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.