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Chapter 33

Posted by PURPLEYHAN STORIES on Sunday, February 4, 2018

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I spent my third day roaming around the company building because I was bored and I wanted to see the expressions of those board members. As luck would have it, Mr. Yu, the fox-looking geezer who tried to humiliate me yesterday, entered the elevator with me and it was already too late when he realized who I was.

“Good morning, Sir,” bati ko at umatras naman siya. I smirked at his action and held my head high. “You seem uncomfortable.”

He glared at me in return. “Just because you gained the approval of some members doesn’t mean you have the right to—”

Sakto namang tumunog ang elevator at nagsimula akong maglakad kaya hindi na niya natapos ang sasabihin niya. Pero bago sumara ang pinto ay humarap ako sa kanya at kita sa mukha niya ang inis dahil sa ginawa ko.

“What an insolent brat,” he grumbled. “Rudeness must be hereditary in your family.”

Tumaas naman ang kilay ko sa sinabi niya at sa totoo lang ay gusto ko nang sabunutan ang matandang ‘yon nang tuluyan nang mawala ang buhok sa ulo niya pero nagawa kong pigilan ang sarili ko. Instead, I gave him the sweetest smile I could offer.

“You know, respect shouldn’t be freely given to old people. You should also earn it. Clearly, you don’t deserve it so I guess my knack for someone’s attitude is, indeed, a hereditary trait.”

Before he could say anything, the door had already concealed his figure. I strutted toward the lobby and saw employees doing their own business. Balak ko sanang dumiretso sa right wing pero may nakita akong hindi kanais-nais. Paliko na ako nang bigla kong narinig ang pangalan ko. Damn it. He saw me.

“Chloe!” tawag niya kaya napilitan akong lumingon.

“Yes? What do you want?”

Shang Zuan smiled at me. Sinabayan niya akong maglakad at nag-offer siya na mag-coffee. Dahil hindi pa ako kumakain ay pumayag na rin ako. Isa pa, marami akong gustong itanong tungkol sa mga nangyayari sa company.

Dumiretso kami sa café sa floor na ‘to at sinundan ko siya sa loob. Napunta kami sa parang veranda at mukhang doon ang gusto niyang pwesto. Pagdating ko ro’n ay napahinto ako sa paglalakad.

The view from here was breathtaking. The veranda overlooked the Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay Sands, which looked like an exquisite painting in the morning.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” sabi niya at tumango naman ako.

Habang hinihintay namin ang order ay bigla naman siyang nagtanong.

“How long are you going to stay here?”

“Till tomorrow,” sagot ko.

“Oh. I thought you’d stay longer.”

Gusto ko na ngang umuwi. I wanted to say that but I held back.

“I have a question—I mean, questions.”

“Go on,” he said and he didn’t know that he would regret those words.

Inulan ko siya ng tanong tungkol sa kumpanya at marami akong nalaman mula sa kanya. According to him, there are two factions: those who are siding my Dad and those who are siding Mr. Mao. Basically, the Mao faction opposes Dad’s decisions and tries to bring him down because they think he’s not capable of running the company. Shang and his father are allies of my Dad and he said that the other faction might outnumber them soon. As expected, Mr. Yu belongs to Mao faction.

“So yeah, that’s why I thought you’d stay to help your father since your Mom isn’t here,” Shang said. “Well, I guess your Dad thinks you’re still too young to handle this kind of mess.”

That statement sounded offensive to me and it seemed like he noticed it.

“Oh, sorry, did I cross some line?”

Huminga naman ako nang malalim para kumalma. Hindi naman niya alam ang sitwasyon namin kaya wala akong karapatang magalit lalo na’t ako ang nag-open ng topic. One more thing, I don’t want to lose an ally in this company.

“No. I’m just . . . hungry.”

Pagkasabi ko no’n ay saktong dumating ang food kaya itinigil namin ang topic tungkol sa kumpanya at kumain muna.

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

Muntik ko nang maibuga ang kapeng iniinom ko nang marinig ko ang tanong niya. My tongue felt like on fire. I glared at him for asking a stupid question but he didn’t budge.

“What the hell?” sabi ko at para bang pinipigilan niya ang pagtawa.

“I thought it’d be better to be direct given your personality,” he responded. I was about to say some nasty words but I noticed his ears getting red.

“Why? Are you going to ask me out?” I retorted and this time, he was the one who was caught off-guard.

Ilang segundo siyang umuubo dahil painom din siya sa kape niya at natawa na lang siya pagkatapos no’n. Huh. Hindi mo ako matatalo pagdating sa ganito.

“Wow. Okay, I lost. You’re good at this.”

“Of course. I hate guys with no guts.”

“I can see that.”

Napangiti na lang kaming dalawa at in fairness, nasasabayan niya ako sa ganitong usapan. The only person who could do that was . . . well, Jazer.

“I guess you’re the kind of girl who breaks guys’ hearts without even trying,” sabi niya kaya napataas ang kilay ko. Was that a compliment or an insult?

“Oh, it’s the opposite, believe it or not.”

“Is that a joke?”

“Do you think I’m the type of person who speak jokes?”

“Definitely not.” Again. Was that a compliment or an insult?

“Someone had already broke my heart before.”

“Didn’t expect that. Who would’ve thought that someone could break that tough heart of yours?”

“Well, that means that someone has a tougher heart.”

“Now, I’m curious about that someone.”

Oh, you know him, I wanted to say. It was Dad. My father broke my heart before any guy could.

Ngumiti na lang ako sa kanya. “You’re about to cross the line.”

***

Bumalik ako sa hotel matapos no’n at hanggang sa huling araw ko rito ay nag-stay lang ako sa kwarto ko. I searched articles about dementia and if there were any cure.

In the case of most progressive dementias, including Alzheimer's disease, there is no cure and no treatment that slows or stops its progression. But there are drug treatments that may temporarily improve symptoms.

Para namang lumubog ang puso ko nang mabasa ko ‘yon. Bigla na lang tumulo ang luha ko dahil parang hopeless case na ang kalagayan ni Mom.

“Damn it!”

Padabog kong sinara ang laptop ko at nahiga na lang sa kama. Kinuha ko ang phone ko at nakitang may unread emails ako. Sino pa nga ba?

To: Jazer John Zurbano <jazerzurbano@gmail.com>

Good evening. Hinahanap ka na nila.

I downloaded the video file and saw Czanelle’s and Clark’s faces. Para naman akong tanga dahil naiyak na naman ako. Ngayon ko lang na-realize na na-miss ko na ang mga bubwit na ‘yon kahit na lagi lang naman silang nangungulit.

“Ate, I miss you, uwi ka na, please?” Czanelle said and after that Clark’s longing face came into view while mumbling something.

“Uwi ka na raw.” Nagulat naman ako nang marinig ko ang boses ni Jazer sa background. “Uuwi ka na bukas, ‘di ba? Miss mo na sila, ‘no?”

Napangiti naman ako dahil doon. Nagpatuloy ang video sa pagfi-film sa kanilang dalawa at nakita kong patapos na. I-e-exit ko na sana pero sa huling tatlong segundo ay bigla ulit siyang nagsalita.

“Miss na rin kita,” sabi niya at sinundan niya ‘yon ng pagtawa. “Joke lang, sungit.”

The video had ended but I was still staring at the screen of my phone, contemplating if I should play that part again to make sure I wasn’t hearing things. In the end, I turned it off because it was too embarrassing.

“Baliw ba siya?” bulong ko sa sarili ko. “Bwisit, kung anu-anong pinagsasabi.”

Tumayo ako para kumuha ng tubig sa ref dahil parang nag-aapoy ang mukha ko. I leaned against the wall to calm myself but his words continuously echoed inside my head.

“Tama na nga,” I muttered while slapping myself. “Bawal.”

I shook my head to remove those thoughts. Bumalik ako sa kama at nagbasa ng kung anu-anong journals tungkol sa stocks para magpaantok. Patulog na sana ako nang marinig ko ang pagbukas ng pinto. I was about to get up but when I heard Dad’s voice, I froze.

Nagpanggap akong tulog at narinig kong papalapit na siya rito kaya kinabahan ako. Bakit siya nandito? Bakit niya ako pinuntahan?

Naramdaman ko naman ang pag-ayos niya sa kumot ko at ang pag-upo niya sa bandang ulunan ng kama.

“Good thing you’re asleep,” he said in a soft voice. “I’m sure you’d push me away if you see me here.”

I was surprised when I felt his hand on my hair. Mabuti na lang at patay ang ilaw sa kwarto ko dahil parang nanunubig na ang mga mata ko.

“Ngayon ko lang na-realize na ang laki mo na talaga,” he said and it was getting harder to hold back my tears. “Dalaga na ang anak ko. Parang dati lang, binubuhat pa kita.”

Hindi ko na napigilan at tahimik lang akong umiiyak. Ano bang problema niya at kailangan niya pa ‘tong gawin?

“Mukhang matagal pa bago ulit kita makita. Be strong, Chloe,” he whispered as his lips touched my forehead. “Don’t get sick.”

Naramdaman ko ang pagtayo niya. Hinintay kong sumara ang pinto bago ako tuluyang dumilat. Napaupo ako at doon na ako tuluyang humikbi. His words brought back the memories I had buried deep down my mind. Dad putting me on his back, running around as if I was flying and pleading to do it one more time.

Damn it. Why does my family only know how to make me cry?

***

Hinatid ako ni Greg sa airport at nag-shades na lang ako dahil mugto ang mga mata ko. I couldn’t sleep last night because of that man.

“Swollen eyes?” tanong ni Greg kaya kumunot ang noo ko.

“You were there,” I said as realization hit me. He must be the one who accompanied Dad and his smirk confirmed it. “You, sly,” I muttered.

Nang makarating kami sa departure area ay nagpaalam na siya sa akin at dumiretso naman ako sa plane. Hindi ko na napansin ang oras dahil natulog lang ako buong byahe. Halos tanghali na yata nang makarating ako sa Pilipinas kaya nairita ako. Ang init sa pakiramdam.

Nag-book agad ako ng taxi at bumiyahe pauwi sa bahay. Pagdating ko sa tapat ng bahay ay pinagbuksan agad ako ni Kuya Larry at kinuha niya ang maleta ko. Dumiretso ako sa pintuan at halos hindi ako nakagalaw sa kinatatayuan ko dahil tumakbo sa direksyon ko si Czanelle.

“Ate! Ate! Ate! You’re back!” she excitedly yelled while clinging to my legs.

“Yeah, yeah but get off my leg first, it’s hard to—” Agad naman siyang umalis pero hinawakan niya ang kamay ko at sinabayan akong maglakad.

Clark approached us with his mincing steps and I had to resist laughing because he looked like a walking penguin. Gaya ni Czanelle ay kumapit din siya sa binti ko pero dahil mas magaan siya ay hinayaan ko na lang.

Bumagsak ako sa couch at kahit natulog lang ako buong byahe ay ramdam ko ang pagod.

“Chloe!” sigaw ni Nanay Meling at napangiti naman ako dahil hawak niya pa ang sandok habang palapit sa amin. “Na-miss kitang bata ka!”

Nilibot ko naman ang paningin ko at nagulat ako nang biglang nagsalita si Kuya Larry na kapapasok lang sa bahay.

“Si Jazer?” tanong niya habang nakangiti nang nakakaloko. “Naku, hindi mo naabutan. Kaninang umaga siya umalis.”

“Umalis siya?” tanong ko.

“Oo, umuwi sa kanila. Mukhang sa pasukan pa siya babalik.”

Pagkarinig ko no’n ay isa lang ang naisip ko—hindi siya nagpaalam. He did the same method I did. Oh. May isa pa pala akong naisip. Si Katrina.



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