The thing about rumors was that they were often blown out of proportions.
I was peacefully reading reference books in the library when I overheard a conversation behind the shelves.
“Omg did you hear the news about Darryl and Steff?”
“Yup! May nakakita raw kay Steff na papunta sa bahay nina Darryl.”
“I guess they are still going strong.”
“Right? I have always thought they’re a business couple.”
“I mean like they are just using each other to boost their fame.”
They were already writing their own fiction and I couldn’t stand that any longer. Mabilis kong inilagay ang earphones sa tenga ko at nilakasan ang volume ng kanta. As if fate was toying with me, the music player played the song I was practicing for the project.
Mukhang mas lalo pang kakalat ang rumors dahil may practice ulit kami ngayon sa bahay nila. I needed to cover my tracks this time so they wouldn’t know what would happen. Wait. Or we could clarify that we were just practicing for our music project since we were partners.
Dahil nag-drift na ang isip ko tungkol doon ay hindi na ako makapag-focus sa pagbabasa, which was frustrating because the midterms would be in two weeks. Inilabas ko na lang ang earphones ko at nakinig ng music. But fate seemed to be playing with me because the first song to play was The Story of Us.
Coincidentally, today would also be our shooting day. Fortunately, tapos na ang make up classes ko ‘pag weekend kaya okay lang kahit medyo ma-late ako ng uwi mamayang gabi.
Niligpit ko ang gamit ko para pumunta sa last class ko for this day. What I liked about BSBA in this university was that the only major subject for first year first semester was Math 36. Pero ang nakakainis din ay ‘yung electives pa madalas ang demanding sa course requirements, but what could I do? Every grade would affect my general weighted average, so might as well put effort into everything.
After our Philo class ay dumiretso ako sa garden. Dad had to meet clients ‘til 6 p.m., so Darryl suggested to just ride together with him. I was worried that rumors will arise again if someone sees us “going home” together, although it was just for the project. Somehow, I envied him for his nonchalance about the gossip articles and rumors.
As if on cue, his name appeared on my screen.
“Hello?” bungad ko nang sagutin ko ang tawag.
“Steff, saan ka banda?”
For a second, I was taken aback, but regained my composure. “Uhm, sa garden,” I replied.
“Okay, I’m on my way. See you!”
He ended the call, but I was still staring at my screen. Maybe because I was used to him calling me by that cringeworthy endearment that it felt strange to be called by my name. Like that night, too, during our first practice.
“Oh, please, come to your senses,” I mumbled after realizing I was thinking too deeply about that.
Few minutes later, Darryl arrived and suddenly, people were staring at us. Right. To them, we were dating, and honestly, the rumors had already gone too far that denying it would just backfire, especially since we somehow fanned the flames before.
Agad naman akong tumayo at kinuha ang gamit ko. I was surprised when he got hold of one of my bags from me. Nagdala kasi ako ng extrang damit na gagamitin ko for the recording. I quietly followed him to the parking lot and their driver was already waiting for us there. It was still a bit frightening to ride a car that wasn’t ours and without Dad, but kuya Peter was a gentle driver and very personable, so some of my worries got pushed at the back of my mind.
Upon arrival, we immediately set the room for the shoot. Kailangan lang naman namin ipakita na nagp-play kami ng instruments habang kumakanta pero mukhang may ibang balak ang isang ‘to.
“How about we take it up a notch?” he said. “Gusto mo bang gawing parang music video?”
Napanganga naman ako sa sinabi niya. “Why?”
He shrugged in return. “Extra points for the effort and uniqueness of it? Gusto kong mataas ang makuha kong grade kahit elective pa ‘to.”
Okay, that bought me. Perhaps we would receive a good grade if we aced this project.
I was initially hesitant with his plan, but when he told me I could be in-charge of the visual and cinematography, I was instantly on work mode. We both changed clothes to suit the styles of our own piece, and I was surprised how his demeanor had changed with a white long-sleeved polo shirt pulled up to his elbows and his slicked back hair.
“No, I think this will be better from this angle,” sabi ko habang mino-monitor ang video at agad naman siyang nag-adjust.
We shot his piece first with his camera mounted on a tripod while we were playing our designated instruments.
This wasn’t supposed to be nerve-wracking, but I was quite tensed. Pushing the creeping thoughts away, I started the piano intro and Darryl sang his verse.
♪ I was thinking about you, thinking about me, thinking about us, what we gonna be,
Open my eyes, it was only just a dream ♪
I glanced at his direction, and he seemed so into the song because he had that wistful expression on his face. I started singing my parts, too, and I was feeling the lyrics, too, after seeing him. Moving on from someone you have loved so much must have been difficult.
Nag-film pa kami ng isa pa, so we could compare what was better, at after no’n ay nagsimula na kaming mag-add ng few-second clips for inserts para magmukha kahit papaanong music video. Although it was cringey and embarrassing at the start, and we would keep on suppressing our laughs while we watch each other pose for some sad scenes.
Two hours later, ‘yung akin naman ang ni-shoot namin. Since we would be using piano and guitar, it would sound more mellow, hence, the mood was kinda similar to Just a Dream.
♪ I used to think one day we’d tell the story of us; how we met, and the sparks flew instantly, and people would say, “they’re the lucky ones.” ♪
Thinking about it, running into your former lover must have been uncomfortable, especially if you’re still not over him, and have so many regrets after the relationship fell through. I didn’t know love could be that scary.
Hindi ko alam kung naka-ilang reshoot kami dahil pareho pala kaming perfectionist pagdating sa details. When I heard an awkward note while listening to the video we just recorded, I requested to do it again. Hindi ko rin namalayan ang oras at napasinghap na lang ako nang makita kong 9:30 p.m. na.
“Oh my god, kailangan ko nang umuwi!” sabi ko nang makuha ko ang files mula sa kanya.
“Wait, hindi ka pa kumakain, ah? Nagluto yata si Mommy.”
I was hungry, yes, but I told Dad I would be home by 9 p.m. Napatakip ako sa bibig ko nang makita ko ang 11 missed calls from him, and his last message was about how I did not inform him at what time would I really be home.
“Sorry, I really need to go home. My Dad’s angry,” I said anxiously.
“Sige, saglit. Ipapahatid na kita kay kuya Peter.”
Agad namang ni-ready ni kuya Peter, their driver, ang kotse at mabilis akong sumakay ro’n. I was about to say goodbye to him but furrowed my brows instead when he sat next to me.
“Sasama ka, Ian?” tanong ni kuya Peter.
“Sasama ka? Bakit?” I repeated.
“Sige na, kuya, at baka lalo pa ‘tong pagalitan,” he said, ignoring our questions.
Tahimik naman kaming tatlo habang nasa biyahe. Ayaw ko namang tawagan si Dad habang kasama ang dalawa kaya napilitan akong mag-text sa kanya. I said I was sorry that I couldn’t answer his calls because I was busy shooting our project.
As if on cue, my phone rang, and it was Dad. I was about to answer it when Darryl suddenly grabbed my phone from my hand.
He put his finger on his lips, and nodded, as if telling me he’d handle it, but I couldn’t sit still knowing that he was talking to Dad using my phone.
“Hi, Sir,” bungad niya at bigla akong kinabahan dahil hindi ko marinig ang sinasabi ni Dad. “This is Darryl. Yes po, pauwi na si Steff,” sabi niya sabay tingin sa akin. “Sorry po kung late na. Masyado kaming nag-focus sa project at hindi namin napansin ang oras. Yes po, malapit na kami. Hindi pa siya kumakain dahil nagmamadali po siyang umuwi.”
I was just watching him the whole time, trying to hear my Dad’s responses, but to no avail. Hanggang sa natahimik ng ilang segundo si Darryl at para bang mayroong sinasabi si Dad. Was he lecturing him? Was that a message he needed to relay to me?
Anong sabi? I mouthed, but again, he ignored me.
“No, sir, I don’t think so. Okay po.”
For a second, I was worried Dad would scold me, but when he handed my phone back, the call had already ended.
“Anong sabi niya?” ulit ko.
“Hindi raw siya galit, worried lang, kaya h’wag ka nang kabahan.”
Para naman akong nabunutan ng tinik sa dibdib nang marinig ko ‘yon. God, I thought I’d be grounded for this weekend. I knew I was quite sheltered since I was young, but after the accident, Dad had become overly protective and sensitive when it comes to our everyday schedule. Naiintindihan ko naman kung saan siya nanggagaling pero minsan, nakaka-paranoid at nakakasakal na.
Dahil naka-focus ako sa usapan nila kanina ay hindi ko napansin na nandito na pala kami sa village namin. Paghinto namin sa tapat ng bahay ay dali-dali akong bumaba. I was about to enter our gate but immediately turned around. After knocking on the backseat window, he rolled it down, and his face came into view.
“May nakalimutan ka ba?” tanong niya.
“Uhh, wala. I just want to say, uhm, thank you.”
Hindi ko alam kung bakit ang init ng mukha ko pagkasabi ko no’n. I realized it was rare for us to be like this, but I did think it was the right thing to do.
He replied with a big grin on his face. “No worries, bebe girl. Good night.”
I thought I would never hear that term again, but oh well, I guess he was back to his old self. Pinauna na nila akong pumasok at hinintay ko naman silang makaalis saka ko isinarado ang gate. Pagpasok ko sa bahay ay nakaabang sa sala si Dad.
“Steff,” he called.
He heaved a sigh. “Next time, please text or call me back, okay? I thought something bad had already happened.”
“Yes, Dad. Sorry po.”
“Sige na, kumain ka muna. Nakahanda na sa lamesa ang dinner mo.”
Dad walked back to his room, and I had to hold back the tears threatening to come out of my eyes. He might be strict at times, but he couldn’t stay mad at Ven and I.
Mabilis naman akong kumain at pagkatapos no’n ay dumiretso ako sa room ko para mag-shower. Halos 11:00 p.m. na nang makahiga ako sa kama. I thought I could still edit the videos, but I was already too tired.
A thought suddenly crossed my mind. Right. I told him that after shooting our music project, he shouldn’t bother me anymore. Tutupad naman siguro siya roon. Although, it was such a shame that I didn’t have the time to properly thank him for what he did for our project.
I’d hate to admit it, but the Darryl I spent time with for the last few weeks was likeable as a person than the conceited and intimidator Darryl.
I guess I wouldn’t be able to see that side of him again.