“Steff, papunta na kami,” Jess said from the other end of the call. “Ready na ba kayo ni Venice?”
“Yup. Nagsusuot na lang si Ven ng sapatos.”
“Okay, see you!”
Pagkababa ko ng tawag ay muli kong chineck ang gamit namin. Mukhang wala naman kaming nakalimutan kaya inilagay na namin ang bags malapit sa pinto.
Nang makauwi sila galing sa kani-kanilang mga bakasyon ay tinawagan ko sila para itanong kung okay lang bang magkaroon din kami ng short getaway kahit outside Manila lang. They said they were available for this week, and Jess volunteered to provide the place. She said they had a resthouse in Tagaytay, so we decided to stay there for there days and two nights.
“Gusto raw sumama ni Ven. Okay lang?” tanong ko nang malaman ni Ven na aalis kami. Mukhang hindi rin siya makakagala dahil nag-out of the country trip sina Ziela after Patrick’s birthday party.
“Sure!” mabilis na sagot ni Jess. “Mukhang sasama rin ang kapatid ko.”
“Si Roj?” asked Alice. “First time namin siya makikita.”
“Won’t he feel awkward?” This time, si Yna naman ang nagtanong.
“Baka ikaw pa ang ma-awkward sa kanya, Yna,” pagbibiro ni Alice.
“Siguro, pero nandoon naman si Venice,” sagot ni Jess. “They’re classmates, so at least may makakausap naman siya.”
Nang malaman ni Ven na kasama si Roj ay nag-iba ang expression niya. Huh. This was new. Gusto ko sanang magtanong pero mukhang alam niyang balak ko siyang i-hotseat kaya umiiwas siya sa akin for the next few days. Habang naghihintay kay Jess ay umupo ako sa tabi niya.
“So, what’s between you and Roj?”
She was flustered by my question and that honestly surprised me. “N-nothing!” she exclaimed. “Nataasan niya kasi ako sa isang exam na akala ko ay mata-top ko kaya hindi ko alam kung ma-a-awkward-an ba ako sa kanya.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Akala ko naman kung ano. Sabagay, hindi lang halata pero grade-conscious ang batang ‘to at sanay siyang maging topnotcher sa exams.
Around 4:30 a.m. ay dumating na ang sasakyan nina Jess kaya agad din kaming lumabas. Akala ko nga ay SUV lang ang dala nila since anim lang naman kami plus the driver pero parang pang-ten seater van ang bumungad sa amin. Roj was in the passenger seat of while Jess and Alice were sitting right next to each other. Meanwhile, Yna was asleep on the single seat. Mukhang puyat na naman siya. Madalas kasi ay umaga na siya natutulog kapag bakasyon. Fortunately, the seats were modified for better sleeping experience so she was able to rest soundly.
Pumuwesto si Ven sa solo seat katabi ng pintuan kaya sa likod na lang ako nina Alice umupo. Mukhang inaantok din ang dalawa dahil tahimik sila.
“Jess,” tawag ko.
“Bakit pala ang laki ng sasakyang gamit natin?”
“Ah, may mga kasama pa tayo,” sagot niya.
She chuckled lightly. “You’ll know in a while.”
Dahil medyo inaantok na rin ako ay sinubukan kong umidlip. I wasn’t sure how many minutes had passed, but I almost fell out of my chair when I Darryl’s face came into view the moment I opened my eyes. Papasok siya sa sasakyan at nang magtama ang mga mata namin ay binigyan niya ako ng isang mabilis na ngiti.
I thought I was just dreaming or hallucinating, but when Jess called his name, I realized he was really here.
“Good morning,” he groggily said while suppressing a yawn.
I was still staring at him in disbelief, but he just sat right next to me. Napatingin din ako kay Jess pero nakangiti lang nang nakakaloko ang babaeng ‘yon. Hindi ko alam kung paano nila siya napilit isama o kung paano siya in-invite. I still felt awkward after what happened in the music room, so being this close to him was making me flustered and self-conscious.
Tuluyang nagising ang diwa ko at mas naging alert nang papunta na kami sa last stop. I swear I almost had the urge to smack Jess’ shoulder when I saw more familiar faces outside. Waiting for us in a nearby shed were Patrick . . . and Tricia.
“What the heck are you thinking?” bulong ko kay Jess nang pahinto na ang sasakyan.
“Hey, everything was last minute!” mahina niyang sagot. “At ‘di ko naman in-expect na sasama sila. Naging classmates ko lang sila sa isang elective. Saka si Alice ang may idea niyan at siya ang nag-initiate mag-invite.”
“Hoy, walang laglagan!”
Naramdaman ko ang pagtaas ng tension nang pumasok sina Tricia at Patrick sa sasakyan. Darryl seemed frozen, but he didn’t spare them any glance at all. Sa likod sila dumiretso at dahil kumpleto na kami ay tuluy-tuloy na rin ang biyahe. Mabuti na lang at masyado pang maaga kaya inaantok ang karamihan.
I glanced at their direction and met Patrick’s gaze. He just smiled and nodded, so I did the same. On the other hand, Tricia was just vacantly staring at the blurring scenery outside. I couldn’t figure out why she would go with us. Dahil ba kay Patrick? O dahil nandito si Darryl?
Although one this was sure—this would be such an awkward trip.
Gusto ko sanang magsulat sa journal ko sa phone pero natatakot akong may makakita lalo na ang katabi ko ngayon. I decided to just sleep again, but my body stiffened when I felt his head resting on my right shoulder. Gusto ko sanang itulak siya palayo pero natigilan ako nang makita ko ang mukha niya. I could see the dark circles under his eyes. He must have been so exhausted last night to just fall asleep that fast.
Looking at his face right now made me realize how different he looked when I first saw him. He looked nicer and at peace, as if he didn’t have any problems at all.
Nagulat ako nang biglang nag-notify ang group chat naming apat.
Alice: Matunaw ‘yan, Steff. Haha!
Jess: Akala ko ba wala kang crush? Bakit parang meron? Yiiee.
Naririnig ko ang paghagikgik nila sa harapan ko kaya sinubukan kong sipain ang upuan nila pero baka bigla namang magising ang isang ‘to. My face turned red, too, upon realizing I had been staring at him for quite a while. Huminga ako nang malalim para kalmahin ang sarili ko. My heart was beating too fast that I was afraid he’d hear it.
I tried thinking about anything so I could shift my focus to something else. Sinubukan ko na lang ding tingnan ang dinadaanan namin at i-enjoy and sunrise pero makalipas ang ilang sandali ay tinamaan na ulit ako ng antok. I didn’t want to fall asleep on his head, so I leaned against the headrest, but it was uncomfortable. Kailan ba siya magigising? I wanted to sleep already . . .
The voice seemed far away, but it got louder after a few seconds. Saka ko lang na-realize na may tumatawag sa akin nang imulat ko ang mga mata ko. I felt disoriented at first because I couldn’t remember that I fell asleep, but immediately recoiled when I noticed that I was resting my head on Darryl’s shoulder.
“Gising ka na rin sa wakas,” sabay tawa niya.
When did that happen?! Sa pagkakaalala ko ay siya pa ang nakasandal sa akin noong una.
“Gising na ang sleeping beauty,” teased Alice. “Nandito na tayo. Masyado namang nag-enjoy sa pagtulog.”
Sinamaan ko siya ng tingin pero tinawanan lang niya ako. Agad ko ring inayos ang buhok ko dahil nagulo ‘yon habang natutulog ako.
“Uhh, sorry,” I whispered as I got ready to exit the car.
Kaming dalawa ang huling nakababa at kukunin ko sana ang bag ko sa likod pero napakunot ang noo ko nang makita kong wala na ‘yon doon.
“Where’s my bag?” tanong ko.
Ven, who just got hers, pointed at someone. “Kinuha na ni kuya Patrick.”
“Oh.” My sister suddenly looked at me with a playful expression. “What’s with that look?”
“Nothing, ate,” she chuckled.
Naglakad siya palayo sa amin habang dala niya ang bag niya at muli kaming naiwan doon ni Darryl. Hinarap ko naman siya kaya napatingin siya sa akin.
“Bakit ka sumama?”
“Masama ba?” He returned. “Saka invited naman ako.”
I rolled my eyes at his answer. “Just because they invited you doesn’t mean you can’t turn them down.”
Natawa siya sa sinabi ko. “Why would I turn down a vacation invite?” He carried his bag and started walking. “Besides, I want to see you.”
Napahinto ako nang marinig ko ‘yon. God, why is this guy saying things like that now? I hate to admit that his words made my heart flutter. Akala ko pa naman ay magagamit ko ang time na ‘to para muling i-sort out ang feelings ko. I already knew I had feelings for him, but I didn’t want them to grow any longer. Pero mukhang magba-backfire ‘yon ngayon dahil magkasama kami sa iisang lugar for a few days.
“Are you sure it’s me?” tanong ko nang makita ko si Tricia na naglalakad sa ta bi ni Patrick. “It’s okay to admit you’re here for her.”
His expression darkened. “I didn’t know she’d be here,” he mumbled. “Sa tingin mo ba gugustuhin kong pumunta rito kung alam kong nandito rin siya? You know I want to move on from her already.”
“So anong gagawin mo? You’ll be in the same space for three days.”
He gave me a crooked smile. “Mabuti na lang at nandito ka rin.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll be sticking with you for three days. I’ll be in your care, Steff.”
He walked toward the resthouse after saying that while I stood frozen. Oh god, I’m having a bad feeling about this.