It was already the 30th of October. May inom na naman sina Cayleigh dahil birthday ni Ianne. Buti na lang at Friday na kaya okay lang na magpuyat at maglasing.
"Sana all, may kalandian," Ianne commented while craning her neck. Agad na napalingon sa kanya si Cayleigh. "Saya ka na niyan, girl?"
"Medyo," pagsakay niya sa biro nito.
Ianne slapped her arm in return, a wide grin on her face. "Luh! May ganon! H'wag ka nga, kinikilig ako!"
She remembered how Ianne supported her during their first "date." Kahit madalas ay puro ito kalokohan ay nakatulong talaga ang presence niya noon. She was the one who suggested to write what she wanted to tell him if she couldn't say it directly.
That night, she felt like everything would slip right through her fingers if she wouldn't take the risk. And she was glad she did.
Lord, pahingi ng sign, she silently prayed, at nagulat ito nang bigla siyang kinalabit ni John. He pointed at the stationery shop they were about to pass by. Shet, ito na ba 'yon?
While he was at the counter, she wrote the things she wanted to say to him. Pagkabalik niya ay saktong tapos na siyang magsulat pero biglang tumugtog ang Almost Lover. She stared angrily at the speakers. Dalawang beses na niyang napakikinggan ang kantang 'yon ngayong araw. Napaisip tuloy siya kung nananadya ba ang tadhana.
She decided to write a postscript, hoping that it would somehow lighten the vibe of the note. Halos hindi na siya makahinga noong iniabot niya iyon sa kanya. Hindi na niya hinintay pa ang reaction niya at agad na sumakay sa taxi.
Then this won't be the last time.
His words echoed in her head and a smile escaped her lips. Right. She didn't want that to be the last time, too.
They only went out for three times dahil sobrang busy ng October. Halos 3-4 hours na lang ang tulog niya araw-araw dahil sa workload at pagbyahe niya. Still, reading his messages made the days less exhausting.
Sa totoo lang, natatakot pa rin siya, pero ngayon ay mas nangingibabaw ang kasiyahan. She didn't even expect she would feel this way. Akala niya kasi, hindi na niya ulit iyon mararanasan.
When he asked her if he could court her, hindi agad ito nakasagot. She thought courting was already a thing of the past. Madalas kasi, kapag gusto ng dalawang tao ang isa't isa, sila na. Ganoon naman ang nakikita at naririnig niya sa workmates at friends niya.
But he insisted. He said it was the right way.
Hindi siya sanay na binibigyan ng atensyon kaya nakakapanibago. But she was thankful that he wasn't too affectionate. Ayaw niya rin namang nasa kanya lang atensyon nito. That would be too burdensome. She likes how they could still respect each other's personal time and space.
A week ago, nagtanong siya kay Elle kung kailan ba "pwedeng" sagutin ang isang lalaki dahil wala pa namang nanligaw sa kanya dati. Wala siyang alam tungkol doon.
"Huh? Ikaw, kung kailan mo feel," she replied.
"I mean, wala bang time frame, gano'n?"
"Ano ba ang purpose ng courting?" she returned. "Hindi ba para makilala n'yo ang isa't isa? To see if things will work out between you two? Kung sure ka naman na sa feelings mo, then sagutin mo na. Wala naman sa haba 'yan ng panliligaw."
"Girl, huwag muna!" Ianne chimed in.
Napatingin siya rito. "Bakit?"
"Hintayin mo munang mag-November 1 para sakto. Tutal nagsimula naman kayo dahil akala mo siya si ghoster," she chuckled. "Chour lang! Gora na para naman lumayag na ang ship ko, aba!"
One week later, pinag-iisipan niya pa rin ito.
Now, she's chugging a glass of alcohol. Nagwawala na ang mga kasama niya sa inuman habang siya ay kinakabahan. Honestly, she finds Ianne's idea funny, yet cute, at the same time. Pero ang weird din naman kung maging sila nang November 1. Parang hindi magandang date para mag-celebrate.
She was already tipsy when she saw his name on the notification. She started chatting him. Saglit siyang natawa nang maalala niya ang request nito noong unang beses nilang lumabas. He wanted her to drunk-chat him.
Hindi niya rin alam kung bakit feeling niya ay tama naman ang mga pinagcha-chat niya pero paggising niya kinabukasan ay wala rin siyang maintindihan sa mga sinabi niya. Still, drinking alcohol gives her the courage to tell things she won't usually say. It removes the inhibitions the brain put up to filter your words and actions.
Kanta akong Dear John, gusto mo marinig haha, she typed, of course, with a lot of typos. Kaso sad song 'yon, eh, 'di bagay.
Haha kahit ano. I'll listen, he replied.
Her heart fluttered upon reading his reply. Kahit simpleng salita lang na ganoon, nata-touch na siya. He had that effect on her.
Ay wait, may nahanap na ako.
Ianne squealed when she saw Cayleigh video calling John. Halos hampasin na nito ang braso niya dahil kinikilig daw siya. Itinalaga na nga nito ang sarili bilang 'captain of the ship.'
"Announcement, may naglalandian!" she yelled but everyone was having fun because Jasper was already drunk and he was crawling on the floor.
In-input niya ang kanta at kahit hilo na siya ay sinubukan niya pa ring seryosohin ito.
♪ Now we've been talking for a while
And you got me trying to figure out
Boy I don't know what to say to you
But you got me feeling some kind of way for you ♪
She tried watching his reaction and she almost bit her lip when she saw his expression. He was watching her closely with a shy smile.
♪ And all I know is when were together
No one can make me feel the way you do baby
I wish each moment could last forever
It's hard to explain the way I feel for you
I just can't find the words ♪
She likes him. It took a while to finally admit it to herself but that was her truth. She couldn't find the right words to tell him how much she feels for him, but this song was the answer.
Pagkatapos niya iyong kantahin ay saglit siyang lumabas. She walked toward the lobby of the ktv and sat on one of the couches. John was still looking at her intently and now that they were "alone," she felt embarrassed.
Parang nahimasmasan siya sa mga pinaggagawa niya kanina at gusto na lang niyang i-end ang tawag. But John suddenly snickered.
"You're really cute when you're drunk," he remarked.
He was lying down and a pillow was covering the lower half of his face. Medyo madilim din dahil night lamp lang ang source ng ilaw. He looked drowsy but he still gave her all of his attention.
Hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa rin siya sanay kapag pinupuri siya nito. Hindi niya rin alam kung saan banda ang cute because that doesn't describe her at all.
Pero simula noong unang beses nilang lumabas ay mas naging open na sila sa isa't isa. The words that they couldn't tell to each other before were gradually coming out.
There was a few seconds of silence between them. Kahit magkausap lang sila sa video call ay nararamdaman niya ang tension sa pagitan nila. Her face felt hot and she wasn't sure if it was because of the alcohol or him . . . or maybe both.
She wasn't really the type to tell people her feelings. Mas gusto niyang sinasarili ang lahat ng nararamdaman niya. But when it comes to him, her feelings become too overwhelming. Pakiramdam niya, kapag kinimkim niya lang ito ay sasabog at malulunod siya.
"Aiden," she tenderly called.
She knew his second name right after they talked in email for work. Pero dahil John ang ginagamit niya ay iyon na rin ang naging tawag niya sa kanya . . . not until their second date. Hindi pa rin kasi siya komportable sa paggamit ng 'John' dahil halos isumpa niya ang pangalang iyon noong ma-ghost siya.
He said only his parents call him Aiden kaya nahiya rin itong tawagin siya sa pangalang 'yon.
"No, it's okay. You can call me Aiden, too," she remembered him saying.
She noticed that he covered more than half of his face when she called his name. She finds it cute every time he gets shy with that.
Ang cute naman nito, nakakainis, she thought as she stared at her screen.
Naalala niya ang sinabi kanina nina Ianne at Elle. They had only known each other for several months but she was sure of her feelings now. She likes him, and it's just getting deeper every day.
Ang rupok, bwisit, she criticized herself.
"May sasabihin ako."
Her heart started pounding painfully. Simula noong nagkakilala sila ay hindi pa siya nakakapagsabi ng nararamdaman niya para rito. When they go out, madalas ay para lang silang magkaibigan na kinikilala ang isa't isa. Ito ang parating sweet.
But this time, she wanted him to know that he was someone she would want to be with. That he was someone worthy to be loved.
"I . . . I don't want you to be my another almost," sambit nito.
Elle was right. Bakit nga ba patatagalin pa kung sigurado naman na siya sa nararamdaman niya? Wala namang rule na nagsasabi kung gaano ka dapat kabilis o katagal mahulog para sa isang tao. Besides, it's the brain that decides if you're in love or not. If the neurochemicals in your brain get stimulated whenever I see or think of him, then I may really be into him. Because my happy chemicals say so.
"So, uhh, ano . . . m-may I say yes to you?"
The screen became black, followed by a thud. Nalaglag ang phone mula sa kamay ni John dahil sa sobrang gulat. When he came back on the screen, there was a confused and surprised look on his face. Tila nagising ang diwa nito.
Meanwhile, the agitation that Cayleigh felt a few seconds before saying that disappeared. Parang gumaan bigla ang pakiramdam niya lalo na noong nakita niya ang expression sa mukha nito.
"Did I hear that right?" tanong nito.
She chuckled. "Ano bang narinig mo?"
"I . . . I'm not sure, too." His eyebrows knitted. "Am I dreaming?" bulong nito sa sarili niya pero narinig iyon ni Cayleigh.
She let out a hearty laugh. "Cute mo, Aiden."
The panic on his face intensified and he was blushing real hard now. For the first time, Cayleigh wasn't the one getting flustered. And seeing him like that made her happy.
"Wait, are you serious?" tanong nito. "M-maybe it's because you're drunk—"
"Exactly because I'm drunk that I'm brave enough to convey my feelings now," she snickered. "Di, pero 'di ko babawiin 'pag 'di na ako lasing."
Napatingin naman siya sa room nila dahil tinatawag na siya ng mga kasamahan niya. She didn't realize she was outside for more than five minutes already.
"Cayleigh . . ."
She smiled at him and waved. "Bye bye, jowa," she teased and then ended the call.
October 31, 2020. 12:01 PM. She finally found the love she deserved.
Kahit sinagot niya ito noong Friday ay ngayong Tuesday lang sila ulit nagkita dahil holiday noong weekend.
When Cayleigh recalled everything that happened that night, she got embarrassed of herself for being the marupok girl she is. Pero hindi naman niya pinagsisihan ang ginawa. In fact, she was glad that she finally got the courage to face him head-on.
Magkikita sila mamaya after work. She was nervous, but this time, it was different. Hindi niya pa rin naman alam kung ano ang magiging difference noong nanliligaw pa lang ito at ngayong sinagot na niya. Would there be any difference after all?
She couldn't help but smile whenever she thinks of him. Kaya naman halos minu-minuto siyang asarin ni Ianne kapag nahuhuli niya itong nakangiti.
"Iba talaga ang glow kapag may jowa, 'no, miss Cayleigh?" pang-aasar nito sabay tusok sa tagiliran niya.
"Try mo rin," she returned and Ianne was shocked to hear her retaliation.
"Pucha, mamsh, iba na talaga si Cayleigh!" sigaw nito at tinawanan naman siya nina Carlo at Misha. "Gago, na-roast ako, teh," sumbong nito kay Carlo. "Okay, eh 'di ako na ang single!"
He was already at the entrance of their building when she left the lab. She was greeted by his soft smile and her heart summersaulted upon seeing that.
Parang wala namang nag-iba sa pagitan nila. He was still that considerate and sweet guy. Pero muntik na siyang mag-panic noong magtanong ito kung pwede raw bang hawakan ang kamay niya. She nodded.
She felt like her heart would jump out of her throat when he interlaced their fingers. His hand was big enough to cover hers. It was warm and gentle. Just like him.
Halos hindi nito binitiwan ang kamay niya. He would only let go if needed. The feeling of yearning for his touch becomes greater every time he lets go. And when he reaches out to hold her hand again, it sends shiver down her spine.
"Saan tayo kakain?" she asked to divert her thoughts from their intertwined hands.
"Doon na lang," sabay turo niya sa isang restaurant.
Napag-usapan sila na salit-salit sila sa pagde-decide kung saan kakain tuwing lalabas sila. It would be more efficient and fair that way, kaysa tumagal pa kakagive-way nila pareho.'
She was surprised when he suddenly snickered. Tiningnan niya ito at nagtama ang mga mata nila.
"Didn't know holding your hand would be this thrilling," he commented.
Agad na namula ang pisngi niya pero dinaan na lang din niya sa pagngiti. "Same."
She felt his grip got tighter as his smile grew wider. Lalo rin siyang napangiti. Para kasi silang mga teenager kung kumilos. But that made it more special.
They are still "beginners" when it comes to relationship but she likes it that way. They are still in the process of learning what love is. Of how to be lovers.
She looked back at how last year, she got her heart broken because of an almost lover. Almost connected, but not committed. Almost lovers, but not labeled.
She was left in a place where she didn't know where their "something" stands. Until he cut all ties with her. And she couldn't grieve for that "relationship" because technically, they didn't have one.
She thought she wouldn't experience love again because she wasn't the type that people would fall for. For her, love is a once in a blue moon thing.
Until he met this guy. Someone who showed her her worth. Someone who made her realize that she could be loved, too. Someone who gave her the reassurance that he would take her feelings seriously.
This time, it wasn't just an almost.
This time, it wasn't just an uncertainty.
Because for him, she was enough.
Because for him, she was the one.
Despite the heartache for being ghosted and being an almost, she was happy that it led her to her happy ending. To someone who deserved her heart.
It led her to the guy who was holding her hand at the moment, and she wished, would still be holding it in the future.
John always thought he wouldn't be interested in someone other than the girl she had a crush on during high school . . .
. . . until he met Cayleigh, that timid research assistant he had to work with for one of their projects.
Inis ito kay Benjamin dahil siya ang pinagpasa ng samples.
"Ikaw ang nag-message kaya ikaw ang mag-submit," sabi nito sa kanya habang patawa-tawa pa.
Andrea chuckled at him. "Okay lang 'yan, John, para naman ma-exercise ka rin! Lagi ka na lang nakaupo!"
He grunted as he arranged the samples that they would submit. Ayaw na ayaw pa naman nitong lumalabas ng building, lalo na ngayon at sobrang init sa labas. He thought Benjamin would volunteer since he likes meeting new people.
Dahil nagsabi niyang may pupuntang representative sa lab nila after lunch ay nagsimula na siyang maglakad. After fifteen minutes, he arrived at the building and told the guard that he was looking for someone named Cayleigh, an RA of Dr. Garcia.
"Pababa na raw po," the guard informed him and he nodded in return.
Naghintay siya ng ilang minuto hanggang sa may babaeng bumaba. She looked at him with cautious eyes but immediately averted his gaze when he met hers.
"Miss Cayleigh?" he asked for confirmation.
"Yes," she answered.
Agad niyang inabot ang samples na dala niya. But one thing he had noticed was that she didn't even look at him while he was explaining something in the transmittal forms.
It felt strange because he was taught to always look at someone while they are talking as it is a sign of respect. He wondered if she was just timid or he did something that made her wary of him.
"Okay na ito," she said. "I-email ko na lang if available na 'yong results."
"Okay. Thank you," he replied as he flashed a polite smile.
He swore he saw her glaring at him for a second. Hindi niya rin alam kung bakit. Nagpaalam naman ito sa kanya at tuluyan nang umakyat habang tumalikod siya at nagsimulang maglakad pabalik sa sarili nilang building.
When he arrived at their lab, he realized he forgot to ask about the tentative date of the release of the results. He didn't want to bother the girl anymore but their boss would surely ask for that during their meeting.
He messaged her and fortunately, she replied. Next week daw pwedeng makuha.
Then came next week and he went back to retrieve the samples and get the results. Dr. Parada told him to submit the next batch, too, since she had already talked with Dr. Garcia, her project leader.
He waited at the lobby and three people came down to meet him. One of them was Cayleigh. The other two seemed to be her labmates and they were suppressing their smiles.
"Hello," bati niya at tumango naman si Cayleigh.
Inabot nito ang samples at results sa kanya. She started explaining the details of the assay and printed results. He closely watched and listened to her but she kept her eyes on the paper and kept on stumbling over her words.
Cute, he thought.
She was so good at explaining that he understood the results much better than expected.
"Ah, oo nga pala, we will submit another batch of samples," he said, earning a confused look from her. "I think naka-cc ka ro'n sa email kanina."
"Oh. Sige, iche-check ko na lang. May questions ka pa ba?" she asked, and for the first time, she met his gaze for more than a second.
"Nothing," he replied. "Thank you."
She wasn't the headturner type but there was something in her that piqued his curiosity. Despite her impassive expression, she had that intriguing aura and captivating eyes. He also admired how she talked passionately about the assay she did.
For the next few days, he got more curious about her. Hindi niya rin alam kung bakit. For him, she was interesting. Something that he didn't feel from girls who got interested in him before.
They were speaking professionally in the chat but it became more relaxed after a few days. Maybe the way he put smileys helped. Lagi rin kasi iyong ginagawa ng labmates niya sa collaborators nila from other institutions kaya na-adapt na niya rin.
One time, he saw her replying a smiley but it got deleted after a few seconds. Napangiti siya nang makita niya iyon. She seemed to be the type not to use emoticons.
He thought they kind of got closer, especially after the three-day training in their laboratory. Medyo nakakailang nga lang dahil nakamasid sa kanila ang lahat. His labmates would constantly tease him about her. Napansin kasi ng mga ito na palagi siyang nakatingin kay Cayleigh.
Nakita niya ring palihim na tumatawa ang labmates ni Cayleigh noong nagpatugtog sila ng love songs sa desktop. Meanwhile, she remained focused on her tasks as one of the trainers.
He realized that was the reason why he kept on watching her. She looked cool when she was working hard. Iyong tipong lahat ng atensyon niya ay nandoon lamang sa ginagawa niya. In contrast, she looked cute when drunk.
Naalala niya noong bigla na lang itong nag-chat matapos ang ilang araw nilang hindi nag-uusap. He thought she was sending some codes at first and realized she was drunk after a series of replies.
When he deciphered that she was in the bathroom without any company, he got worried. He was hesitant to tell her because she might think he was crossing the line, but he realized there was nothing wrong with being worried about a person.
Nang hindi na ito mag-message ay lalo lang siyang nag-alala. Inisip niya na baka bigla na lamang itong nakatulog sa loob ng cubicle o 'di kaya ay nahilo na. He tried calling her and was surprised when she answered the video chat.
The poker-faced Cayleigh that he knew became much more expressive.
Ang cute, he silently remarked while watching her. Itinatong pa nito kung sino siya hanggang sa kung anu-ano na ang pinagsasabi niya.
"Luh, ba't kita kausap?" she muttered. "Hmm? John?" Her eyes narrowed as she read the screen.
"John . . . mga pa-fall . . ." she commented while glaring at him. "Eeessh . . . hate you . . . kainis ka . . ."
Nagulat na lang ito nang biglang sahig na lang ang nasa screen pero mas nagulat siya sa narinig niya. He was about to ask what she meant when he heard another voice from her end.
"Hoy, gaga ka, wait . . ."
The video chat ended and he felt confused . . . and a little hurt. Hindi niya alam kung may nagawa ba siyang mali dahil mukhang may galit sa kanya ito. He tried messaging her about it and said sorry but he didn't get any replies for days. In the end, binura niya na lang dahil mukhang wala na itong balak magparamdam.
Is this what they call ghosted? tanong niya sa sarili niya pero hindi niya rin naman alam kung tama ba iyon. There was nothing between them anyway. Nobody declared their feelings or intentions.
Pero nagulat siya nang mag-message ulit ito tungkol sa microscope. He got a bit disappointed because it was work-related but what could he do about it? They weren't even friends. And maybe she was really avoiding him. Ayaw naman niyang ipilit ang sarili niya sa taong nilalayuan siya.
Hindi niya rin ito nakita nang pumunta ito sa lab nila dahil nagpatulong si Geraldine sa na-stuck na sliding glass ng fumehood nila. But he saw her with Carlo, one of her labmates, when they were passing by the next lab.
He wasn't sure if he saw it right but she had a solemn expression on her face. His chest suddenly felt heavy. Pakiramdam niya, may kasalanan siya. It was hard to see her sad.
He said he didn't want to bother her anymore but he couldn't resist talking to her. She tried messaging her again, and this time, she replied. He told her he wanted to meet her in person.
It took him a lot of courage to say that. He was never the type to ask someone to meet him because he was quite shy himself but he wanted to cheer her up and know her better.
He wanted to prepare himself for that day but they unexpectedly met in the mall while they were with their friends. Pero nagtaka siya dahil kakaiba ang kilos niya. She looked like she was about to cry.
It turned out she met the guy who ghosted her. Nalaman niya ito nang nag-drunk chat ulit si Cayleigh sa kanya. She started ranting about "John," that he initially thought was him, until her friend took over. When her friend told him that she was talking about another John Santos, he finally understood what happened.
Kaya pala ganoon ang tingin nito sa kanya noong una silang magkita. Lalo na at magkapangalan pa sila. He liked using his first name, John, because it was too common. Hence, it wouldn't attract any unnecessary attention. But when he learned about her experience, he felt a bit ashamed that he shared the same name with that guy.
He still couldn't get why people would resort to "ghosting" when they could just say it outright. Naalala niya ang kaibigan na si Andrea. That woman would directly say she wasn't interested anymore to the guys she previously talked to or dated once she realized that they weren't a match.
"Mas mabuti pang tapatin mo na, 'di ba?" she would always say. "You won't save them from the pain if you just disappear quietly. If you think that's you being kind, you're wrong. Mas masakit pa iyon kasi hindi mo alam kung bakit biglang nawala kaysa kung alam mo kung ano ang dahilan. At least have the decency to do some closure kung ikaw naman ang nagsimulang magpahayag ng intentions. Hindi 'yong iiwan mo 'yong tao sa ere na hindi alam kung aasa pa ba siya o susuko na."
Matapos nilang pag-usapan ang nangyari ay tinanong niya kung tuloy pa ba ang pagkikita nila na supposedly ay sa Friday. She said she would still check her schedule and after a few days, she confirmed she'd be available that time.
Halos hindi siya mapakali nang mag-Friday na. He didn't tell anyone about it kaya wala rin siyang makausap. He wanted to make her comfortable later but he was too nervous that he thought she'd feel it, too.
Nagulat naman siya nang malaman ni Benjamin ang tungkol doon pero medyo nabawasan ang kaba niya nang kasabay na niya itong naglalakad.
"Hindi ka naman masyadong kabado, niyan?" pang-aasar nito nang malapit na sila sa town center. "Ano bang gagawin n'yo?"
"Dinner," he replied. "And maybe talk over a cup of coffee."
"Yes naman, casual date pala."
Gulat ang mukha ni Benjamin nang tanungin iyon ni John sa kanya pero agad din itong ngumisi.
"Kaya mo na 'yan. Malaki ka na. Saka baka 'di effective moves ko sa kanya. Ibang klase ako, eh."
Napagaan naman kahit papaano ang loob niya dahil sa pagbibiro ng kaibigan pero noong sandaling makita na niya si Cayleigh ay parang bumalik ang kaba niya kaninang umaga. He tried hard to look composed but in the end, he admitted that he was nervous because of her. He couldn't even look at her after that because his face was blushing hard.
The tension gradually lowered when they were eating dinner. They talked about work-related stuff, a topic that they were both comfortable talking about, and it helped improved the atmosphere.
"Oh, so madalas pala kayong late night," he commented.
She nodded in response. "Marami na kasing tatapusin. Biglaan din 'yong influx ng samples from other collaborators."
Magiging busy rin siya dahil puro cell-based na ang gagawin nila from October to December. Iyon din ang isa sa dahilan kung bakit nais niyang makipagkita.
There were still moments that they would be both silent but it wasn't as suffocating as before. Nang matapos silang kumain ay naglakad-lakad sila sa mall. He noticed that her eyes twinkled when they passed by the stationary shops. Noong pangatlong beses nilang may nadaanang ganoon ay huminto siya at kinalabit ang balikat ni Cayleigh.
"Gusto mong pumasok?" tanong nito.
"You seem interested with crafts."
Hindi naman na tumanggi si Cayleigh at pumasok silang dalawa sa loob. Her face may be inexpressive but he could see the excitement in her eyes and body. The way she hurriedly walk in small steps and how her eyes scanned the shop were adorable.
Napabili na rin si John ng notebook at pens para sa lab dahil paubos na rin ang ginagamit niya. Meanwhile, Cayleigh bought memo pads and some stuff that he didn't know the names.
They went to a nearby coffee shop right after. He insisted to take her orders so that she wouldn't go to the counter anymore. Nagkanya-kanya naman silang bayad dahil ayaw ni Cayleigh na si John lang ang magbayad.
While they were waiting for their orders, she took out the one of the memo pads she bought a while ago and wrote something on it. Pero agad itong napatigil at biglang tumingin nang masama sa bandang kisame. He was confused at first but he realized it was because of the song that was playing.
♫ Well, I'd never want to see you unhappy
I thought you'd want the same for me ♫
♫ Goodbye, my almost lover
Goodbye, my hopeless dream
I'm trying not to think about you
Can't you just let me be ♫
Right. She had her almost lover before. That song must have resonated with her. Still, he couldn't believe he'd see that kind of expression on her. Cute nga talaga itong magalit.
"Okay ka lang?" he asked.
Dumating na rin ang orders nila. They resumed their conversation until it shifted to the personal matters.
He learned that she likes neutral colors but her favorite is white. Matatakutin din ito kaya bilang lang ang napanood na horror movies. Lahat ng napanood nito ay pinilit lang siya o 'di kaya naman ay hindi niya sinasadyang mapanood. She also has low alcohol tolerance. That, he knew already.
"Siguro isa o dalawang baso lang, lasing na ako," she said while taking a sip from her cup.
He chuckled. "Halata nga."
He saw her blushed at his remark. Naalala niya ang dalawang beses na nag-drunk chat ito sa kanya. During those times, he felt they were closer than usual. And he enjoyed watching her clumsy side.
Tinanong niya kung marami ba siyang chinachat kapag lasing dahil minsan ay ganoon ang labmates niya, lalo na si Benjamin. Pero ang kaibahan ay puro seryoso ang usapan.
"N-no," she muttered. "Madalas sa group chat lang namin. The last two times . . . sa 'yo lang."
Halos mabilaukan siya sa kapeng iniinom niya. His heart raced upon hearing that. She just threw an unintentional fastball at him.
"Sana sa akin din 'yong mga susunod," he joked to ease the building tension in his chest but it backfired when he saw how red her cheeks were.
"Okay," she mumbled.
Ang cute, he thought, and he wondered just how many times he had called her cute this day already.
"Cayleigh," marahang tawag nito habang nakatingin sa kanya.
She averted his gaze and just stared at the cup of coffee she was holding. "H-hmm?"
"May I say something more personal?"
She shifted her gaze at him. There was a hint of nervousness and fear in her eyes but she nodded.
He took a deep breath. "I was never this interested in a person before," he stated. "Ngayon lang." He could feel his whole face burning but he continued. "I . . . I want to know you better. I want to see you more often." He let out a nervous chuckle. "I mean . . . s-sorry if this is making you uncomfortable. I just—"
Napatigil siya nang marinig iyon mula sa kanya. He thought he just misheard it because she was just mumbling. But the look on her face confirmed it. Pakiramdam niya ay sasabog na ang puso niya sa sobrang bilis ng tibok nito.
"So . . . this won't be the last time?" he asked.
"D-depends on you."
"Alright," he breathed. "Then this won't be the last time."
That moment, he realized it was more than just interest. More than just attraction. He was drawn into her because she made him feel things that he couldn't understand before. She made him realize the side of himself he didn't know before.
He likes her. And he didn't mind falling deeper.
Because it's her.
Time seemed to move faster because it was already 10 PM and they had to go home. Sinamahan niya ito sa taxi bay at noong pasakay na si Cayleigh ay bigla itong may inabot sa kanya.
It was a piece from the memo pad.
"Good night," she said before entering the taxi.
He smiled at her. "Good night. Ingat."
He watched the taxi until it disappeared from his sight. Napatingin naman siya sa ibinigay ni Cayleigh at agad niya iyong binasa.
I enjoyed this night despite the restlessness. Thank you for making me comfortable.
Honestly, I'm scared of this feeling because of what I had experienced before. Pakiramdam ko, mawawala rin lahat after some time. But my friend said I should enjoy it while it lasts. And that I should be honest with you. But I couldn't bring it up because I was embarrassed kaya dito na lang.
You made my heart flutter :)
ᴘ.s. ᴵ ʰᵒᵖᵉ ʸᵒᵘ'ʳᵉ ⁿᵒᵗ ᵃⁿᵒᵗʰᵉʳ ᵃˡᵐᵒˢᵗ ʰᵃʰᵃ ᶜʰᵒᵘʳ
He smiled upon reading it and his fluttered, too. And with the hope budding in his heart, he was already looking forward for their next meeting.
Cayleigh was never the optimistic girl.
Sa tuwing may nangyayaring maganda sa buhay niya, pakiramdam niya ay kaagad na may hihinging kapalit o 'di naman kaya ay panandalian lang.
When she met John, the ghoster, as what her friends called him, she thought he wouldn't even be interested in her. But he was eager to know her better. Months went by and they were talking about a lot of things: work, career, their personal lives and even senseless stuff.
She thought, maybe, this would be her chance to experience love. That someone would be willing to delve into her lackluster life.
But as usual, her luck and happiness don't last long.
John disappeared from her life after five months of talking (and flirting). Bigla na lang nawala at hindi na muling nagparamdam.
She tried to reach him but to no avail. Parang pinutol na lang bigla ang lahat ng taling nag-uugnay sa kanila.
A lot of questions lingered in her mind days after she got "ghosted." A lot of whys and what-ifs. Bakit bigla na lang siyang nawala? Dahil nawala ang feelings? O baka wala naman talaga sa una pa lang? Pampalipas-oras lang? Baka na-realize niyang hindi niya talaga siya gusto? O baka may nahanap nang iba?
Her self-esteem was getting better, even by a little bit, for the past few months, but it crumbled right after that. Siguro nga, hindi siya kagusto-gusto. Siguro nga hindi siya deserving. She wasn't pretty. And she was boring, after all.
It took her three more months to start building her self-esteem again. She was also thankful that her friends helped her to move on.
"Maka-karma rin 'yon," Chi would always say.
"True. Ipasumpa mo kay Elle, tutal dilang-demonyo din 'yan," dagdag naman ni Ianne.
They accidentally found out what happened when they saw her crying. Hindi naman siya pala-share ng personal matters niya pero sobrang bigat lang ng dibdib niya noong araw na iyon kaya na-ikwento niya sa kanila.
They cheered her up for weeks and only focused on her. Hanggang sa mga sumunod na linggo ay napunta na kay John ang atensyon. They cussed and made fun of him in their group chat. Medyo nagi-guilty nga siya kapag ginagawa nila iyon dahil kahit papaano naging mabait ito sa kanya noon.
Pero sabi nga ng kaibigan nitong si Elle, hindi kawalan ang lalaking iyon. She must know her worth at hindi niya kasalanang na-ghost siya dahil wala naman siyang ginawang mali.
After that, she never thought about falling in love again. She didn't want to get hurt. Again. Tama na ang isang beses.
She focused on her work and did things that make her happy. Masaya naman na siya noon kahit mag-isa lang siya.
But fate seemed to have other plans. Isang John Santos na naman ang nakasalamuha niya.
Pakiramdam niya ay pinaglalaruan talaga siya ng tadhana. Sa dinami-dami ba naman kasi ng pwedeng makausap tungkol sa work ay iyong kapangalan pa ng lalaking nasaktan siya.
Every time his name pops up on her screen, naghahalu-halo ang pakiramdam niya. She would remember the good times with the first John, followed by the pain she felt when all of that disappeared. But this guy was quite different.
He looked quiet and aloof but he was also attentive and caring. Nang makita niya ito sa personal ay parang gusto niyang lumayo agad. He was cute, alright, but the way he stared at her made her restless. Para bang nasa kanya lang ang atensyon nito at hindi siya sanay ro'n. Why would people give her attention, anyway?
Ang cute din nitong mag-chat dahil laging may smiley face. Ghoster John never used emoticons. Sanay naman siya sa ganoon dahil ganoon din siya mag-text at mag-chat. But she had a penchant for people who use emoticons because she likes imagining them doing the same expressions. And it was more fun. Kaya nga lihim siyang natutuwa kapag nagbabasa ng group chats dahil halos lahat ng kaibigan niya ay mahilig doon.
Hindi rin nakatulong ang pang-aasar ng mga kaibigan nito lalo na noong nalaman nilang magkapangalan ang dalawa. She tried not to pay him attention but his character was just too interesting for her.
Napatanong din siya sa sarili niya kung interested din kaya ito sa kanya? At bakit? She already knew that she wasn't pretty. Sa grupo nila, siya siguro ang least attractive at interesting kaya bakit naman sa kanya magkakagusto?
However, Elle and Ianne said people have their preferences and standards, and beauty is subjective. Hindi rin naman dapat pagbasehan ang physical features para lang sabihing hindi ka deserving magustuhan.
Okay, happy crush lang, she thought, but everything changed and shifted when she drunk-texted him one Friday night.
"Oh my god!" she exclaimed as Elle told her what she did last night. "Ang kalat-kalat mo, self."
She tried recalling what she had said to him but her brain wouldn't even cooperate. Ayaw naman niyang tanungin ito dahil nakakahiya, kaya noong ito ang nag-open ng topic tungkol doon ay nag-panic siya. Gusto na lang niyang magpalamon sa lupa.
She promised herself na hindi na ito muling iinom pero sino nga bang niloko niya? Isa na namang drunk-calling session ang nangyari. She blocked him after realizing what happened because she couldn't face him anymore. Pakiramdam niya ay wala na siyang kahihiyang natira.
She consulted Elle about it dahil ito ang "big sister" ng grupo at kadalasan ay tama at may sense ang mga sinasabi niya.
Marami siyang na-realize pagkatapos no'n kaya agad itong nag-sorry. She thought he would be disappointed and would probably dislike her now kaya laking gulat nito nang nagtanong siya kung pwede bang tumawag.
She could feel the awkwardness and tension the moment she answered the video call. Hindi nito pinakita ang mukha dahil nahihiya siya. Meanwhile, he looked cute in his hoodies. His kind eyes and soft smile made her heart flutter.
She could feel her skin tingling while listening to him talk. They recalled things that happened that night at hindi siya makapaniwalang ikinuwento niya ang tungkol kay John, the ghoster.
"Akala ko nga noong una, sa akin ka galit," he chuckled while she winced in embarrassment. "Pero ang cute mo magalit."
"S-sorry," she said in an almost muted voice. "Kaya ba ang daming removed messages noong unang beses."
Muli itong tumawa nang pahapyaw. "Yup. I was so confused that time. Tapos naisip ko, ah, baka nga may nagawa talaga akong mali. Then came the second one."
Napakagat ito sa labi niya. "Nakausap mo pala si Elle."
"Oo. I remember her kasi nandoon din siya noong unang beses. Siya 'yong tumulong sa'yo sa banyo, 'di ba?"
Hiyang-hiya na ito sa mga pinag-uusapan at gusto na niyang i-end ang tawag, but at the same time, she wanted to hear his voice more.
"You were talking about him again," he added, a hint of concern on his tone. "Siya ba iyong sumusunod sa inyo noong nakita namin kayo?"
In the end, she told him about what happened. It was hard to talk about it but him listening attentively somehow made it less distressing. Hanggang sa nagkayayaan nang magkita.
They were supposed to meet anyway but asking her again made her face blush.
"Uhh . . . a-ano, iche-check ko muna ulit 'yong sched ko sa lab," she stuttered.
He lightly snickered. "No worries. Just tell me when you're available."
She had a hard time falling asleep for days. Laging sumasagi sa isip niya ang mangyayari sa Friday. Maski ang mga kaibigan niya, excited para sa kanya. They kept on teasing her. Lalo lang tuloy siyang kinakabahan.
"Hoy, Cayleigh, ano na?" siko ni Ianne sa kanya noong mag-6 P.M. na.
She drew a shaky breath. "Ano?"
Isang malakas na tawa ang isinukli ni Ianne. "Kabado much? Akala mo naman 'di pa nagkikita in person."
She couldn't concentrate the whole day. Panay ang tingin niya sa relo at phone niya kaya naman ngayong palapit na ang oras ng pagkikita ay hindi na siya mapakali.
Hindi niya rin alam kung bakit siya masyadong kinakabahan. Siguro ay dahil hindi ito work-related. They had only interacted because of their respective projects. Ngayon ay personal na ang reason.
Nagsimula siyang magligpit bandang 6:10 PM at sinabihan rin nito si Ianne. She inhaled sharply when she saw a notification from him after five minutes. It turned out he was already there.
Hala, ang aga naman niya, she thought. Nag-reply naman ito agad pero namura niya ang sarili niya nang masabi niyang naglalakad na 'sila' imbes na siya lang.
"Panic pa more," Ianne commented while laughing at her. "Baka akalain niyan makiki-third wheel ako."
Hindi na lang ulit ito umimik hanggang sa makarating sila sa town center.
It was already bustling with people, lalo na at Friday ngayon. The moment they entered the center area, she immediately saw him.
"Ayun siya," sabay hatak nito sa laylayan ng damit ni Ianne.
"Luh. Na-sight agad? Iba talaga ang paningin ng mga marurupok," she remarked, earning a glare from Cayleigh. "Chour lang, ito naman, masyadong seryoso. Seseryosohin ka ba?"
Hinampas nito ang braso ng kaibigan dahil kanina pa nang-aasar pero lalo lang siyang tinawanan.
"Sige na, pumunta ka na kay John another," sabay tulak nito sa kanya. "Text mo na lang ako 'pag need n'yo na ng topic o kaya need mo ng pick-up line."
Pumasok si Ianne sa Starbucks na nasa indoor habang nanatili siya sa kinatatayuan niya. She wanted to prepare herself for a few minutes but John suddenly looked at her direction . . . and their gazes met each other.
He was wearing a gray hoodie and she could see his white shirt underneath. May dala rin itong backpack gaya niya. He looked like a typical college guy and you wouldn't even think he was already 25.
She screamed in her head and wanted to run away, but John gave her a soft smile. Pakiramdam niya ay mayroong umikot sa tiyan niya. Her heart started thumping painfully against her chest, too.
Her feet steered her toward him and he was watching her as she came closer.
Ayan na naman 'yang tingin na 'yan, she remarked internally. Pakiramdam niya ay matutunaw siya sa tuwing nakatitig ito sa kanya. He had that intent yet kind gaze. Iyong parang lahat ng atensyon niya ay nakatuon sa 'yo.
"Good evening," John greeted with a gentle smile.
"Good evening din," bati nito pabalik.
Her heart was racing to the point that it was getting harder to breathe. Naalala niya tuloy ang usapan ng mga kaibigan niya sa group chat nila kanina at biglang namula ang pisngi niya sa hiya.
"Tara sa loob?" he asked.
Gusto niya sanang magpahuli at sumunod na lang sa likuran niya para makahinga nang maayos pero sinabayan siya nitong maglakad. He was slowing down his pace to match hers.
He held the door for her when they were entering the mall and she didn't expect that a simple gesture like that would make her heart flutter.
"Thank you," she said in a tiny voice.
Tahimik lang silang naglalakad sa loob. There was a noticeable tension between them. It was awkward but they were trying to act like they weren't.
Pareho silang napatigil nang sabay silang magsalita matapos ang ilang minutong katahimikan.
"You first," John said but she shook her hands and gestured at him.
"Hindi, ikaw na ang mauna."
Napaiwas agad siya ng tingin. She really couldn't hold her gaze while looking at someone.
"Kumusta ka pala?" tanong nito.
"Ayos lang naman," she replied even though she wasn't. Gusto na niyang sumigaw sa sobrang kaba. "Ikaw ba?"
"Nervous," he responded while looking in front of them.
He turned his head to her. "Kasi kasama kita ngayon."
She almost stopped walking because of what he had said. Hindi na niya alam kung ilang beses siyang sumigaw sa isip niya. She wondered how could he say those words without even getting embarrassed, but when she glanced back at him, his ears were burning red.
They continued walking, but this time, the tension in the air skyrocketed. They couldn't look at each other anymore because both their faces were flushed.
Cayleigh wished she could see his expression right now, but she was scared to glance again. Because she knew that the next time their eyes would meet . . .
. . . she'd be freefalling.
FRI AT 6:15 PM
Good evening :)
nandyan ka na???
sorry naglalakad pa lang kami
You unsent a message
sorry naglalakad pa lang ako
Okay lang, napaaga lang ako.
I'm here at Mad Mark's :)
malapit na naman na ako
Okay. See you, Cayleigh :)
@ cayleighonly 🔒
good morning parang ayaw ko nang pumasok
7:05 AM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
di ko gets bakit ako kinakabahan nang malala
9:28 AM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
feeling ko kasi mangyayari na naman yung dati haha after a while mawawala rin
9:31 AM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
nagyayaya sila miss carla sa pakain mamaya. paano ko sasabihin na di ako pwede nang di nag-eexplain?
2:13 PM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
elle: may lakad sila ni ianne kasama yung college friends nila
thank u elle
2:21 PM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
6 PM NA 🙃🙃🙃
6:01 PM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
oh di ba tapos yung tugtog pa sa desktop ngayon ay almost lover
6:03 PM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
So you're gone and I'm haunted
And I bet you are just fine
Did I make it that easy to walk right in and out
Of my life?
6:06 PM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
naalala ko na naman ang multong yun hay
6:09 PM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
hope this won't be another "almost"
6:13 PM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
at yan na nga nag-chat na
6:15 PM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
6:17 PM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
wtf ang layo pa namin pero nakita ko na siya what is this 20/20 vision sorcery
6:23 AM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
6:24 AM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
6:26 PM • 18 Sep 20
@ cayleighonly 🔒
6:27 PM • 18 Sep 20