I didn’t know what to do or say so I just remained silent. He called my name again and it made my heart skip a beat.
“Yna? Are you still there?” he asked.
“Mm,” I mumbled, my fingers trembling as I tried to keep the phone on my ear.
There was another minute of silence between us, but I could hear his trembling breath. I was worried that he would hear my throbbing heart, too, but despite the tension between us, this moment felt less uncomfortable than the last few days. His mere presence made me feel secured and nervous at the same time.
“Pwede ba tayong magkita?” he asked in a gentle tone.
His question brought my mind back to our current situation and fear started creeping in my chest again. For someone as well known as him, articles would surely be written again once anyone sees us together.
“Please?” he added. “Gusto kitang makausap. I know I said I understand and respect your choice, but it’s hard.”
My face felt flushed and my heart was racing so fast it was giving me a hard time to breathe. I honestly missed his voice and I wanted to see him, too, but . . .
“I-I don’t . . . know . . .” I faltered. “I-I mean . . . t-the people . . .”
“Naaalala mo pa ba ‘yong café na pinuntahan natin noon?”
I furrowed my brows. “Café?”
“The one with the compartments,” he replied.
Memories from that day started flooding my mind. “Ahh . . .”
“If we’re away from the people . . . if we’re away from their eyes, would you let me see you?”
Despite not seeing his face, I could imagine his expression while saying those words and it was making my mind fuzzy. Now, I’m not sure if contacting him first was the right choice because this situation just left me flustered.
It took me a few seconds to finally respond. My friends’ advice lingered in my head as I tried to contemplate whether I should agree or not. I had to gather a lot of courage to send him that message and it must be the same for him when he made this call.
“Okay,” I mumbled.
“I-I want to see you, too.”
Before I could hear any reaction from him, I ended the call and stifled a scream as I tried to process everything that just happened.
I felt like my heart would jump out of my throat. I couldn’t believe I just said that. Oh my god, I don’t think I can face him anymore.
A shriek escaped my lips as someone tapped my shoulder from the window on my upper right side. I was too immersed in my own thoughts that I didn’t notice Jess creeping behind me.
“Anong ginagawa mo r’yan?” she asked and a few seconds later, a sly smile appeared on her face. “Oh, don’t tell me you’re finally talking to Gi—”
I gestured for her to stop, worried that someone might hear what she was just about to say. Fortunately, she stopped talking before she could speak his name. She leaned over the sill and craned her neck toward me.
“You’re blushing so hard,” she whispered. “That means something happened. Nag-usap na ba ulit kayo?”
It was hard to keep mum about it when they already knew what happened between us. Besides, Jess wouldn’t let go of this topic until I told her everything that she wanted to know.
She exited the building and arrived at where I was after a few minutes. I carefully told her what had just transpired and she squealed every time I say his name.
“Kinikilig ako, nakakainis!” she giggled while shaking my arm.
“What should I do?” I mumbled.
She raised her eyebrow at me. “Ano pa ba? Eh ‘di makipagkita ka!”
“He’s reaching out to you despite the risks. Gusto mo rin naman siyang makita, ‘di ba?”
My face had been hot for a while now, but I could feel the blood rushing to my cheeks again. It felt embarrassing to hear someone speaking my mind and feelings.
“Are you still afraid and worried?” she asked and I nodded in return.
I knew they said this matter only involves Gisel and I, thus, I should care more about our feelings than the opinions of the people around us, but at the end of the day, the words thrown by those people would still affect the two of us.
“Alam ko namang ayaw mo ng attention, but that’s the risk of liking someone like Gisel,” she added. “If you don’t like him enough for you to step out of your comfort zone, then I guess you’re doing it right. Just stay away from him. Pero kung tingin mo, worth it, then go for it. Kasi what if he stops approaching you? Will you have the courage to reach out first? Will you still let your fears control you? Kasi sa huli, ikaw rin ang magsisisi once all your chances have slipped through your fingers.”
Jess was never the person whom I would run to when it comes to advice but what she just said made me think about the times we spent together . . . the moments we shared with each other.
She suddenly grimaced and shook her head. “Wow, I just sounded like Steff. Parang ‘di bagay.”
Her comment made me smile a little. “Mm. Hindi bagay.”
The atmosphere lightened up and she continued teasing me while fishing for more information. Few minutes later, she excused herself because her next class would be starting.
I stared at my phone and almost jump in surprise when I received a message from him. He just told me the time of our meeting and my heart started to race again as I thought about what would happen later.
With a deep breath, I silently cheered myself and went to my Fil 40 class.
I was trembling in fear and excitement when I got out of the cab. Entering the café was nerve-wracking. Fortunately, there were only a few people inside and most were inside the compartments. I stood at the entrance for quite a while, reluctant to find where he was, and for a second, I thought of leaving because I wasn’t prepared to see him. However, behind the thin veil of the compartment, I saw his face.
Something stirred in my chest. It had been a while since I last saw him and the worries that lingered inside me gradually dissipated as I stared at him from a distance.
With a restless heart, I carefully walked toward his direction. I stood in front of the veil and drew a deep breath before I stepped inside.
I was greeted by his tender smile and my heart skipped a beat upon seeing that. The nervousness I felt a while ago flared up as I sat right across him. The limited space wasn’t helping either. It felt suffocating now that I was this close to him.
“Hi,” he greeted and I immediately averted his gaze.
“H-Hello . . .” I returned in a mumble.
I had always been in jitters every time I’m with him but this time, my whole body was throbbing from every emotion that I was feeling. The atmosphere was filled with tension and awkwardness that I had to physically get away from him even for a few inches. Even he was feeling the uncomfortable air. He kept on fiddling with the papers in front of him, something that I just noticed. Were those readings?
“Ah, sorry,” he said as he gently moved the papers to the side. “I have an exam tomorrow.”
Then I shouldn’t have met with him today. I heard the advanced courses’ exams were so hard that no one from the Campus Princes and Princesses could get a perfect score.
He chuckled in response. “It’s okay. Nakapagbasa naman na ako noong mga nakaraang araw.”
“For now . . . this takes precedence,” he added as he stared at me.
I was quite dumbfounded at how he looked calm despite everything that happened. On the other hand, I was a bundle of nerves, not even knowing where to look nor what to talk about.
He asked me about my preferred coffee and food and he offered to order them along with his. He insisted so I gave in and quietly watched as he went out of our compartment and walked toward the counter.
I heaved a deep sigh, trying to calm myself before he returns. Staring at the papers he just brought, I realized he must not have much time to spare, yet he still wanted to meet me. Guilt started prowling inside me because it felt like I was a bother to him, especially during this time that he had to focus on his acads.
It took him about three minutes before returning and glanced at my bag right beside me.
“May readings kang dala?” he asked.
I instinctively reached for my bag. “M-mm. Reading assignment.”
“Oh,” he beamed. “Do you need help?”
I realized it would be hard to talk about the past incidents, so I nodded in response. Besides, he could also study, I think, if I, too, would be doing the same thing. I pulled the readings out of my bag and he started asking questions about the topics I needed to read, just as our orders arrived. The atmosphere lightened up as he started helping me with the words I couldn’t understand. Meanwhile, I urged him to study, too, and I would just tap him if I had any questions. He was reluctant at first, but when I said I’d read aloud so he could still monitor me, he finally agreed.
He sat next to me so he could hear me clearly but that made me anxious. I was afraid that he’d hear how fast and loud my heart was beating. I got conscious, too, that I stuttered some of the words that were hard to pronounce. After a few minutes, I finally calmed down and got better at reading.
“ . . . at sa kanyang kagustuhan na ma—”
I abruptly stopped reading upon hearing something, but I wasn’t sure if I heard that right as he said it under his breath. I slowly looked at him but his eyes were fixed on his own reading, as if he didn’t mutter anything.
“Hmm?” I mumbled as I wasn’t sure what to ask or react.
He turned to my direction and put his chin over his right hand. “Hmm?”
We silently stared into each other’s eyes, and my heart thumped so strong, it felt like it would break out from my chest. I tried not to lose my composure and asked once again.
“D-did you s-say something?”
He smiled and snickered in response, which made my heart flutter even more.
Jess’ words echoed in my head as I watched his eyes crinkled as he smiled. Honestly, I never expected him to feel the same way as I did because it felt like I wasn’t even worthy of his feelings. He was just kind to everyone, I reasoned to myself, but spending some time with him in Jeju confused me again.
Now, hearing those words from him, if I did hear it right, was beyond my expectations. Even if Steff said he must like me, too, based on his actions, it was still hard to believe. I had already conditioned myself that all of those were just assumptions from my side, and not his real feelings.
But this time, I wanted to know his, too.
I drew in a deep breath and gathered a lot of courage to ask one last question.
“D-do you like me?”
He almost choked on his coffee upon hearing my question. The embarrassment finally dawned on me after seeing his reaction and I wanted to slap myself for asking that. I was about to divert the topic when he suddenly uncapped my highlighter and marked two words on his reading with it: “I” and “do.”
He gave me a quick smile and his gaze went back to his reading, this time, more focused on it. It took me seconds before everything sank in and when I glanced at him, his face, ears and neck were beet read . . . and maybe mine, too, as our restless hearts pounded intensely, resonating the feelings we had kept from each other.