Island of Fire – Kabanata 22

April 5, 2017 By In Island of Fire Comments Off on Island of Fire – Kabanata 22

Kabanata 22
Realize

Sinunod ko ang utos ni Radleigh na maligo. Before he left the bathroom, I heard him answer the phone.

“Yes. I’ll be out in a minute,” aniya at nilagay ang tuwalya sa kanyang balikat.

He went out of the bathroom, leaving me.

I understand that this is about what’s going on. Inalu ko ang sarili ko sa kaalamang iyon. I shouldn’t be selfish now. Now that everything’s a mess. Lalo na’t dahil iyon sa akin.

How could Caleb do that to me? Or did he? My account’s hacked. At maaaring hindi si Caleb ang may gawa! Hindi magagawa ni Caleb iyon sa akin.

We’ve been friends for years. I’ve known their family and they’re decent and good to me. Kung may kinalaman sila, dapat ay noon pang pagdating ko rito galing Spain, nadukot na nila ako. And also, I don’t think they have any relation to a syndicate. Sa tagal naming magkaibigan, dapat noon pa ay nalaman ko na. O kahit may hint na lang ako. Even Calla’s husband couldn’t be involved in a syndicate.

I sighed and stopped overthinking. Sa huli, ako ang dapat sisihin. If only I listened to Rad’s rules and less of my vanity, hindi sana ito nangyari.

I wore a short silky maroon dress and its maroon shorts terno. Sinuklay ko ang buhok ko habang tinitingnan ang repleksyon sa salamin.

Alam kong nasa labas si Radleigh ngunit hindi ako mapakali. I can’t stay here combing my hair and wait for him. Iyan ang laman ng isip ko ngunit alam kong naging masyado akong suwail ngayon. Leaving this room and joining them outside would piss him more.

Lumapit ako sa pintuan at tiningnan ang peephole. Nakita ko si Radleigh doon, seryosong kausap ang isang lalaking de uniporme. Nakapalibot sa kanila ang iilan pang sundalo at ang mga tauhan namin.

I sighed and went back to the cold bed.

I don’t think they’ll stop talking soon. Rad’s bleeding when we were in the shower. Gusto kong gamutin. He didn’t seem to worry about his wound. Kahit na daplis lang iyon, kailangan parin pagtuonan ng pansin.

Humiga ako sa kama at nakatulugan na lamang ang pag-iisip. And even in my dreams, the nightmare of that night visited me.

Biglaan ang pag gising ko. The sudden opening of my eyes made it hurt from the light. Kinusot ko ang mga mata ko. Tumihaya ako galing sa pagkakayakap sa isa pang unan.

I’m alone in my bed. I scanned the sheets before I slowly rose. Bumagsak ang hanggang balikat na kumot sa aking katawan.

Agaran kong narinig ang marahas na hampas ng tubig galing sa sliding door. It’s open widely. And from our bed, I saw the rough waters trying to escape the rectangular pool.

Bababa na sana ako ng kama nang napagtantong nahulog ang strap ng dress ko. Inayos ko iyon bago tuluyang humakbang.

The warm carpetted floor comforted my feet. Sa unti-unting paglapit ay nakita ko ang paulit-ulit na paglangoy ni Radleigh doon.

When he reaches the end of the pool, he bounces back immediately to swim to the other side. Vice versa.

Hindi ko maipaliwanag ang nararamdaman ko habang pinagmamasdan siyang ganoon. The muscles of his broad back were more defined as he firmly maneuvered his swim. Hindi rin makatakas sa akin ang rahas ng ginagawa niya. It was like all his frustrations and anger was directed to swimming.

Hawak ang malamig na sliding door ay nanatili akong nakatayo habang pinagmamasdan siya. He stopped when he probably saw me.

Sa gilid ng pool ay humawak siya at nilingon ako. His dark hooded eyes looked at me with so much restraint. Iyon din ang nakita ko sa kanya kagabi.

Walang imik ay umahon siya sa pool. He gets the white towel and put it on his shoulders. Umatras ako. Kahit na malaki ang bukana ng sliding door ay umatras parin ako para makadaan siya.

I saw his eyes drifted on my body. Napalunok ako at napagtantong masyado kaming tahimik. I can’t even find the right words to say.

“I-I waited for you last night but I fell asleep,” paliwanag ko.

Kahit pagamot na lamang ng sugat niya’y hindi ko nagawa. I saw his wound and it isn’t bleeding anymore. Though, it’s not deep. Hindi parin iyon dahilan para hindi ko na pagtuonan ng pansin.

“That’s okay. I was busy talking to the bodyguards and to Gino.”

Pinunasan niya ang kanyang buhok bago tuluyang dumiretso sa pintuan ng banyo.

“We’ll have our breakfast downstairs,” ani Radleigh at pumasok na sa banyo.

Naupo ako sa kama at tuluyang ipinasok sa kokote ang mga nangyayari.

Wearing a white t-shirt and a faded shorts, lumabas ako ng kwarto kasama si Radleigh.

Agad kong nakita ang mga nakaaligid na hindi ko kilalang mga lalaki. Maaaring mga bodyguard sila.

Diretso ang baba namin sa restaurant. I suddenly wonder if the night was fine. Kung ano ang nangyari kagabi habang natutulog ako. O kung ayos lang ba ang mga tao namin. He didn’t say anything to me. And I’m too scared to ask him because I know that he’s not yet over with what I did.

In an exclusive room of the hotel’s restaurant, pumasok kami ni Radleigh. Waiting in there was a man, in his white polo shirt and floral shorts. The smirk on the man’s face told me that isn’t just a bodyguard or what.

Nagtagal ang tingin ng lalaki sa akin at muling tiningnan si Radleigh na ngayon ay nasa likod ko. Tumayo ang lalaki para batiin kami.

“Good morning, Miss Leviste!” aniya sabay lahad ng kamay. “I’m Gino, Rai’s friend.”
“G-Good morning!” I shook his hand firmly before turning to Rad.

Inayos ni Rad ang uupuan ko. Bago kami sabay umupo noong lalaki. Umupo si Radleigh sa tabi ko.

“Did you have a good sleep?” Gino asked.

Siya pala iyong tinutukoy ni Radleigh na Gino. He’s tall. Almost as tall as Radleigh. His skin is sunburned and his features were hard. Sa tagal naming magkakilala ni Rad, ngayon ko lang nakilala ang lalaking ito. Although I find him familiar, I still don’t think I met him before.

“Yes.”

Naglagay ng mga pagkain ang iilang waiter sa aming lamesa. Panay ang tingin ko sa mga nilalagay na bagel at croissant.

“Is it safe to travel now, Gino?” Radleigh’s hard voice made me look at him.
“Well, I have to admit that your idea to go back to the island is better. It’s safe, Rad. Are you going back to Isla Fuego today?”
Rad clenched his jaw. “That’s what I want.”

Nilingon ako nI Radleigh. His hooded eyes made my heart leap and I hate how its taking over my entire rational system.

“We will leave for Isla Fuego later today…” aniya na tila iyon ang patakaran ng aking buhay.

Tumango ako. I’m not my usual rebellious self. I feel like I should submit my life to him as of the moment. I don’t know what’s going on. Feeling that way frustrates me. Nanatili ang mga mata ni Radleigh sa akin na tila tinatantya ang iniisip ko.

“The leader of the syndicate has been arrested last night.”
Namilog ang mata ko sa impormasyong sinabi ni Radleigh.

Nilingon ko si Gino na ngayon ay tila natutuwa sa sinabi ni Radleigh ngunit pinipigilan ang sariling reaksyon. I looked at Radleigh again.

“Arrested? Where?”

Will that mean I’m free? I won’t have to hide again? I can go back to Manila?

“He’s men were in Boracay to kidnap you. He’s back in Costa Leona.”

Isa na namang kagulat-gulat na impormasyon. How did they arrest him if he’s in Costa Leona?

“Gino is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines…” paliwanag ni Radleigh.

Nilingon ko si Gino. He sipped on his coffee confidently as he looks at me.

“I sought for their help regarding your case. The bodyguards you have are not enough to prevent a kidnapping from a large group of syndicate involved in illegal drugs. Last night, they were desperate to get to you. To kidnap you and hold you against your father’s debts.”

Napalunok ako. Kaba ang lumukob sa aking puso. Oo. Alam ko. Dahil hanggang ngayon, sariwa pa ang pakiramdam ko noong kinuha ako ng isang estranghero.

“You logged in to one of your social media accounts, Miss Leviste?” tanong ni Gino dahilan kung bakit napabaling ako sa kanya.
“Y-Yes. Noong nasa Caticlan kami. I-I’m sorry. I did not take the rules seriously. I thought it’s all nothing,” nahihiya kong sinabi.
“You aren’t that attentive then, Rai. You let her just wander around out of your sight?” patuya nitong baling kay Radleigh.
Umiling ako. “I got tempted while he’s fitting a jacket inside a secluded room. Nanghiram ako ng tablet sa tindera. I contacted a… a friend and told him I’m going to Boracay. Is Caleb a part of this?” Sa wakas ay nasabi ko rin ang kagabi pang bumagabag na tanong.
“No. It’s your message and the location that gave you away,” ani Gino.

Even in this serious matter, I couldn’t deny that amused look in his face. Hindi ko alam kung bakit natutuwa siya habang tinitingnan ako.

“Luckily, my men were stationed strategically. Iilan doon sa Costa Leona, dahil naroon ang pamilya ni Radleigh. Including his cousin and his Aunt. The threats there were astounding that we couldn’t just leave them alone. Mas marami akong tao roon kumpara rito kasama ninyo dahil ang inisip ko’y mas aatake sila sa Costa Leona.”

He sighed and sipped on his coffee again. The warmth on my left arm made me look at Radleigh again. Halos tumakbo ang puso ko nang natantong lumapit ang katawan niya sa akin.

Hindi ako nakagalaw nang nakitang kahit seryoso ay nakatingin siya sa aking pinggan.

“Please, start eating…” he whispered.

Nakahawak ang kanang kamay niya sa edge ng upuan ko na tila inaangkin pati iyon. Ginalaw niya ang kubyertos ko dahilan kung bakit ko iyon kinuha sa kanya. Uminit ang pisngi ko at itinuon ang mata sa pagkain habang nagsasalita si Gino.

“We seriously did not expect they will attack here. I specifically asked Radleigh to bring you somewhere other than Isla Fuego dahil ayaw kong kapag pumalpak ay mawawalan kayo ng mapupuntahan dito. We might be forced to make you leave somewhere farther like Mindanao or abroad.”

Tumango ako at bumaling ulit kay Gino. His eyes drifted from Radleigh to me. Tumikhim siya at nagpatuloy, naroon parin ang amusement sa mukha.

“Because you gave your location away, most of his men flew from Costa Leona to Boracay. Dahilan kung bakit muntikan ka nang makuha. Nanatili ang lider sa Costa Leona sa pag-aakalang patibong ang ginawa mo – dahilan naman kung bakit namin siya nahuli kagabi.”
“That means… it’s all over! What about your men and our men? Are there any casualties?”
“Sugatan lang. That’s expected. However, I cannot say it’s all over. May nakatakas dito sa Boracay dahil kaonti lang ang naging tao namin at masyado silang marami. Although their leader is now arrested and their operations impaired, I cannot fully say that you are safe. In the mean time… I suggest you stay and follow your boyfriend’s rules.”

Nagngising-aso si Gino sabay tingin kay Radleigh. Tumikhim ako at muling binalingan ang pagkain.

Isang malakas na buntong-hininga ang pinakawalan ko. Parang nawala ang nakadagan sa aking puso. I wish it will all be fine from now on. I promise to obey every rule Rad says!

“Habang hinahanap nila ang nakatakas, babalik tayo sa Isla Fuego. Unless they find them, you’re not leaving the island,” si Radleigh.

Maraming importanteng gagawin sa Maynila. Kung hindi pa ako muntikan nang nadukot ay hindi ko siguro mararamdaman ang takot sa tunay na panganib na dala ng mga kalaban ni Daddy.

Magkano kaya ang utang ni Daddy? Although they resorted to doing something illegal, I think that it will only be fair to pay for Dad’s debts properly. Kahit na utang pa iyon galing sa pagka-Casino.

“Well, should we loosen up and talk about lighter things? We should actually celebrate that their leader was arrested. Hindi lang kaligtasan ninyo ang naging mas sigurado roon. Kaligtasan din ng ibang tao.”

Sumandal siya sa kanyang upuan at patuyang inangat ang wine glass na ang laman naman ay tubig. Then he sipped on it.

“Rai! I’m gonna earn a damn medal because of you!” He laughed and binaba ang wine glass. “Thanks to your boyfriend, Miss Leviste.”

Kanina niya pa ipinagdidiinan na boyfriend ko si Radleigh. I am pretty sure he knows what’s going on in between us. If they were friends. But if he’s a new friend of Rad, maaring hindi nga.

“He’s my ex,” sabi ko.

Halos maubo si Gino sa sinabi ko. He laughed and that shocked me.

Nilingon ko si Radleigh na ngayon ay mapupungay ang mga mata. Pero hindi iyon mapupungay dahil malambot ang pakiramdam niya para sa akin. It was more like he’s too angry to glare at me that he’s made his eyes soft as sarcasm.

Totoo naman, ah! He’s my ex! Ex fiancee! Whatever!

Radleigh pushed my shoulders to him. Hindi ko namalayang ang kanang kamay niya pala’y nasa likod na ng upuan ko. Dahil sa pagtulak niya’y bahagya akong nabangga sa kanyang dibdib.

My left ear is closer to his mouth now.

“Will you follow what I say now?”

Kinagat ko ang labi ko at tiningnan ang pinggan. Hindi alam ni Gino ang tungkol sa amin noon. Of course, will Rad say that to his friends? He won’t. It’s not something to be proud of. Being left at our engagement.

“Eat, please…”

Tumuwid ako sa pagkakaupo at nagsimulang maghiwa ng pancake.

“Sorry, Rai. I didn’t mean to laugh at that. You are just too serious.”
“I don’t really think I should be funny right now because of our situation,” medyo pagalit na sinabi ni Radleigh.
“You didn’t give me a chance to meet her years ago. Puro kwento mo lang habang nag i-MMA tayo ang naririnig ko.”

Hindi sinuklian nI Radleigh ng kwento iyon. Sumulyap ako kay Rad na ngayon ay tinitingnan ang kape niya.

So… ikinwento niya pala ako sa kaibigan niya noon. Ano kayang mga sinabi niya?

“And of course, Father’s story about you picking her up at the mall because of a… wrong accusation?”

Namilog ang mata ko sabay tingin ulit kay Gino. Ngayong sinabi niya iyon ay napagtanto kong kaya pala siya pamilyar ay dahil kamukha niya iyong pulis na umaresto sa akin noong naakusahan akong shoplifter sa Shu!

Magsasalita na sana ako ngunit iniba ni Gino ang usapan. Isang topic na hindi ko kayang uminsert.

“By the way, did you call Agatha. She called me asking if you’re fine. You haven’t called to update them, Rai.”

Bahagya akong natigil sa paghiwa ng pancake pero pinilit ko parin isubo iyon dahil ayaw kong makita nilang naaapektuhan ako.

“And your parents, too…”

The image of his parents flashed on my mind. Hindi basta-bastang imahe. Iyon pang hawak ng Papa niya ang dibdib dahilan sa biglaan kong pag-atras sa aming engagement.

His Mom was already angry at me. I bet she’s furious now.

Parang piniga ang puso ko habang naiisip iyon. They must’ve been very happy that Rad’s going to marry Agatha instead of me. At milagro na kung maituturing kung hindi nagtanim ng galit ang kanyang mga magulang sa akin sa kahihiyang tinamo ng pamilya nila sa pagtanggi ko.

Although, I tried my best to make it seem our family’s fault, it bounced back to them. Syempre dahil kung titingnang mabuti, ako ang tumanggi. Ako ang may ayaw. Ang lumabas na sila ang namilit sa aking pakasalan ko si Radleigh ay ilang buwang nanatili sa utak ng mga taong imbitado sa araw na iyon. That’s a slap to their family. I didn’t know it will turn out that way. It was too late when I realized that it did.

“I don’t want to risk it. Lalo na ngayong alam na nila na ako ang kumidnap kay Zari, Gino.”
“You can contact them right now. Here. Tutal ay alam ng lahat na nasa Boracay siya.”

Their conversation went on. Especially their plan about tracking the remaining men.

Habang nag-uusap sila ay mas pinili kong isipin ang sulusyon ko sa lahat ng ito.

The leader of the syndicate will surely be jailed. But then, I would be willing to pay my Dad’s debts. Malaman ko lang kung magkano ang tamang babayaran. Hindi lang iyon. I want to pay his other debts to other companies. Lahat ng mga tumalbog na tseke at kung anu-ano pa.

I don’t mind if I finish my endless trust funds. If it has to be done that way, then I will. Lastly, I will revive the company without anyone’s help. Naisip kong pagbalik ko ay babayaran ko ang mga empleyadong gusto nang umalis. Ang mga gustong manatili sa trabaho ay hahayaan ko. I will pay them fairly and I will tell them the real state of the company. I hope it all goes well.

Kapag nabayaran ko na ang mga pinagkakautangan ni Daddy, siguro naman ay pwede na siyang mag bail out.

He’s old. Watching him inside prison breaks my heart. He’s just sad because my Mom’s dead. Kaya hinayaan ko rin siya sa ginagawa niya dahil alam kong may kasalanan din ako. He spoiled me to death and now I want to spoil him as well…

Hindi ko na nasundan ang pinag-uusapan ng dalawa. Rad’s fingers were on my shoulder as he talked about his suggestions to Gino’s plans.

The way his calloused hand softly caressed me sent me shivers. Parang gusto ko siyang pigilan at para ring gusto kong ipagpatuloy niya iyon. Hindi ko alam kung ano ba talaga.

Sinulyapan ko ang daliri niyang nasa kanang balikat ko habang wala sa sarili siyang gumuguhit ng paulit-ulit na linya roon.

“Your cousins were in Manila last week. I was there in Tita Fely’s party. They kept asking where you were… They asked Agatha, too. Though this should be a top secret, I’m surprised you didn’t tell them.”
“Hindi na importante. Nalaman din naman ni Raoul na nasa Costa Leona lang ako.”

They seem very close. I couldn’t help but realize that Agatha is close to them, too. Parehong sa kaibigan ni Rad at sa pamilya ni Rad.

Although he’s my ex, I never really formally met his relatives. I never really met his friends. Siguro dahil bata pa ako noon. O baka naman… dahil…

Riegos were known for their honor and humility. While I am a spoiled rotten brat of Manila. I might be an abomination. A reason why his mother disliked me. She liked me at first but when she realized what I really was, she still tried to like me until she couldn’t take it. Kung ibang ina pa iyon, siguro’y mas marahas pa ang sinabi sa akin. Siguro’y hindi papayag iyon na makasal ang anak niya sa akin. But because she’s a Riego, she’s able to give me a chance. She’s able to accept me until she coudln’t.

Kung alam ko man noong spoiled brat ako, mas nadepina lamang iyon ngayon.

Even Engineer Percival Riego’s wife looked rich, but not spoiled. She looked maarte but not as rotten as me.

She would probably never think about kidnapping someone just to save their company. Ako lang ang makakaisip noon. Dahil syempre, hindi ko kayang maghirap kami ni Daddy. Syempre, laging nasusunod ang gusto ko. Syempre, hindi ako pwedeng tanggihan.

Akala ko’y nabawasan ang nakadagan sa aking puso dahil sa kaalamang nahuli ang sindikato. Pero tila mas bumigat yata ang puso ko ngayon.

Nagtutupi ng damit sa lamesa ng aming kwarto’y iyon ang sumakop sa isipan ko. Rad’s just sitting at the edge of our bed, waiting for me to be done with everything.

Tapos na akong maligo. Nagliligpit na lamang ako ngayon ng gamit. The clothes I unpacked just so I could choose which one to wear is just too many. Kaya ngayon ay nahihirapan ako.

Don’t worry. I know how to, at least, fold my clothes. Not sure if it’s right but… I know.

Dumaan ako sa harap ni Rad para makapagtungo sa cabinet at mailagay iyon sa duffel bag na para sa akin. Bumalik ulit ako roon sa lamesa, dala ang duffel bag para mas mapabilis.

Sinulyapan ko si Radleigh, ang ingay sa gitna namin ay tanging ang telebisyon. But he’s not watching it. He’s looking at my every move intently.

Binalik ko ulit ang mga mata ko sa tinutupi.

“You think I can go back to Manila within this week?”
He sighed heavily at my question. “If their operation is successful.”
“Do you think their operation will be successful?”
“Magaling si Gino. He’ll be able to do it.”

Tumango ako. That’s just nice to hear. At least, magiging maayos na rin ako. There will be no need for me to hide. No need to stay in Isla Fuego. Oh the bitterness I sounded in my brain… what the hell?

“Is there any other threat to my life aside from that?” tanong ko.

Hindi siya sumagot. Nilingon ko siya para sa sagot. His face hardened and his expression now more dangerous.

He’s wearing a white t-shirt with his gray shorts. Just another variant of that stupid sweatpants I didn’t like. Hindi na nga lang ako nagprotesta dahil parang wala sa lugar iyon. Covered with white sheets, his thighs looked fine. Pero kanina, nang nakatayo siya galing sa banyo ay parang pinipiga ang puso ko. I want so bad to tell him to change or something. But that’s just too “spoiled-bratty”.

Exercising restraint from being a brat is hard but the change will be worth it. Probably.

“I would know but… that’s just it. Your father’s mates from his gambling is the only problem. At ang alam ni Ethan, iyon lamang ang pinagkautangan ng ama mo.”

I don’t really know why I didn’t pay his debts right after Spain. Siguro nga’y tsaka mo lang marerealize ang lahat kapag napag-isipan mo na ng maayos. Masyado akong naging padalos-dalos.

“It’s a good thing your friend, Gino helped us. I couldn’t imagine kung nag rely lang sa mga bodyguards. Matagal na kayong magkaibigan?”

Nagpatuloy ako sa pagtupi ng damit. Nilalagay ko sa duffel bag.

“Since high school,” sagot niya.

Oh the things I didn’t know about him. How stupid can I get? I should get the hint by now.

“Why are you interested?” pahabol niya.

Tapos na ako sa pagtutupi. I zipped my bag and then turned to him.

Umiling ako at tipid na ngumiti.

When I thought he bared his soul to me years ago, it was me who bared my soul to him. I gave him my secrets. I told him my problems. I told him my feelings. I told him my lack of it. I showed him how spoiled I was. I showed him how awful and rude I was. Hindi ako ang humawak sa kanya. Siya ang humawak sa akin.

At hanggang ngayon, ganoon parin.

I was so confident in bringing up his feelings years ago when right now… I think he didn’t have it. Ako iyong nagkaroon ng damdamin para sa kanya. Hindi siya.

“How are we going to go back to Isla Fuego?”

Hindi siya sumagot. Nakatitig siya sa akin na tila alam kung ano ang iniisip ko. I looked away to stop him from realizing whatever I just realized.

“By air. It will be safer. I can’t risk your life again.”

I sighed again. Without a doubt, he just stands by his name.

“It was not you who risked my life. It was me who risk ours. I’m sorry, Rad. I’ve been very reckless,” mapait kong sinabi.

Tumayo siya at lumapit sa akin. My heart started beating so fast. Sa ilang beses nitong tumibok para sa kanya, ngayon ko lang naramdaman ang ganito ka bilis. Siguro dahil sa katahimikan. Hindi lang ng paligid ngunit pati ng aking utak.

The tranquility of my mind is to the sky, now that I realized so many things.

The sheets that covered his thighs fell. His arms snaked around me and he pulled me closer to him. He planted a soft kiss on my forehead.

Pumikit ako at pinuno ang baga ng amoy ng kanyang pinaghalong perfume at personal scent. He smells so manly. Tila pinupukaw ng kanyang amoy ang aking pagkababae.

His kiss were now on my temples. And then on my hair. And then at the top of my ear.

His breathing made me shiver.

“You’d never get away again, baby.” he said breathily.

My lips twitched. Parang kinukurot ang puso ko.

“I’ll make sure of that.”

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