Island of Fire – Wakas

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

Wakas

“I will initiate the writing of the Pre-nuptial agreement,” she said right after I told everyone that we’re getting married.

I was caught off guard by her announcement. Napatitig ako sa kanya. She has that look in her eyes telling me to back off and shut up. This is her choice and she doesn’t want me to meddle with it.

I know her too much to even try and intercept her plans. I tried that when she was young, she left me. I tried it again weeks ago, she rejected me.

It is easy to spend time with women and not get attached. But for Zari, I feel like I should meddle with every decision and events she’s going through. I can’t keep my opinions to myself. I can’t let her do everything alone. I want to be involved. I want to always be in front of her everything. I want to be attached.

Importante sa akin na sa lahat ng desisyon niya’y may bahid ng desisyon ko. Importante sa akin masigurado na kasali ako sa magiging desisyon niya. I don’t want to get left behind.

Tinapunan ko siya ng matalim na tingin. But, Jesus, she’s too confident that I won’t meddle with her proposal.

Fine.

Kung gusto niya ng Pre-Nuptial Agreement, fine! I know she doesn’t want to have any of my properties or my money even when she needs it. She wants to prove to everyone and, most especially, to herself, that she’s not going to rely on me.

Mahirap intindihin dahil paano naman ako? I worked hard for these for my future. And that future is her. I worked hard for her. I have this money right now for her so I don’t think it is bad to share it with her. Hindi ko naman siya hahayaang gumasta ng higit pa sa kaya naming kitain.

“Zari, I won’t let you spend too much so why-“

“I don’t need anything of your money, Rad. I can afford.”

Narinig ko ang biglaang pagsabog ng pinigil na tawa ng aking pinsan. Gino coughed fakely.

Nilingon ko ang dalawa na ngayon ay nanunukso ang mga mata. Afraid to say something. Not when I’ve just scolded my Mother because of what happened.

Mama explained her side to me. I accepted it, pero mas nangibabaw ang galit ko. Why would she meddle with my relationships?

“Zari, there is no need for a Pre-nuptial agreement,” said my mother.

It’s weird to hear her ride with the topic when, a while ago, she was so confused.

“Radleigh, you kidnapped her? Do you know that you could get sued for that?! What did you do to her? Paano mo siya nadala rito ng walang malay? Did you drug her?” asik niya.

Nasa veranda kaming dalawa noon. She’s behind me while I’m trying to calm myself from this anger. Nakatingin lamang ako sa malawak na lupain na pag-aari ng aking lolo.

“You have been hard on her, huh? Akala ko iyong sinabi mo lang sa akin sa opisina, Ma, ang nasabi mo kay Zari?”

Nilingon ko siya. I sensed her defensive stance. My father is behind her, crossing his arms. I know it is a warning for me to stop being rude. I am not being rude. I am just angry.

“You told her to stay away from me?”

Umiling si Mama. “Rad, anak, maaaring may nasabi akong mga salita sa kanya sa opisina tungkol sa trabaho. Dala na rin siguro ng galit ko sa ginawa niya noon, at sa dalas ko siyang makitang may kasamang ibang lalaki… pero hindi ko siya sinabihan na layuan ka.”

“Relani, you should’ve let your son deal with his own problems,” father said.

“Oh! Now, including you?” Mama sighed. “I know I’ve been wrong for meddling with it but I did not ask her to stay away. I know your mind is clouded when it comes to her, son. Sinubukan ko lamang na tumingin sa negatibong aspeto niya para mabalanse ko naman ang pananaw mo. It is true that she is amateur! It is true that her designs are too expensive! I told her that. And it is true that you’re not going to be a great leader when she’s involved! I know that because your father almost failed the Vesarius Industries because of me!”

“Do you not trust my choices, then?” iritado kong sinabi.

Hindi ko magawang magalit ng lubusan sa aking ina. I understand what she meant but I want her to leave my relationships alone. I want her to leave Zari alone. I know I can handle her better.

“You encouraged her to leave me!”

“I encouraged her to realize her potential. Kung mayroon man akong pagkakamali, iyon ay noong dineklara niya sa aking hinding-hindi siya pakakasal sa’yo, kahit anong mangyari. I was too stunned. I couldn’t believe it. Hindi ko na napabawi sa kanya iyon. I told you that weeks ago, Rai. And I am already regretting it. I tried to make it up to her but I don’t know how.”

Nanatili ang tingin ko kay Mama. Watching her pleading for understanding, in front of me, is not new. Gaya ng pagmamakaawa niya sa akin, noon, na hayaang sila ni Papa ang magbayad ng mga kailangan ko.

Our grandfather clearly taught us how not to rely on our parents. How it is important to create our own name. That my father and his brother’s were raised that way. Dahilan kung bakit ngayon, alam nila kung gaano ka importante ang paghihirap, kaakibat ng tagumpay.

“I will apologize to her, son. I will ask her to think about it again.”

“There is no need for that. I’ve already asked her the third time,” kalmado kong sinabi, hindi mapigilan ang pag gaan ng loob nang maalalang pumayag siya.

Mama pursed her lips when she noticed my relaxed reaction. She tilted her head. Muli kong tinapunan ng matalim na tingin ang aking ina.

Akala ko ilang araw ko pa siyang ikukulong dito bago ko siya mapapayag. Or maybe, it helped that she got jealous about Mariz Ong yesterday. Good thing I asked my secretary to block anyone who’d go inside my office. Kahit na ang totoo’y wala na si Mariz Ong doon.

She was there before Zari’s building proposal. Mariz asked for an extension for another magazine feature. But I finished it right away, knowing what I’m gonna do that night. Hindi ko alam na nag-antay si Zari hanggang gabi.

Kung alam lang ni Zari na abala ako sa pagcontact ng mga bodyguards, patulong kay Gino, habang mag-isa ako sa opisina, baka hindi pa iyon umamin kanina. So it’s still a good thing that she got jealous.

“Admit it, Radleigh. Your mind is too clouded when it comes to her. I can still remember how you needed to spend more time at work, years ago, just so you can buy her things. Hindi ko makakalimutan iyong inalok kita na gamitin ang perang galing sa amin para sa eskwela mo. Tinanggihan mo, and then you worked over time just so you can buy her her whims.”

Nag-iwas ako ng tingin. I did not tell her that. How she knew that is still a question to me.

Maybe Zari is going to be like her in the future. Damn, I can only fucking imagine how adorable she will be. I just hope it’s not going to be a daughter. Baka pumuti ang buhok ko ng wala sa oras kapag babae ang magiging anak namin. Hindi sa gastusin ngunit sa manliligaw. Her prime years with boys was a nightmare to every father.

“Noon pa man, hindi ko na nagugustuhan ang epekto niya sa’yo. Still, I never hated her as a person. I understand her. She was born very rich and her parents spoiled her. It is you that I’m worried about.”

“I don’t need it, Ma. You know I can take care of myself.”

Umiling si Mama. Tila marami pang pwedeng sabihin pero pinigilan na lamang ang sarili.

“She’s allowed me to marry her so I’m marrying her as soon as possible before she changes her mind.”

“I know that this will look so messed up, son. Everyone thinks you were engaged with Agatha months ago. Tapos, ito, ngayon. Kahit na alam ni Agatha at ng kanyang mga magulang ang intensyon mo sa ginawang iyon, mahirap parin sabihin sa mga tao.”

“I will ask for a conference and I’ll invite magazines to interview us. Marami na ring nakakaalam tungkol sa nangyari kaya hindi na mahirap bawiin sa mga kakilala.”

Tinapik ni Mama ang aking balikat. Natigilan ako sa mga malalim na iniisip tungkol sa mga plano ko. I’ve planned this all out. Gino’s report includes what I did. Parte ng operasyon iyon at ginamit nila kami para mahuli ang mga sindikato. It spread among those who were curious but those who were waiting for my explanation didn’t know.

“I’m really sorry, son. Kapag nagkaanak na kayong dalawa, siguro ay maiintindihan mo rin ang nararamdaman ko. Maiintindihan din ni Zari kung bakit ako ganoon. I just wish you don’t spoil your children. Lalo na’t ngayon pa lang, nakikita kong spoiled na ang Mommy ng mga apo ko,” she tried to sound and look serious ngunit nang nagkatinginan kami ay sumilay ang kanyang ngiti.

Hindi ako ngumiti. I felt relieved now but not as relieved when I’m with Zari, and we’re married, and in the same roof. ‘Tsaka lang ako mapapanatag pag ganoon.

“Double your security once you go back to Manila. There are no threats but I just want you to be safe,” father said.

I nodded.

“And make sure to finally fulfill my wish. I didn’t know that you were waiting for someone.”

I smirked at that. He smirked, too. Mama groaned at our reactions.

Hindi ko nga lang alam noon na naghihintay pala talaga ako. Ang alam ko lang ay ayaw ko pang makasal. I couldn’t find a woman to marry. I’ve been with women but I never got serious.

Iba-iba. Most of them were independent. Hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit gusto ko man ng mga responsableng tao, hindi ko parin magawang isiping papakasalan ko ang kahit na sino sa mga nakilala kong ganoon.

I don’t have plans to marry anyone. Even when my mother is almost throwing me to the Valderama’s just so I could provide my father’s wish – a grandchild.

Ayaw kong pakasalan ang kahit na sino lalo na kung alam kong masasaktan ko lang ito. I have lost the ability to love. In fact, I feel like everything that happened before was just a part of my imagination.

The way I treated Zari, the way I felt that attraction, the way I think I fell, all of it… pakiramdam ko imahinasyon o panaginip lang. That it won’t come again. That the reality is this – we won’t find that kind of happiness. If we did, it will be shortlived. If we did, it won’t last.

Paulit-ulit kong binasa ang sulat. It was on my email the other day, I thought it is a scam. Now it’s here… the hard copy of it.

Zariyah Isla Leviste

Chairman of the Board

Vista Grande, Inc. Philippines

Mr. Riego,

Greetings!

As you know, the Vista Grande is currently experiencing problems in terms of stocks. Looking back at our history and the family’s history, I am in full confidence that you will provide for our much needed help. I know that there is nothing in between our families but a great bond of friendship and understanding for the past years.

In the light of this, may you please consider our merging through a relationship of marriage-in-name only. Both the companies will benefit from it. As you will have an equal right to Vista Grande’s previous and future projects, and I, as an Architect can render my service to your company for free.

We can talk more about this once we hear from you.

Zariyah Isla Leviste

This is what Ethan’s heads up for. She’s planning this!

Ang akala ko’y pinaalam lang ni Ethan na nakabalik na ito kahapon! That’s not all! She’s planning for this!

Medyo nagusot ko ang sulat sa higpit ng aking hawak. I don’t know what to feel. I just know that this is not right.

She left me years ago because she didn’t want people to think that she’s marrying me for money! Ngayon narito siya para pakasalan ako dahil sa aking pera?

How ridiculous! Bakit ‘di niya na lang ako pinakasalan noon pa? What is the difference?

Because they are pushed back against the wall? She’s desperate? God damn it! I forgot to pray for the fall of their company years ago! Sana pala ay mas napaaga ito!

This is fucking ridiculous. Nilapag ko ang papel sa gilid ng aking mesa. Saktong pagtunog ng intercomm.

“Engineer, Mr. Ethan Leviste is here.”

“Papasukin mo.”

Ethan walked briskly towards my table. Tumayo ako at tila alam niya na kung ano ang pag-uusapan namin.

“She’s sent you the letter?” panimula niya.

Huminga ako ng malalim. Hindi ko talaga alam kung galit ako o natutuwa ako sa nangyayari. A part of me is angry that she’s at this again. A part of me is happy that I might get to play with her once we’re married. Married?! Bakit ito na agad ang naiisip ko.

“This is ridiculous!” pauna ko.

“I told you, Rad. Ang hirap pa sa kanya’y binalaan ko na siya noong nasa Espana pa siya. I told her to avoid coming back because she won’t be safe but she didn’t understand. Her account is still full kaya hindi niya maramdaman na lubog na sila sa utang.”

“I don’t understand. Is this her plan?” tanong ko sabay pakita sa nakatuping sulat ni Zari.

Alam ko na ang sagot pero hindi parin talaga ako makapaniwala. She’s supposed to grow! She should realize that she’s doing the same mistake again. Alam kong positibo iyon para sa akin pero ang akala ko ba’y iniwan niya ako noon para hindi ganito ang mangyari?

And I let her go because it was a personal thing for her. I hoped but I didn’t push it too much. I know that when I do, I’ll lose her even more. I let her go because that’s what I should do – respect her decision. Respect the changes she wants. Respect her maturity. If her maturity will demand my absence, even if it doesn’t make sense to me, I need to suck it up.

Frustrating but it is the only way to love. To adore from afar. To let go and let her grow. To just accept that the changes she wants are the change that will not include me. God, I sound like a saint even to my own ears!

Hindi ko na gusto pang balikan ang lahat ng nararamdaman ko noon. Lalo na’t ang sulat na ito ang pumukaw sa akala ko’y naibaon na ng sakit.

“Yes. It’s her plan, unfortunately.”

“Not encouraged by her Dad or anyone?”

“No. Her Dad is probably going to jail.”

Natigilan ako. What? Is he serious?

“Marami silang utang. I am actually glad that he’s going to be in the government’s custody because there’s a threat for his life! But the intelligence says…”

Parang hindi ko maproseso ang sinabi ni Ethan. Kaba lang ang tanging nararamdaman ko ngayon habang nakikinig sa kanya.

“… they are now after Zari. Kidnap for ransom. Something that the syndicate is good at. Si Tito kasi, bakit sa casino pa? He could’ve borrowed money from other people. They will be willing to lend him. To us! But then, he got addicted to gambling simula noong namatay si Tita Lana. His only escape for his pain, I guess.”

“She’s gonna be kidnapped?!” I exclaimed.

No way. What is her plan then?

“Oo. Hindi siya naniniwala, actually. Or she has a big faith towards our bodyguards. Alam kong maaasahan naman sina Roman, Rad, pero kung isang sindikato na ang gagawa ng paraan, mahihirapan ang mga iyon.”

“I have connections with the AFP. We can give them clues if only you’d give me the details of your investigation.”

Kitang-kita ko ang gulat sa mukha ni Ethan sa sinabi ko. Agad naman siyang nakabawi.

“Ikaw dapat ang mas mapa-igting ang seguridad. I trust, I can handle this family problem. You should worry about yourself.”

Kumunot ang noo ko. Hindi ko gustong magtanong dahil hindi ako naniniwalang may mas mapanganib pa sa mga banta kay Zari. Why is he here informing me and not doing anything for Zari?

“I have heard from Roman that her plan C, if you won’t agree with her conditions, is to kidnap you. Hindi ko alam kung nakuha niya ba ang ideyang iyan noong sinabi ko sa kanyang maaaring ki-kidnap-in siya ng mga sindikato o matagal niya nang pinagplanuhan iyan.”

I couldn’t believe I can afford a laugh, even without humor. Is that serious?

“She thinks she can kidnap me and pass through my security? Really?”

Umiling si Ethan. “H’wag mong maliitin ang kakayahan ng isang desperadang Leviste, Rad. And she’s not just Leviste. You know her well…”

Oh, I sure do.

Hindi ko alam kung para saan ang ngiti sa akin ngayon. Come on, Rad! She’s in danger! Which shouldn’t be my concern since she… left me… but she really thinks this would work? And she’s gonna kidnap me! Tingnan natin kung kaya niya!

“I’m sorry for the trouble. Just send her a general letter. I’ll make sure her bodyguards won’t perform the kidnapping.”

Napawi ang ngiti ko sa sinabi ni Ethan. May pinal sa tono niya at umamba pa itong umurong para lumabas na sa aking opisina.

“And what are you gonna do about the threats?” seryoso kong tanong.

“I will double her bodyguards. Inform the NBI and talk it out with her again. She’s not paying attention.”

“You sure you don’t need my help. Linya ito ni Gino, Ethan.”

Humalakhak si Ethan. “Ayaw ko nang ma involve pa ang pamilya ninyo, Rad. Tama na ang kahihiyang dinulot namin sa inyo noon. Hindi na kailangan pang palakihin ito.”

Humakbang ako ng dalawang beses. Nilagay ang mga kamay sa aking bulsa at determinadong nagsalita muli.

“What happens if it won’t work? She has a way with her words. People will always bleed for her whims. What if her bodyguards will try to capture me?” hamon ko.

“Hindi mangyayari iyan. Besides, I said it’s a plan C. She has one other plan.”

“Plan A is to ask for our marriage?” tanong ko. “Plan B is?”

“Plan B is to look for another company in the same line. Offer herself as-“

“Bullshit!” sigaw ko na umalingawngaw sa buong opisina.

Padarag kong hinampas ang backrest ng sofa sa galit.

“And you let her do that?”

Namilog saglit ang mga mata ni Ethan ngunit nakabawi naman agad.

“She’s old enough. She can handle herself. Besides, may successful namang nagsimula sa mga arranged marriage. And, man, billionaires will flock to her feet once they realize that she’s looking for a husband-“

“I have a better plan than that!”

Kumunot ang noo ni Ethan, tinagilid ang ulo sa pagtataka.

“I can…”

Pumikit ako ng mariin. I clenched my jaw tightly as I realized what I’m going to do.

Sigurado ba ako?

I don’t want to get involved with her, ever again. I don’t want to go back. I don’t even want to see her. If I do this, it will become very messy. If I do this, baka…

Hindi ko na alam kung tunay ngang galit ako sa kanya o ano. All I know now is that I am very disappointed with her. I cannot believe that she’s resorting to this. To ask for a marriage-in-name relationship to anyone! Ganyan siya ka desperada!

Kinain niya lang ang paninindigan niya. No word of honor. I can even call her a liar, at that!

But when I realize how desperate she is… and how much it hurt to swallow her pride and do this for the company she loves, I don’t think I can call her anything.

Galit, poot, at awa ang naramdaman ko para sa kanya. But beyond that is something else… Something I’m sure that ran deep.

“Hindi ko sasagutin itong sulat niya hanggang sa maayos ko ang buong plano.”

“Anong plano mo?”

“I’ll let her kidnap me.”

“Rad, ‘tsaka ka lang niya kikidnap-in kapag hindi siya nakahanap ng pamalit sa’yo!”

Huling baraha niya na iyong pangingidnap sa akin. But she has to do that! I won’t let her offer her hand to someone else!

“Make sure she kidnaps me…”

Umiling siya. “Kilala mo siya. Kung anong gusto niya, iyon ang masusunod. Well, let’s just pray she won’t perform the Plan B.”

“I need her bodyguard’s number. I will not reply to her letter until next week. This plan will work, I’m sure.”

“Paano?”

Nagkatinginan kami ni Ethan. Huminga ako ng malalim. Hindi ako makapaniwalang sa iilang minuto naming pag-uusap ay nakabuo ako ng plano.

“I have to piss her off. I will send a generic reply and an invitation of my engagement.”

“Engagement?! You’ll be engaged?!”

“Hindi. It will be just for show. Gagawa ako ng paraan. I’ll make sure she goes to that engagement. This is why I will need her bodyguard’s contact. I will remove my bodyguards. It will encourage her to pursue her plans.”

“Bakit ka pakikidnap sa kanya, kung ganoon? And… engagement? You’ll spend for an engagement for show just for this? You have got to be kidding me!”

Nanatili ang tingin ko kay Ethan. My thoughts about this is racing in my head. I don’t know which one to think about first. All I know is that my interest about this is to the sky.

Damn, that woman!

Just look at her plans! Marry me? Really? Alam niya ba ang ibig sabihin man lang ng pag-aasawa? And hell, I won’t marry her! Of course, not!

Not unless she’ll give me a better reason than her failing company! She has to…

Actually, I’m also willing to negotiate. I can lure her to marriage and… God damn it, Radleigh! Concentrate!

“You seem to have thought about this too much. O ganyan ka lang talaga kabilis mag-isip ng paraan sa kahit anong problema?”

Ethan smirked at me. Tinigil ko ang mga naiisip. I relaxed and sighed.

“I know Zari. And if she’s this desperate to get the company back, I’m sure she did not learn a bit from what happened years ago.”

“I guess old habits, die really hard.”

“Yeah. Old habits…” I trailed off.

Ethan snapped out of it. Tumuwid siya sa pagkakatayo at umalerto.

“Really, Rad. You don’t have to do this thing. I can handle my cousin. I’m sorry for the trouble.”

“Ethan, I don’t think you know her very well if you think you can handle her.”

“Tsss.”

Muli siyang nagtagal. Humalukipkip at muli akong tiningnang may bahid na hamon.

“Fine. If you so want to be involved that you’d waste your money and time for this, then, be my guest. I’m not really fond of taming that woman, Rad. Stubborn and expensive like her mother. And. Arrogant as a Leviste. A very bad combination. Kung hindi ko lang siya mahal-“

“Mahal mo, pero hahayaan mong pakasalan niya lang ang kahit sino?” agap ko.

Ngumisi siya. Ang panunukso sa kanyang mga mata ay nakakairita.

“Oh, looks like someone can’t get over my whiny little cousin.”

Hindi na ako nagsalita.

“You know, Rad. You can always wait. For sure, hindi naman iyon magse-settle sa lalaking ‘di niya gusto. After the company recovers, she’ll plan her way out with a divorce… And you, you can just start it over again with her if you want.”

Para akong binuhusan ng malamig na tubig sa mga sinasabi ni Ethan. Seryoso bang mahal niya ang pinsan niya? Sigurado ba siyang nag-aalala nga siya para rito?

Hindi ko hahayaang magpakasal si Zari sa kahit na sinong lalaki para lang sa kanyang kompanya! There is no way in hell she’ll marry someone that way when years ago, she did not accept me!

“You’re fucking kidding me, right?” seryoso kong sinabi.

Ngumuso siya at nagkunwaring nag-iisip pa ng tamang isasagot.

“We’ll proceed with my plans. I will need your investigation…”

Hindi ko na kailangan pa ng karagdagang pagsang-ayon galing kay Ethan. There is no way in hell I am going to agree to Zari’s plan. Kahit na hindi naman talaga kailangan ng pagsang-ayon ko. Kahit na hindi kailangan ng opinyon ko!

“Fine. Just don’t forget…”

Dalawang oras mahigit ang pag-uusap namin. May appointment na ako kay Gino. It was lucky that he’s working on the case of the syndicate involved. Hindi ko alam pero parang itinutulak ako ng lahat na gawin ito. Kahit na hindi parin ako makapagdesisyon kung galit ba ako kay Zari o wala nang pakealam.

“… you will be too controlling for her.”

“Alam ko,” agap ko.

Hindi ko na kailangan pa ng paalala. Ilang beses ko nang naisip iyan sa loob ng ilang taon. That my thoughts, whenever I’m alone, will always lead me to that decision. That my thoughts would always wander to the years and years ago of what really happened between us.

“She likes to think she’s in charge with her life. Even when she’s failing miserably. She has to take charge with her life.”

Hindi na ako sumagot kay Ethan. Nag-iwas na lamang ako ng tingin.

“To marry you in her conditions. To do things in her way. That’s how she wants her life to be. Hindi dahil gusto mo… o ng kahit sino.”

Alam ko.

Hirap na hirap akong intindihin lahat ng iyan. Sa ilang ulit kong pag-iisip tungkol diyan, hindi ko parin malaman kung paano siya pakawalan nang hindi lubusang nakakalipad palayo.

If ever… I would again get drawn with her right now, I will do everything to keep her. Kahit na alam kong mahihirapan ako.

Her soul loves freedom. She’d want nothing to do with me. She’d want no strings with me while I try to keep her from flying away. While I want her all tied up with me. While I don’t want freedom from her. We’re opposites. Kaya paano ko siya mahahawakan nang hindi niya nalalaman? How can I give her space and make her come back to me at the end of the day?

“I said I want to go back to Manila! I said I want to leave the island! I said I’m sorry that I kidnapped you for my selfish reason! Bakit hindi mo parin ako binabalik sa Maynila, huh?”

She coughed. Kakaibang takot ang naramdaman ko nang nakita kong desperada niyang nilangoy ang dagat para lang makawala sa akin.

To want so bad to get away from me is an insult. But instead of being angry, all I can do is stare at her. I want to set her free so bad. To give in to her whim. To give in to her wishes. To give her everything that she wants. But I’m afraid I can’t do that right now. Kung delikadong pakawalan siya, titiisin kong makita siyang nahihirapan.

Her chest is so red. Taas-baba ang kanyang hininga habang siya’y basang basa. Hindi niya na alintanang kita ang kanyang katawan sa suot niyang tuwalya ngayon.

Damn! Baby, please, please, fall in love with me. Surrender and let me love you my way.

“What is this?” tanong niya, nanginginig ang boses sa takot. “What is this all about, huh? Revenge? For what, Radleigh? Dahil sinubukan kong kidnapin ka? Dahil natigil ang engagement mo? Damn it! I promise I won’t bother you anymore just take me back to Manila!”

Oh no, you won’t go back to Manila if you won’t bother me again!

Alam kong ganito ang mangyayari noong nagdesisyon akong makealam sa buhay niyang muli. Alam kong mas lalo ulit nitong paiigtingin ang kagustuhan kong maidikit ang buhay niya sa akin. Pero hindi ko alam na ganito na katindi ang nararamdaman ko para sa kanya.

It’s like a dead part of my heart ressurected when I saw her again. Like I came back to life when I heard her voice. Kahit na sa maling serkumstansya ang pagkikita namin.

Hinawakan ko ang mga kamay niya habang siya’y umiiyak, naghihisterya, at nanginginig. His hands were cold. She didn’t mind my touch.

Damn!

“I’m sorry, okay? You have proven that you’re better than me. I will stop bothering you just take me back to Manila! Pakawalan mo na ako! Is this about what happened years ago? Is this revenge for that, Rad?” maliit at nagmamakaawa ang kanyang boses.

“No,” I said, trying to make my voice sound so strong.

“If I’ve hurt you, then I’m sorry. I know my ways are usually crooked. And I’m sure you don’t believe that I can kill you, right? Oo at hindi ako mabuti pero hindi ko magagawa iyon kaya ano itong parusang ibinibigay mo sa akin ngayon?”

Her tears fell. Damn it!

A weak Zariyah Leviste is my only weakness. A crying Zariyah Leviste will be my death. I licked my lips and tilted my head to taste her lips. Alat ng dagat at tamis ng labi niya ang nalasahan ko. I stopped myself from kissing her more. I let our nose touch as I close my eyes and try to concentrate.

“Are you mad at me for dumping you years ago?” halos bulong iyon.

“Yes,” I breathed.

Yes, Zari. I was so mad at you. I am still so mad at you.

Kung pinakasalan mo sana ako noon at hinayaan mo tayong magsimula, sana hindi na umabot sa ganito. Sana naintindihan ko na agad.

“Radleigh,” si Gino habang nagliligpit ako ng gamit.

High school pa lang kami nang nakahiligan namin ang Jiu Jitsu. He’s encouraged by his Dad, while I am just fully interested in martial arts. Kaya ngayong pareho na kaming tapos sa pag-aaral, nagpapalipas oras kami sa isang gym, hindi kalayuan sa amin.

“Wala kang gagawin mamaya? Binilin ni Raja na idate natin ‘yong mga kaibigan niya, e. Type ka raw ng isang kaibigan niya. Mamaya na lang iyon dahil baka wala na ako rito sa susunod na linggo.”

I laughed.

I have dated so many girls. May iilang alam kung ano ang kakayahang pinansyal ng pamilya ko. May iilang hindi. Rich girls would always pretend that they liked my principles, or maybe some of them truly did.

Hindi marangya ang ibinibigay kong date dahil kinikita ko ang perang ginagasta. And they would always try to eat on fastfoods, settle with just a movie, or even just a simple night in a club with our friends. At the end of the day, sasabihin nila sa akin na gusto pa nilang ulitin.

Simple girls were actually better. They don’t need to pretend.

Pero wala sa dalawa ang gusto ko. Ang hindi ko maintindihan ay kung bakit tila paglalaro lang ang intensyon ko sa mga babaeng iyon. Hindi ko magawang magseryoso. Maybe because I am too young to think about getting a serious relationship.

“Wala na akong pera, e. Next time na lang,” sabi ko, patuloy sa pagliligpit.

Nasa isang bench ang bag ko. Si Gino ay hindi pa nakakapagbihis. His arms were crossed and he looks confused.

“Gipit na gipit ka, ah? What happened to your budget?”

I smirked and shook my head.

“Ah! Alam ko na. May babae kang pinagkakagastusan?” tukso niya sabay tawa.

Hindi ako nagsalita.

“Oh great! Some pretty chic from Ateneo? Marami bang kaibigan? Ipakilala mo naman ako. I like non-rich girls. They are not high maintenanced!” sabi nito.

Thank God! You won’t like her, Gino. She’ll be a poor man’s nightmare, actually.

I zipped my duffel bag. Nag-angat ako ng tingin sa kanya. Napawi agad ang ngiti niya nang may napagtanto.

“H’wag mo sabihin saking iyong spoiled brat, ito?!”

Zari is unpretentious to me. Wala siyang pakealam kung malaman ko kung gaano siya ka obsess sa pamimili. Wala siyang pakealam kung masaktan niya ang ego ko tuwing sinasabi niyang pangit ang sasakyan ko o hindi ko mabili ang mga gusto niya. She’s a perfect example of a rich spoiled brat. Sometimes I get pissed at her but when she cries, she gets so adorable… Imbes na magalit, I wanna kiss her instead.

She’s so spoiled. Kailangan siyang disiplinahin. Iyon ang ginagawa ng mga magulang niya.

Ngunit tuwing naiisip kong maaari siyang i-spoil ng iba, hindi ko matanggap. I want to be the one who’ll spoil her. I want her to learn, but I’d always end up spoiling her. Lalo na kapag nakikita kong unti-unti niyang naiintindihan ang lahat. Lalo na tuwing mas nakikita ko ng husto ang kanyang puso.

“Oh! How young is she? Does she have big… you know?” tanong ni Gino habang hinuhulma ang sariling dibdib.

“Fuck you…” sabay talikod ko sa kanya.

“Rad! Anong nangyayari sa’yo, pare? Biro lang ‘yon! Pero seryoso bang wala ka mamaya? Ililibre na lang kita. Baka magalit pa si Raja satin. Paano iyong mga babae?”

Tinapunan ko siyang ng matalim na tingin. Umurong siya. Member of an elite squadron, but I am better at Jiu Jitsu. He knows that.

“I have a girlfriend,” I said that as an excuse. Dahil kung sabihin kong walang pera, ililibre niya pa ako.

Humagalpak sa tawa si Gino. “Zariyah Leviste? Akala ko ba ayaw mo sa mga mayayaman? Mukhang gusto mo ata sa sobrang mayayaman!”

I smirked. “Aalis na ako. May trabaho pa ako mamaya.”

“Mukhang mauubusan ka ata talaga ng pera sa girlfriend mong ‘yan, ah?”

Tumawa ako at tinapik siya sa balikat. Walang ano mang biro ang makakapagpatagal sa akin doon.

“I want a pre-nuptial agreement. All of Radleigh’s acquired properties will be his, only. There will be no conjugal properties or any form of conjugal assets-“

“What about properties acquired after marriage?” tanong ko. “That should be conjugal-“

“I don’t really care about your properties, Rad. Kung pinaghatian natin, ayos lang na conjugal iyon. Kung ikaw lang ang bumili, sa’yo lang lahat ng iyan.”

“Hindi ata pwede ‘yan, hija,” Mama butts in.

“Okay lang, po, Ma’am. I don’t mind…” Zari said in a cold tone.

Shit. Damn it! I rested my hand on her thigh below the table. She stiffened. Paano ba ito ngayon?

“Zari, please, Radleigh’s right. It is okay. You two will get married,” si Mama.

“I will only marry him, po, once he agrees with my terms.”

I lazily stroked her thigh. Fine, baby. Whatever you want. I can always give you things. I can always give you gifts, everyday. I can always raise your salary, anyway. I will find a way.

Para saan ang lahat ng ito kung hindi para sa kanya?

Namutla si Mama sa sinabi ni Zari. Napainom ng tubig, tila hindi kakayanin ang katigasan ng ulo ng magiging asawa ko.

“All my acquired assets are mine. And all your assets are… mine.” I whispered the last word.

All that’s yours are mine. Including your lips, your legs, your eyes, your bed, your everything.

“Radleigh!” si Mama, bilang protesta sa sinabi ko.

Nanatiling seryoso si Zari habang nakatingin sa reaksyon ng aking ina. Napangiti ako. I can’t seem to get enough with her. I didn’t know she’d be this hot when she’s serious.

“F-Fine. So we’ll plan the wedding out immediately tomorrow?” tanong ni Mama. “Sa katapusan na iyon, ‘di ba?”

Napatingin si Zari sa akin, punong-puno na ng pagtataka ang mga mata ngayon. Parang gusto niya pang mag protesta. My hand left her thighs. I saw a glint of disappoinment in her eyes.

My turn, baby.

“I want a grand wedding. Hire the country’s best staff for it. Ikaw na ang bahala sa mga gusto mong kunin. I just want it to be grand and very soon.”

“That’s very soon!” protesta niya.

“We will get married anyway, what is the point of its delay? Wedding planners are used to the rush, Zari. We will leave for Manila this afternoon. I moved your things to my condo unit. Pati si Belinda.”

Kitang-kita ko ang mangha sa mukha ni Zari. Hinapit ko siya sa baywang at hinalikan sa pisngi. I rested my nose on her ears.

“There will be no turning back. Or I will sue you till you’re rat poor, baby…” I chuckled.

Kinagat niya ang kanyang labi at sa huli ay ngumuso na lamang.

The life that I want is with her. The life that I’m waiting for is my life with her.

Noong nalaman kong gusto kaming ipakasal ng kanyang Mommy, hindi ko alam kung bakit sigurado agad ako. She’s very young. Someone that shouldn’t be my type. I have a different taste in women. She’s also rich and spoiled, the two things I hate the most. Kaya hindi ko rin alam kung paano ko siya nagustuhan.

Maybe, life just works that way. Unexpected. Uncontrollable.

“Was it love at first sight, Miss Leviste?”

Tatlong magazine staff ang nag iinterview sa amin. A TV show even featured us. May mga photographers at iilan pang tao sa aking opisina para sa interviews. Mama and Tito Geoffrey are watching us as the interview goes on.

Nakahapit ako sa baywang ni Zari. Slightly stroking it. Damn, even with all these people, I can’t help but touch her.

She looks so adorable and seriously hot. Ganito naman siya lagi pero mas lalong nag-aalab ang paningin ko sa kanya lalo na tuwing naiisip kong ikakasal na talaga siya sa akin!

“No, actually not.” nilingon niya ako.

Nanatiling seryoso ang kanyang mga mata. I was asked several questions about how we met. Ngayon ko lang siya maririnig na magsalita, siguro ay ngayon lang nagkaroon ng lakas ng loob ang mga staff na tanungin siya ng mga tanong na para sa kanya.

“Years ago, and as confirmed by some of our sources, you were bound to marry Engineer Riego for your business’ sake…”

I stopped stroking her waist. Mas nakinig sa tanong. Hindi ako makapaniwalang pumayag siyang tanungin ng ganito! Ipinakita sa amin ang mga tanong at aaprubahan bago masasagot sa harap nilang lahat. She approved of this?

Mama shifted uncomfortably on her feet. She gave me a knowing look. Alam kong maging siya ay hindi naging komportable sa tanong. Natigil lamang ang tingin niya nang may sinabi si Geoffrey Leviste sa kanya.

“Yes, it is true. I did not want to marry him for business. That’s why I called the engagement off…” matamang sinabi ni Zari.

I stared at her. Nanatili siyang seryoso at taas noo habang sinasagot ang mga tanong.

Ano ‘yong sinabi niya?

“So you disliked the idea, Miss Leviste…” medyo lito ring tanong ng nag iinterview.

Zari slightly sighed.

“I didn’t want to marry him for his money. I didn’t know how to make people understand that it is not their business or their money or his leadership that I want. I don’t know how to explain that I fell in love with him…”

I am stunned. Is this true or is she just answering all of this for the feature’s sake? Damn it!

“That it is our emotional relationship that I want. Not the other things. Mahirap sabihin iyon, lalo na kung ang tingin ng lahat sa iyo ay mali. Lalo na dahil alam ng lahat na shopaholic at spoiled ako. Alam ng lahat na ikakasal kami para lang sa kompanya. I was engaged to him for the wrong intentions but I wanted to make it happen for the right reason.”

Napaawang ang bibig ko habang tinitingnan siya ngayon. You’ve got to be kidding me! I know that she was attracted with me but I didn’t know she’s…

“I want it to happen because I am in love with him. At seventeen… No… At fifteen or sixteen, actually. But I was too young to realize it. So, I called the engagement off to prove that I do not want any of his money or his company. Even if it means I’ll fail my parents, or I’ll hurt the people around us.”

“Pero hindi ba umalis ka para mag-aral sa ibang bansa? Did you maintain the communication with him, Miss Leviste? Since you said, you were in love with him?”

Fuck!

“No, I didn’t. I failed my mother. I failed the people around him. I failed him, as well. I considered that a love that’s lost. I was hopeful I’d find a better one after that first love, but I never had a relationship after him.”

My heart hurt at her confession. I inhaled her scent. Hinilig ko ang aking ilong sa kanyang tainga.

Pagkatapos ng lahat ng ito. Iuuwi kita.

Pagkatapos ng lahat ng ito, tayong dalawa na lang talaga.

“You’d never find another man,” I whispered.

“I know that it is useless to ask this question but ano ang nakita mo kay Engineer Riego, Miss Leviste?”

Natawa si Zari ng bahagya. Nanatili akong seryoso na nakatingin sa kanya.

“I guess, years ago, I fell in love with him because he’s showed me how to love. I fell for the way he loves me. I fell for his patience, no matter how much he wants to possess and keep me, he’d try his best to free me. I fell for his understanding. I fell for his thoughtfulness. I fell for his perseverance. Hindi niya man alam na nararamdaman ko kung gaano siya nahirapan doon, pero alam ko, dahil ako rin, hirap na hirap din akong panindigan na hinding hindi ko siya pakakasalan dahil ayaw kong maisip ng lahat na masama ang intensyon ko. Hirap na hirap akong tanggihan siya. Hirap na hirap ako, lagi, magkunwari na hindi talaga ito para sa akin.”

She sighed heavily. Tears pooled in the sides of her eyes. I kissed the side of her ears. Nanatili akong nakahalik doon dahil masyadong mabilis ang hampas sa dibdib ko.

“I have learned to love him deeply because he loved me deeply, first.”

“That’s so sweet, Miss Leviste…”

Hindi ko na alam kung bakit parang ang tahimik ng lahat. All my focus is on her. Damn! Ilang sandaling nanatiling ganoon.

“C-Can we take a photo of your engagement ring?” nanginginig na tanong ng nag-iinterview.

“Sure,” Zari said.

I didn’t move. I felt her arm stretch for the picture. Nanatili akong nakahalik sa kanya.

“Which one of these, Miss Leviste?”

“The first one is our latest engagement ring. The second, he gave that to me a month ago in this office. The last ring is our engagement ring five years ago. The one I publicly called off.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, bakit po umabot sa tatlo?”

“She rejected me twice, I blackmailed her the third time…” I said with all honesty without looking at them.

They all laughed at my answer. Hindi nila alam na totoo iyon.

Nilingon ako ni Zari. I smirked at her. Kita ko ang gulat sa kanyang mga mata. Bumaba ang tingin ko sa kanyang labi, bumalik muli sa kanyang mga mata. Nanatili ang titig niya sa akin na tila namamangha.

“What’s that look for? Hmmm? Do I look too hopelessly in love with you?” I whispered.

Nilagay niya ang kanyang kamay sa aking hita. Bumaba ang tingin niya roon. The bangle on her wrist is her favorite bracelet, the diamond paved 18 karat yellow gold. I found a way to make her accept my gifts. If I have known it was that easy, sana ay hindi na kami umabot pa ng ilang taon.

“I wanna go home with you,” she whispered back.

Tumuwid ako sa pagkakaupo at nilingon ang staff sa aming harap.

“Should we call it a day?” tanong ko.

“Last na lang po, Engineer Riego. We’d like to ask Mr. Leviste, Madame Relani Riego and Engineer Ares Riego to join you for a family picture. We will include this in one of our articles.”

Tumango ako at nilingon muli si Zari habang lumalapit sila sa amin.

Tinapik ako ni Tito Geoffrey, I gave him a smile. Hindi ko namalayang naging emosyonal din pala si Tito. The sides of his eyes were moist and a bit red. Maybe he got too emotional with Zari’s answers.

Napatingin ako kay Zari na ngayon ay niyakap ni Mama. They’re both crying and whispering to each other. Nilingon ko si Papa at si Tito na ngayon ay natatawa na lamang sa dalawa.

“Finally, the merging of…” Ngumisi si Tito Geoffrey. “Families?”

Umiling ako at ngumiti sa kanyang biro. Tumawa rin si Papa.

“Sana ay matulungan mo akong kumbinsihin si Zari sa Vista Grande, Geoffrey.”

“You know that woman has her own way of doing things, Ares. Mas lalo mong pinipilit, mas lalong magrerebelde.”

Nilingon kong muli si Zari at si Mama.

“Tita’s make-up is ruined! Shall we delay the shoot and fix us up first? I don’t want us too look like a mess in your article!” Zari said in her girly voice.

Lahat yata ng naroon ay narinig ang kanyang hinaing. Someone called for their artist and everyone started fixing Mama’s hair.

The staff flocked to Zari for her make up. Sa dami ng gumagawa sa kanyang buhok at mukha, nakuha niya paring sumilip at ngumiti sa akin.

I smiled at the lovely, beautiful, high-maintenanced, and luxurious Zariyah Isla Leviste Riego. She grinned at me.

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