Three days before our Christmas break. Professors were shoving us reading assignments and portfolios to do during the break but the students were already in their vacation mode. Kaunti na lang din ang pumapasok dahil ang iba ay umuwi na sa kani-kanilang probinsya o kaya nag-out-of-the-country.
Dahil vacant period ko naman, pumunta ako sa library para tapusin na ang reading assignments. Ayokong isipin ang mga ‘to sa break dahil panira ng bakasyon.
Pagpasok ko ay dumiretso ako sa usual place ko pero napahinto ako nang makita kong nakatayo sina Iñigo at Queenie malapit doon.
“Why are you here?” malamig na tanong ni Queenie.
“Queenie, please, let’s talk,” Iñigo pleaded.
“Queenie . . .”
“Bumalik ka na ro’n sa Katrina mo.”
Iñigo let out a heavy sigh. “We’re just friends.”
“She doesn’t see you as a friend. ‘Yan ang mali sa’yo, Iñigo. Because of your words and actions, people are misunderstanding your intentions.”
“But I’m only looking at you,” he said as he stared at Queenie affectionately.
What a loyal arse. Iñigo really fell head over heels with her.
“Really?” she asked with a sarcastic tone. “Is there any difference on how you treat me and other girls? Wala! You’re too nice and too sweet that you don’t even see you’re crossing the borderline—!”
Queenie didn’t finish what she wanted to say because Iñigo suddenly pulled her closer to him and shut her up using his lips.
“I don’t kiss them,” he said. “And in simpler terms, I don’t love them.”
Queenie just stared at him dumbfoundedly, still in shock by what he did. After a few seconds, her response was quite expected. She punched him in the chest but Iñigo just smiled.
“Kadiri ka,” Queenie retorted but I could see her blushing from here.
I rolled my eyes after seeing their drama. Naglakad ako papunta sa kanila at pareho naman silang napatingin nang ibagsak ko ang bag ko sa upuan.
“Tapos na kayo? Then, shoo. You two are too cheesy that I’m getting goosebumps,” sabi ko sabay upo ko sa kabilang upuan.
“You, witch,” Queenie said and her whole face was burning red.
“Yes, bitch,” I smirked.
“Oh, wow, are those your nickname to each other—” Iñigo tried asking but we both glared at him.
“No!” sabay naming sagot.
“Okay. Definitely not.”
“You two are annoying,” she remarked. Pagkatapos no’n ay kinuha niya ang bag niya sa table at saka nag-martsa palayo sa amin.
“I see,” Iñigo muttered while looking at me.
“What?” irita kong tanong.
“That’s why she’s now comfortable being herself,” sabay ngiti niya sa akin.
“What the hell are you talking about? Aren’t you gonna chase her or something? Just get out of my sight.”
“Thank you, Chloe. You saved both of us,” sabi niya at saka siya tumakbo para habulin si Queenie.
What the heck? What did I even do to save them? Those two are seriously tiresome.
I was about to search for the book that my professor wanted us to read but I stopped midway when I saw Katrina between the shelves, achingly looking at Iñigo chasing Queenie. Her gaze shifted at my direction and for a moment, I saw the Katrina I once knew. She tried hard to hold back her tears but in the end, she couldn’t. Mabilis siyang naglakad palayo at sinundan ko naman siya.
Nakita ko naman siya na nakaupo sa sulok habang nakatago sa pagitan ng bookshelves sa bandang dulo ng library. She was trying to suppress her sobs and I suddenly saw myself in her. Sumandal ako sa bookshelf malapit sa kanya at tumalikod. I wanted to respect her personal space and at the same time, talk to her.
“Do you really love him?” mahina kong tanong.
“W-would I cry if I don’t?” she sobbed.
“I don’t know. I feel like you’re just trying to prove something to yourself,” sagot ko naman. “You already know that Iñigo’s committed yet you still tried to get him and failed miserably.”
“Because I deserve him,” she argued.
“Or because you’re doing what they did to your parents.”
Natahimik naman siya ng ilang segundo. I know that this is a sensitive topic for both of us but we both need to move forward.
“H-how did you know that?”
“I stalked you,” I lied. I couldn’t say Jazer told me that. “Internet’s a great help.”
“You don’t know me,” matigas niyang sabi. “You don’t know anything about them.”
“I do,” I retorted. “And I understand you, believe it or not.”
“I hate them,” she muttered and I could feel the pain an d hatred in her words.
“Because they left you alone. I know. I absolutely know that feeling.”
“How would you know?” she sneered. “You’re living an easy life, Chloe. You’ve got all you need in life in your hands. Beauty, money, family . . . everything. You already have everything.”
“Huh. What a joke—”
“I, too, was abandoned by my parents for years.” I had to breathe deeply to calm myself but I already felt a lump in my throat. “I have money? Yes, a lot, but even that, couldn’t buy their time. The only time both of them paid me a visit was when they wanted to let my siblings, whom I never met nor knew they existed, live with me. That’s why I know where you are coming from. Because I hated my parents, too.”
Narinig ko ulit siyang umiyak pero this time, mas naramdaman ko ang sakit. I wanted to comfort her but I couldn’t move from here. My tears had already betrayed me and I don’t want her to see me crying.
I think children from a broken family, abusive parents and those who got abandoned have the deepest and nastiest scars. Parents should be their childrens’ home, their safe haven, however, for these children, going home is the most frightening and lonely journey they have to take everyday. And in the end, their hearts would only know hatred and desolation toward their parents because those were what they felt from their eyes and their words.
“You want someone who won’t leave you like your parents but Iñigo isn’t that person. His love isn’t for you, Katrina.”
“Then whose love is for me?” she wept. “I didn’t feel my parents’ love. My friends just love me because I’m at the top now. The only one who always worries about me is Jazer.”
Bumigat naman ang pakiramdam ko nang marinig ko ang pangalan niya. He’s always by my side and he became my shield when I don’t want the world to see my weakness. I’m really thankful because he was my support for the past few months but I don’t want to drag him down to my own problems any further. I don’t have the luxury to like someone when my own family is slowly crumbling.
Yes, I like him and he’s special to me but I know that he already has someone he loves. Before he knew me, there was Katrina.
“Then maybe he’s what you need. He’s your treasure, right?”
Before she could reply to my statement, I already stood up and marched away from her because I knew I wouldn’t like her answer.
Christmas break came and both Nanay Meling and Kuya Larry wanted to delay their vacation because of us but I didn’t let them.
“I can handle them,” sabi ko habang nanonood sa sala ang dalawang bubwit.
“Talaga ba, Chloe?” pang-aasar ni Kuya Larry kaya inirapan ko siya.
“Naghanda na ako hanggang dinner n’yo pero anong kakainin n’yo sa mga susunod na araw?” tanong naman ni Nanay Meling at nagsisimula na siyang mag-panic.
“I can cook,” I stated and they both looked at me as if I just said a joke. “Instant food,” I added.
“Diyos ko po, hindi ko talaga kayo pwedeng iwan—”
“Seriously, Nanay Meling, think about your own family this vacation. They need you more,” sabi ko at natahimik siya. “You, too, Kuya Larry. Your parents are waiting for you at home, right?”
Along with Nanay Fe, they took care of me since I was young and even sacrificed some of their personal time to be with me. I was alone the past fifteen Christmas Day but I was also glad that their own children weren’t, although I had to admit, I was envious.
“Pwede namang magpa-deliver ng food or kumain sa labas. I can take care of myself now and I will take care of them,” I assured them and I was surprised when Nanay Meling suddenly cried. Even Kuya Larry’s eyes were moist with tears.
Bigla naman akong niyakap ni Nanay Meling. “Hindi ko namalayang lumaki ka na pala talagang bata ka. Parang dati lang, kapag magpapaalam kami sa’yo, pipigilan mo pang umiyak kahit na maiiwan kang mag-isa at walang mag-aalaga sa’yo. Ngayon . . .” Hindi na niya naituloy ‘yon dahil tuluyan na siyang naiyak.
“Dalaga at mature na ang Chloe natin,” dagdag ni Kuya Larry.
Naluluha na rin ako pero nagawa ko pang pigilan. Wala na akong ginawa ngayong linggo kundi umiyak. Nakakapagod din.
“Sige na. Ang aga-aga, may dramahang nagaganap,” biro ko at natawa na lang sila. Sinisi pa nila ako bago sila makaalis.
Pumunta naman ako kina Czanelle at Clark. Nakadungaw silang pareho sa may bintana habang sinusundan ng tingin sina Nanay Meling at Kuya Larry. It was hard to convince them that they would not be around for a couple of weeks.
“Will they come back?” Czanelle pouted.
Naglakad naman siya pabalik sa couch habang malungkot pa rin ang expression. Sinundan naman siya ni Clark at kinailangan ko pa siyang buhatin dahil hindi niya alam kung paano bumaba.
Nilipat ko na lang ang channel sa cartoons at hinayaan silang manood. I was about to go back to my room when I saw Jazer approaching us.
Mukhang magpapaalam na rin siya para umuwi sa kanila.
“Ngayon ka rin ba uuwi?” tanong ko.
“Bukas pa naman,” sagot naman niya.
“I see.” So, wala na rin siya bukas. Kami na lang talagang tatlo ang matitira.
“Uhm . . .”
Napatingin naman ako sa kanya at hawak niya pala ang phone niya. Somebody was on the line. Isang tao lang ang naisip ko at lalo lang akong nalungkot.
“Kung wala ka nang sasabihin, then go. Someone’s waiting for you,” sabi ko habang nakatingin sa phone niya.
“Chloe,” tawag niya nang tumalikod na ako. Hinarap ko naman ulit siya.
“Actually, uhm, nag-aalala rin ako sa inyong tatlo kaya . . .” He sighed and he looked nervous. I’m not sure if I want to hear the next words. “Gusto n’yo bang sumama sa akin?”
Hindi ko alam kung ilang minuto akong nakatayo at nakatitig lang sa kanya. Hindi ko rin alam kung mali lang ba ako ng dinig o kung ‘yon talaga ang sinabi niya.
I managed to condense my confusion and doubt into a word. “W-what?”
“May gusto kasing makita ka at isa pa, pumayag naman na si Nanay,” dagdag niya pa. “Heto, nasa linya siya, kakausapin ka raw niya,” sabi niya sabay lagay ng phone sa tapat ng tenga ko at doon na parang sumabog ang utak ko.
“Y-your mother? H-hey, w-wait! What the—”
Binitiwan naman niya ‘yon at nawalan na rin ako ng choice dahil narinig na ako ng nasa kabilang linya. Damn it, I swear, he’s going to pay for this!
“Chloe? Ikaw na ba ‘yan?”
“Sasama ka ba kay JJ pauwi? Isama mo na rin ang mga kapatid mo nang makita ko sila. Ilang buwan na kitang hindi nakikita. Na-miss kitang bata ka!”
Bigla namang napakunot ang noo ko sa narinig ko. Hearing that familiar voice made me more confused. I looked at Jazer for an explanation but with the grin pasted on his face, it seemed like he already expected my reaction.
Doon ko na-realize kung bakit at paano siya natanggap bilang babysitter nina Czanelle at Clark. Kung bakit pinayagan siyang tumira rito. Kung bakit pinagkatiwalaan agad siya nina Mom at Dad . . .
“Nanay Fe?” I asked and I heard her chuckle.
“Ako nga, anak. Hindi ba sinabi sa’yo ni JJ?”
. . . and that was because he’s my nanny’s—Nanay Fe’s—son.