kong uniform. Pati ung buhok ko, nabasa rin! Josko, malagkit itoh! Sheena: Venice! Okay ka lang?! I shut my eyes dahil nangdidilim talaga ang paningin ko. Kung may full moon lang , siguro nag-transform na ko sa werewolf at pinagpipisat tohng kabayo at aso na toh! >:( Ako: I SAID STOP IT! Tumigil ung riot. Tumingin silang lahat sa'kin. I walked over to where Kenny is and grabbed him by the collar. Hinila ko sya palayo dun sa kabayo. Tapos nun, lumakad naman ako kay Ant hony and pulled him away from the dog. Takot lang nilang kumontra sa'kin pag ganitong mainit na ang ulo ko. Kabayong Girlprend: Pssh. Bagay syo-Ako: Hoy, kabayo. >:( She clammed her mouth shut. Ako: Just because you hear things on TV or on the radio o kung anumang appliance s meron sa bundok mo, it doesn't mean na totoo un! Gamitin mo yang kakapiranggot mong utak ha?! Pa nget ka na nga, hindi ka pa nag-iisip! Anoh na lang mangyayare sa buhay mo nyan?!? >:o Tumingin naman ako dun sa boyprend nyang aso na natulala sa'kin. Ako: At ikaw naman! Kung nakikita mo nang tinotopak ng katangahan ung syota mo, eh pigilan mo na! Makaiwas man lang kayong dalawa sa kahihiyan! Ano pa't kasama ka nya kung saan-s aan!?? >:( Hay nako! Pinapaiinit nyo ang ulo ko! I turned around to leave. Ung mga taong nagtipon-tipon para manood, biglang naha ti para bigyan ako ng daan. Buti naman dahil kung paharang-harang sila, baka sila pa ang sunod kong ma sigawan! Sumunod kagad sa'kin ung tatlo. They tried to keep up with my angry pace.

Kenny: Ay ang taray. Natameme ung dalawa isang tingin lang ni Venice. Buhay pa p ala ang malditang queenbee~ :D Sheena: Kenny. Kenny: What? Sinasabi ko lang. Tagal ko nang hindi nakitang nang-away si Venice eh. Sheena just shook her head. After nyang mag-give up kay Ken, sa'kin naman sya tu mingin. Sheena: Okay ka lang ba? Gusto mo bang bumili muna ng T-shirt at magpalit-Ako: No. I just wanna go home. ---

---..--(Jerwin's POV) ---------------- . I was organizing Venice's magazines alphabetically when I heard the main door sq ueak open then close. I waited for a few seconds for Venice to walk in, pero nung walang dumating, I g ot confused. I stood up and walked to the main hall. I saw Venice standing just in front of the door, looking at the floor or somethi ng. Ako: What are you-Then I noticed it. The stain on her uniform... The deadpan expression on her face... May kung anong malagkit pa sa dulo nung buhok nya.. Ako: What happened?!?! Who did this to you!?!? She didn't answer. She just stood there. What am I doing? Why would I even ask those questions when I already know the an swer? The manager warned me about it. This scandal will make people who don't know Ven ice doubt her... hate her even. Some people will go out their way to show that hatred. I walked over to her and, very gently, I wrapped my arms around her.

Ako: It's okay. You can cry now. And with that, Venice dropped her things on the floor. She threw her arms around my waist and tightly held on. Then she started crying... bawling her pretty eyes out. Even though it hurt, at that moment, I knew what I'm supposed to do.

Chapter 80: The First or The Last

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . I mindlessly flipped through the TV channels -- making sure to skip lahat ng pal abas na may kinalaman sa showbiz news. I eventually realized na pag ganitong oras pala, pag nilipatan mo ang lahat ng news channel, wala na palang matitirang panoorin. Annoyed, I turned off the TV. Napatingin ako sa paligid ko. It's weird. Parang kanina ko pa hindi na-ffeel si Jerwin. After nung drama sa pinto kanina, he sent me upstairs to shower. Pumayag naman a ko dahil nanlalagkit na ung buhok at balat ko. A warm shower sounded necessary and nice. When I finis hed, I found the house empty. I saw a note on the refrigerator na lumabas daw sya to get us dinne r. I guess pareho kaming wala sa mood magluto. He came back half an hour later with a large box of pizza. Hindi ko alam kung na isip nya ba na dadalawa lang kaming kakain o talagang gutom lang sya kaya feel nyang mag-large. Pero sig e na, kung san ka masaya, suportahan ta ka. :P We barely spoke during dinner. Now that I think about it, we barely spoke since I got home. Weird~ O_O Okay. Time na para mambulabog. I was about to stand up when Jerwin suddenly appeared out of nowhere papasok nam an nung living room. Napangiti ako. Ang galing ng timing. :D Jerwin: We need to talk. Ako: Okay...? o_O And just like that, the smile faded away. Niyakap ko ung throw pillow na nasa ta bi ko since akala ko uupo sya. Akala ko lang pala. He remained standing there a few feet away from me. He looks troubled. Ako: What's going on? Jewin: Venice... Things are crazy right now. Ako: Yea. Tell me about it. -__Jerwin: I can't be with you all the time, and obviously, I can't imprison you in this house. Hindi ko alam kung kelan mawawala ung scandal. I'm not even sure kung matatahimik ulit ang buh ay mo kahit na malipat na ang atensyon ng mga tao sa ibang bagay. He's starting to look really frustrated and uncomfortable. I can see he's trying his best not to look at me.

What's going on? o_O Ako: What are you trying to say? Jerwin: The manager proposed a plan. I tried to come up with another way, but in the end, I have to admit his plan is still the best way to keep you safe. Ako: Ano bang sinasabi mo? You're starting to scare me. And I really am getting scared. Is it a woman's intuition? Is it his apparent an guish? I don't know, but I really feel that something horrible is gonna come out of thi s "talk". I don't like it. Jerwin: Venice... I... You... He took a deep breath as he struggles to find the words. Then finally, just when he found his resolve, he looked at me. 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 tickets.... 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 now?

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 r... 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 realized how true t hey are, and it hurts na sa ganitong situation pa sila lumabas. Maybe he doesn't even care anymore...

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 pwede mong pagsabihan nyan, why do you have to say 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 an. Sheena: *gasp* You mean.... Pag umalis ka, mag-bbreak kayo?!? 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 na man 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! :D 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? :D 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. :P Kenny: Ay ay ay.. Alam ko na, vakla! :D Ako: Ang alin? o_O Kenny: Para makabawi ka! Pagdating mo dun, ihanap mo kagad ako ng fafa ha~ Gusto ko ung blond at may blue eyes. :D Sheena: Ay gusto ko yan! :D 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 Shee na 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? :P I was about to go back downstairs para i-check kung na-lock na rin ung sarili nya sa aking sardines closet, nang may narinig ako ingay sa kwarto ko. Curious, I went to check it out. Ako: What are you doing? o_O 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 cho se to 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 myself. 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 d ownstairs. Ako: Bakit mo ilalagay sa truck ung maleta? o_O 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 stling. 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. :D 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? +_+ Haayyy... 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. :P 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. Lumi liit 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. Restaurant? 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! :D 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? :D 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. :P 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. ;D Kumokonti na ang mga bahay sa paligid namin. Feeling ko lang, walang hotel dito. Ngayon lang nagssink 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? o_O 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. :D 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. :P Binuksan ko ung maleta and nakita na pinagsama nya pala dun sa maliit na space na un ung mga damit namin. S a bagay, hindi nga naman ganon kadami ang kailangan namen. Parang two-days worth ng damit ang dinal a 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 narealize 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 panty. 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. o_O Jerwin: ...unless, of course, you want me to see you wearing them. >:D Ako: *gasp!* Pervert!! OoO 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 down on the sand par a panoorin ung tubig tsaka ung buwan. Sabi ni Venice, may pagka-romantic raw ung setting, kaya lubuslubusin namin. Maybe she's right. I mean, it's not everyday na nakakaupo kami on the sand, watching t he sea, with no sound or noise except the waves. The night sky is dotted with stars, and the moon is shin ing bright. 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 to make you promise anything. I know things happen, you know? Pero... when that time comes... Kahit anong mangyari, I really, really hope we can 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 lahat. 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 dalh in, 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 nyo? 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 on? Ako: Anoh ho ba pinagkaiba? o_O 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 oras. Ako: Ahh.... Uh.. Pano ho ginagamit yan? o_O 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. ;) OoO Ako: P-Pinapasok?!?! H-Hindi po ba masakit un!?? Safe po ba un?! O.O 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 thing? 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 . ;D Parang walang kapatid na babae~ Sa bagay, I doubt na inuutusan syang mamili ng mga personal ga mit ni Jean. :P Masyadong sheltered ang buhay. Pano na lang pala kung sa susunod, bra at panty naman ang ipabili ko sa kanya? Baka himatayin na sya! ;D 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? ;D Ako: I love you too. :D 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... :D Too bad. I'm enjoying this way too much to feel sorry for him. :P ---

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. :D As usual, naka-undercover g et-up 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. :D

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. :P Kumakain kami ng pandesal fresh from the small bakery na nadaanan namin habang n aglalakad. Ahyan na ang breakfast namen. :P 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. o.o 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! O.O Ako: Sunshine! We can't do that! Jerwin: Why not? It'll be fun! :D 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? o_O 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 nagbabantay nung maliit na rentahan. Haayyy... Syempre, hindi ko nanaman sya mapipigilan. Ku ng gusto nya magbike, okie fine~ Baka biglang maglupasay pag pinigilan ko. :P

Lumapit ulit ako sa kanya nung nakita kong may binibigay nang bike si manong. U ng bike na may passenger seat sa likod. Ibig sabihin, sakay ako. :D 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 :D 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 e? 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 Roll?! 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. :P I saw him c lose his eyes. Para siguro ipahinga kahit sandali ung mga mata nya. Inggit ako, sinarado ko rin ung mga mata ko. Five minutes lang.. Then I'll take a shower and crawl in my bed. Five minutes... . . . . . . . . . DING! DONG! +___+ DING!! DONG!! Ugh.. 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. DING! DONG! 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... DING! DONG! Jerwin: Yeah yeah. We're coming. ~_~ He mumbled something under his breath as unlocks the door. Considering na nabuks an nung tao sa labas ung gate at pumasok na hanggang sa pinto, sure kami ni Jerwin na kakilala namin ang nambubulabog. Kung magnanakaw un, hindi naman siguro sya mag-ddoorbell noh? :P K ung sinuman sya, good luck na lang. Jerwin doesn't look very happy na nagising sya. heehee DING! DONG! 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 ko. 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! O.O 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 h otel kanina. Ako: My mom? o_O 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. :P 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 nya. That left me and her mom alone in the living room. Parang kinabahan yata akong b igla. 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 fiancé. 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 ako, n a i-ssacrifice ko ang lahat para lang sa taong un? Ang sabi nyo pa, pag nakita ko na ung ganong re lasyon, wag kong papakawalan. 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? o_O Natawa ako sa confused expression ni Tita Mel. Ayaw pa kasi muna akong patapusin eh. :D 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 gusto n yang 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. O_O 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 to. 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. :D 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 y ang 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~ :D 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? :D Venice: MOOOMMM! Jerwin: I definitely did. :P Tita Mel: Ikaw, Venice? :D

She crossed her arms over her chest. Namumula ung mukha nya either from embarra ssment or dahil naiinis na sya. :D Venice: No comment. -__Ako: I.m sure she liked it too. ;D Venice: Sunshine, gusto mo ba talagang mamatay nang maaga? ~_~ Tita Mel: Pano mo naman nalaman na nagustuhan nya rin? :D 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. :D 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 upstairs 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 feel 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: Emotions

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . Argh! What is wrong with your hair?! I sighed for the hundredth time since sinubukan ni Sheena na pa- bonggahin ang buho k 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. :P 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, na mbubulabog na sina Kenny at Anthony sa bahay namin. Pati si Jerwin, nawindang. :D After nila akong i-harass na magmadali maligo at magbihis, kinaladkad na nila ako palabas not without isang matinding y akap muna sa nagmumuni-muni na Jerwin Santos mula kay Kenny. ;D Pumunta kaming lahat sa bahay ni Sheena para dun magpaganda. Okay, ako, si Sheen a, at si Kenny, magpapaganda. Si Anthony, sabit lang. :P Kenny: Ganito lang yan oh.. Itali sa side.. Kumuha ng konting kaguluhan sa kabil ang side.. and tada! Dyosa! :D 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. :P 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!!! :D

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 b illboard 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 beach. Sheena: Waaahh best friend, nilabas na nila ang advertisement! Ang ganda mo! :D Anthony: Parang natural na model ah! :D Ako: Syempre. ;D Kenny: Ilang oras Phinotoshop yan. :D 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 par ang 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 ;D ---

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 ~ :D Aattend rin daw sana si Jean at si Tito Ray, kaya lang busy sa school at sa work . Oh di vah, family affair if ever! :D 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? o.O 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. :P

Ako: Kailan sya dumating? :D 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! :D 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 upua n mo. I'll see you after the ceremony. 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~ :D Ako: I know. :D 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~ :D 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, nakahabol 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, natat awa 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! :D 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 ko? 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~ :D 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 fiancée 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 na nag-model ng mamahaling brand ng swimsuit ang fiancée 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 reality. 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. Naka kainis. Nung nakarating na kami sa bahay, Venice immediately went upstairs to take a sho wer. I went to the living room and grabbed my phone. I don't know how to fix the problem, but I kno w I have to do something. I called the manager's phone and told him what I wanted him to do. Th ere was a long, pondering silence after 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 ma tulog, 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?! Haayyyy... 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 m... 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: Promise

(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 pupunt ahan. 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 lumala kad 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 to kn ow. 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... Haayyy... 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. :P Kasalanan ko ba ng matagal ang process ng pagligo, pagbihis, pagpapaganda, pagkain at pag-space out ko? :D 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 ver y familiar na gravestone habang naghihintay sa labas ng very familiar na sementeryo ang mga ma tatandang kasama ko. Ako: G Last time ko na yata makakadaan dito Unless, of course, bumalik ako after t en years. Anyway, I.ll make sure na makakadaan ako sa totoong libingan mo sa States. Maybe I.ll even 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 déjà 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. :P 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. :D I.m sure, kung buhay lang si G, magkakasundo sila ni Jerwin. Kahit na madalas magtatalo sila dahil pareho silang matigas ang ulo, I.m sure they.ll be fast friends. 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! :D 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. Jerwin? 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? o_O But What about Venice.s flight? Ako: Venice.s flight? o_O 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 when sh e stumbled upon me. :P Ako: Venice had nothing to do with the decision to get engaged or any other decis ion that came afterward. 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. Damn. 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 truth. And the truth is, d uring the short time that the Venice and I spent together, I can sincerely tell all of you that I had come to love that woman, and that she had come to love me as well. It.s not a lie. We were not pretending. Wh at we had was real, and I really hope all of you would understand and finally let go of the doubts somed ay. 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 being murdered after the interview. She bit her lip, and then reluctantly, she gave me a nod of encouragement. 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 thought. Kuya Boy: Pagkatapos ng lahat ng sinabi mo, bakit ngayon pa kayo naghiwalay? Ako: The rumors, the harsh criticisms, the assumptions Venice does not deserve an y 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 ngayon? 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 already confirms the truth: she.s gone. I trudged upstairs, but instead of going to my room, I walked inside hers or at 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 nakakalat 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 er). "Sunshine, 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- d ate ? 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 Charmin g , 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, Je an, 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 nangyayari. 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. :P I stood by the front door and watched the car disappear, hanggang sa sumarado na ulit ung gate. I walked back to the room na ginawa kong personal working space ko. It.s where I w rite songs for other artists, where I review tracks and albums I might feel like producing, where I c heck on talents with potential, and where I finalize the financial and material donations na pupunta sa mga maliliit na baryo na kailangan ng konting tulong sa araw-araw nilang buhay. Yep, nagpapaka-philanthro pist ako. One of my earliest projects was the small town na pinagkawalaan 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 shoul d be. ---

---..--(Venice's POV) ---------------- . What?!? He wouldn.t go out with that walking stick! Nasa kinder pa yata yan nung nag-hhigh school na kami! 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 agal. 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 long 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 mat ulog. I went down the stairs, and then stepped out of the building. Malapit na mag-autumn, so medyo malamig 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 nags asabing 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? :P Only one way to find out. bwahahahaha :D 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 out of the sidewalk nang napansin kong may nakatayo sa kabilang side nung street. Normally, I wouldn't mind, 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: Destiny Fulfilled

(Venice's POV) ---------------- . Kelan ka pa dumating? Sinong kasama mo? How did you know where I was? Nasan mga g amit 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! :D 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! :D Ganun pa rin itsura nya. It.s been three years, pero pa rang 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 ing! :D Jerwin: Slow down. Isa-isa lang ang tanong. :) Ako: Okay. Start from the beginning. :D 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 naglal akad. Tinigil ako nung taxi sa may kanto. I.ve been following you for five minutes, naghahanap ng tatawiran, nung nakita mo ko. 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. :D Jerwin: True. :P Ay. Ang bilis um-agree. I likes! :D 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 Magpapakamartyr, 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 nagpap aramdam... Ang gwapo mo! ;D 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 late :) Ako: Di ka ba pagod? Jerwin: Well, a little (smiles) But I figured I don.t really have to go back to m y motel room tonight Maybe just a quick nap? Ako: Makikitulog ka? o.O 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 Sunshin e . ---

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 p inilit nya kong

umakyat sa Willis Tower at pumasok dun sa glass thingy overlooking the city. Mat amaan sana ng kidlat ang kung sinuman nakaisip gawing tourist attraction ang pagkataas-taas na buildi ng na un. Hindi pa natuwa, talagang nilagyan pa ng glass encase sa pinakataas na floor, sticking ou t of the building, na pag nag-step ka sa loob, makikita mo talaga ang TAAS ng tower under your feet. Kung anong tuwa ni Jerwin, ganon naman ang lakas ng temptation kong umiyak at suntukin ung ngiti sa mukha n ya. ~__~ Bumalik kami sa ground floor, at halos halikan ko na ang semento sa sobrang tuwa. T^T We then went 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. :D Halos ayaw nya na nga kami paalisin. Kung wala siguro akong trabaho kinabukasan, baka kinulong nya na kami sa bahay nila. 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 umaali gid-aligid. :D When I got out, I drove to Jerwin.s motel to pick him up for an early dinner. He just woke up nung dumating ako -- jet lag raw. Kawawa naman. :P 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. Overprotecti ve 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 ago? Jerwin: Excuse me, hindi kita binahay . That just sounds wrong. -__- We were engaged , and you needed a place-Ako: Yeah, yeah. Same thing. :P I didn.t miss the fact na were ang ginamit nya. "We were engaged" raw. Haaayyy.. P ero 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 m e now! 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... b ut, you know what I mean. Ako: Ahsusssss If I know, every night, pinapangarap mong nasa kama mo ko noh. Wag kang magalala, may mga gabi na pinapangarap rin kita. :D 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. :D 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 license. :D Nagliliwaliw kami paminsanminsan tuwing gabi. Nood ng sine or kain sa labas or mag-bar or kahit anong magpa g-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. :D 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 kanya. Ako: San tayo pupunta at kailangan naka-dress up ako? o_O 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 maland i rin ung damit. Jerwin: Wear a coat and a scarf if you want. It.s gonna be warm sa pupuntahan nat in 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 macconfuse ba ko sa actions ng mokong, o mapipikon dahil tinapon nya ko sa banyo. At naloloko ba sya? Ilang linggo na syang nandito, feeling nya enough na ang fifteen minutes para ma kaligo?!? 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 himself. 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 likes. :D 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? ---

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. :P Instead, he drove to Clearwater, a live stage theate r 20 minutes away from my apartment. 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? o_O 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. :P 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 nakatutok s a 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 somew here 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 champagne, 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! :D Are we going to try the boyfriend-gi rlfriend 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? :P 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 lumabas? o.O 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. @[email protected] 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 kong magkakalapit sila.... magkakatabi... nasa gitna ng "sky"... at may letter "R" na na-shape ung isang gr oup.. o_O 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 were, I love th e woman you.ve become, and I.m certain I will love the woman you will be in the years to come.

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 this? 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, but I was able to find it. I've had it even before you left. I figured, if I was gonna be engaged to you, then 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" again.

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 th at, noh?

Notes: [1] = Chapter 61 [2] = Chapter 6 [3] = Chapter 27

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! :D 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 ng mg a 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 betwee n 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 Jerw in. I knew dapat kinidnap ko na lang si Jerwin at nag-Vegas na lang kami! Wala nang hassle, Elvis-look-alike pa ang magkakasal sa.min! Haayyy. Pero syempre, hindi pumayag si kuya. I deserve a memorable wedding daw. Ch uchu nya. Ayaw nya lang masakal ng nanay nya. :P 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 ya. :P 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. :P) 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. :D

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? O_O 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 nu ng naglalakad ako sa aisle, malamang wala pa ko sa kalahati, bumigay na ang tuhod ko. :P 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 life w ith the love of your life.

I know it.s not normal, pero I quickly tuned in to the small voice na kumakausa p sa.kin. I think I.m about to hyperventilate, at kung hindi tumigil ang puso ko sa pag-mamarathon nya, I.m gon na need a paper bag to breathe. You love Jerwin. You re ready. You can do this. Just walk inside, and when you see 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 i nvitation out of courtesy since medyo naging close rin naman kami ng mom nya simula two years ago na binisita ko ung actual na libingan ni G. They liked me and treated me like the daughter they wou ld have had, 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 inside . 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 hara p nung simbahan, where Jerwin was standing, waiting patiently, with an awestruck smile on his fac e. 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 ang tu hod 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. o_O It wasn.t hard na mapapasubsob ako, pero it was enough to make me really take a step. 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. Weird. 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.

Epilogue: 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 hopeless. 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 stomach. 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 ran his hand over my tummy. There.s a soft glow of wonder sa mata ny a. It never fails to amaze me na parang hindi sya makapaniwala na there.s this little person inside n a he helped create. :P

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 ons. 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 wond er 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 contracti on hit me again. 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 spital?

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 s. 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 Tw o 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 face. 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. :P 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... wonderful. 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. :D 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. :P Buti nga hindi Policarpio ang sinunod k ong i-suggest eh. :D

Natahimik kami. Venice finally settled back on her pillows to make herself comf ortable. 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 people in b oth 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? :D Venice: Psh. Kilabutan ka nga. I smiled at her. Tama na nga ang pang-aasar, baka nga hindi na ko bigyan ng anak nito. :P 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 chil d. 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-awkwa rd sabihin un sa harap ng asawa ko? =__= Ako: I.m not jealous. :P Besides, that just helps my point. He.s one of the main people 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. :D 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. :D 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 o. 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

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