My heart fluttered as soon as I saw him sitting in the corner of the café. Maybe it was just me but he looked a lot better now compared before. It felt like he was radiating beauty and good aura.
Our eyes met each other and he immediately gave me a big smile while waving at my direction. I shyly nodded and I went inside.
“Good morning,” he greeted.
“Good morning,” I returned.
It was quite awkward, at least for me, to talk to him after what happened yesterday and what Steff talked about. He asked me about the itinerary today so I showed him places that we could visit and told him to just pick among them.
“Hmm . . . want to go to the beach?” he asked.
Besides the cherry blossoms, one of the places I wanted to visit when I got here was the beach. Summer wouldn’t be complete without visiting one.
“Okay,” I replied.
“But the beaches must be packed right now,” he added.
I thought about that and pointed an island off the eastern coast of Jeju. I went here before but I didn’t enjoy it because I had my period that day. Xander had to pick me up right after I arrived.
“We can go in Udo,” I suggested.
Udo is a separate island which is located a few kilometers away from the main island. However, compared to Jeju, there are less visitors in Udo and is less commercialized so visitors could enjoy the scenic and natural view.
We hailed a taxi when we got out of the café and he drove us to Seongsan port. Along the trip, we saw the sakura trees and canola in full bloom, and I couldn’t help but smile at the scenery.
“You really like flowers,” he commented and I didn’t realize he was watching me.
My cheeks suddenly felt hot. “Oh. Y-yeah.”
“You must have received a lot of bouquets during Valentine’s,” he teased.
I shook my head. “No, no. I rarely receive anything. Besides, I don’t like flowers that way.”
“I think flowers look best in their natural habitat,” I reasoned. “Giving flowers in bouquets as a present seems like a waste of money because they die after a few days. I’d rather visit a flower field than receive something like that.”
He stared at me with a curious look on his face. I averted his gaze after I rambled about my preference in flowers. That was quite embarrassing.
“S-sorry, that was un—”
“It’s romantic,” he said.
He smiled as he looked at the falling sakura petals carried by the wind. He didn’t say anything anymore, which made me more curious. I wonder what he was thinking.
We arrived at the port after almost an hour. He volunteered to wait in the line and let me rest in the designated waiting area. After several minutes, he handed me the ticket and we went to the ferry.
It was just a fifteen-minute ferry ride and we watched as the island getting closer. Seeing the lighthouse made me smile a little. I admit, I’m a hopeless romantic so a view like this could move my heart with ease.
We got off the ferry and went to a bicycle rental shop since you could only go around here with that or public buses. Getting your own car here would cost a lot and there wouldn’t be enough parking space, hence, it would just be a hassle.
“Can you ride a bike?” he asked.
I nodded reluctantly. “I-I think so.”
It had been a while since I last rode a bike. I remembered how Xander laughed at me when I almost hit a post when he was teaching me how to ride it.
Fortunately, my body could still remember, though I was unstable in the first few minutes. He adjusted his pace and looked out for me, which I was thankful for. We rode quietly as we enjoyed the view and searched for a restaurant or a café where we could have our lunch.
We stopped by a nearby café and ordered some black pork burgers and peanut ice cream—the delicacies of this island.
“Masarap?” I asked, worried that he wouldn’t like the food I recommended.
He nodded. “Mm. Didn’t know black pork tastes different and better than the regular one.”
I was relieved that he was enjoying it. He seemed really hungry as he ordered another one. I chuckled upon seeing him eat like a kid.
After having lunch, we rode our bicycles again and went to the beach several meters from here. There were only two persons aside from us so it felt like the place was just for us.
He happily ran toward the white sand and I followed behind. I snapped a photo of him while he enjoyed the salty air and the view. I was about to take another one when he turned toward my direction and grinned widely.
“Ah. Did you take a photo?” he asked.
Despite the blood rushing to my cheeks, I nodded. “I-it’s good.”
I showed him the photos I took and asked me to send them to him. He unfolded and laid a blanket, which he said he bought at a nearby store, and we sat there while appreciating the emerald water. The café at the back was blasting some good music, too.
We talked about the food we just ate a while ago, music and other stuff, but my heart sank when the topic diverted to the campus. It felt like I got slapped by reality, reminding me that this would just be a short-lived enjoyment.
He sighed as he threw a stone at the sea. “I hope the advanced courses won’t be that hard.”
“You’re smart,” I commented. “Kaya mo iyan.”
He tilted his head to my direction and smiled. “Nag-i-improve ka na talaga.”
I had to lean away because his closeness was giving me butterflies in the stomach. I wanted to say that he helped me a lot but I got tongue-tied. Despite seeing him up-close a couple of times, I still couldn’t get used to it.
Once the academic year starts, it would be hard to see him again. I remembered how harsh the articles written about Alice before when they associated her with Kevin. When we appeared on the same article, the time that I faint, some people were already throwing hurtful comments at me despite the article saying he was just there because Steff asked for his help.
His voice jarred me back to the present and I realized I was lost in thought.
“Hmm? Sorry, ano ang sabi mo?”
“Ayos ka lang ba?” he asked with a worried expression on his face.
I gave him a quick smile. “Mm.”
After minutes of convincing him that I was okay, we visited other beaches, which were mostly deserted, and went to two more cafés. The sun was already setting when we decided to get back to the main island. Seeing the sun set and how the colors in the sky changed from orange to pink to purple while we were in the ferry felt magical.
We arrived at the port and I realized I would be leaving tomorrow noon. The next time I would see him would probably be in the campus. That kind of made me sad as I enjoyed being with him away from the eyes of the students.
After we got off the taxi, we walked through a crowded street. I almost reached for his hand instinctively when a group of friends moved between us but realized what I was about to do so I pulled back. My cheeks were flushed as I continued walking with my head down.
My shoulders flinched when I felt a hand on mine. His warmth spread onto my hand and my face that I couldn’t lift my head up anymore because I was too embarrassed.
He didn’t say anything and we just walked quietly along the crowded street. My heart was throbbing painfully and a lot of questions flooded my mind.
Why did he hold my hand? Is he just being nice? Doesn’t he get embarrassed? How does he see me? Am I just assuming things? Will this end once we return home?
My thoughts became more gloom ridden as time went by that even the picturesque view of the sakura and canola petals felt dull.
We arrived at the café where we met earlier and he finally let go of my hand.
“Ayos ka lang ba talaga?” he softly asked. “Mukhang pagod ka na.”
“O-okay lang ako,” I replied.
“Hatid na kita sa hotel—"
I pulled the hem of his shirt and that made him halt. He turned to me with a confused look and I glanced at the café in return. It took me a lot of courage to do that but I was already regretting it.
“Ah,” I murmured as I let go of his shirt. “N-nothing—”
He smiled at me. “Tara, pahinga muna tayo sa loob.”
I wanted to spend more time with him before returning to reality. What happened yesterday and today made me feel things I was scared to even think about and I don’t think I could stop them anymore.
We went inside the café and I thought he’d sit on the vacant table near us but he walked to the piano at the corner instead. I sat on the nearest table from the piano while looking at him in daze.
He started playing, which attracted the customers’ and staffs’ attention. My heart raced upon watching him playing the piano. I think he looks best when he’s doing something he enjoys.
The sweet melody filled the air and my heart skipped a beat when he started singing.
“I used to think that this was something that would drive a man crazy.
Now lookin' back it's kinda clear I needed someone who would step in and save me.”
Something inside me stirred when he met my gaze while singing.
“Unwilling to trust, I guess I was lost,
I thought it didn't exist.
Uncovered my eyes, my vision's so clear.
And I could not resist.”
A genuine smile escaped his lips and I screamed internally upon seeing that. It felt like my insides were melting.
“You are the one, where I belong.
And I don't need to play cause I've already won with you.
You can dive right in cause I'll never give up on you.”
Maybe it was because of the atmosphere and my emotions were playing with me but I almost teared up. I was scared to acknowledge my feelings. I was scared because I might get hurt.
Just this time, I’d let my feelings overwhelm me.
Just this time, I’d assume he likes me, too.
It felt like my brain just short-circuited.
I was supposed to lead him to the best spot where we could see the cherry blossoms but he was the one pulling me now. My gaze landed to our hands and my face immediately felt hot.
“Dito?” he asked while turning his head behind and pointing at the right road.
I was so flustered that I just pointed at the left while looking at the ground. He just chuckled and continued walking. I was hoping he would finally let go of my hand but instead, his grip got tighter.
We arrived at the street with lesser people but most of them were couples. They were taking photos of themselves with the cherry blossoms as their background.
“Gusto mo?” he asked.
He pointed at the sakura tree beside us. “Picture-an kita?”
It took me a few seconds before his words sunk in my mind. I declined since I knew I would look awkward. He finally let go of my hand and started taking photos of the surroundings.
I sighed in relief as I stared at my shaking hand. His hand was warm and big enough to enclose mine. My cheeks got hot again after thinking how we just walked along the sakura trees while holding each other’s hand. It got to the point where I had to take off my cardigan because even my body got hot from the overwhelming feelings.
When I looked around, he was already getting asked by some couples to take their pictures. A smile escaped my lips as I watched him enjoy everything. I sneakily took a photo of him as he walked toward the sea of cherry blossoms but I almost stumbled when he suddenly turned to my direction.
“Yna,” he called and he pointed at the tree on his right side.
I went to his direction and stood beside him. We stared at the tallest and largest tree along the street and my heart fluttered upon thinking how romantic the ambiance was.
He suddenly chuckled, prompting me to look at him, and saw him staring at his phone. I wanted to ask what that was about but I didn’t have the courage. Our gazes met each other, and he grinned at me. My heart skipped a beat and I had to step back when he leaned closer.
“Look,” he said while showing me his phone. My mouth hung open when I saw a candid photo of mine, staring at the beautiful cherry blossom. “Maganda ba?”
I wasn’t able to answer because I was too flustered. The photo was aesthetically pleasing but me being the subject was too embarrassing.
He just snickered when I didn’t reply and we continued walking down the street. I kept my hands behind me and quietly followed him.
My lips curved upward as I stared at the flowers. The petals burst out from the boughs; others fluttered gently down the ground. It felt like I was a main character in a story that I was writing.
After spending some time in that street, he asked me where we should go next and I suggested Osulloc, a famous green tea house. We rode a taxi and I browsed my Instagram feed while we were on our way. Everyone seemed to be enjoying their vacation.
“May I post this?” he suddenly asked.
He showed me the photo I took a while ago while he was walking. He caught me doing it (which was so embarrassing), but he said he wanted a copy of it so I sent it to him.
“Eh? Mm,” I nodded. It was his photo anyway.
Few minutes later, we arrived at the tea house but it was packed. Luckily, there was a free space outside so we settled at the wooden table. He ordered Osulloc green tea, green tea roll cake and green tea ice cream for both of us.
“Masarap?” he asked after I tooka spoonful of ice cream.
I nodded. “Here.”
He scooped a spoonful, too, and smiled as the ice cream melted in his mouth. He must have liked it. We enjoyed our food as we watched the people passing by and the scenery. We also visited the green tea field just beyond the tea house.
My feet were already sore from walking. I didn’t know I would walk a lot today since I was only planning to see the cherry blossom and I wore my new sneakers. Surely, there would be blisters but I’d worry about that later.
“Are you okay?”
He stopped in front of me and I was about to say I was fine but his gaze drifted to my feet. He suddenly knelt and I had to sit, too, to prevent him from checking my feet.
“I-I’m okay!” I exclaimed but I almost lost my balance when I realized we were too close.
“I don’t think so,” he said while looking at my right foot. He sighed as his gaze returned to mine. “Sorry for being thoughtless.”
I waved both of my hands. “N-no, it’s not your fault!”
“You need to rest,” he added. “Hatid na kita sa hotel na tinutuluyan mo.”
“E-eh? No need—”
He smiled. “I insist.”
It was hard to turn down his offer. In the end, I gave in. We quietly waited for a taxi in the shed. I carefully scooted a few inches away from him because I didn’t want him to hear my racing heart. Honestly, I still couldn’t believe everything that happened today. It felt surreal. Even when he was right beside me, everything felt like a dream and I was afraid that I would snap back to reality.
We finally got a taxi after several minutes of waiting and he assisted me while getting inside.
“Are you still free tomorrow?” he queried.
“I still need a tour guide,” he chuckled.
Initially, I wanted to say no because I don’t think I could handle another day with him. My emotions were all over the place and being in a place away from the hypercritical eyes made everything more intimate. Every move of his was enough to get me flustered for several minutes. However, at the corner of my mind, I too was longing to spend some time with him after the portal incident.
“Okay,” I mumbled.
He craned his neck toward my direction. “Really?” he asked with a huge grin on his face.
My cheeks felt hot again but I managed to contain the panic. “M-mm.”
“Thank you,” he beamed. “But rest your feet and legs first.”
We arrived at the hotel I was staying and he accompanied me ‘til the main entrance.
“Thank you,” I muttered as we stood there.
He smiled and waved his hand. “Bye. Bukas ulit.”
I watched his figure as he walked away from me and I only sighed in relief when he boarded the taxi. My mind was reeling as I got into my room. I plopped on my bed and recalled everything that happened today.
Huh. I couldn’t believe I got to spend the day with him without worrying about rumors or articles that could get published. Still, I was still anxious because he seemed . . . different.
I remembered how he held my hand earlier and blood immediately rushed to my cheeks. Did that mean anything to him? I don’t like to assume anything because false hopes are the reason why a lot of people get hurt. He’s friendly in nature and he takes good care of the people around him. Maybe it was nothing special.
My shoulder tensed when my phone vibrated. I pulled it out of my purse and saw Steff’s name. I answered her call and saw her face on the screen.
“Hello,” she greeted with a teasing smile. “How’s Jeju?”
I gasped upon her question. “Ah! So you really knew?”
She giggled. “Kumusta ang padala ko?”
I blushed as his face came into my mind and immediately averted her gaze. When I passed out that day, I already somehow accepted that Steff would learn what was happening. The secret I kept for so long had been discovered.
“Alam mo, first time kong makita kang ganyan,” she added, the smile on her face getting wider. “When we were in high school, parang si Alice lang lagi ang may crush. It’s cute to see you getting shy.”
It was hard to keep a straight face when she kept on teasing me. In the end, I gave up and told her what happened today except him holding my hand.
“Heeeh~ that sounded like a date.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s not. I don’t think he’s—”
“Gisel is nice,” she added. “I like him for you.”
“Enjoy your date tomorrow~”
“I-it’s not a date!”
She shrugged her shoulders as she flashed a smile. “You should ask him if it really isn’t. Sige na, nandito na si Darryl.”
Before I could protest and ask questions, she had already ended the call. I stared at my phone, contemplating whether to call her again but she might tease me nonstop this time.
I heaved a sigh as I lay on my bed. A date, huh?
It was just 8 AM when I heard my phone rang. I groggily reached for it and placed it on top of my ear.
Hearing that voice felt like someone just poured cold water on me. It jolted me awake and I almost squealed as I sat up. I had to check my screen, too, to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, and it was real. Gisel was on the other end of the line.
“Uhh . . . w-why?”
“I forgot to ask yesterday. Anong oras pala tayo magkikita?”
My brain was still lagging and I just realized everything that happened yesterday was real. I almost thought those were just parts of my dream.
“Hello? Yna?” he repeated.
“Uhm, 10 AM?” I answered, my voice shaking.
He huffed and I could imagine him grinning widely. Thank goodness it wasn’t a video call because my cheeks were already blushing.
“Sa café na lang ulit?” he asked.
“Alright. See you.”
Hearing that phrase made my heart race. I suddenly thought how easy it was to meet with him in this place and how this would never happen in the campus. Maybe Steff was right. Maybe I should just enjoy this moment until it lasts.
“Yeah,” I replied. “See you, too.”
I hope this would be a good day, too.
I didn’t know where to look when our gaze met each other. My fingers started fiddling with the bag I was holding. His presence was rattling me so much it was hard to pretend I was calm.
“What? You okay?” asked Xander.
“Y-yeah,” I murmured.
“I’ll buy coffee. May papabili ka?” I shook my head. “Okay.”
The screen of my phone lit up and I almost yelped when I saw his name on the notifications. I remembered the things I said before and suddenly, I wanted to unsend them. Those Filipino words were surely wrong.
It was hard to look alright when he’s just sitting right across me. I wanted to talk to him but I wasn’t sure how. Besides, approaching someone wasn’t my strong suit.
With a deep breath, I slowly opened his message.
calvingisel: I just read them now
calvingisel: you’ve improved :)
calvingisel: would you like to talk with me now?
My heart skipped a beat upon reading that, but panic took over when I realized what that meant.
ynashin: please no, not in front of my brother!
ynashin: saan pala ikaw pupunta?
I heard him chuckle, prompting me to glance at him, but he caught my gaze. He smiled at me and I had to stifle a gasp. It had been so long since I last saw that familiar smile of his.
calvingisel: Jeju. You?
It took several seconds before his reply sank in my head and I almost dropped my phone when my brain finally processed that information. I could hear myself screaming internally because I didn’t expect I’d see him there.
Xander came back before I could reply. He had coffee and bread on his hands. My stomach rumbled as soon as he sat next to me and he knew that that was his cue to poke fun at me.
“Your stomach’s getting jealous,” he said as he bit a huge portion of his bread. “You should stop dieting.”
“I’m not dieting,” I hissed. “I just don’t feel like eating a while ago.”
“I’m gonna tell that to granny,” he threatened.
Our grandma doesn’t like seeing us eating little amount of food. She would always prepare a big feast whenever we visit them during summer and winter, telling us we should eat until our stomach couldn’t take in food anymore and just burn the calories thru exercise instead of unhealthy eating habits.
If Xander tells grandma I’m dieting, she’d definitely believe him.
“Fine, I’ll eat,” I grumbled as I stood up.
He smirked. “Good girl.”
We still got an hour and a half before the scheduled flight so I thought I’d buy a breakfast meal. When I was already at a safe distance, I took a glance at his direction but I halted when I saw him getting ready for his flight. I fished my phone out of my pocket and replied.
ynashin: 곧 보자~ (See you in a few days~)
Grandma greeted us as soon as we stepped inside our family home in Seongbuk-dong. As expected, the dining table getting filled with food by the housekeepers. Seeing the dishes made my stomach grumble. The flight was almost four hours and an hour-drive to Seongbuk-do.
“Halmeoni~” (Grandma~) I called as I hugged her.
She gently pressed my arms. “Waegeureohge marratni? Neoneun deo meogeoyahae.” (Why are you so thin? You should eat.)
Xander and I immediately dug into the food while grandma told us stories about her new friends. Since this neighborhood is known for being the home of wealthy people and country ambassadors, she sometimes invites some of them in her tea parties. She also asked about Steff and Alice and she said she wanted to see them again. I told her they would visit soon along with Jess and that made her more excited.
We went to our own rooms after lunch and I spent the afternoon in the balcony, drinking tea and reading a book. One of the things I liked in grandma’s home was the neighborhood and nature view from the upper floors, which creates a calm and refreshing ambiance.
When it was already dark, I went back to my room and prepared for my trip tomorrow. I finally opened my phone and saw updates from my friends. Steff and Darryl were already in the airport and they looked excited for their Japan trip. Jess was trying out her outfits for Europe. Meanwhile, Alice said she was bored so she started a video call.
“Gusto ko ring mag-travel!” she whined while lying on her bed. “Naiinggit na ako!”
“Ayain mo nga si Kevin,” Jess suggested. “O kaya mag-solo travel ka like Yna.”
“How’s your grandma pala?” asked Steff.
“She wants to see the three of you,” I said. “You should come here some other time.”
“Omg gusto ko na rin siyang makita!” Jess exclaimed.
“Speaking of solo travel pala, papunta ka na ba sa Jeju?” Alice asked.
I shook my head. “Tomorrow pa.”
“Si Kuya Xander? Saan siya?”
“I think he’s going to visit his friends.”
“Good luck sa Jeju,” Steff commented.
The call ended when their flight was called for boarding. I checked Nook after and read the comments but was surprised when I saw a familiar username. He never commented in that story, which was honestly better because the leading guy was based on him, so seeing his username there almost gave me a mini heart attack.
iamaroyalty: Hmm. Reading this reminded me of something. Haha. I hope they resolve their misunderstandings :)
I threw my phone on the bed and stifled a scream as I processed that information. Oh, god, did he really read it?
A lot of thoughts swarmed in my head as I remained seated on the edge of my bed. After a few minutes, I reached for my phone and checked the comment section again. His comment was still there. My eyes weren’t playing tricks on me.
I plopped on my bed and stared vacantly at the ceiling. Several seconds later, I covered my face with a pillow as I squealed in embarrassment and frustration.
The current chapters were about a misunderstanding between the carefree prince and the commoner girl he befriended while in disguise. I wrote those chapters after they found out that I was an admin in the portal. It was easy to write because the girl’s thoughts and feelings mirrored mine that time.
And he just read everything. Oh my god. Suddenly, I don’t want to go to Jeju anymore.
I said I’d just sleep the whole day but Xander woke me up, telling me I’d be late and he would, too, if I don’t start moving. It turned out he would drive me to Gimpo airport since one of his friends’ home was nearby. I went to the plane begrudgingly and arrived after an hour and a couple of minutes.
After renting a car, I drove to the hotel I would be staying and rested for a bit. I was still not sure what I would do for the rest of the day as I didn’t plan for this trip but one thing I would always love to see in Jeju was the pretty cafés.
I went to a nearby café but I halted when I saw Gisel inside. I thought I was hallucinating but when he turned to my direction, looked at me with a surprise expression and smiled several seconds later, only then I realized it was the real him.
Remembering his comment in my story made me want to run and hide from him but my body wouldn’t listen. I didn’t want to bump into him for the rest of my stay here because I was embarrassed but it seemed like fate didn’t want me to live an easy life.
Come to think of it, we were supposed to meet at a café before everything went awry. Now, we ended up meeting unexpectedly in a café after that mess.
He smiled at me again and motioned for me to sit where he was. I reluctantly walked toward his direction, my heart racing faster for every step. I sat right across him but I couldn’t meet his gaze.
“See you in a few days,” he said, which made me look at him.
I was greeted by his squinting eyes and broad smile. Seeing that up-close again almost sent me into a panic. It took me a while before I realized he just uttered the last message I sent him.
He chuckled upon seeing my expression. “I asked Darryl to translate that for me.”
“Oh,” I muttered.
“I thought you meant once returning to the Philippines.” He leaned his right elbow on the table and placed his hand on his face. “Hindi ko akalaing makikita kita rito.”
It was hard to stay calm because he was staring at me. I shifted in my seat and tried to focus my gaze on the coffee in front of him.
“Uhh . . . I . . . y-yeah.”
My brain wasn’t working well, and I ended up mumbling incoherent words. I was embarrassed and nervous and giddy all at the same time.
Hearing him call my name made me flinch. Suddenly, my cheeks felt hot.
He flashed an apologetic smile. “Sorry. I want to personally apologize for how I acted that day—”
“N-no,” I said, frantically waving my hand back and forth. “What you said in the messages was already enough.”
“I don’t want to cry,” I reasoned but he looked confused.
I was never good in a head-on conversation about my problems or those involving me. I cried my heart out when I explained everything to my friends and I’m pretty sure I will also cry if this continues.
He let out a sigh. “Alright. Pero ayos na ba kayo nina Tiffany?”
“Mm,” I nodded.
I thought I could escape the topic after that but he asked about them and what happened during the time we weren’t on speaking terms. Fortunately, I managed to control my emotions and didn’t cry.
“So nagkabati na pala kayo the day na nakita kita sa cafeteria.”
“Mm. After that. I felt bad for Ki—Jervin because he waited for me for a long time.”
“Jervin?” he asked. “Ah. That guy . . .”
If it weren’t for King, I wasn’t sure how I would survive those two days. Right. I should buy him a gift, too.
“Are you . . .” he started asking but his voice trailed off.
He smiled. “Nevermind.”
He let me order after that and we talked about the things we did before the vacation. I just learned that Steff and Darryl were the ones who suggested about going to Jeju-do. He said she told him it would be a nice place to relax and to be carefree.
I suddenly remembered Steff’s remark yesterday and I wondered if that was related to this.
“I booked a one-week trip without any itinerary,” he snickered after drinking his coffee. “I thought it would be nice to just enjoy everything in my own pace.”
“Oh. Me, too,” I said, earning a curious look from him.
“Mm. But just for three days.”
He also told me where he was staying and coincidentally, it was just a few minutes away from mine. No wonder we met here.
“Since you’re here, what places would you suggest that I should visit?” he asked after finishing his breakfast and coffee.
“Hmm, there are a lot, but since it’s spring, you should see the cherry and canola blossoms. Halla-san and Udo would be good, too.”
“Cherry blossoms, huh?” he muttered. “Doon ka rin pupunta?”
“Uhm . . .”
“Samahan mo ako,” he said and I almost choke on my coffee. He chuckled as he gave me paper napkins. “Okay ka lang ba?”
“Eh? Uhh, y-yeah.”
“Sasamahan mo na ako?” he asked while slightly tilting his head, his right hand still on his chin.
It was hard to say no if he was looking like that. I heaved a sigh and nodded. His face lit up and continued staring until I finished my food.
We got out of the café and went downtown. As usual, the streets were packed because of the Cherry Blossom Festival. There were a lot of tourists and locals who were also there to see the King Cherry Tree blossoms.
It was difficult to walk through the crowd and then checking if he was still behind me every minute. There was an ongoing tug-of-war competition and karaoke stations in the middle of the street so a lot of people were gathering there.
I was about to look behind, but I was surprised when I felt his hand on my wrist and it slid into my palm. The hairs on my arm bristled and my skin tingled. It was so sudden that I just stood there, frozen.
“I thought I lost you,” he casually said. “Ang bilis mong maglakad.”
My mind was still reeling that I just uttered incomprehensible sounds. I cleared my throat and faced forward, trying to act as calm as possible despite my heart pounding loudly against my chest.
He didn’t let go of my hand and I didn’t mind.
That moment, it felt like there were just the two of us.
That moment, it felt like he just crossed a line he didn’t mean to cross . . . and maybe, I did, too.
I continued crying as words poured out from my mouth. All the things that I wanted to say, all the emotions that bottled up, came rushing upon seeing the three people that I didn’t want to disappear from my life.
How I started as an administrator, how I pulled out some articles involving them, and why I quit . . . I told everything to them.
“I-I’m s-sorry . . .” I sobbed.
“Sorry rin,” Steff whimpered.
She explained why she just walked away that day. She said she was stressed out because of the articles that she read and the demanding load and subjects they had to take next sem. Seeing the articles on my phone was the last straw.
Jess said Steff didn’t tell anything to her and Alice and they just found out when I sent messages in our group chat. I couldn’t believe she kept it all to herself.
“Sana sinabi ninyong iyakan session pala ngayon,” Jess added while wiping off the tears on her face. “Sana ‘di na lang ako nag-makeup.”
“Same,” Alice muttered.
Their comments made me chuckle while my tears were continuously streaming down my face. It was such a comforting feeling knowing that your friends understand your intentions . . . that the friendship I had protected for so long wouldn’t be taken away from me.
Jess bought bottles of water after we cried our eyes out. Honestly, this felt a lot better even if my eyes became more swollen.
I suddenly remembered King while we were drinking and told them that I had to go back in the cafeteria. Alice and Jess had teasing looks on their faces while Steff seemed concerned over something.
Running to the cafeteria, I sighed in relief when I saw him waiting at the table I reserved a while ago. I hastily walked toward his direction and bowed apologetically.
“I’m sorry I—”
He flashed a smile. “It’s okay. I saw you with your friend. Are you all okay now?”
I sat across him and nodded. “Mm.”
“That’s good,” he said as he pushed a glass of water in front of me.
I smiled at his gesture. “It’s okay. I already drank a lot of water. Thank you.”
He let me pack my food and he said he’d just eat in the room. I thanked him again and I said I’d treat him next time.
“I’ll look forward to that day,” he smiled as he adjusted his glasses.
“Okay. I’ll message you.”
“Bye. Hope I won’t see you crying again.”
I beamed at him. “Yeah. Bye-bye.”
After talking with King, I went back to the garden, but before I left the cafeteria, my eyes drifted to where he was a while ago. He wasn’t there anymore.
The expression he had a while ago . . . he looked downhearted.
Sighing, I left the place and ran back to the garden.
“So you won’t travel out of the country this summer?” asked Steff.
We were in our house because they said they wanted to make up for what happened. I told them I was already fine but they insisted.
“Oo,” Alice answered. “I think I’ll stay here this time.”
“For sure dahil kay Kevin,” Jess teased and Alice immediately blushed.
“Hoy, hindi ah!”
“Yeah, yeah, sure.”
Steff said she and Darryl already planned to go to Japan this summer. This would be the first time that they would travel out of the country together and it looked like she was excited. She had already planned what they were going to do for three weeks.
“Ikaw ba?” Steff turned to Jess.
She grinned. “Europe!”
“Oh. With Pat?”
“Yup. Bumili na ako ng outfits for the trips,” she excitedly said. “Ah! Excited na ako!”
I didn’t know how she managed Pat to travel with her. From what I knew, he wasn’t exactly fond of going to far places. Still, if he’d be with Jess, then I’m sure he would enjoy it.
“Ikaw, Yna?” asked Alice. “Babalik kang Korea?”
I nodded. “Mm. We will visit our grandparents.”
“So you’ll stay in Seongbuk-dong?”
“Actually, I’ll go to Jeju-do after visiting them.”
They all looked at me with concern but I just smiled at them. They know that my go-to place whenever I feel sad or drained is either Jeju-do or Busan.
“I’m okay now, don’t worry,” I assured them. “I already booked the flight so I’ll just enjoy it.”
“You sure?” asked Steff.
“Yes,” I chuckled.
It was just a day but it felt like they had been away for a long time. I didn’t know losing your friends would be this painful and haunting. I thank the heavens that I got them back or else I probably wouldn’t know what to do.
We started talking about what happened the whole semester afterwards. They also asked me some questions about the portal. Xander arrived after a while and he started interrogating them about their boyfriends . . . until their attention shifted to me.
He narrowed my eyes at me. “I feel something strange.”
“May gusto akong guy for him,” Jess said.
“Ah! ‘Yung Jervin?” added Alice.
His eyebrows knitted. “Jervin?”
“We’re just friends.”
“Malay mo maging more than friends.”
Steff was suppressing a chuckle and I remembered the time I got sick. She definitely knew what was going on and despite not saying anything about him, I felt my cheeks getting hotter.
Thank god they decided to leave after a few hours. I went to my room with a light heart and I got inspired to write some updates. I didn’t notice the time and uploaded three chapters for my ongoing story. After eating dinner, I plopped on my bed and stared at my turned-off phone.
I stared at my phone for several minutes, contemplating whether to open it or just wait until I’m in the airport. In the end, I gave in to the temptation.
Opening my phone felt like waiting for my professors to give me back my test papers. It was nerve-racking. Thousands of notifications almost crashed my phone, but what caught my attention was the Instagram message from him.
My heart skipped a beat and throbbed painfully afterwards. I was terrified to open it. I didn’t want to read what he wrote.
What if he got angry? What if he lashed out at me? What if . . . he hates me now?
Those thought weighed on my chest. I didn’t know he had become someone whom I didn’t want to disappoint.
It took me several minutes before I gathered the courage to face my fear. With a deep breath, I carefully clicked the notification, but my mouth hung open when I saw a lot of unread messages from the past two days.
calvingisel: Hello, Yna.
calvingisel: I don’t know how to properly express everything but I want to say sorry first. Just like Tiffany, I was taken aback by what I had seen. I ran away because I was scared to accept the reality.
calvingisel: I hope you won’t blame yourself. I know you have reasons. I wanted to know them but fear and denial clouded my head. Sorry. It’s okay if you get angry at me. It’s my fault for not listening and running away.
calvingisel: But please know that I’m not angry at you. Hindi ko kayang magalit sa’yo.
calvingisel: I’m a coward, aren’t I?
calvingisel: Good morning. Nakita kita kanina. I wanted to talk to you but I chickened out. But I’m glad someone is there by your side.
calvingisel: You’re here . . .
calvingisel: Your eyes are swollen. I hope you’re not sick.
calvingisel: Sorry for being invasive. Don’t worry. I won’t bother you anymore but please be healthy :)
Tears started welling up in my eyes after reading the series of messages from him. I felt relieved because he wasn’t angry but my heart sank when I saw his last message.
I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to talk to him, too, but it looked like I was already too late.
ynashin: Hindi ko alam ang sasabihin din pero patawad :(
ynashin: Hindi, kasalanan ko rin. Kung tapat lang ako simula noong simula ay wala ang misunderstanding.
ynashin: Pero salamat dahil hindi ka galit. Hindi ko rin kaya na makita na galit ka.
ynashin: Please know, too, that you’re not invasive nor bothering me.
ynashin: so please, talk to me :(
I waited for hours . . . for days . . . but he didn’t reply. And those were the last words I heard from him.
“Ready na gamit mo?” asked Xander.
“Yeah,” I said while yawning.
He could’ve booked a late flight but here we are, still sleepy because our flight was scheduled at 7 A.M.
He loaded our things in the car and our driver drove us to the airport. We went to the waiting area but I halted when I saw a familiar face. Xander placed our things right across where he was seated.
My heart did a summersault when I saw Gisel who was sleeping. He looked gentle and kind.
“Yna,” called Xander as he tapped the seat next to him, which was right in front of Gisel.
It felt like my heart would jump out of my throat as I stepped closer to him. My body tensed when I sat beside my brother. I couldn’t stop staring at him and I remembered everything that he said.
Suddenly, he woke with a jolt. His eyes fluttered open and my heart pounded loudly against my chest when he met my gaze.
I drew a shaky breath while his mouth hung open. Finally, I saw him again.
I missed him.
My eyes looked like they were bitten by mosquitoes. They were swollen from too much crying yesterday.
I went to the library and tried to get some sleep before my first class. My thoughts and anxiety kept me awake last night. I hadn’t checked my messages yet because I was too afraid to see their replies.
Fortunately, my usual seat was unoccupied. I placed my things on the side and slumped over the table. The drowsiness caught up on me after hours of worries and what ifs. Few seconds later, I drifted to sleep.
I thought I was falling.
My body jerked me awake and I got disoriented because of the blinding light. That was when I realized I was in the library and . . .
“Oh my god!” I gasped as I checked the time.
It was already 8:30 A.M. and my class had started. I was contemplating whether to attend it or just skip it since I was already thirty minutes late. Besides, this would be our last week. Maybe it would be alright to be not attend it since we already took our final exam.
Just when I was about to get my phone, I saw King holding some books while searching for a seat. I waved my hand at him and thank goodness he saw me immediately.
He smiled at me and walked toward my direction.
“Your eyes are swollen,” he said as he put the books on the table.
“Good morning, too,” I replied while trying to hide my eyes.
He chuckled in return. “Sorry.”
It felt weird because somehow, after what happened yesterday, we became closer. Besides my brother, he was the only one who stayed by my side and comforted me when I needed it the most.
“Kumusta?” he asked.
I fiddled with my phone which I was turned off since last night. “I . . . I told them the truth.”
He shifted on his seat and leaned closer. “Are you okay now?”
“I haven’t opened our group chat yet,” I admitted. “I’m scared to see their replies.”
“Hmm. Have you seen them today?”
I smiled as I shook my head. “I’m scared to see them in person, too.”
Tears were threatening to fall from my eyes again and I had to choke back the lump forming in my throat. Thinking about them made me lonelier, especially after what happened yesterday.
I remembered typing everything while crying last night. I told them about how I got into the portal and how it works. It was hard to tell them about the malicious articles but I managed to tone it down a bit. It felt like I was just making some excuses but it was the only way for them to understand what I did.
I’m sorry for keeping it a secret. I’m sorry for lying. It’s okay if you won’t forgive me. I’ll understand. Lastly, thank you for reading/listening. I hope you are all okay.
Those were the last words I sent after flooding them with paragraphs of explanation.
My heart raced as I stared at my phone. I was curious about what they replied but at the same time, I was scared to know how they feel about it.
“Why are you scared?” King suddenly asked while flipping the pages of the book he got.
“I don’t know,” I muttered. “Maybe because I feel guilty?”
Tears started to well up in my eyes. I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself but having someone here with me made me feel more vulnerable.
“Here,” he said and offered his black handkerchief. “Don’t worry, I haven’t used it yet.”
I accepted it and wiped my tears off my eyes. He shifted his gaze to the book and continued studying whatever the book was about. I was grateful that he didn’t ask any questions anymore. We were silent for quite some time, minding our own business, until I heard his stomach rumbling.
A smile escaped my lips as he tried to look unaffected.
“Hindi pa ikaw kumain ng breakfast?” I asked.
For a second, he looked baffled. “Not yet. Ikaw?”
“Hindi pa rin.”
“Akala ko hindi ka marunong mag-Filipino,” he commented. “This is quite surprising.”
Gisel’s image flashed in my mind and I remembered how he would always encourage me to speak in Filipino confidently. I wasn’t sure how to tell everything to him . . . or if I even need to tell my side to him.
He clearly hated the articles in the portal. Knowing that I was part of that must have been a shock to him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hates me now.
“Hey.” King’s voice snapped be back to reality and he was already preparing to leave. “Tara, breakfast?”
Upon leaving the library, my heart started to race. I was anxious the whole time we were walking to the nearest cafeteria, afraid that I might see anyone of them. I still couldn’t face them head on and I will surely cry if they appear in front of me.
Fortunately, we didn’t cross paths . . . but Gisel was in the cafeteria.
My knees almost buckled when our eyes met each other. For a second, I thought his eyes looked sad and wistful which made it harder to watch. I quickly averted his gaze and hid behind King, feeling more dejected.
“Gusto mo sa ibang building na lang?” asked King.
“No!” I protested in a mumble. “I mean . . . n-no, it’s okay.”
I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me. I didn’t want him to see me but at the same time, I wanted to at least know how he was doing. It looked like he would ignore me anyway.
King ordered for the both of us and I picked the farthest table from where he was seated. He seemed to be eating alone and some students kept on stealing glances at him as he stared pensively at his phone.
My heart suddenly felt heavy as I waited for King. Just then, I remembered how he saved me after I passed out and how he got involved in rumors because of that. The guilt was starting to eat me again.
Just when I thought this wouldn’t get worse, the left door of the cafeteria opened and I stifled a gasp when I saw Alice standing in the doorway. When she looked at my direction, I couldn’t hold back my tears anymore.
Run, I told myself, but she was still in the doorway. The door on the right was on the other side and I would passed by Gisel if I chose that way.
My mind went blank. I just wanted to disappear this instant.
Alice’s voice made me whimper. It was just a day yet I already missed how they call my name. Hearing it this time stirred a lot of emotions inside me and it was hard to choke back the sobs to the point that my throat and eyes hurt.
I didn’t notice she was already in front of me. I kept my head down, afraid to see the expression on her face.
“Binasa mo ba ang replies namin?” she asked.
I slowly shook my head. My phone was turned off since I sent them my explanation. My plan was to read it during the break. At least, we wouldn’t see each other anymore. I didn’t have the courage to face them head on.
My body tensed when I felt her hand around my wrist. She gently pulled me toward her and that made me cry harder.
“Kanina ka pa namin hinihintay,” she softly said.
She pulled me along with her. For a second, I wanted to protest and tell her that I didn’t want to, and I was with someone but at the back of my mind, I was yearning for this—for my friends to approach me again. To be with them again.
I quietly moved along with her, my tears streaming continuously on my face. When we got out of the cafeteria, I kept my head down and used my hair to cover my face.
“Nakakainis ka, huwag ka ngang umiyak,” she sniffed, “naiiyak din ako.”
Instead of holding it back, hearing those words made me sob more. Fortunately, King gave me his handkerchief a while ago because I looked like a mess right now.
Few minutes later, she gradually slowed down and I realized we were already in the garden. My heart was pounding painfully against my chest and negative thoughts crowded my mind.
Were they disappointed? Did they get mad? Would they still consider me as a friend?
I was afraid to hear the answers. I was afraid to look into their eyes and see their emotions directed at me.
Alice stopped walking and she let go of my wrist. My body stiffened as I saw their feet right across us. The scene yesterday replayed in my mind like a nightmare.
“Yna,” Jess called as she stood in front of me. “Okay ka lang ba?”
Her question shattered the remaining wall I had put up and made me weep like a child. I wasn’t okay but I didn’t want them to know that. I didn’t want them to worry about me.
What happened next almost made me collapse. Steff hugged me and I heard her suppressing her sobs. I hugged her back and cried on her shoulders.
“I-I’m s-sorry,” I whimpered, clinging to her tighter.
The worries in my head slowly dissipated as they surrounded me and gave me comfort. For once, I was the one being consoled.
“Is your friendship that shallow for you?”
My brother’s words echoed inside my head as I continuously mumbled ‘sorry.’ The questions I had earlier were flooded by the good and happy memories I spent with them.
Even without uttering a word, I knew they understood. I knew the answers to my questions.
This time, I wasn’t alone anymore.