Our sembreak officially started today.
The finals week had been grueling, and we needed to destress, so the girls and I decided to shop this weekend.
“Where are you?” tanong ko nang sumagot si Alice sa tawag. Siya na lang kasi ang hinihintay namin.
“Ito na, nasa escalator na!”
“Ah, it’s Alice. Here!”
Nang makumpleto na kami ay nagsimula kami sa clothing stores. There were already fall and winter collections in several branded stores, and all of us started looking at them. Unfortunately, even though they were pretty, we could only wear it on special occasions or when traveling internationally because we were in a tropical country. Still, I felt happy trying and buying the clothes that suit my style.
Isang floor pa lang ang nadadaanan namin pero ang dami na naming hawak na paperbags. Although, banning myself from spending a lot during the first semester did help me in budgeting my expenses for today.
“Gusto ko ring bilhin ‘yung nude trench coat kaso baka hindi na ako makabili ng shoes,” said Jess. “Dad will surely scold me if I exceed my spending limit.”
Dahil baka ma-tempt pa kami na bumili ng iba pang outfits ay pumunta na kami sa 3rd floor kung saan located karamihan ng shoes at bags shops. Of course, we headed to the bags first.
“Matanong ko n gapala,” sabay tingin sa akin ni Alice. “Where did you buy this?”
She pointed at the strawberry bag I was using, and I unconsciously averted her gaze. “Uh, I-I forgot.”
She narrowed her eyes in suspicion. “Ikaw? Makakalimot? Especially when it comes to strawberry-related things?”
“Oh, huli,” commented Jess.
Sometimes, my friends could be great detectives when it comes to stuff like this. Or maybe I was just too careless and obvious.
Dahil na-hotseat na naman ako ay wala akong nagawa kundi sabihin sa kanila ang totoo. That Darryl bought it for me when we decided to end things between us.
Yna was blushing when I finished telling the story. “Too cute.”
Halos sumakit naman ang braso ko kina Jess at Alice dahil kanina pa sila palo nang palo sa akin. I wasn’t sure how to react with their reactions, but my face was getting hot. Hanggang sa matapos kaming mag-shopping ng bags ay hindi pa rin nila ako tinigilan.
“Akalain mong generous pala siya,” Alice remarked, and then came a playful smile. “Or baka naman sa ‘yo lang?”
“Omg, what if crush ka niya talaga?”
“I’m telling you, compensation niya lang ‘yan para sa stress na binigay niya sa akin these past few months,” I argued.
Jess put his fingers between her chin and looked at me suspiciously. “Wait, that Darryl apologized and gave you a bag? Parang iba na ‘yon.”
“Omo. Either he really feels guilty or . . .”
“He likes you,” Alice concluded, to which all of them squealed at.
Regrettably, their assumption was completely wrong. Darryl was still not over his ex, Tricia, and everything he did in the past was to get her attention, including that fake relationship with me.
He did want to move on, and he was asking for help, but after realizing my feelings for him, I wasn’t sure how to face him again. This was new to me, and I didn’t like things that I couldn’t understand.
Pagkatapos naming mag-shopping ay kumain kami sa isang Japanese restaurant sa 4th floor at dahil ayaw pa nilang umuwi ay dumiretso kami sa karaoke hub.
“Wait, I’m gonna sing Because of You!”
I knew Jess could sing, but I didn’t realize she was this good. Madalas ay naghu-hum lang kasi siya tuwing lunch at sinabi niya rin namang interested siya sa music pero nagulat pa rin ako kung gaano siya kagaling. If she were to join a singing competition, she’d surely bag the first prize. She could even debut as a singer already.
“Grabe Jess, puwede ka nang maging singer!”
She shrugged in a smug manner. “Well, thanks. Pero alam n’yo naman, family business first.”
Right. Almost everyone enrolled in Kingdom University were children of wealthy family. Even though you like or excel at something, you would never be able to pursue it unless it was related to your family business. After all, it was never about the children’s desire, but their parents’ pride and honor.
In my case, I was interested in fashion design, and Mom’s company was a middle-class fashion brand, but she wanted me to focus on my administrative and management skills, hence I took up BSBA. Ganoon din sina Yna at Alice na ang passion ay hindi aligned sa gusto ng family nila. But at our age, what could we even do? Wala namang ibang paraan kung hindi ang mag-aral.
“Saan pa ba tayo puwedeng pumunta? I don’t want to go home yet,” Jess said after we got out from the karaoke hub. Halos nakadalawang oras din kami sa loob pero baka mawalan na kami ng boses kapag hindi pa kami umalis.
“Speaking of home, hindi pa ba uuwi si kuya Xander?” tanong ko kay Yna.
“Oo nga ‘no?”
“Xander? Siya ba ‘yung kuya ni Yna?”
“Yup. Gwapo ‘yun si KuyaXander saka medyo spoiled kami sa kanya,” sabay taw ani Alice.
Yna scrolled through her phone. “I think he’ll be home around Christmas. Why?”
“Wala lang. Miss ko na na may taga-drive tayo before sa gala.”
“Ay,oo nga, pero hindi naman tayo nakakagastos masyado ‘pag kasama natin siya.”
Kuya would always drive us whenever and wherever we wanted to go when we were in high school. Overprotective din kasi siya kay Yna at na-extend din iyon sa amin ni Alice. The downside was he would always keep an eye on what we were buying. Sometimes, he would admonish us if we wanted something expensive, but he was lenient when it comes to food.
“Oh. Gwapo ba ‘yan si kuya?” nakangising tanong ni Jess.
Alice’s eyes twinkled. “Yes!”
Meanwhile, Yna grimaced at the question. “No way. But he already has someone he likes, so you don’t have a chance.”
“Grabe, tinanong ko lang naman kung gwapo.”
“Naku, loyal ‘yun. Hanap ka na lang ng ibang ideal guy,” commented Alice. “Speaking of ideal guys, sino ang sa inyo?”
Of course, Alice said hers was Kevin. Si Yna naman, Korean actors ang binanggit. Wala pa naman daw siyang crush ngayon na hindi celebrity.
“Hmm, wala pa akong nahahanap dito,” sagot ni Jess. “Ikaw ba, Steff?”
Their eyes focused on me, with teasing smiles escaping their lips, and that flustered me a bit.
“None,” I answered. “You know I’m not that interested in—“
“Eh ano si Darryl?”
I raised my eyebrow at her. “Ano ang kinalaman niya?”
“Wala lang,” Jess shrugged nonchalantly. “We thought maybe you have developed some kind of interest after interacting with him.”
My heart started to race after recalling what happened in the music room. He said he already wanted to move on from Tricia, and he needed my help. Honestly, it was tempting, but my pride wouldn’t allow me to do something that would confuse me again.
“No way, I—“
Hindi ko naman natuloy ang sasabihin ko dahil biglang nag-vibrate ang phone ko. When I looked at the screen, Ven’s name appeared. That was weird. Why was she calling all of a sudden?
Agad ko naman ‘yong sinagot dahil baka may emergency.
I stopped short, sensing the panic in her voice. “Why? What happened?”
“Venice, is that Steff? Tell her his dad is on his way.”
My mind started to race upon hearing that familiar voice. So, that was what Venice was talking about. Mom had come home.
“Girls,” sabay lingon ko sa tatlo. “May emergency lang sa bahay. I need to go home.”
They wanted to ask about it, but I said I’d tell them later. Pagdating ko sa parking lot ay nandoon na nga si Dad. He looked tired, but immediately smiled when he saw me.
“Dad,” I called.
He heaved a sigh. “Your mom’s home.”
“Yeah, I heard from Ven. Why is she here?”
“I have an idea, but I do hope it’s not about that. Anyway, let’s go home.”
Dad drove quietly why my mind was reeling with too many questions. Mom rarely goes home because she’s the managing director of our business abroad. She would only show up here during holidays, or if it had something to do with our business.
Pagpasok namin sa bahay ay nakita ko si Mom na nakaupo sa sala kasama si Ven. She walked toward our direction upon seeing me. She was wearing her usual business attire—nude blazer, slacks, and black high heels. Her hair was tidily kept in a high ponytail, accentuating her sharp yet appealing facial features.
“Steff, you’re finally here. I need to talk to you about something.”
I couldn’t believe that was the first thing I had heard after not seeing her in months.
“What is this about, Mom?”
“I’ll get straight to the point,” she said in a stern tone. “My new business partner offered an engagement appointment with you. He wants you and his son to get to know each other.”