“Yes? Ikaw ba ‘yong naghahanap sa akin na sinasabi ni Tiffany?”
That was the first time I met her. I remembered her name because I found her interesting but I never had the chance to talk to her again since I seldom see her around until I saw her in the cafeteria together with Jon. Akala ko nga, sila na, kaya noong nasa dance studio kami ay tinanong ko siya.
“So, you got yourself a girlfriend?” I said after our practice. “I thought you can’t handle girls?”
“Wait, si Als—I mean, si Alice ba ang tinutukoy mo?” I nodded but he just sneered at me. “I see her as my sister. Besides . . .”
He smirked. “Nothing. Bakit? Interesado ka ba sa kanya?”
I didn’t have the chance to answer his question because Jane arrived, or rather, I avoided it by using Jane as an excuse. Ihahatid ko na sana siya sa next class niya pero narinig ko ang pangalan ng kapatid ko mula sa mga estudyanteng dumaan.
“Karla? Stan likes her?”
“Yeah. I saw them—”
The two guys looked at me and they must have recognized me as a Campus Prince. One of them immediately pointed at the building on the right side. I apologized to Jane and ran toward that direction.
Pagdating ko ro'n ay napatigil ako dahil may nakita akong phone na lumipad. The next thing I knew, Stan was already kneeling on the ground, his hand on his head, while Karla was behind someone. Nang makita ko kung sino ‘yon ay hindi ko inasahang kaya niyang gawin ‘yon.
It was Alice, and she just saved my sister from being pestered.
After that moment, I realized I wasn’t just interested in her. I was drawn into her. She was different from the girls around me.
“I kinda like you.”
“Nilalandi mo ba ako?” she blurted out.
Those words just slipped out of my mouth but her response left me dumbfounded. And maybe, that was really what I wanted to do.
I don’t believe in love and commitment. People change. Their feelings change. Even those couple who vowed to be together during their wedding end up breaking those promises. After what happened to my parents, I realized commitment, even as binding as marriage, isn’t an assurance that people’s feelings will stay the same.
Hanging out with girls was alright but I made sure I wouldn’t get attached . . . until I met Alice. Feelings deeper than a simple attraction meant risking my heart with something I was scared of. She made me want to do something I wasn’t used to.
For the first time in years, I was beyond happy. I never felt something like this when I was with other girls. Even though she didn’t show any interest toward me, I still wanted her to notice me . . . to fall for me.
I only wanted to show her my good side but during that day, when Mom left us exactly six years ago, it felt like I was a kid again. My fear of getting left behind by someone I love resurfaced and I was scared that Alice would do the same. After all, I wasn’t the perfect guy I was portrayed to be.
That day, she seemed uncomfortable with me and that heightened my worry. Maybe I was right. She wouldn’t fall for someone like me. If I kept on pestering her, she would surely avoid me.
I focused on studying for our exams for the next few days and didn’t contact anyone. However, I was surprised when I received a message from her.
Hi, Kev. Galit ka ba? :(
I was confused for a second. It was her number but it felt like it wasn’t her. In the end, I still replied.
She replied after two minutes.
Sorry. Gamit ni Jess kanina ang phone ko. Haha!
I knew it. It wasn’t her but I smiled because she still responded. The worries I felt these past few days were slowly sinking and it was because of her.
Playboy. Ladies’ man. Heartbreaker. Those were the labels attached to my name. It wasn’t the truth but I didn’t want them to blame the girls I was hanging out with.
“Do you really want to be labeled like that?” Divine asked when she told me about it.
I smiled at her. “It’s alright. Kaysa naman isa ka sa mga mabigyan ng ganoong klaseng label.”
“Alam mo, kung hindi lang ako in-love sa lalaking ‘yon, baka kinilig na ako,” she joked.
“Aww, so Jasper is still better than me?”
“Of course. Both in dancing and personality. However, you understand a person’s pain more. Thank you for listening to my stories. I didn’t expect you to be this kind.”
“I just don’t want someone who got left behind to feel alone.”
Because I knew that feeling, I wanted to add.
“But you know, if you keep on being nice to girls who are seeking for someone who can stay by their side, they might mistake your kindness to love. You will really turn into a heartbreaker. And when you finally fall for someone, will you still continue this kind of help?”
When she told me that a year ago, I just smiled at her, thinking that I wouldn’t experience that kind of feeling. I guess I was wrong.
After Alice called, I immediately told Jane that I couldn’t stay by her side anymore. This time, I wanted to be selfish. I wanted to recognize my feelings toward Alice.
Teasing her became more fun because I wanted to see her cute and flustered expressions. But one day, I was the one who got flustered because of an unexpected phone call.
“I’m Xander. Alice’s boyfriend.”
Boyfriend? She has a boyfriend? Was that the reason why she kept on avoiding me?
“Why are you glaring at your phone?” tanong ni Karla nang maabutan niya ako sa sala.
“Do you know Xander?”
“Xander? Who’s that?”
“Huh?! She has a boyfriend? No way!”
“Well, it turns out—”
“Are you sure he’s her boyfriend?”
“He just called using her number.”
“You’re such an idiot, Kuya!” she exclaimed.
“Ang bagal mo kasi! Nakakainis ka! Stupid!”
“Do you like her?” she suddenly asked. “Sagot!”
“Y-yes.” What’s wrong with her?
“Then stop being a coward! I like her for you, too, so man up!”
She threw a cushion at me and marched away after scolding me. Wow. Women are scary.
The next day, I asked around about Xander and I finally found out who he was. It turned out he was Yna’s older brother and he was close with those four. When I directly asked Alice about him, she seemed hesitant. Isang araw, nag-insist ako na ihatid siya pero nang makarating kami sa main gate ay bigla siyang napatigil. I looked at the direction she was staring at and saw a guy leaning on his car. He was texting someone but when he saw Alice, he suddenly smirked.
“Alice! Here!” he yelled.
When she called him Xander, I knew I had to do something. Before he could say anything again, I pulled Alice along with me and got away from him.
I already knew he wasn’t waiting for her because he seemed surprised when he saw us. That meant he was waiting for someone else. Probably Yna, his sister. I knew it yet somehow, I still got jealous.
“By the way, nice act,” I said while we were eating. Her flabbergasted expression was too cute that I kept on teasing her. “Boyfriend pala, ha?”
It was that time I realized I was already falling—something I have yet to experience. It felt strange and frightening but being with her made me happy.
Screw this fear, I thought. These feelings of mine, I wanted to acknowledge them for once.
The teasing gradually turned into something serious and I told that to her one night.
“You’re prettier up close.”
“Lakas mo talagang mambola.”
“Seryoso ako pagdating sa’yo.”
Everything was going smoothly between us but when I saw Mom in front of their house, I felt that uncertainty again. Because I didn’t want to get left behind, I was the first one to leave. I ran away. Again.
So I did what I had to do. I confessed and told her I like her but I would never be ready to commit because of my parents’ experience.
Naging magkaklase kami sa isang subject kasama si Darryl. It was hard to ignore her but I told her I wouldn’t bother her anymore. I was alright with looking at her from far away. But when I saw that Stan cornering and threatening her again, I became enraged. With all the frustrations I felt these past few weeks, I threw a hard punch on his face.
First, he messed with my sister and Alice. Second, he kept on talking about my mother.
“This is your third strike, Stan,” I warned. “And your final warning. Don’t mess with my women.”
Hinatak ko siya palayo pero hindi ko alam ang gagawin ko. I just broke my promise of not bothering her anymore. I was about to run away but she suddenly held my hand tightly.
“Pwede bang ako naman ang maging selfish?” she said. “Pwede bang huwag mon ang pigilan ang nararamdaman mo? Kasi gusto rin kita, Kevin. Matagal na.”
That moment, I was too flustered to answer. I didn’t expect to hear those words from her. Then questions suddenly filled my head.
Does she deserve someone as coward as me? Do I deserve her? Will I be ready for this kind of feelings? Will I be able to handle a commitment?
I decided to risk it all and become a better person for her. The first thing I did? I talked to my Mom. I asked her why she left because that traumatized me and changed me into something I didn’t want to be.
“I’m sorry, Kevin,” she sobbed. “Believe me, your Dad and I tried to reconcile but we couldn’t settle our differences. We were really happy when we were together that we immediately decided to get married. Hindi namin nakilala nang mabuti ang isa’t isa kaya naging mahirap later on. We didn’t know that being married would be entirely different compared to just being in a relationship. It was our fault for being hasty. Our problems and frustrations toward each other became too complicated that it strained our feelings, and even our family. In the end, I chose to leave. I don’t want my children to grow up while watching their parents fight every single day.”
She added that she tried to contact us as much as possible but I was too hurt that time that I didn’t want to see nor talk to her.
“Is that why you’re scared to admit your feelings and be committed?” she asked.
“Yes,” I sighed.
“Every relationship is uncertain,” she said. “It won’t be happy all the time and problems will certainly arise but it will always be up to you if you will let those problems break or strengthen your relationship. If you really love her, then show her. Don’t give her reasons to leave.”
Naging magaan ang loob ko matapos kong makipag-usap sa kanya. After that, I showed Alice that I was serious and courted her even though I don’t have any idea how to do that. Our relationship was getting better but when Mom got into an accident, everything fell apart.
I blamed her father for prying into our family problem and raised my voice at her. We just rekindled our relationship as mother and son and seeing her in critical condition made me sensitive and volatile.
It took a month for Mom to recover. I was happy to see her okay but I was also down that time. Alice didn’t contact me for the whole break and I knew it was my fault. For the past few days, I was just staring at her number. I wanted to call her but I felt guilty every time I remembered how I glared at her in the hospital.
“How long are you going to stare at your phone?” Nagulat ako nang marinig ko ‘yon mula sa likuran ko. “You look dumb, Kuya.”
This girl. I’m older than her but she always calls me stupid and dumb.
“Kung pinuntahan mon a si Ate Alice, eh ‘di sana tapos na ‘yang problema mo.”
“It’s not that easy.”
“Yeah, because you got angry and vented your frustrations at her. Now, your guilt is preventing you from talking to her. You’re such a coward, Kuya.”
How did she know that?
“So you’re trashtalking me now?”
“Obviously,” she retorted. “You know what, sa lahat ng mg babaeng nakita kong kasama mo, si Ate Alice lang ang nagustuhan ko. She’s different.”
“I already know that,” I smiled regrettably. “She’s . . . she’s special.”
My younger sister scolded me again and that was when I realized I accidentally pressed the call button a while ago. She heard everything.
“See? You’re dumb,” dagdag pa ni Karla at saka siya tuluyang umalis pero saglit siyang huminto at lumingon sa akin. “If you hurt her again, I will really hate you, Kuya.”
Yeah, right. I won’t let two of the most important women in my life to hate me.
The next few days, I put my all into apologizing. She accepted it but she told me she wouldn’t be that easy to be swayed again and I was aware of that. I hurt her and I deserved this kind of treatment.
I also apologized to her Dad and told him about my Mom. He said he understood my anger that time but he was disappointed that I needlessly involved Alice.
“I’m sorry, Sir,” I bowed after hearing those words. “Any kind of reasons would just be an excuse so I just want to sincerely apologize.”
“It’s okay but once you make my daughter cry again, I swear I’m going to—”
“I won’t, Sir,” I said, cutting him off. “I mean, your threat is scary but not being with her is way more frightening.”
“Aren’t you a brave one.”
I chuckled. “She turned me into one.”
After the Feb Fair, I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. Aside from letting them know that I am her boyfriend, I could finally show my affection freely without anyone judging her. Who cares if she isn’t a Campus Princess? Why does it matter? A person shouldn’t fall in love just because of someone’s title and people shouldn’t be the ones to decide on whom you should be with.
I hate how this school classify people. Everyone’s a prince or a princess in their own ways but during the Fair, Alice really looked like a real-life princess. She was shining brightly that people’s eyes were glued to her and some guys kept on approaching her.
For once, I wanted to be a prince for her.
“Why are you staring at me like that?” tanong ni Alice habang nandito kami sa garden kung saan sila madalas nags-stay kapag vacant hours nila.
I smiled at her. I couldn’t say that I was just reminiscing our moments at the Feb Fair.
“I just want to stare at you. Is that weird?”
“Yes,” Darryl said while looking at us.
“Agreed,” Patrick added.
“Why can’t you be as romantic as him?” Jess muttered while glaring at Patrick. Hah. You deserve that.
“No, don’t say anything,” dagdag naman ni Darryl nang nakatingin na rin sa kanya si Steff.
“I feel so lonely,” sabi naman ni Yna kaya natawa ang tatlo.
“Okay, boyfriend time is over,” Jess said. “Tsupi na kayong tatlo, si Yna ang date namin ngayon.”
Pagkatapos no’n ay talagang tinaboy nila kami at nakakatuwa lang silang panooring apat. Before I left, Alice gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and I immediately felt hot.
“Later,” she said softly.
I was scared of falling in love and being committed but when she came into my life, everything I was scared of became something I wanted to last.
I wanted to know her more. I wanted our relationship to develop into something deeper and more meaningful. And maybe when we’re already prepared, get married.
Because when it comes to her, all I want is a happily ever after.
Tahimik lang kami habang papunta sa campus. Well, the truth was, I could only glance at him because I was too nervous. I mean, people would see us coming together and being with him would cause another wave of rumors, unless . . .
Napatingin naman ako sa kanya. “Y-yeah. A little.”
“Just a little?” he asked while smirking.
This guy . . . how could he be so calm in this kind of situation? Gaano ba katas ang confidence nito at parang hindi man lang natatamaan ng kahit anong kaba o kahihiyan sa katawan?
“Sobra,” I confessed. “I mean, they’ll see me with you. Normally, Campus Princes at Princesses ang magkakasama.”
“Why would I be with them? You’re my girlfriend.”
Napahinga ako nang malalim nang sabihin niya ‘yon at naramdaman ko ang pag-init ng mukha ko.
“H-hindi ka ba nahihiya sa mga sinasabi mo?”
“No,” he responded while glancing at me. “Why?”
“W-well, maybe the one hearing them is.”
Pumasok naman kami sa campus at nag-park siya sa vacant slot. Akala ko nga ay bababa na kami pero napatigil ako nang humarap siya sa akin. He stared at me with a smile on his face and I got nervous that I ended up fiddling the seatbelt.
“You asked me if I get flustered when I’m being straightforward.” Tumango naman ako. “The truth is, I do but the embarrassment gets replaced with courage and confidence and maybe it’s because you’re the one hearing them.”
Wala na. Talo na ako. The further I ask him about this, the more I get flustered. Lalo na ngayon na mukha talaga siyang prinsipe at parang mas nakakaakit ang mga tingin niya. I was actually surprised that my heart could still handle this kind of attack. Stay strong, please.
Lumabas kami mula sa sasakyan niya at ang dami na ring students ang naglalakad papunta sa green field. Tumingin naman siya sa akin at inilagay niya ang kamay ko sa braso niya.
Nahihirapan pa rin akong huminga nang maayos dahil sa kaba lalo na’t may ibang nakatingin na sa amin habang papunta kami sa green field.
Looking at the venue, it felt like we were really living in a kingdom. The green field was transfored into a huge garden outside a castle—bushes cleanly shaped and trimmed; and footpaths made of paving stones and gravel while being surrounded by trees and flowers of different colors. The stage was designed to look like a castle’s ballroom with a wide staircase that leads to the it, fancy ornamental elements, marble floor and royal chairs for the Campus Princes and Princesses.
Seeing the students, professors and staffs dressed in elegant suits and gowns was such a spectacle and the royalty theme felt real.
Napatingin naman kami sa isang staff at tumango si Kevin. She gestured us to go to the photobooth where several photographers were waiting. Naglakad kami papunta ro’n at napunta agad sa amin ang atensyon dahil isang Campus Prince ang kasama ko.
Agad naman kaming kinuhanan ng pictures at halos mabulag na ako sa dami ng flash sa harapan ko. It was getting uncomfortable but Kevin suddenly tilted his head toward me and I looked at him.
“You okay?” he softly asked with a look of concern in his eyes.
The lights from the camera made his eyes more mesmerizing. Looking at him made me regain my composure for a bit. Funny how the person that makes me nervous is also the same person that can calm me down.
After that, we walked to the castle’s garden and I immediately saw Steff and Darryl sitting around the table on the leftmost area. Pagdating namin doon ay agad akong napaupo at naramdaman ko ang panghihina ng mga tuhod ko.
Sinalubong naman ako ni Darryl ng isang nakakalokong ngiti kaya tinaasan ko siya ng kilay.
“Is your Ke—ouch!”
Bago niya pa matapos ang sasabihin niya ay sinipa ko siya sab inti at buti na lang ay medyo maingay ang paligid kaya hindi ‘yon narinig nina Steff at Kevin. After a few minutes, halos sabay na ring dumating sina Jess at Patrick at kasunod nila si Yna.
Nagsisimula nang tumugtog ang ilang bands na in-invite sa Fair habang ang ilang estudyante ay lumilibot para bumili ng pagkain at iba pang stuff na nasa iba’t ibang stalls sa paligid. After several songs ay ipinatawag na ang mga Campus Prince sa batch namin dahil magpe-perform din sila. Nang umalis sina Kevin, Darryl at Patrick sa table namin ay lumapit naman ang isang staff para kausapin sina Steff at Jess kaya naiwan kami ni Yna.
“So . . . how’s the princess?” she teased.
“Ayon, kaaalis lang nila,” I responded, pertaining to Steff and Jess.
Hinampas naman niya ako sabay tingin sa direksyon nina Kevin na paakyat ngayon sa stage. Inabutan din sila ng crowns ng isang staff at na-excite naman silang isuot ang mga ‘yon. The crowd started screaming when they saw them with their prince attire and it looked like they would attend a world meeting rather than perform.
Nagsa-soundcheck sila nang lumapit sa amin ang isang staff at sinabing for faculties daw pala ang table sa leftmost part kaya napilitan kaming lumipat ni Yna. We were about to go to the assigned tables for students when the lights suddenly illuminated toward our direction. Nagmadaling maglakad si Yna papunta sa table pero hindi ko naman magawang bilisan ang lakad ko dahil sa heels at gown na suot ko.
I was surprised when I heard collective gasp and murmurs around us so I lowered my head and wished I could just teleport to our table.
“Is that Alice Diaz?”
“Ah! The girl who was rumored with Kevin Fuentez?”
“For real? She looks like a real-life princess.”
“Is the rumor true? Does she have a boyfriend?”
Sana kapag nag-uusap sila, ‘yong hindi ko naririnig, ano? My god, nakakahiya! Bakit kasi ang layo ng pinili ni Yna? At bakit ang bilis niya maglakad? Paano niya nagawa ‘yon?
Pagkarating ko sa table namin ay umupo agad ako sa tabi ni Yna at napainom ng tubig sa sobrang hiya. We were about to talk about what happened when a guy suddenly approached us. Judging by the table where he came from, he must be a fourth year.
“Alice Diaz, right?” tanong niya.
“Uhm . . . y-yeah—”
Napatigil ako dahil bigla na lang may malakas na tunog ang nanggaling sa stage. Pagtingin namin ay tine-test ni Kevin ang drums pero mukhang napalakas siya sa palo sa cymbals. Ang sakit tuloy sa tenga.
“Just checking the sound’s quality. Sorry,” he said using his mic and some students chuckled.
The four of them continued checking the instruments and the guy in front of me looked at me again, but before he could say anything, a loud bang caught our attention. It was Kevin. Again.
“This drum sounds good, too,” he said as if he didn’t do anything surprising.
He suddenly looked at my direction and I flinched when his face turned serious. What happened—wait. Don’t tell me he’s . . .
♪ I’d be jealous, too, if she was with you ♪
Darryl sang a line while strumming his guitar and he looked at Kevin with a contemptuous smile.
♪ If you felt the way it feels the way she looks at you
I'd be jealous too, I'd be jealous too ♪
Sinundan naman siya ni Patrick at natawa sa kanila si Gisel. Hindi ko alam kung bakit ako napangiti sa kanila. They looked too cute and it seemed like I was right.
“Looks like all the instruments are in tune,” Gisel noted while the three of them were still grinning at Kevin’s actions a while ago.
Natatawa pa rin ang ilan sa pinaggagawa nilang apat sa stage kaya ang light ng atmosphere kahit papaano. Nandito pa rin ‘yong lalaki pero muli na naman siyang napatigil dahil biglang dumating si Jon at . . .
“Oh my god, Jon, I’m so proud of you,” sabi ko habang nakatulala sa kanilang dalawa na sabay dumating.
They sat beside us and I thought Yna would also be surprised but it seemed like she was already expecting it. However, people around us were murmuring about them and I could hear the same remarks I encountered before. Why him?
“You look good together,” Yna commented while grinning at them.
“Kaya pala blooming ka nitong mga nakaraang buwan,” dagdag ko naman at nag-blush si Karla.
Yup. It was, indeed, Karla.
Hindi rin ako makapaniwala noong una dahil hindi kayang lumapit nitong si Jon sa mga babae maliban sa akin. That was why I was surprised when I realized he was exchanging messages with Karla. I didn’t know he had enough courage to talk to her.
“Alam ba ni—” Hindi ko na naituloy ang sasabihin ko dahil agad din ‘yong nasagot nang makita kong nakatingin dito si Kevin na para bang hindi makapaniwalang magkasama sina Karla at Jon.
“Do you think I’ll still be alive after this?” Jon whispered while Karla was busy fighting with glares with her brother.
“No,” I joked. “Marami kayang may gusto kay Karla. Good luck.”
Nagsimula namang tumugtog ang banda nila at napahiyaw agad ang crowd dahil sa familiar na strumming ng gitara.
♪ Lift your head, baby, don't be scared
Of the things that could go wrong along the way ♪
Darryl’s voice was really soothing. And even though he couldn’t see Steff, I knew he was thinking about her while singing. Si Patrick naman ang kumanta ng sumunod na lines at nakisabay na rin ang mga tao sa pagkanta nila.
♪ You'll get by with a smile
You can't win at everything but you can try. ♪
Napangiti naman ako at nakisabay na rin sa pagkanta. I could also see couples looking and mouthing the lines of the song to each other.
♪ In a world where everybody
Hates a happy ending story
It's a wonder love can make the world go round ♪
We jammed along the song and they received a big round of applause after singing it.
“Good evening everyone!” bati ni Darryl habang nakangiti. “Kumusta? Nag-e-enjoy naman ba kayo? I heard the food in the stalls are good.”
“What? Hungry already?” tanong naman ni Patrick kaya nagtawanan ang mga nanonood sa kanila.
“Hungry? I’m not hungry. Someone else is,” Darryl retorted and he immediately looked at Kevin’s direction.
“Oh, Kevin’s angry?” dagdag pa ni Gisel. “I mean, hungry.”
Hindi ko alam kung matatawa ako o maaawa dahil pinagtutulungan na siya ng mga kasama niya pero ngumiti lang siya sa kanila.
“A little bit,” he responded.
“Hungry or angry?” Patrick asked and people started laughing at them.
“Maybe both,” Gisel said.
“Definitely angry,” sabi naman ni Darryl sabay tingin sa direksyon namin. “Right?”
Kevin started playing the drums because he was being ganged up. Ngumiti lang sa kanya ang tatlo at nagsimula na rin silang tumugtog.
“The song we’re going to sing is special,” sabi ni Darryl habang patuloy pa rin sa pags-strum.
Bakas pa rin sa mga labi nila ang ngiti at napahinga ako nang malalim nang ngumiti na rin si Kevin. They started playing their instruments and the next thing I knew, Kevin was already singing the first verse while looking straight at me.
♪ Ain't got no time for love,
that's what I said,
before I met you girl ♪
Bumilis naman ang tibok ng puso ko dahil nakatitig lang siya sa akin at hindi ko rin maalis ang tingin ko sa kanya. It felt like we could only see each other and nobody else mattered.
♪ And I can't believe this is happening
It's a dream come true for me
What more can I ask for? ♪
Bigla naman siyang tumayo mula sa drums at pumunta sa mic stand kung nasaan si Darryl. He smiled at me and people began looking at my direction, too. That moment, I became the center of attention.
“Oh my god, so the rumors are true!”
“Are they already together?”
“Wow, I didn’t know she looks good.”
♪ You're the light that shines on me
And all I can do is to love you ♪
The way he sang the song . . . the words . . . his stares . . . they stirred something inside me and I was having a hard time holding back my tears.
Bigla naman siyang bumaba sa stage kaya nakarinig ako ng ilang pagtili at pagbubulungan. Our eyes were still fixed on each other and the moment he smiled while walking toward our table, the tears I was trying to hold back streamed down my face.
Noon, hiniling ko na habang nahuhulog sila sa kanya, gusto kong mahulog siya sa akin. It was just a hopeless wish that time but I didn’t know I’d see it coming true right at this moment.
♪ Everything's so right
Everything's so fine
Everything's so cool
It's like a paradise
When you're here with me ♪
After the last line, the music stopped and he stood in front of me while flashing the most genuine smile I saw from him. He reached for my hand and my skin tingled when he kissed it.
“Everyone,” he called while still staring at me. “I want you to meet my princess, Alisson Jane Diaz.”
Pagkasabing-pagkasabi niya no’n ay halos mabingi ako sa reaksyon ng mga tao. Some yelled and giggled, some gasped in surprise, while the others talked in hush voices. Lalo akong naiyak dahil hindi ko akalain na gagawin niya ‘to.
Kevin gently wiped the tears off my face as the music changed. The emcee announced that there would be a slow dance and she also commented that this might be the people’s chance to dance their crushes.
Kahit papaano ay nawala ang ilang atensyon mula sa amin at agad akong napayakap sa kanya pero nagulat ako nang maramdaman kong may nilagay siya sa ulo ko. Saglit akong humiwalay mula sa pagkakayakap at muli ko siyang tiningnan.
“Chin up, Alice,” he said. “Your crown will fall.”
Natawa na lang ako habang may tumutulo pa ring luha sa mga mata ko. So he was serious about getting me crowned. I thought he was just joking a while ago. Pinunasan ko naman ang pisngi ko at muling humarap sa kanya. I wanted him to see me at my best.
“May I?” sabay lahad niya ng kamay niya sa harapan ko kaya kinuha ko agad ‘yon.
He positioned his other hand on my waist and we started dancing.
It felt strange and familiar at the same time. We were used to dancing but not this kind. There was no beat or choreography to follow. We were just letting ourselves get lost in the music and the eyes of each other.
“You’re too beautiful,” he commented and I got flustered once again. “It’s hard when guys keep on staring at you.”
Natawa naman ako sa sinabi niya. “Bakit? Selos ka?”
“No,” he immediately responded. “Because I trust you. But not them.”
It was getting harder harder to breathe because of the little distance between our faces and his straightforward answers but I remained resolute. With the last stroke of my courage, I pulled his face closer and kissed him quickly on the lips.
“Will that ease your worries?” I asked as my voice quivered, but looking at his stunned expression, the embarrassment I felt turned into adoration.
He was too cute. Hindi siguro siya makapaniwala na ginawa ko ‘yon. Well, ako rin naman.
My words got cut by his lips. He kissed me in return but this time, it was longer and I could feel his soft and gentle lips against mine. My heart felt like it would explode anytime and my stomach kept on churning but I didn’t mind.
He gently pulled back and looked into my eyes. We chuckled upon meeting each other’s gaze and he started leading me to dance again. I could see the flashes of cameras toward us but somehow, I wasn’t uncomfortable. Maybe because of him. Because he was with me.
“I’m glad I took the risk,” he whispered. “Thank you for choosing me.”
It all started with a simple crush when I saw him in a basketball match during our senior year in high school. I thought I would never see him again but it turned out he was also in this university. Noong nalaman ko na isa siyang Campus Prince, lalo lang akong namangha sa kanya. I was just one of the people who admired him and I knew there was just a slim chance for him to notice me.
Sino ba naman ako, ‘di ba? Hindi naman ako isang Campus Princess katulad nina Steff at Jess. Hindi rin ako kapansin-pansin. Hindi niya rin alam na nag-e-exist ako sa campus na ‘to.
But look at us now, holding each other as lovers. It still felt surreal. Pakiramdam ko panaginip lang ang lahat. I never imagined someone like you would end up with me.
I was never a princess but I got a prince.
I was never a princess but you made me into one.
I was never a princess but you made me feel that I am.
I was never a princess but tonight, I am.
And I promise that I would never let the crown fall.
Sobrang busy nina Steff at Jess ngayon dahil sa Feb Fair. Syempre, may kanya-kanya silang presentations at mukhang ngayong taon ay couple performances ang gagawin nila. Maging sina Kevin at Karla, hindi ko rin mahagilap. Si Yna naman, nagpaalam na may pupuntahan lang siya saglit kaya naiwan ako rito sa garden.
Students were still glancing at my direction but it felt more like they were just intrigued rather than being hostile toward me.
Pumunta na alng muna ako sa dance studio para doon tumambay. Habang naglalakad ay ang daming couples na nagpaplano na para sa Feb Fair. I smile escaped from my lips when I thought of Kevin. We’re also a couple now.
Napasigaw naman ako nang biglang may tumulak sa akin at pagtingin ko sa likuran ay nakangisi sa akin si Jon. Sinamaan ko siya ng tingin at sinuntok sa tagiliran. He grunted but he continued grinning.
“Ano ‘yang ngiting ‘yan?”
“Ngiting nang-aasar,” sagot niya at bigla siyang lumapit sa akin. “You kept on resisting your excitement while walking, I mean skipping. Oh, and you’re blushing. Ibig sabihin ba, kayo na ni Kevin?”
Naubo naman ako nang sabihin niya ‘yon pero agad akong kumalma. I tried my best to remain unbothered but he suddenly laughed out loud.
“H-ha! As if! I mean . . . he’s . . . you know . . .”
“Hindi nga!” sigaw ko.
“Really? Pero sabi niya sa akin, kayo na. Was he lying?”
“He told you?!”
We already agreed not to tell anyone yet but he just informed Jon about it?
“Wait, you mean, I’m right?” he suddenly asked.
Hindi ko alam kung sino ang mas nagulat sa aming dalawa. He was too surprised that he choked when he gasped at me. Napahinga ako nang malalim dahil hindi ko akalain na nagjo-joke lang siya kanina. I fell into a trap he didn’t mean to set up.
“Dalaga ka na talaga, Als!” he teased as we walked to the dance studio.
“Alam mo, bwisit ka.”
He snickered. “Hindi ko akalaing mapapaamo mo ang isang Kevin Fuentez. Iba ka!” sabay tulak niya sa akin.
“Ako tigil-tigilan mo, Jon, alam ko rin ang sikreto mo.”
Pagpasok namin sa studio ay nandoon ang dancers na mukhang nagpa-practice dahil ilan sa kanila ay magpe-perform din sa Feb Fair. Tiningnan ko ulit si Jon at nahuli ko siyang nakatingin na naman sa phone niya kaya siniko ko siya.
“That secret,” I smirked.
He remained smiling but I could see the uneasiness on his face. Hah. My turn to tease.
“Alam ko kung sino ‘yan,” sabi ko habang nakangisi sa kanya.
“No, you don’t.”
“Gusto mo tawagan ko pa siya ngayon.”
Nawala naman ang ngiti sa mga labi niya kaya lalo akong natuwa. Nilabas ko ang phone ko at hinanap ang name ng taong ‘yon sa contacts ko. I dialed her number and after a few rings, she finally answered.
“Hello?” panimula niya at pinindot ko naman ang loud speaker.
“Hey! May tanong ako,” I said while looking at Jon who was already panicking.
Hindi ko na natuloy ang itatanong ko dahil kinuha ni Jon ang phone ko at in-end ang tawag. He looked scared and annoyed but he was blushing profusely. I enjoyed seeing him react that way because Jon was always the playful type. My god, binata na ang lalaking ‘to.
“So, tama nga ang hinala ko,” pang-aasar ko sa kanya at sinamaan naman niya ako ng tingin.
“Okay, I won’t tease you anymore so please . . .”
Natawa naman ako sa kanya. “Ang cute mo kiligin,” sabay tapik ko sa balikat niya. “Fine, fine. Quits na tayo. Don’t worry, ‘di ko ipagsasabi.”
“Ba’t parang ‘di ako naniniwala?” he muttered but I just shrugged my shoulders.
Naglakad ako papunta sa isa sa mga dance room para magpalipas ng oras at nakita kong nagpa-practice ro'n sina Ate Divine at Kuya Jasper. I was about to find another one when she suddenly saw me and gestured me to come inside.
Lumabas naman saglit si Kuya Jasper kaya naiwan kaming dalawa ni Ate Divine. Naalala ko tuloy ang sinabi niya sa akin last time. She said she became one of Kevin’s ‘girls’, too, but she assured me it was just him being compassionate.
“Hey,” bati niya kaya nginitian ko siya.
“Busy po sa practice?” tanong ko naman at umupo siya sa gilid.
“Not really. We already memorized the whole routine.”
“Wow. As expected.”
Umupo naman ako malapit sa kanya at narinig ko ang mahina niyang pagtawa kaya napatingin ulit ako sa kanya.
“What is it?” she asked. “You have a question, right?”
Napakunot naman ang noo ko nang marinig ko ‘yon. Was I that obvious?
“Go on,” she urged.
Napabuntong-hininga na lang ako. “Uhm, I’m just curious about what you said to me last time.”
“Ah. About Kevin?” Tumango naman ako. “I guess he didn’t tell you.”
Ate Divine smiled while looking at her reflection in the mirror. I wanted to know the reason why he chose to have that kind of image.
“Have you noticed? Lahat ng girls na na-link sa kanya ay either galing sa break-up or may complicated relationship.”
Napaisip naman ako sa sinabi niya at ni-recall ko lahat ng pangalang na-attach sa pangalan niya. Now that she mentioned that, I realized almost most of them were in those kinds of situations.
“That kid just unconsciously looks out for people who got hurt because of commitments. I’m sure you know why,” she said. “He would accompany them until they finally get better but some, well most I think, ended up falling for him. Kevin’s a natural charmer so I wasn’t surprised when girls wanted more of what they had.”
Realization gradually came into me and I remembered the words he said before. He was denying his relationships but he was also saying they were his girls. I guess he meant that as something different from what I thought.
“But you? You’re case is different.”
Napatingin ulit ako kay Ate Divine nang sabihin niya ‘yon.
“You weren’t like the other girls. You weren’t hurt or broken. When he picked you during the dance initiation of the new members, I knew you were special. He was interested in you, and for the first time, Kevin was the one who initiated the move. Do you remember what he said that time?”
Write my name instead. This girl is mine.
Of course. How could I forget those heart-fluttering words?
“He’s like a younger brother to me and he helped me when I was struggling so I want to see him happy,” she continued and she looked at me with a smile on her face. “Thank you.”
“F-for what po?”
“For taking the risks with him,” she said. “Kevin fears commitment and I know being with someone like that, who’s also labeled as a playboy and on top of that, a Campus Prince, would need a lot of courage and patience. So thank you . . . for giving him a chance to change and to show his real self.”
Hindi ko alam kung bakit ako naluha nang sabihin ‘yon ni Ate Divine. She really treasures him as his younger brother.
Dahil bumalik na si Kuya Jasper ay umalis na rin ako ro’n at lumipat sa kabilang dance room pero napahinto ako nang makita ko si Kevin na papunta rin doon. We stared at each other for a few seconds and I did something I would never do before.
I ran toward his direction and gave him a hug.
“A-Alice?” he whispered after stopping my momentum with his body, but I didn’t respond. I just stayed like that for a few seconds and when I heard the murmurs getting louder, I finally let go.
Humarap ako sa kanya at ngumiti. “Practice well.”
Pagkatapos kong sabihin ‘yon ay agad akong tumalikod at naglakad palayo dahil naubos na ang kapal ng mukha sa katawan ko.
“Hoy, Kevin, ayos ka lang ba?”
“Pfft. You’re blushing! This is new!”
“Baka may matunaw, hoy.”
I, too, am willing to take risks to be with you.
“Wait, Mom, bakit may tiara pa?” tanong ko habang patuloy niya pa ring inaayos ang buhok ko.
“You’re a princess. Of course, you need a tiara.”
“Huwag na, Mom. Masyadong agaw-pansin,” sabi ko naman. “My face is enough.”
Mom rolled her eyes but I saw her lips curving upward.
“Sabagay. You inherited my beauty,” she said while tucking her hair behind her ears and looking at me as if she was posing in front of a camera.
Naabutan naman kami ni Dad at napailing na lang siya nang makita niya kaming nagpo-pose doon ng kung anu-ano.
“Go home early,” he said while adjusting his necktie. Lumapit naman sa kanya si Mom at siya na ang nag-ayos no’n para sa kanya.
“Wala naman akong maaabutan dito mamaya,” I muttered. “Enjoy your date.”
Magdi-dinner silang dalawa para mag-celebrate ng Valentine’s at anniversary nila. Yup. Nagce-celebrate pa rin sila ng relationship anniversaries nila na iba pa sa wedding anniversaries.
“You, too,” Mom teased. “Make the prince fall harder, Your Highness.”
Sakto namang pagkasabi no’n ni Mom ay nag-ring ang doorbell namin. After a few seconds ay bumukas ang pinto at bumungad sa amin si Kevin.
“Good evening po,” he greeted and my heart raced the moment I saw him.
He was in full regalia—gold medals, crest and sash covered the front of his attire while the shoulders were decorated with gold piping. He looked like a real prince.
Nakatulala lang ako sa kanya at natauhan ako nang nagtama ang mga mata namin. He flashed a gentle smile and it felt like my heart would leap out of my throat any moment.
He slowly walked toward me and faced my parents but I gasped when he suddenly held my hand. Nanlaki ang mga mata ko at napatingin ako kina Mom at Dad na pareho ring hindi in-expect ang nakita nila.
“Tita, Tito, let me formally introduce myself as Alice’s boyfriend,” he said and my mind went blank.
Nanghina ang mga tuhod ko nang marinig ko ‘yon at pabalik-balik ang tingin ko sa kanilang tatlo. I wanted to say something but my voice wouldn’t come out.
He suddenly bowed deeply in front of them. “I’m sorry for not informing you right away. I want to present myself as someone you can trust and someone Alice can rely on.”
Ilang segundong katahimikan ang bumalot sa aming apat pero agad ding nabasag ‘yon nang nagbuntong-hininga si Dad.
“I just have one condition,” Dad said.
“Don’t hurt her. She’s my precious daughter.”
Tears instantly welled up in my eyes when I heard that from Dad. He wasn’t the vocal type when it comes to his feelings so I was deeply moved when he said those words to him.
“Take care of our daughter,” Mom added and Kevin smiled at them in return.
“I will,” he replied and I felt his grasp getting tighter.
Tumingin naman sa akin si Mom at ngumiti nang nakakaloko. “So your prince already fell, huh?”
Bago pa ako ang ma-target nila ay hinila ko na si Kevin palabas ng bahay at nang malapit na kami sa kotse niya ay tumingin siya sa akin. He stared at me for several seconds and gave me a tender smile.
“You look enchanting,” he softly said. “I can’t wait to let the world know that I’m yours.”
Hindi na ako nakapag-react at uminit na lang ang mukha ko. I felt happy and embarrassed at the same time. Napatingin na lang ulit ako nang buksan niya ang sasakyan niya.
“Let’s go, Princess. Time for you to get crowned.”
Nakaupo lang ako rito sa sala habang hinihintay ang Mommy nina Karla at Kevin. Nagpe-prepare pa raw kasi siya at alam kong medyo matatagalan dahil kagagaling niya pa lang sa treatment. Pero ang lakas na ng tibok ng puso ko dahil sa kaba.
How did Kevin manage to stay calm when he was talking with Dad?!
Hindi ko naman magawang ilabas ang phone ko at mag-browse dahil baka maabutan nila ako at isiping uninterested ako o ‘di kaya rude. My god, nakakabaliw maghintay!
Sakto namang narinig ko ang pagbukas ng pinto mula sa second floor kaya umayos ako ng upo. Pagtingin ko, nakaalalay si Karla sa Mom niya habang si Kevin naman ay nakasunod sa kanila. Tumayo ako mula sa pagkakaupo at hinintay silang makababa mula sa hagdan.
“Hello, Alice,” she greeted with a broad smile on her face.
“Good evening po,” bati ko naman.
She was still wearing a bandage on her hand but aside from that, she looked better.
“Tara na sa table at baka lumamig ang pagkain,” sabi naman niya kaya dali-dali akong sumunod sa kanila pero tumama ang tuhod ko sa edge ng low table sa sala nila at napakagat ako sa labi ko para hindi ako mapasigaw.
I was already thinking that I’d be doomed but Kevin was still smiling from ear-to-ear. Nakakainis dahil parang nag-e-enjoy pa siya sa paghihirap ko para lang magmukhang presentable sa harap ng Mom niya.
Pagpunta namin sa dining area ay tinap ni Kevin ang upuan sa tabi niya kaya doon na ako pumwesto habang ang Mom niya naman ang nasa kabisera. Karla sat opposite to me and I realized I was surrounded by the three of them.
Kumain muna kami dahil mukhang gutom na rin sila pero hindi pa rin ako mapakali lalo na’t ramdam ko ang tension sa pagitan naming apat.
“So, when will you be boyfriend and girlfriend?” biglang tanong ni Karla kaya muntik ko nang maibuga ang iced tea na iniinom ko.
I heard their Mom chuckling and Kevin was just staring at me, as if he was waiting for an answer. H’wag mong sabihing sineryoso niya talaga ‘yong tanong?!
“I heard he’s courting you,” dagdag naman ni Tita Kristina kaya uminit ang mukha ko. “I wasn’t aware he knows how to court a girl.”
“He’s bad at it,” Karla commented.
“Uhm . . .”
“Stop it, you’re making her uncomfortable,” sabi ni Kevin. “I’m good, right?”
Pinigilan ko namang ngumiti habang tinitingnan sila. Kevin must be happy to be with his Mom again. I didn’t know he could be this cute when arguing with his family.
“Well, he’s trying,” sagot ko kaya napatingin silang tatlo sa akin.
“See? That means you’re bad,” Karla said and he smirked at her brother.
Tuluyan na akong napangiti dahil sa expression ni Kevin. He looked confused and dejected. Ang totoo, hindi ko lang kayang sabihin na masyado siyang magaling sa pagpapakilig dahil baka lalo lang niya akong asarin.
“Figures,” their Mom remarked. “Your Dad is also bad at it.”
“It was the other way around. Girls are the ones courting him. That dummy can get a girl without any effort because of his looks. I feel sorry that you got his features,” sabi ni Tita Kristina kaya natawa kami ni Karla.
“Sounds familiar,” dagdag ko. “May ganyang playboy din sa campus, eh.
“Where’s that old man when I need him the most?” Kevin muttered.
Natawa na lang ako dahil buong pag-uusap namin tungkol sa kanilang mag-ama ay tahimik siya o ‘di kaya ay nagiging defensive. Karla really had the best day of her life by dissing her brother in front of me and their mother. Ikinuwento niya pa ulit lahat ng nakakahiyang alaala niya at kulang na lang ay tusukin ni Kevin ng tinidor si Karla para lang tumigil siya sa pagsasalita.
After that ay nagpaalam muna sina Karla at Kevin para magbihis kaya naiwan kami ni Tita Kristina rito.
“Do you want to go to the living room?” aya niya kaya tumango naman ako.
Agad akong tumayo para alalayan siya at medyo nahiya ako dahil baka marinig niya ang lakas at tibok ng puso ko.
Pagdating namin sa sala ay umupo kami sa couch. Wow, it was awkward without Karla and Kevin.
“I’m sorry,” bigla niyang sabi kaya napatingin ako sa kanya.
“I know I’ve been a problem to him and it was one of the reasons why he hated commitments and the idea of being in love,” she continued. “That kid hated me for leaving them and I know I deserved that.”
Naalala ko naman ‘yong time na nakita ni Kevin ang Mom niya sa isang documentary at kung paano nagbago ang expression niya. That was the moment I learned about his relationship with her.
“He grew up realizing that even a commitment like marriage could be broken, just like what happened to his parents, and thus, he just resorted in playing around. Until you came into his life.”
Her warm smile made my heart flutter and the way the corner of her eyes wrinkled reminded me of Kevin’s.
“You remind me of your Dad,” she commented and that got me curious.
“Si Dad? Bakit po?”
“You know, your Mom was once the girl every guy in the campus wanted to date. She’s so beautiful that even those in different colleges and institutes know her.”
Okay, I knew Mom was a campus crush back in her college days but I didn’t know she was that famous.
“Your Dad was my classmate in an elective subject. One time, dumaan sa room namin ang Mom mo dahil classmate din namin ang friend niya at pinagkaguluhan na siya ro’n ng mga lalaki, except from your Dad.”
“Eh? For real?” Whoa. So Dad was that kind of guy, huh?
Natawa naman nang bahagya si Tita Kristina. “Yup. So I asked if he wasn’t interested in her.”
“Ano pong sinagot niya?”
“He said she already has too many guys around her. She could choose anyone from them. And also, it would be a waste of time and effort to fall for someone as famous as her. I guess your Mom heard that so after a couple of days, she started noticing your Dad and the rest is history.”
Hindi ko naman ma-imagine na gano’n ang nangyari sa kanila noong college days nila. I always thought Dad was the one who chased Mom, not the other way around. Iba rin pala ang kamandag ni Daddy at nagawa niyang ma-in love sa kanya si Mommy.
“Sounds familiar, right?” she said with a huge grin on her face.
Doon ko lang na-realize kung bakit niya ‘yon naikuwento. Well, hindi naman gaano. I mean, I had a crush on him ever since I saw him in that game. Magaling lang talaga akong magtago ng feelings kaya mukhang hindi ako interested. Kung alam lang niya kung gaano karaming pangalan ng babae ang nailista ko dahil dikit sila nang dikit kay Kevin dati.
“Thank you for changing his beliefs,” dagdag niya kaya muli akong napatingin sa kanya. “He may not admit it but that kid still fears relationships and commitments. Courting you must have taken a lot of courage so I know he’s serious with you.” She smiled once again. “And I’m glad he fell in love with someone like you.”
Hindi naman ako nakaimik matapos niya ‘yong sabihin at saktong bumaba na sina Karla at Kevin. Pinaypayan ko ang mukha ko dahil ramdam ko ang pag-init no’n lalo pa’t nakangiti pa rin si Tita Kristina na para bang wala siyang sinabing nakakahiya.
Pagdating nila ro’n ay tinawag naman niya si Karla para tulungan siya sa isang project na dine-design niya raw kaya naiwan kami ro’n ni Kevin.
“So, what did she tell you?” tanong niya agad.
“Hmm? Uhm, wala naman.”
Medyo nakahinga naman ako nang maluwag noong wala na sila at lalong gumaan ang pakiramdam ko nang makita kong si Kevin naman ang worried dahil naiwan ako kanina kasama ang Mom niya.
“She told me a lot about you,” I teased and his brows furrowed. His flustered expression was too cute.
“What? About what?”
“Sorry, that’s a secret between us.”
Alam kong naisip niya rin ang pag-uusap nila ni Dad kaya naman natuwa ako dahil kahit papaano ay nakaganti ako sa kanya.
Dahil medyo gabi na rin ay kailangan ko nang umuwi kaya nag-book ako ng car noong hindi siya nakatingin.
“Mukhang magiging busy na kayo starting tomorrow,” sabi ko naman nang maalala kong malapit na ang Feb Fair.
Napabuntong-hininga naman siya. “I guess. There would be a lot of performances.”
“I see. Good luck.”
Panandaliang katahimikan ang bumalot sa amin matapos no’n at nagulat ako nang biglang humarap sa akin si Kevin.
“Speaking of Feb Fair . . .”
“Will you be my princess?” he asked and I was confused for a second.
Para naman siyang natauhan nang makita niya ang confusion sa mukha ko at doon ko lang din na-realize na may kinalaman doon ang theme ng fair ngayon.
“I see. So parang royalties ang theme nila ngayon,” hula ko at mukhang tama dahil napakunot ang noo niya.
“That was supposed to be a secret until they announce it,” he muttered and I chuckled when I saw his face.
“Don’t worry, ‘di ko ipagkakalat. Kay Yna lang.”
“I’m gonna be dead.”
Narinig ko naman ang pagbusina ng sasakyan sa labas at mukhang nandoon na ang na-book ko. Tiningnan niya ako at sinabi kong kina Yna ako uuwi.
“You should have told me para ako na ang maghahatid sa’yo.”
“No need. Saka nakakahiya sa Mom mo.”
“But still . . .”
Sinamahan naman niya ako palabas ng bahay nila pero huminto ako nang makalabas na kami sa gate. I turned around and looked at him.
“Sure,” I said. “I may not be a princess but I’ll be one during Feb Fair.”
Pagkasabi ko no’n ay ilang Segundo siyang blangko lang ang mukha pero agad din siyang ngumiti kaya medyo nahiya ako.
“Thank you,” he said.
Naglakad ako papunta sa kotse pero muli akong napatigil. This time, tumalikod ako at naglakad pabalik sa kanya. I stopped in front of him and he looked bewildered by my action.
“Then, y-you’re my prince from now on,” I said and I could hear the nervousness in my voice.
“What . . .”
“Yes,” sabi ko at mukhang lalo lang siyang naguluhan.
Dahil hindi ko na alam kung paano ipararating sa kanya ay ginawa ko na ang last resort na naisip ko kanina. I breathed deeply and hugged him tight.
“Good night, boyfriend,” I whispered.
After that, I didn’t wait for him to say or do anything and I just dashed inside the car. My heart was still racing but seeing his stunned expression after I said those words made me smile. That was the cutest expression I had seen from him. From my boyfriend.
Nagpagulong-gulong lang ako sa kama dahil hindi pa rin mawala sa isip ko ang nangyari kahapon. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face and my heart continued to pound loudly to the point that I was having trouble breathing. Ganito pala ang pakiramdam kapag na-reciprocate ang feelings mo.
“I already fell. Alice, will you fall for me, too?”
Napatalukbong ako nang kumot nang maalala ko ang mga salitang binitiwan ni Kevin. Hindi ko nga alam kung paano ako naka-survive kahapon sa atake niyang ‘yon. Ang alam ko lang, wala na ako sa sarili ko mula noong sandaling ‘yon hanggang sa maihatid niya ako rito sa bahay. Hindi tuloy ako nakatulog dahil doon.
Nag-prepare naman na ako para pumasok kahit na ang sakit ng ulo ko dahil wala akong tulog. Buti na lang talaga at wala pang masyadong additional homeworks at projects na pinapagawa ang profs namin.
Pagkababa ko ay nagbe-breakfast na sina Mommy at Daddy kaya sumabay na rin ako.
“Why are your eyes red, Alisson?” puna ni Mommy. “Don’t tell me umiyak ka?”
“No, Mom,” tanggi ko naman. “Napuyat lang.”
“Ah. You’re watching tv series again? I told you na sa weekends mo lang pwedeng gawin ‘yan.”
Heto na naman si Mommy. Ayaw na ayaw niya akong nagpupuyat kapag weekdays kahit na minsan ay kailangan lalo na kapag may research or project sa isang subject. She always checks my room around midnight to see if I’m still awake. Nakakaligtas lang ako kapag maaga siyang dumarating sa bahay dahil ibig sabihin ay galing siya o pupunta sa business trip at kailangan niyang matulog nang maaga. Gano’n ang sitwasyon kagabi kaya hindi siya pumunta sa kwarto ko.
Nagtama naman ang paningin namin ni Dad dahil alam kong alam niya ang dahilan kung bakit ako napuyat. I actually wanted to know what happened between him and Kevin. According to Kevin, Dad already accepted his apology but under one condition. Tinanong ko sa kanya kung ano pero sa kanilang dalawa na lang daw ‘yon. Pssh.
“Anyway, I won’t be home for a week,” sabi ni Mom kaya napatingin ulit ako sa kanya. “I have a business meeting in Australia.”
Dad heaved a sigh. “I also need to go to Taiwan tonight to close a deal.”
“Okay,” sagot ko naman.
Sanay naman na akong lagi silang umaalis pero lagi pa rin silang concerned kapag naiiwan ako. Noong bata pa ako, kadalasan ay dinadala nila ako kina Steff o Yna para doon muna mag-stay hanggang sa makauwi sila. Ngayon, okay lang naman na kahit ako lang mag-isa sa bahay.
After naming kumain ay hinatid ako ni Dad sa campus pero bago pa ako makababa ay may sinabi siya sa akin.
“Tell Diaz I’m granting him the permission,” pahabol niya.
Napakunot naman ang noo ko. “Permission?”
“Umuwi ka nang maaga, Alisson.”
Bago ko pa matanong kung ano ang ibig niyang sabihin ay pinaandar na niya ang sasakyan. Permission for what?
Napalingon naman ako nang marinig ko ang pangalan ko at nakita ko si Karla.
“Wow,” I blurted out when I saw her.
Ngayon ko na lang siya nakita simula ngayong taon. She looked different. Her hairstyle changed from brown and straight to black and wavy. She seemed more feminine and her look matured a bit.
“Wow, Karla, ang blooming mo ngayon,” I commented and her face turned red in a matter of seconds.
“T-That’s not . . . a-anyway, I just want to say I’m happy you and Kuya got back together.”
Ako naman ang namula nang marinig ko ‘yon. “G-got back together?”
“Ah. Sorry. I mean, he’s back courting you,” she corrected while flashing a teasing smile. “See you later.”
Hindi ako nakapag-react agad dahil agad din siyang umalis. Grabe. Magkapatid nga silang dalawa.
Pumasok na lang ako sa mga klase ko at medyo nasasanay na rin ako sa mga tingin ng ilang estudyante. After what Kevin did last time, I doubt I could still walk inside the campus without attracting attention.
“May flowers ka ulit,” bulong ng seatmate ko sa isang elective subject na class.
It was hard to keep a straight face. He’s been doing this for the past few days but my heart still flutters every time I see a flower on my desk. Seryoso talaga siya sa sinabi niya before na papatunayan niya ang feelings niya.
Mukhang magiging busy na naman siya dahil nagpe-prepare na ang lahat para sa most-anticipated event of the year—and Feb Fair.
Naalala ko tuloy ‘yong nangyari noong first year kami. Tumatak kasi sa lahat ang ginawa ni Darryl na surprise kay Steff. Nakakaloka nga naman kasi talaga ‘yon dahil humingi pa siya ng tulong sa amin para maisagawa niya ang plano niya. In fairness sa lalaking ‘yon, ramdam namin ang sincerity niya kay Steff.
Papunta na ako sa next class ko nang makita ko na naman ang tinginan ng mga estudyante. Pagtingin ko sa likuran ay nakita ko si Kevin. He waved and smiled at me but I just stared at him. Instead of walking faster, like what I did few days ago, this time, I waited for him. He was confused for a second but when he saw I wasn’t budging, he started approaching me.
Sinalubong naman niya ako ng isang nakakalokong ngiti at hindi ko alam kung dapat ba akong lumayo dahil ang lakas ng epekto sa akin.
“You’re finally not ignoring me inside the campus,” bulong niya at umiwas naman ako ng tingin.
“Ngayon lang,” I muttered.
Pwede bang ilayo niya ‘yang mukha niya? Nahihilo ako kapag nakikita kong nakangiti siya habang nakatingin sa akin. Posible pala ‘yon? My god, feeling ko atake sa puso ang magiging dahilan ng kamatayan ko.
Nagulat naman ako nang bigla niya akong inakbayan at napatingin agad ako sa mga taong nakakita. I heard a collective gasp while the others immediately took photos.
“A-anong . . . hoy!” sabay siko ko sa kanya nang lalo niya pang hinigpitan ang hawak sa balikat ko. “Pinapalala mo lang ‘yong rumors, eh.”
“Okay lang naman sa akin,” he replied with a smirk. “Another rumor with you, huh? I like that idea.”
Hindi ko alam kung dahil lang ba ‘to sa pagiging playboy persona niya before o ginagantihan niya lang ako sa hindi ko pagpansin sa kanya. But boy, it was getting harder to breathe.
“Are you free tonight?” tanong niya matapos naming makadaan sa mataong corridor.
“Mom wants to see you.”
Napatigil ako nang marinig ko ang sinabi niya. Mas kinabahan pa ako ro’n kaysa sa mga matang nakaaligid sa amin kanina. I just stared at him, hoping that I heard that wrong.
“My mother wants to see you,” he repeated.
I was curious and terrified at the same time. He already told me that he had acknowledged what happened to his family and talked to his Mom. Also, I had seen her before but thinking about meeting her as Kevin’s mother this time petrified me. Ganito ba ang naramdaman niya nang sabihin kong gusto siyang ma-meet ni Dad dati?
Ugh. No. That guy has an unlimited stock of confidence.
“P-pwede bang next time? I mean . . . uhh . . .” I need some time to prepare!
“Hmm . . .” His eyes wandered around for a while but ended up pouting. He sighed and looked at me with those dispirited eyes.
Was he trying to get me by being that cute?
“Okay,” he exhaled dejectedly. “I’ll tell her—”
“Fine. Fine,” sabi ko naman at parang nagliwanag ang mukha niya.
Wala naman akong gagawin mamaya at wala rin akong aabutan sa bahay dahil parehong nasa business trip sina Mommy at Daddy.
“Thank you,” he said while pulling me into a hug.
Nakarinig naman kami ng iba’t ibang reaksyon at pagtingin ko sa hagdanan ay may mga pababang estudyante kaya tinapik ko agad siya para humiwalay sa kanya. After that, hinatid niya ako sa last class ko pero bago siya umalis ay may binulong siya.
“See you later, Princess.”
He dashed away from me and I was left open-mouthed while my classmates were either squealing or whispering to one another.
“Tinitingnan ko pa lang ‘yong schedule for the next few weeks, parang hihimatayin na ako sa pagod,” reklamo ni Jess.
“I need chocolates,” Steff muttered.
Nandito kami ngayon sa garden at hindi ko alam kung matatawa o maaawa ako kina Steff at Jess. As Campus Princesses, I’m sure magiging busy na naman sila dahil sa sunud-sunod na events.
“So, what’s the theme this year?” tanong ni Yna.
“Oo nga, ano nga ba?” dagdag ko naman.
Nakatanggap naman kami ng suspicious looks mula sa dalawa. Simula kasi noong nakaraang taon ay may theme na na sinusunod. Last year was ‘Black and White’ and it was funny when all the couples wore white while single people wore black.
Campus Princes and Princesses know the theme ahead of the public announcement so Yna tried to fish some information.
“You’ll know soon,” sabi ni Steff na hindi natinag.
“Eh?” Yna pouted. “Stingy.”
‘Yon lang ang pinag-uusapan namin hanggang sa napunta na naman sa akin ang usapan at kinulit nila akong magkwento matapos ang pangf-flood ko kahapon sa group chat namin. In the end, umamin din ako at halos ma-dislocate ang balikat ko nang sabay-sabay nila akong hampasin.
“Iba rin ang moves ni Kevin ha!” Jess remarked.
“Well, mukha namang sincere talaga siya,” dagdag ni Steff.
“Heeeh, there are already articles about you guys!” sabay scroll ni Yna sa phone screen niya.
Bigla namang nagbago ang expressions nila at mukhang alam ko na kung bakit. Agad akong lumingon at nakita kong palapit ditto sina Kevin at Karla.
“Andyan na ang sundo mo,” pang-aasar ni Jess.
“Stay calm, Alice. Act normal,” Yna advised but my heart wasn’t cooperating.
Naramdaman ko ang presensiya nilang dalawa sa likuran ko. Kasasabi lang ni Yna na act normal pero silang tatlo naman ‘tong mga hindi makapagpigil ng ngiti. Nakakahiya!
“May I?” Kevin asked and my skin tingled when I felt his hands on my shoulders.
“Sige na, sige na, kanina niya pa gustong—ow!” Tiningnan ko nang masama si Jess matapos ko siyang sipain sa ilalim ng lamesa.
“Are you going to stay at my house later?” biglang tanong ni Yna at pinanlakihan ko agad siya ng mata. “What? I thought Tita and Tito won’t be home for . . . oh.”
“Tara na, tara na,” sabay tulak ko kina Kevin at Karla palayo sa kanila dahil baka kung ano pa ang masabi ng tatlong ‘yon.
Nang makasakay kami sa kotse ni Kevin ay nawala na ako sa sarili ko. Ang lakas na ng tibok ng puso ko habang palapit kami nang palapit sa pakikipagkita sa Mom nila.
“Hey, are you okay?”
“H-huh? Ahh . . . y-yeah,” I stummered as I fiddled with the seatbelt.
“You look nervous,” he teased. “And cute.”
Napahawak naman ako nang mahigpit sa seatbelt pero pareho kaming napatigil nang may umubo.
“I’m also here,” Karla said. “In case you guys have forgotten. Ang landi mo, Kuya.”
Kevin just shrugged off her comment and smiled while I suffered from embarrassment. Tumingin na lang ako sa labas pero napakunot ang noo ko nang makita ko ang paligid. This place looked familiar and after a few seconds, I realized where we’re headed.
“Wait, don’t tell me . . .”
Ngumiti si Kevin sa akin. “Wow. You still remember the route?” he chuckled. “Yup, we’re having dinner in our house. You can also stay over if you want.”
Napabitiw na lang ako sa seatbelt nang marinig ko ‘yon mula sa kanya. Oo na. Panalo ka na. Wala talaga akong laban pagdating sa kanya.
“Kidding,” he suddenly said. “I have to fulfill my promise with him.”
Pagkarating namin sa tapat ng bahay nila ay agad akong bumaba dahil kailangan ko ng hangin. Susunod lang sana ako sa kanila nang bigla namang inilagay ni Kevin ang kamay ko sa braso niya, escort-style.
“Let’s go, Princess,” he said and the three of us walked toward the front door.