"OMG nabasa mo na ba 'yong confession?"
"About kay Queenie? Grabe 'no?"
"Totoo kaya 'yon?"
"Hindi ko rin alam."
Bwisit. Imbes na mag-aral ang mga 'to, nag-chichismisan lang naman. Sana hindi na lang sila sa library tumambay. Naiistorbo ang mga nag-aaral at gustong matulog nang matiwasay.
Nilagay ko na lang ang earphones sa tenga ko para kahit papaano ay hindi ang boses nila ang marinig ko. Sana makatulog ako--
Tumingala ako para makita ang mukha ng bwisit na lalaking 'to at binungad niya naman ang ngiti niya. Umupo siya sa tapat ko at saka niya inilabas ang readings niya. Makiki-upo lang pala, tinawag pa ako. Istorbo.
Pinatong ko na lang ulit ang ulo ko sa lamesa pero kahit ang tagal ko nang nakapikit ay hindi pa rin ako makatulog. Nakakainis. The presence of this guy triggered my memories about that night.
Pagkatapos kong umiyak dahil sa pagtawag ni Mommy ay tinakpan niya lang ang mukha ko ng kumot at hinatak niya ako papunta sa sala. Ni hindi ko nga alam kung paano ako nakababa sa hagdan nang hindi nahuhulog no'n dahil madilim at natatakpan pa ng luha ang mga mata ko. Ang alam ko lang, nakarating kami sa sala at dinalahan niya ako ng baso ng tubig.
I was trying hard not to sob but I was hurt . . . really hurt. I already knew that they treasure my younger siblings more and I was slowly accepting that fact but why did she have to say it like that? Tinanggap ko na nga na nagkaroon ako ng mga kapatid kahit na hindi nila ako naalagaan simula pagkabata ko, tapos ganito pa ang gagawin nila?
Paano naman ako?
I thought she has finally took notice of me when she called that time but maybe I just got my hopes up. Maybe she just felt guilty. When I told her about Czanelle's condition, she sounded like a paranoid mother, and yes, I felt jealous. Bakit pagdating sa kanila, gano'n siya? Pero bakit 'pag ako, parang wala lang? I'm also her daughter.
"Tubig," mahina niyang sabi at nakita ko naman ang baso ng tubig sa loob ng kumot. Kinuha ko 'yon pero hinawakan ko lang dahil tuluy-tuloy pa rin ang mga luha ko.
"Leave me alone," I muttered between my sobs.
"Ayoko," sagot naman niya. "Baka mamaya kung anong gawin mo."
Kahit 'di ko siya nakikita ay sinamaan ko siya ng tingin. I would never inflict physical pain to myself, if that was what he was implying.
Ilang minutong katahimikan din ang lumipas bago may nagsalita sa amin.
"Dahil na naman ba sa parents mo?" he carefully asked.
"What's new?" sagot ko naman.
"Mahirap talaga, lalo na 'pag panganay ka. Naiintindihan kita sa gano'ng aspeto."
"This isn't about who's the eldest," I retorted and I had to stop myself before saying my next thoughts. It's about whether they care about me or not at all.
Kung noong mag-isa pa lang ako ay hindi na nila ako kayang alagaan at bigyang pansin, paano pa kaya ngayong nasa mga kapatid ko na ang atensyon nila? Maybe I was right. Maybe they didn't love me. Maybe I was a mistake.
Nagulat naman ako nang bigla kong naramdaman ang kamay niya sa ulo ko. My upper body was still hidden beneath the blanket but I could feel the way he caressed by head and for a second, I was frozen.
"What the heck are you doing?" tanong ko nang matauhan ako.
"Trying to comfort you," mahina niyang sagot at saka niya itinigil ang ginagawa niya. "Sorry, ganito kasi ang ginagawa ko sa kapatid ko 'pag umiiyak siya."
Thinking back, he said he's the eldest child. Ibig sabihin, may kapatid siya. Kaya siguro marunong siyang mag-alaga ng mga bata at mahaba ang pasensya niya.
"And you think I'm the same as her?"
"Medyo," he answered and I could hear his suppressed snicker. "Pareho kayong masungit at laging galit."
I glared at my left side even though I couldn't see him. Hindi ko alam kung kino-comfort niya ba talaga ako o nagsisimula na siyang mang-asar.
"She must be pissed at you a lot of times," I countered and he laughed in return.
Nanahimik lang ako ng ilang minuto at nang tuluyan na akong kumalma ay tinanggal ko ang kumot sa akin. I was expecting an annoying face in front of me but he has fallen asleep. His neck was leaning on the backrest of the couch in an uncomfortable position and I wondered how he managed to sleep with that kind of posture.
"Tss. Comfort my ass. You're just a sleepyhead," saka ko ibinato ang kumot sa kanya at dumiretso sa kwarto ko.
Dahil hindi naman na rin ako makatulog ay nag-browse na lang ako sa social media accounts ko at nakita ko sa feed ang sinasabi nila tungkol kay Queenie.
There was an anonymous confession about her posted by a page saying that she's a two-faced queen. According to the post, they heard her arguing with a fan of her boyfriend and attached below was a familiar picture. It didn't really caught the scene but there were two girls talking on one corner and I immediately knew that it was that incident.
Some of the comments called her out, saying that she was just putting up a facade this whole time while others defended her since the picture wasn't clear enough and there might just be a misunderstanding.
Huh. So these people finally saw her true colors. Took them a long time.
"Ah oo nga pala," biglang sabi ni Jazer kaya napatingin ako sa kanya. "Sasama ka ba sa Sabado?"
"Anong meron?" tanong ko at inalala ko naman kung anong mangyayari sa Saturday.
"Family Day sa day care. Ibibigay sana sa'yo ni Kuya Larry 'to kanina pero mukhang nakita niyang wala ka sa mood."
Pagkasabi niya no'n ay inabot niya sa akin ang letter at sinamaan ko naman siya ng tingin. Ngumiti lang siya na para bang nang-aasar na naman kaya sinipa ko ang binti niya at nakita ko ang pagpipigil niyang sumigaw. He bit his lower lip to prevent any sound but his face was turning red . . . and his dimple was getting deeper.
I read the letter and the family, particularly the parents, were encouraged to participate.
A lot of parents go to work and they don't have enough time to have fun with their children, thus, this activity. We want children to enjoy a day with their loved ones and to help them understand how important family is. We highly encourage everyone to participate.
Happy family day!
I sneered after reading the last paragraph and almost crumpled the letter. If they only knew how some of those children couldn't even give this paper to their parents because of various reasons.
"Pupunta ka ba?" tanong ulit ni Jazer.
"Why would I?" I said, slightly annoyed. Naalala ko kasi ang gabing 'yon at kung gaano ko hiniling na sana ay hindi na lang ako tumawag. Na sana, hindi ko narinig ang mga salitang 'yon mula sa sarili kong ina.
Damn it. Don't get too emotional, Chloe.
"Chloe," tawag niya habang seryosong nakatingin sa akin.
"Parents ang pinapapunta, 'di ba? Why me? Tell that to her mother."
"Pamilya ka rin niya."
Tumingala ako dahil nararamdaman ko na naman ang panunubig ng mga mata ko. Huminga ako nang malalim para kumalma kahit na naaalala ko na naman ang nangyari.
"Sa tingin ko ay matutuwa si Czanelle kung makakapunta ka. Alam mo naman kung gaano ka niya kagusto," dagdag niya.
"Fine!" I snapped. "Just . . . just stop talking."
Mukhang nakuha niya naman ang gusto kong iparating kaya pareho kaming tumahimik. Tumayo ako para pumunta sa C.R. at pagdating ko ro'n ay nagtago agad ako sa dulong cubicle. Tears streamed down my face but I wiped them off immediately. No matter what happens, I won't allow anyone to see me crying again.
Family day, huh? I didn't even know its existence before. O siguro, wala lang akong pakialam dahil hindi ko rin naman mararanasan.
Napatigil naman ako sa pagmumuni-muni nang may narinig akong ingay sa labas ng cubicle.
"Bilib na ako sa'yo. Nagawa mong i-reveal ang tunay niyang ugali."
"Hala. Wala naman akong ginawa. Nagkataon lang."
Wait. That was Katrina's voice.
"Kahit na! You still managed to taint her queen status."
"Why did she become a queen in the first place?"
"I don't know. Maybe because of her angel-in-disguise drama?"
"Hmm . . ."
Listening to their conversation was uncomfortable and it felt like Katrina wasn't herself these days. Hindi ko alam kung dala lang ba 'yon ng pagiging instant sikat niya.
Narinig ko naman ang paglabas ng isa kaya lumabas ako at naabutan ko si Katrina sa harapan ng salamin. She was startled when she saw my reflection in the mirror and she tried to compose herself but I could see the uneasiness on her expression.
"So, kumusta?" tanong ko habang nakatingin sa salamin at nag-aayos ng buhok.
"Oh. Ayos naman. Ikaw ba?" sabay ngiti niya.
"Doing fine, too. Mukhang nahanap mo na ang friends mo."
"Tapatin mo nga ako, Katrina," I said while directly looking at her. "Do you really like Iñigo? Are you really going to make him like you?"
She was flustered by my question to the point that she stammered while trying to respond.
"W-what are you saying?"
"I heard the both of you that day, and honestly, I was surprised by your behavior."
Natahimik siya pagkasabi ko no'n at nagbago ang expression niya.
"Are you doing this because of Jazer?" tanong niya at ako naman ang nagulat.
"What? Anong kinalaman niya?"
"I don't know. Maybe you're helping him. I already told him we're better off as friends."
"And? What's your point? I'm just asking if you're willing to risk anything to be with Iñigo."
"My point is, he still likes me and maybe you're acting as a bridge. And yes, I really like Iñigo. Sinabi ko na sa'yo 'yon dati."
Nagkataasan na kami ng boses at nagtitigan lang kami matapos no'n. I couldn't believe I heard those words from her. Wow. She just shed her own skin in front of me.
"Seriously, why is he always involved with deceitful people?" I said while looking at the mirror.
"What?" she asked and this time, my brow was already arching and my horns were about to get visible.
"I'm saying you're just as two-faced as Queenie," I replied with my arms crossed. "Maybe Iñigo did something horrible in his past life to be tied with problematic girls. What a pitiful guy."
Pagkasabi ko no'n ay naglakad ako palabas ng comfort room pero napatigil ako dahil may nakalimutan akong sabihin.
"Oh, and by the way, that guy isn't that kind of person. Even if he's annoying most of the time, he's not selfish. He'd gladly distance himself if that's what you want so don't even involve him in this," I remarked and I was quite surprised by myself.
Iniwan ko siya ro'n at bumalik ako sa pwesto ko. Naabutan ko si Jazer na nagbabasa ng notes at nang tumingin siya sa akin ay iniwas ko ang tingin ko.
"Saan ka galing?" tanong niya.
"Kailangan alam mo?"
"Nagtatanong lang. Ang sungit mo na naman."
"Deal with it."
Huminga naman ako nang malalim para kumalma dahil sa nangyari. Aaminin ko, na-disappoint ako kay Katrina. I thought she was genuine when she said I was her friend but it seemed like she just used me to know more about Queenie and Iñigo. Maybe I trusted her too much. Maybe I hoped too much. Siguro nga, mas mabuti nang mag-isa na lang ako . . . mas mapoprotektahan ko ang sarili ko.
Pag-uwi namin ay sinalubong agad kami ng dalawang bubwit at agad naman akong umiwas kaya si Jazer ang ginulo nila. Paakyat na sana ako pero napatigil ako nang nagsalita si Nanay Meling mula sa kusina.
"Tumawag pala ang Daddy mo sa phone kanina. Hinahanap ka."
Bumigat naman bigla ang pakiramdam ko pagkarinig ko no'n at naiinis ako dahil parang wala nang magandang nangyari ngayong araw.
"Sabihin n'yo, ayaw ko silang makausap. Tell him I'm busy," sabi ko sa kanya at naging seryoso naman ang mukha ni Nanay Meling.
"Chloe, ayan ka na naman. Gusto mo ba talagang—"
"Kahit hindi ako kumain ngayong gabi o bukas, hindi ko pa rin sila kakausapin. I had enough," sagot ko at saka ako nagmartsa papunta sa kwarto ko.
Akmang isasara ko na ang pinto nang bigla kong marinig ang boses ng dalawanv bubwit sa likuran ko at bago pa ako makapag-react ay naunahan na nila ako sa loob. Pagtingin ko ay nasa hagdan si Jazer at nakangiti habang nakatingin sa amin. It was his doing.
"What the hell are you trying—"
"Let them cheer you up," he said, cutting me off, and without waiting for my response, he went back to the living room.
Napatingin naman ako sa kwarto ko at nagtatalunan na sila sa kama. I approached them, sat on my bed and stared at the two people I envied the most.
"Ate!" Czanelle shrieked and both of them lunged at me. They crushed against me and I held back the tears that were threatening to come out. "Are you crying, Ate?" she suddenly asked and I was about to wipe my face but she did it first. Clark hugged me from behind and Czanelle kissed me on the cheek, rendering me frozen.
In that moment, even though I didn't want to admit it, I was thankful that I wasn't alone. I was thankful that these children tried to comfort me even though they didn't have any idea about what happened. Those pure and innocent smiles . . . I don't want them to turn into tainted simpers and hidden envy. I don't want them to experience growing up without any family checking up on them. I don't want them to experience those cruel years of asking whether their parents really love them or care about them. I don't want them to be like me.
For once, I want to protect somebody other than myself.