“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.