Mom said she would be staying for two weeks, but she was almost always outside because of business meetings. Kasama naman niya rin si Dad madalas pero napapaisip na lang ako kung hindi ba siya napapagod. Dito na nga lang siya nakakapagpahinga pero puro work pa rin ang ginagawa niya sa supposed to be vacation week niya.
Well, I wasn’t the one to talk because I was kinda like that, too. Minsan ay mas gugustuhin ko pang mag-aral kaysa magpahinga lalo na kung malapit na ang exams.
I thought I could have a good rest after that mentally exhausting exchange with Mom, but two days later, she informed us that we were going to a party.
"Party? For what?"
“A birthday party, but it’s really a launch party for a new business.”
I had to suppress the urge to roll my eyes and sigh after hearing her reply. Of course, another business party, what else? Dahil madalas ay family event ang mga gano’n ay kailangan naming um-attend lalo na’t doon nagkakaroon ng exchange of information and business cards. Mom wouldn’t let an opportunity like that pass by.
Ven and I had no choice, but to prepare for it. Mabuti pa siya ay may makakausap doon dahil a-attend daw si Ziela, her best friend. Unfortunately, mukhang hindi kasama ang families ng friends ko.
The only good thing about these types of parties was that we could wear pretty clothes and try out styles that could fit the theme.
“Ate, how about this?” sabay pakita sa akin ni Ven ng damit na kakakuha niya lang sa kanyang closet.
“Looks cute,” I commented. “I-pair mo na lang sa blazer.”
Nag-try rin ako ng puwedeng isuot at mahigit isang oras akong nagp-pair ng dresses, accessories, at shoes. It was fun mixing and matching different styles, but I had to limit them to formal wear. Makalipas ang isa pang oras ay natapos din ako sa pagp-prepare.
I was wearing a long velvet dress, paired with a nude sling bag that has a strawberry-shaped lock. To complete the look, I curled my hair and wore pearl earrings.
“You look great, Steff,” praised Dad. He donned his usual tuxedo and slacks, with his neatly trimmed hair highlighting his sharp features.
Venice opted for a cuter look with her pink cocktail dress while Mom picked a fitted black dress that accentuated her glamorous figure.
Around 4 p.m. ay umalis na kami sa bahay. The trip took less than an hour, and the mansion where the party would be held looked magnificent.
The staff waiting outside greeted and assisted us from getting out of the car. I could already tell the level of the people invited in this party by the sheer grandeur of the event.
Pagpasok pa lang ay parang gusto ko na agad umuwi. People were dressed impeccably. Adults were talking to each other with their practiced smile, while most of the teenagers and children looked bored and lost. Agad na hinanap ni Ven si Ziela at mayroon namang kumausap kina Mom at Dad kaya naiwan akong mag-isa sa gilid.
Everyone seemed to be doing their own thing, so might as well do the same. Inilabas ko ang phone ko at nag-check ng social media. My classmates and batchmates were spending their sembreak through vacations, and I was somehow jealous. Gusto ko rin sanang mag-out of town with friends pero mukhang next week pa namin magagawa dahil nasa kanya-kanyang bakasyon pa sila.
I was about to browse the university portal out of boredom and curiosity when I heard someone calling my name. Lifting my head up, I gasped upon seeing a familiar face in the crowd. Waving and walking toward my direction was Patrick Reyes.
Hindi ko alam kung saan ako mas magugulat: seeing him in a formal attire or learning that he was, in fact, the birthday celebrant.
It turned out this wasn’t what he wanted. Ayaw niya sanang mag-celebrate pero gusto ng parents niya dahil isasabay nila ang celebration ng launch ng new subsidiary company nila. They wanted to attract more investors and potential business partners, hence the extravagant party.
“Honestly, I want to sleep already,” he said while trying to loosen his necktie.
Natawa naman ako sa sinabi niya. “I feel the same way.”
Nakaupo lang kami sa bandang gilid habang pinapanood ang mga tao sa hall. Medyo naawa nga ako sa kanya dahil parang ginamit lang ang birthday niya to celebrate something else. Some adults would greet him, but they would ultimately talk about business with his parents.
“Are you okay?” tanong ko. We weren’t close, but I felt comfortable around him, and talking to him.
He nodded. “Yeah. Sanay naman na ako sa ganito.”
I sensed a rare flash of emotion on his usually expressionless face. For a second, I thought he looked sad, but I got distracted when he suddenly turned toward me.
“Ikaw? Are you okay?” he returned, which confused me a bit.
“I heard about your breakup with Darryl,” he explained. “I’m wondering if you’re feeling okay now.”
Hindi agad ako nakapagsalita. Right. In their eyes, the two of us had already broken up because he still couldn’t move on from his ex-girlfriend. I suddenly remembered what happened in the music room and I had to push that thought away.
“Uhh, y-yes, I’m doing better now,” mahina kong sagot. “I think.”
“That’s good to hear. Nobody deserves a half-baked love.”
I stared at him for a moment. Patrick could come off as standoffish because of his deadpan face, but he seemed to genuinely care about people around him, even for someone like me who wasn’t even that close to him.
“Thanks,” I softly replied.
“It must have been so awkward for you that day. Tricia said she felt uncomfortable, too, and she felt sorry.”
He must be talking about that time when the three of us had to share a table during lunch. Si Patrick din ang kasama ko noong nakita namin silang nag-uusap sa gilid ng CAL building. Unexpectedly, he was always there when Darryl encountered Tricia. But I didn’t know they were talking to each other. Perhaps they were close?
“Ah, that,” I forced a chuckle. “Kind of.”
I had to avert my gaze because I felt guilty for lying. Well, it wasn’t necessarily a lie since I did feel uncomfortable when Darryl and Tricia were together that day. Was it because I was starting to have feelings for him that time?
Ugh. Being aware of it and acknowledging that I did felt frustrating. Hindi ko akalaing makakaramdam ako ng ganito para sa isang taong sa una ay puro inis lang ang nararamdaman ko.
“Sorry for reminding you of that day,” bigla naman niyang sabi.
“Oh, it’s okay.”
Pareho naman kaming natigilan nang biglang kumalam ang tiyan niya. The grim atmosphere immediately turned lighter as his face became red from embarrassment. I tried suppressing a smile, but it was hard when he was looking anywhere else except my direction.
Nagpakawala siya ng isang malalim na buntonghininga. “That was embarrassing,” he muttered. “It’s my birthday party yet I’m hungry.”
I chuckled in return. “Kumain ka na muna, Patrick.”
“Right. I’ll excuse myself for a moment.”
“Alright. Eat well, and happy birthday,” sabay ngiti ko.
He remained seated beside me for a few seconds while staring at me curiously. I thought I said something strange, but he suddenly grinned. My heart skipped a beat since that was the first time I saw him with a smile like that.
“Thank you, Tiffany. Somehow, you saved this day for me,” he said. “Somehow, I like to know more about you.”
“Eh?” Did I hear that right?
He chuckled. “Nothing. I’ll be back in a bit.”
Pinanood ko lang siyang maglakad palayo at hindi pa siya nakakalapit sa catering table ay ang dami nang bumabati sa kanya. I snickered at the sight of him trying to avoid having conversations with people. He must have been so hungry.
Halos mapatalon naman ako nang lumitaw si Mom sa gilid ko. When I turned to her, she was also looking at Patrick’s direction.
“So, you know Rick’s son?” tanong niya.
Tumango naman ako. “He’s my batchmate, and a fellow campus elite.”
“How did you know each other? Naging classmate mo?”
“Uhh, just by coincidence.” She probably wouldn’t like it if I told him I crossed paths with him when I saw him sleeping behind a building. “Bakit, Mom?”
“I see. Nothing, just curious.”
Curious, huh? But I knew that look on her face. She had thought of something, and I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not.