Their rest house was a two-story glass house villa sitting atop a hill where you could see the picturesque view of the famed volcano. There was also a plunge pool and an infinity pool that overlooked the mountains and lake at the side. The high-ceiling interior and cozy ambiance also made the place relaxing and warm. Pinaparentahan din nila ito kapag summer pero dahil nandito kami ay exclusive sa amin ngayon ang place.
Our group occupied three deluxe rooms good for two people, and three single rooms. Ven and I shared a room as well as Jess and Roj, and Yna and Alice. Sa single rooms naman ay sina Patrick, Darryl, at Tricia.
Inaantok pa ako nang makarating kami sa resthouse kaya naman natulog muna ako sa room namin ni Venice. It was already 7:30 a.m. when I woke up at napahinto ako nang ang maabutan ko na lang sa baba ay si Tricia.
She was sitting on the couch in the common area and quietly reading a book. Babalik na lang sana ako sa room ko pero nagtama ang tingin naming dalawa. I awkwardly nodded at her and she smiled at me. Dahil in-acknowledge namin ang presence ng isa’t sa ay parang ang rude naman kung hindi ko siya kakausapin lalo na at magkasama kami sa iisang bahay.
Bumaba ako at umupo sa dulo ng couch. “Uhm, hello. N-nasaan pala sila?”
She closed the book she was reading and looked at me. “Nagluluto sina Alice ng breakfast sa kitchen,” sabay turo niya sa kabilang side. “Not sure kung nasaan ang iba.”
“I-I see. Thank you.”
I had always hated small talks, and this one was not an exception. Ang awkward at hindi ko na rin alam kung ano ang sasabihin. Maybe I should leave already before this becomes more unbearable.
“I’m sorry for making it awkward for everyone,” she suddenly said. “I shouldn’t have come here.”
She was wearing the same expression as Darryl before. That wistful look that carried a lot of pain and regrets. When I first learned about her, I had this uncertain emotion toward her, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I thought it was just an ounce of jealousy when I discovered my growing attraction toward Darryl, but I realized it was curiosity and pity.
I was curious about her. She was the top student in our batch and seemed to be the studious and serious type. I wondered how the two of them became a couple. And I also felt a bit of pity because I was sure she suffered from Darryl’s antics, too, during the first semester.
“S-sorry, I’m making you uncomfortable again—”
“No!” I interjected. “N-no, you’re not.”
She stared at me for a moment and sighed. “I don’t really have friends to talk to, and Patrick is the only person who talks to me in class.” A miserable smile escaped her lips. “I just . . . I just want someone to listen.”
Hearing her pained voice was enough for me to feel guilty for even thinking that she was someone whom I shouldn’t talk to.
“You can talk to me,” I said after a moment. “I-I’ll listen.”
“Yes,” I replied. “Let’s take a walk, shall we?”
Lumabas kami sa rest house at naglakad-lakad sa paligid. The morning October air was cool, so walking around the woodland surrounding the villa was not a problem. Huminto kami sa tapat ng isang puno kung saan kita pa rin namin ang view ng Taal. We sat under the shade, and she started telling her stories.
Apparently, Tricia and Darryl were academic rivals during high school, but they also grew closer because of that. Hindi rin siguro maiiwasan dahil conscious sila sa isa’t isa lalo na kung competitive pa sila. Their relationship bloomed during their junior year, but they broke up right before graduation.
“Noong senior year namin, my parents told me that I will be introduced to my future husband once I entered college,” she continued, as a melancholic smile appeared on her face. “Of course, I was shocked. Biruin mo, high school pa lang ako at ang supposed to be fiancé ko pero pinaplano na ng parents namin ang magiging buhay namin.”
“That’s . . .”
“I wanted to tell them I didn’t want any of it, but at the back of my mind, I wanted to obey them. As the youngest and the only daughter of the family, I have this constant thirst to prove myself and seek for their validation. That I can also do what my older brothers are doing. That I can make them proud, too. Besides, going against them would just cause a cascade of problems, so after weeks of deliberation, I told them I’ll do it.”
Halos mapanganga ako sa narinig ko. “What?”
“It sounds like a lame reason, right?” she snickered. “That’s why I was confused, too. How it was easy for me to throw away a relationship that made me happy just to make my parents proud of me. Then I felt guilty because it looked like I didn’t love him enough for me to stay.”
Nagsimulang tumulo ang mga luhang kanina niya pa pinipigilan. Even my eyes were starting to well up, too.
“I told him that I have fell out of love, but he had a hard time accepting that reason. Noong summer break bago mag-college, tinanong niya ulit ako kung bakit. I didn’t want him to have any lingering feelings for me after I hurt him so much, so I told her I’m already seeing someone else.”
I let out an inaudible gasp. Hindi ko alam na ganoon ang pinagdaanan ni Darryl. He must have felt confused and betrayed when Tricia told him those hurtful words.
“Why didn’t you just tell him the truth?” tanong ko.
“I know Ian, and he’d surely protest and talk to my parents. I know my parents, too. They would do anything for their plans to come to fruition. Ayaw kong umabot sa point na magkagulo ang lahat dahil sa akin.”
“So, you chose to hurt him?”
She ruefully nodded. “That’s why I feel sorry and ashamed whenever I see him. It’s especially hard since we’re in the same university. Then, I kept on reading and hearing stories about him during the first few weeks. I knew he was doing those to get my attention, so when I learned that he got a girlfriend, it made me skeptical.”
Napaiwas naman agad ako ng tingin, dahilan para matawa siya. “So, you knew right from the start that we were just pretending,” I mumbled.
“Kind of, but I could also see how he was starting to shift his attention to you. And how he was finally smiling genuinely when he’s with you. I admit it felt strange at first, but I found myself secretly rooting for the two of you.”
My heart skipped a beat when I heard that. Was she serious?
I casually shrugged, trying to hide my discomposure. “We have already ended that. Besides, hindi pa siya nakaka-move on sa ‘yo.”
“That’s why I’m hoping you can help him with that. If it’s between Andrea and you, I would gladly support you.”
Even her? Bakit ba ako ang nakikita nilang solusyon? And Andrea? Sino naman ‘yon? This had nothing to do with me and being caught in the middle of this mess would just confuse me again.
A crease formed on my forehead. “Ha? Why me? And it’s his personal issue to begin with.”
She seemed to be taken aback with my reply. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to force this matter to you. I’m really sorry.”
“Oh, no, it’s not what I—”
A deep and long sigh escaped my lips. Hindi ko na rin alam kung kanino ko ba talaga gustong magalit: kay Darryl dahil hindi ko in-expect na magiging attracted ako sa kanya at gusto niyang tulungan ko siyang mag-move on kay Tricia; kay Tricia dahil sa ginawa kay Darryl at gusto niyang tulungan ko si Darryl na mag-move on sa kanya; o sa sarili ko dahil mayroong part sa akin na gusto ring matapos na ang paghihirap nila.
I just felt frustrated after hearing her side and seeing how Darryl suffered because of that. Nakakainis ding nalaman ko ‘yon dahil nagbago ang tingin ko kay Darryl. I wanted this still shallow feelings to gradually disappear, but the opposite was happening.
“Sorry, Tricia, I’m just really confused right now,” I murmured.
“No, don’t be. It’s my fault for not thinking about your feelings.”
“It’s just that . . . Darryl said the same thing.”
She gave me a confused look. “What do you mean?”
I was hesitant to tell her what happened, but in the end, I gave in. Sinabi ko lang ang gustong mangyari ni Darryl at kung paano rin siya nanghingi ng tulong sa akin.
“I see, so he already took the initiative,” she said. “Guess, he’s already halfway there.”
“Hm? Halfway sa pagmomove-on?”
She nodded. “Ian is intelligent, but sometimes, he can be dense especially when it comes to his own feelings,” she remarked. “It may not be part of his plan, but I think your fake relationship helped him a lot.”
“Wait, what? And how are you so sure that he’s already moved on?”
She smiled as if she knew something I didn’t. “Because I know that look on his face whenever she’s with you.”