Island of Fire – Kabanata 15

April 5, 2017 By In Island of Fire Comments Off on Island of Fire – Kabanata 15

Kabanata 15
Please

“Sabihin mo sa akin, Zari, how are you two? What’s the score between you two?”

Nagpupuyos ang damdamin ko habang pinapakinggan ang tumatakas na interes sa boses ni Mommy. I am so tired of this. I am not going to do what she wants me to do. Not because I want to be rebellious, but because I know it isn’t right.

Hindi ko malunok ang katotohanang akala niya’y tunay na nakikipaglapit ako kay Radleigh dahil gusto ko ito.

“May naidulot ding maganda ang ginawa ko sa accounts mo.”

Mommy smiled. Maybe she thinks I’m as excited as her.

Pagkatapos noong iskandalo sa school ay nagkausap nang mabuti ang mga magulang namin ni Radleigh. Although Radleigh disliked the thought that his parents are “meddling” with what he’s doing, hindi parin niya napigilan ang mga magulang niya.

Alam kong nag-iba ng kaonti ang tingin ni Relani Riego sa akin. Kung noon may tila ayos lang sa kanyang kinukunsinti ako, ngayon ay parang pinapahiwatig niya na gusto niyang mag-ingat ako sa ginagawa. But all in all, she’s good to me. I like her, actually!

She even asked me what I want as a gift for my seventeenth birthday. Wala akong hiningi pero binigyan niya ako ng isang high end laptop na may software na gusto ko! Nakakahiya pero mas nakakahiya kung tatanggihan ko.

That summer, I went abroad. Isang buwan akong nag-abroad kasama si Ethan at ang iba pa naming mga pinsan. Mommy and Daddy was with me the first week but the remaining weeks, bumalik na sila para sa negosyo at naiwan ako kasama ang mga pinsan ko.

“Tell me, is he courting you?” Mommy asked, finally.

Kanina pa niya ‘yan gustong itanong! Nararamdaman ko iyon.

“Hindi po.”

Napawi ang kanyang ngiti. Like I just broke her heart! It disgusts me thinking that she really thinks it’s about the company.

“Look, Mommy. We’re just friends. If anything, he treats me as his sister. He’s not my type and I am not his. He probably has a girlfriend now for all I know and I don’t care at all. He doesn’t care if I got suitors and boyfriends. We just hang out and-“
“He buys you things, Zari…” ani Mommy na tila ba sapat na katibayan na iyon.
“Oh my God! That just doesn’t equate to love!” iritado kong sinabi. “He buys me what I want because of pity!”
“You are not poor, Zari! If it’s all pity, he wouldn’t buy you things like that!”

Nagtiim-bagang ako. Hindi ako nakapagsalita sa sobra-sobrang pagkamangha.

Bakit nga ba ako nagugulat gayong buong buhay ko nakahiga kami sa pera. I should know by now that people stick because of money. I stick to Radleigh because of money. And Mommy thinks love means giving people money!

Hindi ko alam.

Isa lang ang alam ko… I don’t stick to him because of his money. Maybe I stick to him because of the freedom he gives to me. While my parents won’t allow me to go out, he can make them say “yes”. Iyon lang. Dahil kung pera man, sa isang taon kong halos walang nabiling kapritso galing sa aking pera, natuto na ako na kaya ko palang mabuhay ng walang binibili.

I know it’s funny but yes, I have finally come to realize that it’s okay to not have money for caprices. I lived without it. Only showered by Radleigh once every two months. Minsan pa, hindi talaga ako namimili dahil napagtanto kong wala naman akong kailangang bilhin.

“Mommy, love doesn’t equate love! Hindi ibig sabihin na dahil binibilhan niya ako, gusto niya na ako!”

Huminga ng malalim si Mommy, tila pinapakita sa akin na alam niya ang sinasabi ko.

“Then what does he want from you?”

Natameme ako roon. Hindi ko alam pero I just tried to make sense through thinking that maybe he finds me pitiful. Or that maybe he treats me as his little sister… or friend. Kahit ano. Not a possible significant other, of course!

“Zari, I’ve told Relani about my plan.”

Nalaglag ang panga ko sa sinabi ni Mommy. Nanlamig ang tiyan ko at naramdaman kong lumukob sa aking kalooblooban ang hiya. Nilingon ko si Daddy na tahimik na nakaupo sa swivel chair ng study. Nakahilig si Mommy sa office table at ako’y nakaupo naman sa sofa sa harap nila.

“She finds it, actually, fine! Syempre, dahil isang malaking asset ang Vista Grande sa kanila. Although the Riego fifth is already established, they are planning to branch out. I don’t know who’s idea it is but it will be under VHRV, too. And to strengthen that, she will need investors. If we invest to their new industry and to the VHRV, it will strong! Hindi lang tayo makikinabang, pati sila!”

For me, Mommy is just blabbering. Hindi ko na maproseso ng maayos ang mga sinabi niya. Everything just doesn’t make sense to me!

“I told her that we can make you two marry each other. I don’t think Radleigh will say no. He’s of age!”
“What?”

Padabog akong napatayo sa gulat at galit! Nakakahiya! Nakakahiya na ganyan ang iniisip ni Mommy! I am sure that the Riegos are not that kind of people! I can only imagine the way she convinced Relani Riego to do that!

“Zari, h’wag mong sigawan ang Mommy mo!” si Daddy.
“Dad, you approve of this? My God!” sinapo ko ang noo ko.
“Zari, she’s asked Radleigh’s opinion. He did not say no. Iyon lang ang hinintay ni Relani. She thinks he likes the idea too. It’s unusual for him to keep mum about something he doesn’t like so she thinks he likes the idea too!”

Parang nilukot ang puso ko. Masakit pero may kakaiba pa akong naramdaman. Like running in a hundred-meter dash, it beated wildly!

Hindi ko alam kung bakit kahit na galit ako’y parang may inaabangan pa akong pasko!

“He’s a man of honor. If he disliked it, he could’ve said no…” dagdag pa ni Daddy.
“And what about me? Saan ilalagay ang opinyon ko rito, Mommy, Daddy?”

Nahahapo ko silang tiningnan. They both looked at me like I have something important to say. And yes, they are right! I have so many things to say!

“Ayaw ko! Okay? Naiintindihan n’yo po ba? Ayaw ko!”

Uhm… ayaw ko ba? Damn it!

It’s not bad but… something about its meaning.

“You’re prostituting me for the benefit of our company! You want me to enter a pragmatic marriage just to save our asses!”
“Zariyah!” parang kulog ang boses ni Daddy.

I know that I’m being rude to my parents but I just can’t believe that they are making me do this! Lalo na tuwing naiisip kong pumayag si Radleigh! I don’t think he knows what my parents are up to!

“That’s marriage, Mommy! And just turned seventeen, for God’s sake! I’m still a minor!”

Sa ibang pagkakataon, masusumbat kong hindi na ako bata pero sa pagkakataong ito, kailangan kong gawing panlaban iyon!

“Goodness! Is that even a problem? We’ll announce your engagement early next year and make your wedding days after your eighteenth birthday. Ayos na?”

This is ridiculous!

This will never be okay!

“He’s not my type, Mommy! Please, don’t make me do this! I am not yet ready to become a wife! I am not ready for him! Let alone, live with him!”
“Zari, you will become one, anyway. In the future… the future just came early, that’s all,’ tunog pampalubag loob iyon.
“I don’t know him much, Mommy! Paano kung hindi pala kami compatible! My God!”

Kung anu-ano na lang ang naisip kong alibi. Kung bakit pa kasi iyon pumayag! I can’t believe him! I know he’s old and he can already marry but why did he have to agree with this? Na ako ang papakasalan niya?

“We told you about it now so you two can work it out the rest of the year!”

This is not happening, right?

“How can we work it out when we only see each other every two months? Minsan three months pa!? He’s busy with whatever he’s doing and…”

Now I realized that it’s a wrong reason! I should disagree with this with conviction! No alibis! Just plain NO!

“Ayaw ko…” umiling ako, ngayon seryoso.

Nagtaas ng kilay si Mommy. Maybe she caught the flaw of my alibis because of the last one.

“Hindi po ako makakapayag!”
“Imbes na aksayahin mo ang oras mo sa ibang lalaki, which I am sure you’re doing till now, ibuhos mo na lang ang oras mo kay Radleigh. He’s a fine man. I don’t know what you’re still looking for.”
“He’s not my type! He’s a nerd!”
“What is your type, then, anak? A badboy who doesn’t think of the future?”
“Why do you worry so much about the future? I want what’s in the present, My. Kaya ayaw ko ng ganito, e! I want fun! Not this! This is no fun! Marriage like is ridiculous! I am still so young to think about marriage!”

Humalukipkip si Mommy. She looks pissed with my opinion.

“Well, it’s the time to think about your future, Zariyah. You’re almost in college, you’re not yet even sure about your course! Kaya normal lang na mag-alala ako sa kinabukasan mo!”

The conversation went on and on. I’ve lost hope in convincing her to stop her plans. Siguro naman ay may magagawa pa ako, hindi ba?

Bakit ba kasi hindi umayaw si Radleigh? Ano ba ang iniisip niya? Maybe he thinks that I want this, kaya hindi siya makasagot ng maayos sa kanyang ina. O baka naman naaawa siya sa akin. Baka ayaw niyang tanggihan ako dahil kahit paano naging magkaibigan naman kami.

I don’t think he romantically likes me. Well, he buys me stuff but that doesn’t mean he likes me. Hindi rin kami laging nagkikita at malay ko kung may mga babae siya habang ‘di kami nagkikita. I don’t really care, too.

“Zari, once you two are married, I’m giving you back your trust funds, allowances, and all. You’ll get back everything! Okay?”

Sinabi iyon ni Mommy na para bang iyon ang huling alas niya.

Umiling ako. Hindi na ako madadaan sa ganyan ngayon! I’m fine with my five hundred a day!

“No! I cannot believe you let this happen, Dad!” sabay baling ko kay Daddy na ngayon ay pumikit ng mariin.

Mommy looked offended. Hindi ko na kayang makinig pa kaya lumabas na ako ng study at dumiretso na sa kwarto upang magmukmok.

Tears fell down on my cheeks when I realized how my parents only thought about the business. Sabihin na nating para sa future ko ‘yong sinasabi ni Mommy tulad ng gusto niyang paniwalaan ko, pero may ganoon ba talaga? Can’t I build my own future alone? Do I need a man to build my name and get a hold of our company? Damn it!

I wish I grow up fast! I wish to finish my studies and learn about the business.

Pero paano iyon kung talagang ipapakasal ako ni Mommy kay Radleigh?

Why the hell did he let this happen, anyway? Don’t tell me he likes me in a romantic way? And all those gifts are… what? Hindi ko yata kayang isipin iyon.

I took my phone out and started a text message for him.

Ako:
Nag-usap kami ni Mommy at Daddy kanina. She told me that we’re going to be engaged early next year. I said no. Bakit ‘di ka umayaw?

He didn’t reply. Instead, isang tawag ang natanggap ko galing sa kanya.

Mabilisan kong pinalis ang mga luha ko na para bang makikita niya kahit hindi naman dahil tawag lang iyon.

“Hello.” I said coldly.
“Hello…” he sighed heavily.

Hindi ko alam kung nasaan siya ngayon o kung ano man ang ginagawa niya. Paano kami magpapakasal kung halos wala talaga akong alam sa kanya?

“Bakit ‘di ka umayaw doon sa alok ni Mommy?”

Hindi siya nagsalita. His breathing is the only thing I heard.

“Alam mo ang tinutukoy ko, ‘di ba? I’m sure tinanong ka ng Mommy mo roon. Ba’t ‘di ka umayaw?!”
“If you don’t want it, you can say no.”

Napabangon ako sa kama ko. Oh? Bakit ako?

“Ba’t hindi ikaw, kung ganoon? Dapat umayaw ka roon para hindi na umabot pa sa ganito. Now my Mom and your Mom thinks you like it! We barely know each other and I’m not yet done with school! Ikaw din, nagsisimula ka pa!”
He sighed again.

May mga naririnig akong mga tao sa likod na nag-uusap. I even heard a females voice. Girlfriend niya? Paniguradong napipilitan lang siya!

“Mommy thinks the joining of our companies is for the betterment of each. Hahayaan mo bang maging ganyan ang dahilan ng pagpapakasal mo? Don’t you wanna marry someone because you love her? Wala ka bang karelasyon ngayon o kahit gusto man lang na ibang babae para manghinayang ka sa gustong mangyari ng parents natin?”
“I’m sorry, Zari. I didn’t think about that. I’ll talk to my Mom tonight and tell her that I’m not for it. Okay?”

Aba! Ang bilis naman yata?

“T-Teka lang!” Tumikhim ako at medyo naibsan ang kaba. “Bakit? May girlfriend ka ba?”
“What? No… I don’t have one,” naririnig ko ang pagdadalawang isip niya sa sagot.
“Why do you sound hesitant?”
“Zari…”

Nangilid muli ang luha ko sa hindi malamang dahilan.

“You’re right. I’m sorry, I didn’t think about your feelings. I find no harm in doing what our parents want. I am so insensitive and reckless-”
“Oh! Bakit nga?”

Hindi ko na maintindihan ang tanong ko. Hindi ko alam kung para saan iyon basta ngayon ay humihikbi na ako.

Hindi siya nagsalita. Humikbi ako, ngayon mas nadepina na.

“I’m really sorry, Zari. I’ll go to your house right now-”
“No!” halos pasigaw iyon dahil hindi ako handang makita niya akong umiiyak ng ganito.

Lalo na dahil hindi ko alam kung bakit ganito ang nararamdaman ko.

“Bakit nga ‘di ka umayaw? Sagutin mo ang tanong ko!” I desperately asked.

Natatakot ako. Natatakot akong sabihin niyang dahil lamang iyon sa negosyo. O dahil hindi niya mahindian ang parents ko… or ang parents niya! O baka naaawa siya sa akin kung sakaling tanggihan niya iyon!

“I’m not ready, Radleigh! Being married means…” iginala ko ang mga mata ko sa aking kwarto. “Leaving my home! Unless of course if you want to stay in our mansion? Which I am sure you don’t! Ibig sabihin sa inyo ako titira? And will there be housemaids, too? God!”

Tumikhim siya sa kabilang linya.

“I moved out our months ago, Zari.”
“Oh! Then where are you living?” nagpapanic kong tanong.
“In an apartment somewhere in Taguig.”
“Apartment!”

Hindi ko na maimagine ang magiging buhay ko!

“Why does change have to be so sudden? My God!” sinapo ko ang noo ko.
“We can say no. I’m sorry. I did not think about you when I was asked, Zari.”

Ngumuso ako at pinalis muli ang panibagong luha.

I’m sure, wala siyang kasambahay. Ibig sabihin kaming dalawa ang magluluto at maglilinis. I wonder if my closet would fit his apartment? Should I ask him how big his closet is?

Teka lang… ba’t ko ba ito iniisip na kung ayaw ko pala! Then ask him to stop the marriage, Zari. You know his opinion is worth everything to his parents. Ang kanyang opinyon ang magpipigil nitong lahat ng ito!

“What about your girlfriend, then?” my voice sounded so pitiful.
“I don’t have a girlfriend.”
“O ‘yong nililigawan mo pala!” pagtatama ko.

Hindi na siya nagsalita. His breathing told me that he’s kind of amused but he doesn’t want to speak!

“Radleigh!” sigaw ko para mapagsalita siya.
“I’m leaving my office now. Didiretso ako sa bahay namin para kausapin si Mama. Don’t worry. You should get some sleep? Did this keep you awake?”

Parang gusto ko na lang mas lalong umiyak. I feel like a mess. I am a mess!

I can only imagine us in the married life! Paano kung mabuntis ako? My God! What about my dreams? Not that I am exactly serious with school but damn it!

“Rad, Magco-college pa ako!” I whined. “What about my dreams? I’ve finally realized that I want to be an architect! Ngayon pa ako magkakaganito?”
“I won’t stop you from going to school,” he simply said.

Kinagat ko ang labi ko. Hindi na nakapagsalita.

He sighed again.

“Zari, please don’t worry about this. Okay? Stop worrying and let me handle this. Just go to sleep. You need to rest,” he sounds like he’s ready to dismiss me.
“Rad,” tawag kong muli para hindi niya ako babaan.
“Zari,” pormal ang kanyang tono.
“What if we don’t work out if we get married? What if you’ll find someone you like?”
“If we get married, I’ll make it work.”
“You’ll make it work? It should be “we”, right?”

Hindi siya sumagot. Pakiramdam ko ay hindi niya na rin alam kung anong gagawin niya tulad ng pagkakawalang alam ko sa dapat kong gawin.

“Yeah. We… should.”

Ilang saglit pang naging tahimik ang linya sa aming dalawa. I’m waiting for him to talk but he didn’t. I think he’s also waiting for me to talk.

“Where are you?”

Damn! I don’t even know his whereabouts! I barely know him! I don’t know his activities! Alam ko lang ay nag-aaral siya ng kung anong Post Graduate or etc at lagi siyang nagbabasa. Iyon lang!

“In my car…”

I can imagine his black Honda parked somewhere in a basement parking. Kung nasaan man ang opisina ng VHRV, Inc. Isa pa ‘yan! Ni hindi ko alam kung saan iyan!

“Who are you with?”
“Hmm. I’m alone, baby. I want to drive home but I’m waiting for you to hang up.”
“You want me to hang up!?” medyo iritado kong sinabi.
“Of course, not. I… actually miss your voice.”

Napayuko ako. Ang noo’y nasa kutson na ng kama at mukha na akong baliw!

“Then why don’t you visit me?!” tanong ko.
“I’m so busy with work and school. I don’t want to distract you too much, too. Seeing your grades last year…” He chuckled.
“Liar! You’re busy with something else! Because if you really honestly miss me, you’d do everything to see me!” may hinagpis sa boses ko.

Hindi siya nagsalita. Mas lalong nanikip ang dibdib ko.

Bakit niya pa ako papakasalan? Bakit pa? Kung hindi niya naman ako gusto!? I know it’s ironic… sa akin pa talaga galing ang panunumbat tungkol sa pag-ibig na simula’t sapul, hindi naman iyon mahalaga sa akin.

“I’m sorry,” he said in a broken voice.

Mas lalo lang akong naiyak. See? I know he doesn’t like me. Paano niya naatim na hindi magsalita tungkol sa aming dalawa?

For a long time, we did not say a word. Nagreklamo na lang ang cellphone kong lowbat. Bumangon ako at pagod na humilata. Nakatingin na ako ngayon sa kisame.

“I know you’re tired. You should go home,” sa wakas ay nasabi ko.

Hindi parin siya nagsalita. His only reply is a heavy sigh.

“Sa Taguig ang apartment mo, hindi ba?”
“Uh-hmm,” he said lazily. “But I’m going to my parents’-”
“H’wag na!” agap ko.

Natahimik ulit siya.

“Just go to your apartment and rest. I’ll figure this out tomorrow. Hindi naging maayos ang pag-uusap namin ni Mommy kaya kailangan ko pa siyang kausapin ulit.”
“Okay…”

I hate that he sounded so tired. Alam kong dahil iyon sa trabaho pero naiinis ako. Pakiramdam ko ay pagod siya sa akin.

Nakakapagod ako.

Ganoon naman lagi.

“Nag-away ba kayo ni Tita Lana?” he asked, suddenly.

Nawaglit agad sa isip ko iyong naisip ko kanina.

“As usual…”
“Don’t be so rude to your Mom, please.”
Ngumuso ako. “Okay.”
“You’re in bed right now?”
“Uhm… Yes.”
“Good. Anong oras ka matatapos bukas?”

Alam kong kapag nagtatanong siya’y ibig sabihin susunduin niya ako. This time, I don’t want to be picked up. Banned siya sa school kaya sa labas niya na lang ako sinusundo. I want to go to his work and see what he does now! Dahil wala talaga akong alam sa kanya. If I’m bound to marry him, I should know more about him, right?

“Don’t pick me up anymore. I know you’re busy.”
“Zari, we need to-”
“Please, Radleigh. You may pick me up the next day. Okay?”

Halos hindi ako makatulog sa kakaisip sa magiging sitwasyon ko sa isang maliit na apartment. Mas lalo kong naisip ang mga bagay na hindi ko kayang iwan o hindi ko kayang wala.

“Calla, what will happen to me? Baka ma losyang ako, first year college pa lang! I can imagine the images of our batchmates who got pregnant in the middle of the school year.”
“Don’t worry, you won’t be without a husband if it happens to you…” she said casually like it happens everyday.
“And who will cook every morning? He can cook but of course I can’t let him cook always, right? E ‘di kailangan kong matutong magluto? And what about my things? Will it fit his closet? Or his room? And do we share the same bed? Why am I asking that! Of course we will! We’ll get married!”

Ang dating walang ekspresyong mukha ni Calla ay ngayon nasilayan na ng tipid na ngiti. Umismid ako at umirap sa kanya.

“You said you don’t want the married life? Why do you keep on thinking about the details?”
My jaw dropped.
“It seems to me, Zari, that you’re excited.”
“What? Are you kidding me?” Naghihisterya kong sinabi.

Nagmartsa ako sa harap niya dahilan ng tuluyan niyang pagkakatigil sa paglalakad. She smiled again.

“I mean… if you really want to stop the marriage, I can picture you thinking of some crazy ways like hiring someone to act as the love of your life. My brother, perhaps… But you don’t even think about getting rid of your problem.”
“Are you suggesting that I should give Caleb a chance?” nanliit ang mga mata ko.
Tumawa siya. “I know you won’t do that.”
“Right! You know, so why would you say that?”
“Dahil iba ka na ngayon mag-isip… o ‘di kaya’y dahil sa puso mo, gusto mo ring pakasal kay Radleigh Riego?”

Tinakpan ko agad ang bibig niya. Para siyang naiipit na pusa sa ginawa ko. Luminga linga ako. Hinawakan niya ang kamay ko at nagsimula na siyang matawa.

Namataan kong nagmamasid si Luigi sa amin sa malayo. He gave me dagger looks kaya hinila ko palayo roon si Calla.

“Shut up, Calla! Baka may makarinig!” bulong ko at tinanggal ko na ang kamay ko sa kanyang bibig.
“Fine, Zari. So you’re going to his office now?”
Tumango ako.

Noong sinabi ko sa driver ang gusto kong mangyari, itinawag niya kay Mommy at wala nang tanong na pumayag si Mommy sa gusto ko. See? How my Mom is so desperate to get the VHRV is ridiculous!

“I wanna see his workplace. God, I don’t even know what he studies about! I don’t know his friends! I’ve never seen one of his friends. Does he even have friends? Well, kung nerd baka wala.”
“Why do you keep on insisting that he’s a nerd? Not everyone who wears glasses is a nerd. It might be for radiation or something? And also, he looks… hot with his glasses on.”
Nilingon ko si Calla. “Do you… like him?”
Umiling iling agad siya na natatawa. “Well, I find him obscenely handsome.”
“Obscenely handsome? What kind of description is that, Calla!” halos nasigawan ko siya.

Ngumisi lang siya at umiling iling ulit. Alam kong kahit na nagagalit o naiirita na ako ay hindi siya natatakot sa akin. Kapag nagagalit ako’y kulang na lang pagtawanan niya ako.

“You know… If I look at him, I think about some…”
“Some what!?” I exclaimed.

Ngumuso siya at nag-iwas ng tingin sa akin. Pinasadahan ko ulit siya ng tingin mula ulo hanggang paa. Well, she looks so modest. Ayaw kong isipin na ang naiisip niya kapag nakikita si Radleigh ay purong pagnanasa at mga malalaswang imahe! Pero sa reaksyon niya ngayon, mukhang ganoon nga!

“God!” I whined. “Totoo pala talaga ang sinasabi nila. Kapag tahimik, nasa loob ang kulo. You are no exception… So… You like him?”

Mas lalo siyang natawa sa tanong ko.

I feel like a freaking idiot for asking her that one the rest of the day. Tuwing tinatanong ko’y tumatawa lamang siya. At noong sinagot niya ako ng matinong sagot ay hindi ko parin matanggap.

“I only mean that he has this certain sex appeal, Zari. I know why girls like him. The socialites, I mean.”

Umirap ako at hindi parin naniwala sa sagot niya. Paano ba naman ako maniniwala kung palagi siyang tumatawa?

So that’s what I did after school… I visited the VHRV, Inc’s office, where he works. Ang alam ko, madalas parin siya sa site pero hindi na siya nag la-labor work. Of course, he should get promoted. He’s an engineer, for God’s sake!

Pinasadahan ko ng aking mga daliri ang aking buhok at hinayaan itong mahulog sa kanang balikat. Tinanggal ko ang aking Dior sunglasses at nilagay sa loob ng aking handbag. I put my properly manicured fingers in front of the receptionists’ table.

“Where is Radleigh Riego’s office?” tanong ko.

Dalawang beses pa akong tiningnan noong babaeng receptionist. Halos makita ko kung gaano siya nayabangan sa akin base sa mukha niya ngayon.

“Uh, may appointment po ba kayo kay Engineer Riego?” may stress doon sa titulo.

As if I don’t know that he’s an Engineer. Good thing about wearing mature clothes and being at least five feet and four inches tall, plus the height of my Valentino stilletos, I look legit.

“Wala. You can tell him that it’s Zariyah Leviste,” sabi ko.
“Sorry po, Ma’am. May kliyente po kasi siyang kausap ngayon kaya maghihintay ka pa po ng saglit. Lalo na’t ‘di ka nagpa appointment.”

I feel like my blood pressure increased a bit. Nagtaas ako ng kilay sa babae.

“Hindi ba pwedeng sabihin mo lang sa kanya. Interrupt him a bit?”

Hello? Does my family name ring a bell? Kailangan ba Riego ako bago ako ientertain dito?

Iginala ko ang tingin ko sa mga cubicle sa ‘di kalayuang kanan at kaliwang bahagi ng reception. Everyone seemed so busy.

“I’m sorry, po, pero mahigpit pong bilin sa amin iyon, Ma’am.”
“Okay. Well then, can you just point his office to me?”

Kumunot na ang noo noong babae. Hindi ata tumatalab sa kanya ang pagiging intimidating ko. Or are their employees that disciplined to really follow the rules?

Hindi siya nagsalita. Imbes ay may tinawagan siya bago umiling ulit sa akin.

“I’m sorry, po.”
“Fine. Tell him that his fiancee was here and I’m going back to my car right now because you treated me rudely!”

Doon ko pa lamang nakitaan ng takot ang mga mata noong babaeng receptionist. She swallowed about twenty times before standing up! Umikot siya sa tanggapan at dinaluhan ako sa kinatatayuan ko.

Taas noo kong nilingon ang kanang bahagi kung nasaan nakaturo ang kamay niya.

“Second door to the left po, Ma’am. That’s his office.”

Nilingon ko siya at tiningnan ang nameplate.

“Okay. Thanks, Miss Cassy…”

Pagkatapos ay dumiretso na papasok sa loob ng mga cubicle. Unang tapak ko pa lang ay nagsitinginan na agad ang mga tao.

Taas noo akong dumiretso. Halos matahimik ang bawat row na dinadaanan ko. At noong may nakasalubong pa’y natapunan pa ng kape ang suot dahil sa biglaang pagtabi at pagdikit sa dingding.

I did not look back. I’m too busy to even give some of my attention to them.

Nang nahanap ko ang tinutukoy noong babae ay walang pag-aalinlangan kong binuksan ang pintuan ng opisina.

The first thing I saw was him, sitting down on his swivel chair. The girl, client or whore, in a distasteful miniskirt and tube top was leaning on his table. They were inches from each other, talking like it’s not about business!

Nagtawanan sila, saktong pagkapasok ko. Napawi ang ngiti ni Radleigh nang nakita akong pumasok. The girl also looked at whoever opened the door. She did not look apologetic.

Nakahantad ang matatambok niyang hita at dibdib kay Rad habang nag-uusap sila at hindi ako makapaniwalang ganito ang dadatnan ko sa unang bisita ko sa kanyang opisina!

Kung ganoon… sa loob ng ilang buwan naming ‘di pagkikita noon, ganito kaya araw-araw? At tatawa ako kung iisipin kong wala nang nangyayari bukod pa rito!

“Oh well… Wrong time,” sabi ko at tinalikuran sila.

Nanginginig ang kamay ko sa galit pero nakaya ko iyong itago. I’ve got my pride on, of course. Kakalakad ko lang ng buong yabang sa opisina rito at hindi ako aalis ng luhaan! I will keep my game face on until I reach our car!

“Zari!” tawag ni Radleigh pero sinarado ko na ang pintuan.

I started walking back again to the cubicles of the office people. Nakasunod na si Radleigh sa akin. Hindi tumatakbo pero ramdam ko ang bilis ng lakad niya.

“Did you see him, Ma’am?” tanong ni Cassy sa reception.

Nginitian ko lang siya at dumiretso na sa pagliko patungo sa mga elevator. Sumakay agad ako sa isang bakante at pinindot ang Basement.

Nakapasok din si Radleigh bago ko pa iyon maisarado. Ang igting ng panga niya’y nagpapatunay na hindi rin siya natutuwa sa nangyari. Dapat lang no! He just made me realize that we just really won’t work at all!

“She’s a client,” wala pang tanong ay nagpaliwanag na siya.
“I can clearly see that.”

Tumunog ang elevator at dumiretso na ako sa labas. Sumunod siya at hinawakan ang braso ko.

“Baby, please…”

Nag-angat ako ng tingin para makita niya kung gaano ako ka disappointed sa kanya but all I see in his eyes was fear.

Binawi ko ang braso ko galing sa kanyang pagkakahawak. Mahina lang ang hawak niya kaya nabawi ko agad.

“I’m visiting you at work to know what you’re doing kapag ‘di tayo nagkikita tapos iyon ang madadatnan ko? What are your fucking clients? Whores?” sigaw ko.
“Zari…” banayad ang boses niya, parang pinapakalma ako. “She dresses up that way. And she talks like that. I only care about the project-”
“At paano ko naman iyon malalaman, kung ganoon? Isang beses pa nga lang akong nakakapunta roon, ganoon na agad? What about those other days? And the next days?! You expect me to believe you?”

Tinalikuran ko ulit siya pero hinawakan niya ako sa palapulsuhan at maingat na hinila.

“Please, let’s talk in my car.”
“Wala na dapat tayong pag-usapan pa!”

Kinalas niya ang unang butones sa kanyang puting longsleeves na tila ba naiirita at naiinitan na.

“You think we will work out if I can’t trust you!?”
“We certainly won’t work out if you do not care to listen at my explanations,” ang baritono niyang boses ay nagpakurap kurap sa akin.
“Your bullshits won’t be entertained!”

He groaned and let me march back to our car. Si Manong ay nag-aantay na sa labas. Pabalik balik ang lakad niya at nang nakita ako’y tumigil. Lumagpas ang tingin niya sa lalaking nasa likod ko at isang maliit na tango ay lumayo agad siya sa sasakyan.

“Manong!” sigaw ko dahil gusto ko nang umuwi pero imbes ay mas lalo lang siyang lumayo!

Hinila ko ang pintuan sa backseat ngunit hindi iyon mabuksan. Ngayon ay iritado kong nilingon si Radleigh para ibuntong sa kanya ang lahat.

“How dare you order Manong to leave!” sigaw ko.

He looked at me wearily. Hinampas ko ang dibdib niya. Sumakit lamang ang kamay ko ngunit hindi siya natinag.

“Bumalik ka na roon sa opisina mo! Kung ganyan din pala ang mga kliyente mo, mas mabuting h’wag na tayong magpakasal dahil hindi ko kayang madatnan ka ng ganyan kapag bumibisita ako! I will never be at peace! I would probably damn fail all my subjects thinking that you’re in that tight space, with some whore showing off her big booty and large breasts, like how you want it!”

Dire diretso ang mga sinabi ko na hiningal ako pagkatapos!

Nilagay niya ang kamay niya sa salamin ng aming sasakyan. Stoping me to go left. Hinampas ko ang dibdib niya. I could go right and leave him again but I didn’t. I want to bitchfit in front of him!

“You’re suggesting that I decline that client?” he asked softly.

Napakurapkurap ulit ako. Oo pero bakit ko naman iyon sasabihin? Some childish act I got there. Not that I’m not childish right now!?

“I don’t! Kaya nga bahala ka na sa buhay mo, ‘di ba? Bahala ka na roon! Puntahan mo na ‘yong kliyente mo at baka may naudlot pang mangyayari sa inyo sa opisina mo! Sayang at dumating pa ako!”
“If we get married, your opinion will be the most important thing to me. Not that it’s not important right now.”

His eyes were the darkest of darks. Tila ba ibinibigay niya na sa akin ang lahat lahat pero may nakatago parin.

His arm flexed firmly beside me when he moved closer.

Kung pwede lang akong umatras pa ay ginawa ko na. Kaso nasa malamig na bakal na ako ng aming sasakyan at wala na akong iaatras pa.

“We will never work…” umiling ako, medyo nanghihina na.

Nag-iwas ako ng tingin sa kanya. His full attention is too much to handle. All my life, I wanted the spotlight. His spotlight is the only thing that intimidates me. His full attention is the only thing that destroys my self confidence. I feel like a wreck everytime he gives me this kind of attention!

He sees through everything. While the society sees me as a powerful and confident lady, he sees me as a sad and broken little girl. Ganoon ang nararamdaman ko kaya ayaw kong tingnan siya. Ayaw kong malaman niya na tama ang tingin niya sa akin.

“I can never tolerate infidelity. I can never-”
“I will never cheat,” agap niya sabay haplos ng isang kaliwang kamay niya sa aking pisngi.
“Oh you will. Arranged marriages often make couples unhappy. This is no exception! Ngayon pa nga lang ganoon na, paano pa kaya sa hinaharap?” nanginig ang boses ko.

Inangat niya ang baba ko ngunit nanatili ang mga mata ko sa sahig. I would never look at him. Especially now that I’m baring my soul to him through my words.

“I will be happy with you,” he whispered.

Hindi ako nagsalita.

“I will make you happy with everything that I got…” mas malambing niyang sinabi.

Ramdam ko na ang hininga niya sa aking pisngi. I licked my lower lip. My throat ran dry and my lips suddenly half open. Pakiramdam ko ay tumigil ako sa paghinga at ang tanging ingay na ginagawa ko ay ang kalabog ng aking puso.

“I will promise you everything.”
“I don’t need anything. I need the assurance. I need peace of mind. I need faithfulness. I need loyalty. I need only that.” No… I need… that four letter word. But I don’t want to beg for that.

Not again.

At least not with him, right?

I would beg love from my parents. Love that should be felt through other ways aside from money.

I couldn’t beg it from anyone else.

He made me stop breathing when his lips touched mine. He kissed me lightly as tears escaped my eyes.

Hinawakan niya ang pisngi ko. His thumb wiped away the falling tears and he pulled my face closer just so he could kiss me thoroughly.

He opened my lips a bit wider with mouth. Halos napadaing ako. He claimed my lips like he owns it. Para bang ipinapakilala niya ang sarili niya bilang may-ari ng lahat ng sa akin.

I’ve kissed men before but I never thought that it could be this… good. Heat washed all over my body and I got so lost that when he stopped, my heart broke.

Hinihingal ako. I refused to meet his eyes. Nakaawang pa ang nanlalambot na labi.

Hinaplos niya ang aking panga. His large calloused hand was gentle on my face. Gentle, like his kisses. Gentle but is spreading his authority. Like he’s trying to introduce himself to my system as someone in authority of me. And I don’t know why I never let any boy rule me like that! Parang may kung ano sa kanyang nakakapanghina sa akin.

He slowly swiped his thumb on my lips. I find all his move so erotic that I forgot why I am such a mess right now! I am angry at him! Damn it!

“I want to marry you. And I can wait till you turn eighteen,” mataman niyang sinabi.
“Do not fool me. I am not your type of girl. I will believe you easier if you tell me… right now… that that client is your woman.”
Umiling siya. “I will refuse that client. Hell, I don’t care what I lose just so I can give you peace of mind!”

Kumunot ang noo ko at sa wakas ay nagawa kong mag-angat ng tingin sa kanya. His soulful eyes looked so gentle. That although it’s a powerful storm, it can touch my soul in a gentle way. Like it is trying hard to feathery stroke me even when it means supressing his power.

“Please…” he gently whispered.

Yumuko siya. He tilted his head and gave me another feathery kiss. Mas lalo akong nanlambot.

“Please be my wife…” sa sobrang lambot ng pagkakasabi niya noon ay halos ‘di ko na narinig.

Like

Like
Love
Haha
Wow
Sad
Angry

Comments are closed.