Island of Fire – Kabanata 24

April 5, 2017 By In Island of Fire Comments Off on Island of Fire – Kabanata 24

Kabanata 24
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Nagising ako dahil sa liwanag ng sikat ng araw na pumasok sa silid. Bago ko pa madilat ang mga mata ay nararamdaman ko ang mumunting haplos sa aking noo, pabalik sa aking buhok.

Quickly, I recalled what happened last night. Exhaustion got me that I lasted only a few minutes after before dozing off.

Pakiramdam ko’y nananaginip lamang ako. Hindi yata totoong nangyari iyon. Dumilat agad ako at nakita si Radleigh sa aking tabi. Ilang saglit kaming nagkatinginan bago siya yumuko para magsalita malapit sa aking tainga.

“Morning,” his voice was husky.

I couldn’t equal his greeting. I am too stunned to process everything.

Last night was amazing! Uminit ang pisngi ko nang napagtanto kong ano ang nagawa naming dalawa.

I remember him catching his breath as the bed rocked so much, I thought it would break. The images of him looking at the ceiling, probably wanting more air, made my insides hot. Damn it!

Gumalaw ako ng bahagya. The soreness of my femininity told me that it’s real. Hindi lang iyon ang masakit. Even my thighs and my back is sore.

Ngumuso ako at hinawakan ang pang-ibabang labi. My lips felt so soft.

Rad’s curious expression told me that he’s anxious of my reaction in the morning. He continued threading my hair until he can’t wait for me to talk.

“How are you feeling?” he murmured.
“Hmm. Fine,” sagot ko sa isang malambot na boses.

God. Ano ba itong ginagawa niya sa akin?

I am covered with his white sheets while he’s not. His upper body is exposed while I can see his gray sweatpants on.

Kinapa ko ang katawan ko gamit ang kanang kamay at naramdamang may suot na akong isang t-shirt. May panty pa!

Dahan-dahan kong tiningnan ang ilalim ng kumot para kumpirmahin dahil baka nananaginip lang ako. I saw my laced pink panty on. Binalik ko ulit ang tingin ko kay Rad. His eyes were nothing but serious.

“I have clothes on,” I pointed out.

He carressed my cheek with the back of his index finger.

“I dressed you up last night,” paliwanag niya.
Tumango ako at nag-isip muli.
“You hungry? We can have our breakfast here…”

Nilingon ko ang round table kung saan ko nilapag ang gatas kagabi. Nakita kong may breakfast na nga roon. Marahan muli akong tumango.

Umahon siya at nagpunta sa round table. Bumangon ako at ilang saglit pang tumunganga kay Radleigh.

Ang kanyang likod ang tanging kita ko. Nang sumulyap siya’t nakataas ang kilay ay agad akong nag-iwas ng tingin. Kumunot ang noo ko.

Did he really… Damn!

Nang bumaba ako ng kama ay napagtanto kong hindi akin ang t-shirt na ito. Masyadong malaki. It would even pass for a short dress when I looked at it from the mirror.

Lumapit ako sa lamesa. Nakaupo na siya roon at pinagmamasdan akong palapit din. Our seats were too close. It’s not even across the round table. Masyadong malapit na halos magkatabi lang kami.

We silently started eating our breakfast. Kahit hindi ko siya tinitingnan ay alam kong pinagmamasdan niya ako. Mas lalo ko tuloy siyang hindi tinitingnan. Anong pag-uusapan namin ngayon? Iyong nangyari kagabi? How I begged him to do me like that?

“Gino’s operation last night was successful,” he said under his breath.

Natigilan ako sa sinabi ni Radleigh. He means that the remaining syndicates were caught?

“They found the men near Iloilo,” dagdag niya.

Napalunok ako habang bumuhos sa aking isipan ang iba’t-ibang mga konklusyon tungkol doon.

“The government will file a case against the leader and his men. The leader is a notrious drug lord. Kahit hindi ka na magsampa ng kaso, mabubulok parin sa kulungan ang may kagagawan ng lahat ng ito,” anger is laced in his voice.
“And are there any more casualties?”
He shook his head. Napabuntong-hininga ako sa nalaman.

Para akong nabunutan ng tinik sa nalaman. But aside from that, realization about what’s going to happen next dawned on me.

We’re leaving Isla Fuego. There’s no reason to hide me here anymore. We’re leaving the island.

Thinking about it slightly hurt my heart. Alam kong noong una ay gusto kong umalis dito pero ngayon parang gusto kong maghanap ng paraan para lang muling mabilanggo rito.

“Are you sure that all his men were captured?” Hindi ko alam kung bakit banayad at matamis ang pagdududa kong ito.
“Yes. I made sure of it, Zari.”

Oh! I cannot believe that aside from relief, I’m also feeling a bit lonely.

Mali ka, Zari. Maling mali ang nararamdaman at iniisip mo. How you’re always selfish when it comes to all these is just beyond everyone. I should do something about my attitude. Thank God, it’s just all in your brain!

“We’re leaving for Manila, then?” the bitterness in my question is too much.
“Yes.”

Bumaba ang tingin ko sa aking pinggan at pinaglaruan ang ulam.

There are things I need to face in Manila. Things I wish I could run from. How I suddenly wish to just stay here in Isla Fuego. Hindi bale nang wala akong ginagawa. Hindi bale nang mabagot ako rito.

Again, that’s one selfish thought.

“You can live with me when we’re back in Manila.”

My heart skipped a beat at his proposal. Tunay na nakakaengganyo ngunit masyadong malabo.

“I have my own condo unit. I’m fine there,” paliwanag ko.

He sighed heavily. He shifted a bit.

“Ethan’s doing his best to hold your company together but most papers should be approved by the President. Which is you…”
Tumango ako. “Aasikasuhin ko ang lahat pagka balik ko ng Maynila.”

Nakaramdam agad ako ng hiya. Tila ba nakikita niya ako ng hubo’t hubad sa kanyang harapan. Hubo’t hubad ang kaluluwa at lahat.

I kidnapped him so he’d marry me. I wanted him to marry me and save the company. I want him to support the company’s new projects – labor and materials. Ng walang kabayaran. Tanging ang pagiging asawa ko lang.

Kahiyahiya ang nagawa ko. Now that it’s all clearer to me now, I realized how I want it to be done fairly. I won’t ask for anything from him. Heck, I don’t even want him involved in ay way! Ang problema ko ay problema ko!

“I can give you money for your projects or buy your father’s stocks.”

Naibaba ko ang aking mga kubyertos. Ito. Ito ang gusto kong mangyari noon. Ito ang ayaw ko ngayon. I would never let my pride the wrong way. If we will fall, may we fall for the right reason. If the company will sink, may it sink with honor. I’m gonna pay my father’s debts. I will not have anyone’s money to save the company. If I should sell my father’s stocks, I would. Even if it means I will hold only a few percent of the company that’s supposed to be ours.

That is life. We tried. We failed. But it goes on.

If it means we won’t rule the Vista Grande, I will go on with it.

“No, I can fix it my own,” mataman kong sinabi.

Kumunot ang noo ni Radleigh sa sinabi ko. Mataman ko siyang tiningnan. Hinahamon sa maaari niyang sabihin.

I have been very confusing. Weeks ago, I want what he’s offering now. Today, I’m not taking it.

“Why are you rejecting this, Zari?”
“I can do it, Rad. I may have forced you to do that weeks ago but that was an act of desperation. I did not think about it properly. I’m blinded with anger and frustration. That’s all. Now, I want to do the right thing.”

I feel insulted. Alam kong wala siyang sinabing masama sa akin pero pakiramdam ko’y kinakaawaan niya ako. Pakiramdam ko’y iniisip niyang nasanay ako sa marangyang buhay at ngayo’y kailangan niyang sagipin ako sa pagkakalugi at paghihirap. I don’t want that. I don’t need that.

He leaned closer to my seat invading my personal space. I stopped breathing. Masuyo niya akong hinalikan sa ulo. Pinalupot ang kamay sa aking baywang.

“Then how can I help?” he whispered.

How can he help?

Ngumuso ako at may naisip na ibang paraan para makatulong siya sa akin. Pwedeng pwede siyang pampatanggal ng stress. You know if I’m so stressed, he can do me so I’d relax.

Halos dumugo ang labi ko sa kakapigil ng ngiti.

“Are you smiling?”
“Just let me do what I want.”
“Hmm. Okay. I’m gonna support everything you want to do.”

Gumapang ang isang kamay niya sa aking tiyan. His soft carress made me almost forget the soreness I’m feeling. Parang may pinupukaw siya sa damdamin kong hidni ko malaman.

“What if you get pregnant?” tanong niya na parang iyon ang sagot sa lahat ng problema ko.
Ngumiwi ako sabay tingin sa kanya. “I won’t get pregnant. I get a shot regularly.”

Ramdam ko ang gulat niya nang inangat niya ang tingin niya at medyo nanigas ang pagkakahawak sa akin. Kunot ang noo at busangot ang mukha niya akong tiningnan.

“For what?”
Umirap ako. “It’s normal abroad. When I travel, it’s more convenient if I get a shot. Don’t worry.”

He muttered a curse and then went back to his position. Hindi na siya nagsalita.

Thoughts about the reality played on my mind. Like, how is his relationship with his fiancee? Or what are they? Alam kong parang sinabi niya na rin sa akin na papakasalan niya sana si Agatha para sa negosyo. That he doesn’t really love her but it’s contradicting his personality so much. Radleigh Vesarius Riego won’t marry for business. There must be something about that girl.

I wanted to enjoy the moment. To feel him with me as our separation nears. Pwedeng mamaya, bukas, o sa makalawa ay makabalik na kaming Maynila. To start a fight right now will only leave bitter memories in this island and I don’t want that.

Tahimik ang buong isla. Pagkatapos kong maligo ay bumaba na ako. Nagpaalam si Radleigh na mangingisda siya kasama sina Roman bilang katuwaan. At mamayang gabi ay magcecelebrate ang mga bodyguards sa kanilang mga nagawa.

We’re not leaving today, that was for sure. And that’s enough to make me happy.

Pumalakpak si Belinda nang pinatay ko ang induction cooker. She taught me how to cook a Filipino dish today and I think it went well.

“Mukhang perpekto itong Kare-kare mo, Ma’am Zari!” humagikhik si Belinda at agad na kumuha ng bowl para maglagay doon.

Ngumiti ako at pinunasan na lamang ang pawis sa aking noo. Well, that’s good news. I don’t think I have eaten this dish my entire life but it smells good.

Naupo ako sa high chair habang pinagmamasdan si Belinda na inaayos ang niluto ko sa bowl.

“Pwedeng pwede ka nang mag-asawa, Ma’am Zari?” nangingiti niyang sinabi.
Ngumiti naman ako.
“Kailan?”

Napawi ang ngiti ko. Masyado rin talaga ‘tong assuming si Belinda. O baka naman nanghahagilap ng impormasyon. Even when she saw my annoyed expression, she continued with the teasing.

“Sus! Kunwari pa. Nagkakamabutihan na ata kayo ni Ser Radleigh, Ma’am, ‘di ba? Noong kinuha niya kanina ang almusal n’yo sabi niya roon na kayo kakain sa kwarto niya dahil pagod ka.”

Sinapo ko na lang ang ulo ko. Really, Rad? Kaya naman nati-trigger ang imagination nitong si Belinda dahil sa sinabi ni Rad, e!

“Hindi kami magpapakasal. Pwede ba, Belinda?”

Nilapag niya sa harapan ko ang Kare-kare. Itinuon ko ang buong pansin ko roon. Naglapag siya ng maliit na bowl at sinalinan ng sabaw noon. Siguro ay para matikman ko.

“Eh, hindi ba iyon ang plano mo, Ma’am? Papakasalan ka niya, e ‘di salba na ang kompanya ninyo pati si Ser Goeffrey?” simpleng tanong ni Belinda.

I looked at her for a moment. Yeah. People will really think that it’s going to turn out that way. We have a history. Sinira ko ang pangalan ko at ng pamilya ko noon at paniguradong hindi natanggal sa isipan ng mga tao iyong nangyari noon.

“Ako ang magsasalba kay Dad at sa kompanya. Hindi ko kailangan ng pera ni Radleigh.”

A line flashed on my mind. A line so significant and so true. Especially now.

“You’re going to be the death of his career. You will bankcrupt him…”

“You will bankcrupt him…”

Tinikman ko ang Kare-kare ng wala sa sarili. Ayos naman iyon. I smiled at Belinda. She looked at me with curious eyes.

Bago pa ako makapagsalita ay narinig ko na ang ingay ng rotor ng chopper. Nagtaas ako ng kilay at napatingin kay Belinda. Her lips turned “O” and she clapped once.

“Si Ser Ethan ata ‘yan, Ma’am.”
“He’s here?” tanong ko.
“Pumalaot na sina Ser Radleigh noong tumawag siya at ibinalitang sasama siya sa atin bukas sa pagluwas sa Maynila.”

Sa sinabi ni Belinda ay ‘tsaka lang talaga bumaon sa aking utak. Tomorrow, we are leaving the island and I’m gonna face my problems. Facing my problems is acceptable. Leaving the island isn’t. Damn!

Umalis si Belinda para salubungin si Ethan. Nanatili ako sa kusina at hinanda na lamang ang lamesa para sa aming tatlo.

Inayos ko ang mga pinggan at kubyertos. Pati na rin ang inumin.

Heavy familiar footsteps from my cousin got me. Pagod ko siyang tiningnan nang tumigil siya sa hamba ng pintuan.

“Wow! This looks new. Zari, looking like a housewife,” he chuckled.

Bahaw akong ngumiti.

“I expected you to come running at me. I was wrong.”
“What do you want now, Ethan? Hindi ka ata makapag antay na makabalik ako ng Maynila at naparito ka talaga.”

Tumuwid siya sa pagkakatayo. Now his hands are inside the pockets of his slacks.

“I want you to have an overview of my progress. Para pagdating mo ng Maynila, hindi mo na kailangan ng catch up.”

I leaned on the table. Pinagmasdan niya ang buong mansion bago binalik muli sa akin ang tingin.

“Where’s Radleigh?”
“Fishing…” sagot ko sabay tingin sa mga pinggan.

Nagpasya kaming dalawa na salubungin ang pagdating nina Radleigh at ng mga bodyguards. Sa malayo pa lang ay kita ko na ang gulat sa mukha ni Radleigh nang nakita ang pinsan ko sa aking likod.

Nang bumaba si Rad sa yate ay agad nagbatian ang dalawa. Then Rad turned to me. Gusto ko sanang ibalita na nakapagluto ako ng Kare-kare. Matagumpay. Ngunit the nosy Ethan Leviste is watching us like we’re some sitcom.

“Let’s eat our lunch,” sabi ko.

Nauna na ako sa hinagdanang bato at sumunod ang dalawa na nag-uusap.

The smell of food filled my nose. But I’m not hungry. Ganito talaga kapag ikaw ang nagluto. I’m more concerned of Rad’s reaction to what I cooked than anything else.

While they were talking, nilagyan ko ng sabaw ang maliit na bowl para kay Rad. Although his attention was for Ethan, nakita kong sinulyapan niya ang ginawa ko.

Nilapag ko sa gilid ng kanyang pinggan ang bowl at nagkatinginan kami. Tumikhim si Ethan. Napatingin ako sa aking pinsan. Naglagay ulit ako sa isa pang bowl para kay Ethan para wala na siyang masabi.

“Well, as I was saying… Let’s talk about Tito Geoffrey first,” si Ethan.

Nakuha niya ang buong atensyon ko.

“I bailed him out. Napakiusapan ko ang judge at ang bangko. He has a total of thirty twenty-two checks na tumalbog. All exceeding eight digits.”

Para akong nadaganan ng langit sa sinabi ni Ethan. Alam kong maraming utang si Daddy kaya nga ako naging desperado pero ang marinig ang ganito galing kay Ethan, pakiramdam ko’y tatanda ako ng mabilis dahil sa pasanin na ito.

“He’s currently at the mansion. He’s not very well. Prison has made him unhealthy. Kahit na binigyan na ng pabor ang kanyang kalagayan. I suggest he rests, be it here or abroad.”
“Thank you, Ethan. Is he worried about me?”
“He is. Very. I assured him that you’re fine.”

Kahit paano ay naibsan naman ang pangamba ko.

“As for the company…” bigo ang tono ni Ethan. “I really don’t think there’s a way to boost it. Your proposed project won’t assure as any profit. Plus, the investors are withdrawing.”

Hindi ako nakapagsalita. Lumang balita na iyan.

“My only suggestion, Zari, is to sell the stocks of Tito. Father is willing to buy it…” sumulyap si Ethan kay Rad.

Parang sinabi niya na rin sa aking isasara ko ang kompanya. Pero ‘di gaya noong una, parang mas naiintindihan ko na ngayon.

“The project I proposed is already going on, Ethan. If I sell our stocks, I will still pay for the project if the new president won’t push through it.”
“We can push through it if you want. But… you know well that we’re busy with our company. I will sell half of Tito Geoffrey’s stocks to another investor.”
“Pero, Ethan, who will invest in a failing company? Ikaw lang kasi pamilya tayo!” giit ko.
Sumulyap ulit si Ethan kay Radleigh.
“He can sell it to me.”

What? Is this a trick or something? Pero wala na akong panahong magreklamo. This is all fair play if you look at it. He’s giving me money for the stocks. He’s not giving me money for no reason. Kaya tama lang din!

“It is okay to sell it to them especially that his RHI can help you with the building, Zari.”

Tinikom ko na lamang ang bibig ko.

“Some investors withdrew their stocks. Pinagbili sa iba. Madalas iyong nakikitang wala nang pag-asa. So… the board will be new. You will be a part of it since you’ve got five percent left, right?”

Wala na rin naman akong magagawa. What’s important to me right now is that the company will remain. Kahit hindi na ako ang major owner o president. Iyon naman ang importante.

“Pipirmahan mo pa iyan kaya sa ngayon, ikaw parin ang Presidente. And also, I suggest you cost cut. Your employees are furious. They’re crying for money. They know the company is failing. What are your plans?” tanong ni Ethan.
“I will prepare a budget for their exit. Lalo na sa mga regular. I will cost cut but I will give them the liberty to choose if they want to stay or not. Kapag aalis, I will give the right amount for the parting. That’s my plan.”
“Good,” si Ethan.

Pleased that Ethan agreed with me, nilingon ko si Radleigh. His piercing eyes bore into me like I’m the only one in that room. Then slowly, the sides of his lips rose into a half smile. Tumikhim ako at nagpatuloy sa pakikinig kay Ethan.

Ethan continued informing me about the other things. Sunod ay sila naman ang nag-usap na dalawa. Dumami tuloy lalo ang iniisip ko.

Kinagabihan ay natuloy nga ang plano ni Radleigh. With Ethan and the bodyguards, nagcelebrate sila sa matagumpay na operasyong nangyari.

They all recalled what happened in Boracay for Ethan. May bumagabag din sa aking isip. Tulad na lang noong mga naunang pangyayari. Iyong pagkidnap ko kay Radleigh at ang pagkakaiba ng mga nangyari. Dulot ng kahihiyan, hindi na ako nangahas na ibalik pa iyon. I am fine that now they are celebrating for the other important thing.

Rad’s smiling as they talked about it. Nasa gilid niya ako at si Ethan ay nasa harap, nakikinig sa kwento ni Roman at Bon.

Humikab ako. Sa gilid namin ay ang bonfire na ginawa ng mga bodyguard bilang ilaw at pampainit sa malamig na gabi rito sa Isla Fuego.

Rad’s smile loosened and he glanced at me. Medyo pula ang kanyang mukha, syempre dahil kanina pa sila umiinom.

Kanina pa naglalaro ang mga daliri niya sa aking palad. Kahit na may kausap ay nanatiling ganoon ang ayos niya. Inangat niya ang kamay ay nilagay sa aking batok. He massaged me a bit as I try so hard to keep myself awake.

“You’re sleepy…” he noted.
Ngumiti ako.

He pushed my nape slightly as he leaned closer to me. Amoy pinaghalok alak at mint ang hininga niya. Something about it made me a bit uncomfortable in another way. I unconsciously licked my lips.

“You should sleep now. Susunod na ako sa kwarto.”

Napatingin ako sa kanya. His eyes looked tipsy and cloudy. I’ve never seen him drunk. This is the first time. And boy, I don’t know why this does something to my system.

Damn. I nodded in full submission. Iniisip ko kaninang ‘di ako sa kwarto niya matutulog dahil baka anong isipin ni Ethan pero dahil sinabi niya ngayon. Doon nga ang tungo ko.

Tumayo ako. Sinundan niya naman ako ng tingin.

“Ethan, I’m gonna sleep now…” sambit ko sa pinsan kong medyo lasing na rin yata.

Nagpaalam ako kay Belinda at sa iba pang mga bodyguards na naroon. Ilang sandali ang nakalipas ay umaakyat na ako sa hinagdanang bato. Then before I could step another, sinulyapan ko sila sa baba.

I saw Rad watching me. Ang kanyang braso ay nakaakbay sa backrest ng silya ko kanina.

My heart skipped a bit. I continued walking like nothing happened. I’m gonna miss this all. Damn!

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