Enslaved Mind (Chapters 21-26)

Submitted by on Friday, 29 September 2017, 08:49 AM | Fiction | Taglish
Categories: Erotic Couplings, Romance   Tags: , , , ,

Enslaved Mind (Chapters 21-26)CHAPTER 21

Stalker Mom


"HIJA, baka mahipan ka ng masamang hangin at hindi mo na maigalaw 'yang leeg mo," tudyo kay Monique ng kanyang Yaya Mercy.

Ngumiti lang siya. Ilang segundo na ring nawala sa paningin niya ang sasakyan ni Raffy subalit naroon pa rin siya sa labas ng bakuran nila at nakatanaw sa kalsada.

She refused his invitation. Alam niya namang pabalat-bunga lamang ang imbitasyong iyon. Perhaps he just felt the need to do that out of respect. Isa pa, kahit pa siguro sinsero ang pag anyaya nito sa kanya, hindi pa rin talaga siya sasama kasi walang papalit sa kanyang ina sa ospital. Mabuti na ring masolo nito si Eon. That would give Raffy the chance to bond with his son freely without her constant nagging.

"Mabuti naman at nagkakaigihan na kayo ni Rafael," wika ng kanyang yaya habang papasok na sila sa loob ng bahay.

"No, no. Hindi kami nagkakaigihan, yaya. Walang gano'n," nakangiwing tugon niya. "We're just being civil towards each other for the sake of our son."

Tumaas ang kilay ng kanyang yaya. "Sus, sa tanda kong ito, ako ba'y mapaglalalangan niyo pa, anak? Halata naman sa mga kilos ninyong dalawa na mahal niyo pa rin ang isa't isa," dagdag pa nito saka ngumiti ng makahulugan.

"Yaya!" She felt her cheeks flush.

"Naku, halika na't mag-agahan, hija. Amy, handa na ba ang pagkain?" Baling nito sa kawaksi.

She silently ate her breakfast. Her mind's still occupied by the thought of her only son.

PAGDATING ni Monique sa ospital ay ang maaliwalas na mukha ng kanyang ina ang sumalubong sa kanya. Her dad woke up and he's recovering well. Masayang masaya ang kanyang ina sapagkat nakakapagsalita ang kanyang daddy ng maayos. Ayon sa doktor nito, mabuti at naagapan nila agad at ilang araw na lang umano itong mananatili sa ospital para maobserbahan.

She told her mom to go home. Ayaw pa sana nitong umuwi ngunit pinilit niya ito sapagkat kailangan nitong magpahinga. Natatakot siyang ito naman ang magkasakit dahil ilang araw na rin itong nagpupuyat.

"Call me when your dad wakes up. The doctor said he's just sleeping because of his meds," anito sabay halik sa kanyang pisngi.

"And by the way, where's my grandson? I'm sure matutuwa si Manolo kapag makikita niya si Eon paggising niya," dagdag pa nito.

"He's with his dad. Raffy and I agreed on a shared custody and parenting plan for Eon," sagot niya.

Tila namangha ang kanyang ina sa narinig. "That's good to hear. Mabuti naman at nagkasundo kayo ni Rafael.

Tumango lang siya. Ayaw niya nang mag usisa pa ito kagaya ng ginawa ng kanyang yaya. Sa ngayon ay nababahala siya kung na ano na ang nangyayari kay Eon. Did Raffy even give him breakfast? Baka sa sobrang excitement ay  dumiretso na ang dalawa sa Subic!

Nang makaalis ang kanyang mommy ay halos ngatngatin niya na ang kanyang mga kuko dahil sa labis pag-aalala. She knows she's being paranoid. But what the heck, she can't help herself. Ever since Eon was born, she was the only one who took care of him.

Magmula nang manirahan siya sa California ay naging dormant na ang lahat ng kanyang social media accounts. That was her personal choice. Nanatili lamang siyang konektado sa kanyang pamilya at kay Dra. Delgado sa pamamagitan ng Skype.

And all the while, she's just been a lurker. She also decided to unfollow some people that reminded her of her past. Nangunguna roon si Raffy. She unfollowed him on Facebook. She never unfriended him because that would raise suspicion amongst their own circle of friends. Kaya in-unfollow niya lamang ito para hindi na siya makakita ng anumang update mula rito.

Pero ngayon, wala siyang ibang paraan para malaman kung ano na nga ba ang nangyayari sa kanyang anak. She got her phone from her purse and checked his feed. She ticked the 'Follow' button and set it to 'See First' so she'll readily see his updates on her newsfeed. Maging sa Instagram ay naging alerto siya.

Ah, yes, she just went from being 'Monique the Super Mom' to becoming 'Monique the Stalker Mom', real quick.

Napakagat-labi siya. Wala naman sigurong masama sa ginagawa niya.

Ilang sandali pa ay nagbunga rin ang stalking skills niya. She received a Facebook notification saying that "Rafael Ephraim Gamboa is live now". It's as if all the blood from her extremities surged up to her brain. Sa nanginginig na mga kamay ay pinindot niya ang naturang notification.

Base sa naturang video ay si Eon ang may hawak ng cellphone nito. Maraming comments na gumagalaw sa screen pero hindi siya nakatutok roon. Pinakikinggan niyang maigi ang pinagsasabi ng mag-ama.

"Dad, look!" Bulalas ni Eon mula sa video.

"Eon, buddy, enough of that. You should eat first," sagot naman ni Raffy.

"Hello everyone, hello dad's friends! Let's eat!" Bibong turan ni Eon habang nakatutok ang camera sa mukha nito. He even has brown stains on the sides of his mouth which, she gathers, he got from drinking hot chocolate.

"Oh, hey! Mommy's watching! Hi there, mommy! Dad took me to a superb breakfast buffet!"

Huh? Paano nito nalaman na nanunuod siya sa live video ng mga ito?

"Shit," she cursed. She was about to exit from the said video but she caught a glimpse of a familiar face.

"Eon, dear, tama na 'yan. Eat your breakfast na," nakangiting wika ng babae sa tabi nito. Pinunasan pa nito ang chococate stains sa paligid ng bibig ni Eon.

"Thank you, Tita Becc!" Her son said before the live video ended.

Tila nanlamig ang buong katawan niya sa nakita. She tried to watch the video again but Facebook says it cannot be accessed anymore.

Hindi niya maapuhap kung ano ang emosyong namumuo sa kanyang dibdib. She just can't process the fact that her son is out there having fun with Raffy's woman, Rebecca.

"M-Monique..." ang mahinang boses ng kanyang ama ang pumukaw sa kanya.

"Dad!" Tili niya. Agad siyang tumabi rito at niyakap ito.

"I'm glad you've finally come home, sweetheart," anito sabay ganti ng yakap.

"Dad..." namalisbis ang mga luha sa kanyang pisngi. She's so happy yet she's mad at the same time.

"You scared us to death, daddy!" Aniya. "Don't you ever do that again!" Nagtatampong bulalas niya.

"Kung hindi pa ako inatake sa puso, hindi uuwi ang aking unica hija," nahihimigan niya rin ang pagtatampo sa boses nito.

"Dad, I'm sorry..." aniya.

Ginagap nito ang kanyang kamay.

"Where's my grandson?" Tanong nito. Sabik na makita ang kaisa-isang apo.

"Eon's with... with Raffy," aniya. Nagmistulang bulong ang pagkakasabi niya ng mga naturang kataga.

Her dad eyed her intently. Tila sinusukat nito ang mga sinabi niya, ang reaksyon niya, ang buo niyang pagkatao.

"Consuelo and I suffered from great pain and anguish when our only daughter, our princess, left us without telling us what really happened," simula nito. Nakatanaw sa bintana.

"It was such a mystery that our daughter, our perfect daughter, is suddenly leaving..." dagdag pa nito.

Perfect daughter... Umalingawngaw ang mga salitang iyon sa kanyang isipan.

"You've never been a problem child. You graduated with latin honors, you were sweet and loving. You're kind to people, even to our household help. But then you dropped everything and decided to go to the States. Gabi-gabing umiiyak ang mama mo, asking me what happened, what went wrong. Bakit bigla ka nalang umalis," napapailing ang kanyang ama.

"You're mom didn't have the courage to ask you what happened. She's just constantly bugging herself about the possible reasons why you left. Umabot sa puntong naglalagi na siya sa dating kuwarto mo at doon magdamag na umiiyak. Ni hindi na siya kumakain..."

"Dad..." aniya sabay hikbi. Hindi niya sukat-akalain na nasaktan niya pala ng labis ang kanyang mga magulang sa pag-alis niya.

"That was when your Yaya Mercedita came to the scene, ibinunyag niya ang nangyari. Ang lahat-lahat. I wanted to kill those men. I wanted to kill Rafael for hurting you. And God knows how furious and driven I am to kill that bastard who... who..." hindi na nito naituloy ang sasabihin. Napahawak ito sa dibdib nito.

"Dad! Daddy, please!" Huminahon ang kanyang ama. Binigyan niya ito ng basong tubig kapagkuwan ay tinawag ang nurse. They took her dad's vital signs and urged him to rest. Nakiusap din siya ritong huwag na muna itong mag-isip ng mga bagay na magiging sanhi ng alta presyon nito.

Nanlulumong nanatili siya sa tabi nito. Humihingi ng tawad sa ginawang pag iwan sa mga ito nang walang sinasabing rason.

Mag-aalas sais ng gabi nang dumating ang kanyang ina. Habang abala ito sa paghahanda ng mga dalang pagkain ay binalikan niya naman ang kanyang cellphone. Wala nang iba pang update si Raffy kundi ang isang picture na kanina pa nito in-upload. Kasama sa naturang larawan si Rebecca. Yakap-yakap nito si Eon.

Sa mga mata marahil ng ibang tao ay magmimistulang larawan ng isang masayang pamilya sina Rebecca, Eon at Raffy. A lot of people are congratulating them on the said post.

Since Rebecca was tagged on that picture, she decided to inflict some more pain on herself and visited her profile. There's nothing much on Rebecca's feed. Masyadong pribado ang account nito. What shook her though is the fact that her relationship status is listed as 'married'.

She's married to a certain Michael Vincent del Valle. And upon checking the linked account, the guy's profile picture shook her to her core.

CHAPTER 22

Rationalization

"OUCH! Ah! Ouchy! Aaawww!" Napapangiwi si Raffy sa tuwing dumadaing ang kanyang anak.

"Anak, just stay still!" Bulalas niya habang pinapahiran ng cooling ointment ang magkabilang balikat at braso ni Eon. His skin's roasted. Araw ng Biyernes at maghapon silang nag-surfing sa San Felipe. Sigurado siya na hindi na nila maitutuloy ang planong wakeboarding bukas. Pulang pula na kasi ang balat nito. Para nga silang pinagbiyak na bunga ni Eon pero hindi naman maitatangging ang kutis nito ay namana nito kay Monique.

"Patay talaga tayo sa mommy mo nito," napapailing at napapalatak na wika niya.

Wala na siyang magagawa. Nakalimutan niya talagang pahiran ito ng sunblock bago pa man sila lumusong sa dagat. Hindi rin naman kasi siya gumagamit niyon. Nag-isip na siya ng pwedeng gawing palusot kay Monique. Sasabihin niya nalang na wala siyang dalang sunblock. Binasa niya rin ang email nito. Nakalagay nga roon na kung sakaling maglalalagi sila sa dagat, dapat tuwing tatlumpong minuto ay magpapahid ng sunblock.

"Dad," anito saka nakapikit na inilapit ang mukha sa kanya.

"Jesus Christ!" He uttered in shock. Pulang pula ang pisngi at ilong nito. Tiyak na sa pagbalik nila ng Maynila sa Linggo ay iitim na ang kanyang anak.

"Daddy! Hurry! It's so painful!"

"Teka, teka... I'm not sure if we can apply this to your face, buddy. Shit!" Natatarantang wika niya.

He grabbed his phone and dialed Monique's number. Sa unang ring pa lang ay sinagot na nito agad ang tawag.

"What happened? Is Eon okay?" Bungad kaagad nito. She sounded frantic.

"Ah, y-yeah..." sagot na lamang niya. Hindi pa nga niya nasasabi kung ano ang problema, medyo beast mode na ito. Paano nalang kung malaman nito ang nangyari kay Eon.

"'You sure?"

"Yes."

"Then why did you call up?"

"Aaahhhhh!" Bigla siyang napalingon kay Eon. Tinakpan niya ng kanyang palad ang bibig nito.

"Nothing. I just wanna tell you that we're having a great time. B-Bye," aniya sabay kansela ng tawag. Kapagkuwan ay tinawagan niya si Rebecca.

"Becc, ano'ng gagawin ko? Mahapding mahapdi raw ang balat ni Eon. His skin's severely sunburnt," litanya niya nang sagutin nito ang tawag.

Humikab muna ito bago nagsalita.

"Didn't you apply sunblock before you went surfing?"

"What do you think?!"

"Chill out, dadzilla!" Anito sabay tawa.

"Should I bring him to the hospital?"

Humalakhak naman ito sa kabilang linya.

"I never thought that fatherhood could turn you into this..." humalakhak na naman ito.

"Becca!" Bulyaw niya.

"Okay, chill, just ice it and he'll be fine," anito.

"Thank you," he said and ended the call.

Kumuha siya ng ice cubes sa mini fridge ng tinutuluyan nilang hotel. It's actually one of the hotels where he has some sizable share.

Sinimulan niya nang lagyan ng ice ang pisngi at ilong ni Eon. Mukhang gumagaan na rin ang pakiramdam nito. He could see Eon's lips twitch into a smile.

"We'll try the jetski tomorrow, right? Right, dad?" He sounded so excited.

"No, buddy. Look at your skin. Your mom will kill me if I return you this way," paliwanag niya.

Eon pouted and turned his back on him.

"Eon," untag niya.

Ngunit hindi siya nito pinansin. Bagkus ay kinuha nito ay bowl ng ice cubes at mag-isang pinapaikot ikot ang yelo sa mukha nito.

He sighed.

"Okay, okay... We'll try the jetski tomorrow," aniya.

"Yehey! I love you, daddy!"

STABLE na ang kondisyon ng ama ni Monique kaya napagpasyahan niyang dumalaw sa kanyang therapist na si Dra. Delgado. Malaki ang utang na loob niya rito. During the darkest moments of her life, the therapy sessions she had with her, coupled with her faith, kept her sane.

Pinaghintay muna siya ng receptionist sa receiving area ng clinic nito sapagkat may kliyente pa diumano si Dra. Delgado. She didn't mind waiting. Besides, she did not book an appointment.

Makalipas ng mahigit labinlimang minuto ay may lumabas na mga kliyente mula sa private office kung saan ito nagco-conduct ng therapy. The clients seemed to be a couple. Namumukhaan niya ang babae. She was the famous British-Filipina Victoria's Secret model who was once involved in a murder case. Masayang lumabas ng naturang clinic ang dalawa.

"Ms. Velez, pwede na po kayong pumasok," untag sa kanya ng receptionist.

Nginitian niya ito at naglakad na siya papasok sa opisina ng doktora.

"Monique, what a pleasant surprise!" Anito.

Hindi niya napigilang sugurin ito ng yakap. She's aware that the nature of the relationship they have is strictly professional. But over the years, she considered Dra. Delgado as a second mother.

"When did you arrive from the States?" Tanong nito.

"Mahigit isang linggo na po," aniya.

The elegant psychiatrist eyed her intently. Humiga naman siya sa sofa nito kagaya ng nakagawian niya na noon.

"Did you bring Gideon with you?"

She nodded. Binalot sila ng katahimikan. Bumuntong hininga siya. The woman is just extraordinary. Kahit hindi ito magsalita ay parang may puwersang tumutulak sa kanya upang kusang ibahagi ang mga bumabagabag sa kanyang isipan. Perhaps it's because of the solid rapport that they've built over the years.

"Eon's spending some time with his dad," aniya.

"Have you processed how you feel about him spending time with his dad?" She asked in a soothing voice.

"I'm okay... I'm okay with it," wika niya. "It's just that..."

"It's just that everything from the past haunts me again," pag-amin niya.

"The abuse... the cheating... it's all coming back, doc." Tears pooled in her eyes.

"We never really discussed this before because my assessment on your emotional state prompted me to device a subtle appoach on your crisis," anito. "Like I've said before, therapy is a long and careful process. And I am happy to tell you that you've adjusted well, Monique."

"I guess, now is the right time to take on another approach. This may never be as optimistic as the ones we've already tried, but this surely addresses your issues from the past."

Kinabahan siya sa sinabi nito. Masaya siya sa mga naging therapy sessions nila ni Dra. Delgado sapagkat kailanman ay hindi nito inungkat at mga pagkakamali niya. Nag-focus lamang ito sa mga therapy modules na makakatulong upang maibsan ang anxiety attacks niya.

"We have to get to the root cause of everything, Monique. Because, if not, this therapist-client realtionship we have will not end. And that would only mean that I am not an effective therapist."

"Now, take me back to what happened five years ago..."

As painful and gruesome as it is, she managed to walk her through the details of that Davao business trip. It all started there. Kung sana hindi na siya sumama pa kay Raffy, marahil ay namumuhay na sila ng masaya ngayon at kapiling ang isa't isa.

Those memories were like snippets of video clips playing through her head all over again. Nagdudulot pa rin iyon ng sakit. But oddly enough, it's not as painful as it has been five years ago. Hindi kasing sakit noong mga panahong wala na siyang gana pang mabuhay, noong mga panahong hindi lang emosyonal kun'di pati na rin pisikal na sakit ang ipinapadanas sa kanya ng taong pinakamamahal niya.

"Maybe hindi ko talaga siya minahal, 'no? Perhaps I was just so consumed with the idea of having a perfect fiance, a perfect life ahead of us, to the point that it was instilled in my mind that he's my one true love. Pero baka nagkamali ako. Baka nga hindi ko siya mahal. Because logic dictates that if you truly love a person, there'd be no betrayal, no cheating..." Tila wala sa sariling bulalas niya. For the first time, the tears that she'd expected to fall, never came.

"Monique, as your therapist, I am here to help you come up with rational decisions and help you process your realizations. Here's the thing though, it is beyond my duty to provide justifications for your mistakes. But I want you to understand is that what you're doing right now, you're over rationalizing. And that's the reason why you can't truly move on."

Napakunot-noo siya. Not fully comprehending what Dra. Delgado is saying.

"To put it simply, over rationalization is a form of defense mechanism wherein negative  behaviors or feelings or those which are not in line with societal norms are justified and explained in a seemingly rational or logical manner so as to avoid its true explanation...

"In your case, you tend to justify your act of cheating by saying that perhaps you never really loved Raffy. Na baka nga hindi mo talaga siya minahal kaya mo nagawa iyon. But that is not it, Monique. That is just your defense mechanism talking. You know, deep within you, why you cheated. Now, let me ask you this, why did you cheat?"

"I... uhm, I guess I never really loved him..." sagot niya.

"Why did you cheat?" Ulit ni Dra. Delgado.

"Perhaps... I just thought I love him—"

"Why did you cheat?" She repeated in a fiercer voice.

"Because I was weak! I am weak!" Sigaw niya. She just found herself crying. "I'm weak..." her screams turned into muffled sobs.

Napaangat ang tingin niya kay Dra. Delgado nang hawakan nito ang kanyang mga balikat.

"I am truly proud of your progress, Monique. What we did is just a prelude to the new approach that I'm planning to develop for you. We'll move past your psychoanalytic therapy sessions and we'll take on Glasser's Reality/Choice Therapy. I'll design a new module for you and we'll utilize it on our next session. Sa ngayon, take some time for yourself and ponder on what just transpired here." Anito sabay gagap sa kamay niya.

PINAGMASDAN ni Raffy ang natutulog na si Eon. And it hit him, a shared custody and parenting plan isn't enough for him. He wants his son to grow up recognizing his presence and acknowledging his name.

"Becc," he said as he called Rebecca. "Make the necessary arrangements. I want Eon to carry my surname."

CHAPTER 23

Perfect

THE calming scent of lavender and chamomile bubble bath soothed Monique's tired body. Nilalaro ng kanyang mga palad ang mga pinong bula na nakalutang sa kabuuan ng bath tub. This scene felt so familiar to her. It was like a deja vu.

"'Di ka pa ba matutulog, babe?"

"Hmmmm?" Napangiti si Monique sabay yakap kay Raffy, ang kanyang fiance.

"Bukas nalang yan, babe. Leave it to me," he sheepishly smiled. Napailing nalang siya.

She's unpacking his suitcase. Nasa Davao sila ngayon para sa isang business trip. Her fiance is trying to oversee the ongoing construction of his high rise condominium units. Hands-on ito sa pagpapatakbo ng negosyo. Even if naka-base sa Davao ang business partner nitong si Micheal, nakakahanap pa rin ito ng panahon para i-check ang progress ng construction. Right now, they're at the Marco Polo Hotel. Inaayos niya ang mga gamit nito sapagkat kung hindi, tiyak na hahayaan lang nito na magulo ang mga gamit.

"Are you sure, you're not gonna stay here?" Nagpapa-cute na tanong nito sa kanya habang dahan-dahang hinahawakan ang kanyang baywang.

"You know I can't be here. No, strike that. You know I shouldn't be here," sagot niya. And she gave him a quick peck on the lips.

"I'll go to my room now. Good night, Raffy baby." She hugged him tight. He hugged her back and kissed her.

"'Lika na."

"What?"

"'Lika na. Hatid na kita sa room mo."

"No way. What am I? A four-year-old?" Natawa nalang siya.

He made face and pulled her out of the room.

"Seriously, babe, you don't need to walk me to my room. Hello, we're like two rooms apart," aniya sabay tawa.

He just grunted. Ginawaran siya nito ng masuyong halik nang marating na nila ang kanyang suite room.

"'Love you. Sleep tight, babe."

"'Love you too. 'Night!"

She locked the door and headed straight to the bathroom to prepare her hot tub. Dahan dahan niyang ibinuhos ang bath salts sa tub. Babalikan niya nalang ito pagkatapos mag unpack ng mga gamit sa kanyang suitcase. Pagkatapos ayusin ang kanyang mga gamit ay lumublob na siya sa tub.

She was completely naked as she stepped into the tub. She let out a long sigh. Ngayon lang siya nakaramdam ng pagod. The feel of the warm bubble bath against her skin feels like a soothing balm. She reached for the loofah and started rubbing all over her body. As she squeezed it, she noticed that she's still wearing her rings. Nakalimutan niya palang hubarin at ilagay sa dresser.

A sudden rush of happiness filled her heart while she's staring at her two precious rings. Ang isa ay ang kanyang engagement ring. It's a 4 karat Cartier princess cut diamond ring given to her by her fiance. Ang isa naman ay ang kanyang Tiffany & Co. platinum band chastity ring. Mahalaga ang singsing na iyon para sa kanya. Binigay ito ng kanyang mommy noong fifteen years old pa lang siya. It's symbolic of her purity. She made a promise to God, to her mom, as well as to her own self that she will remain pure until marriage. And that she will only give herself to her husband and no one else.

Napangiti siya. She's very thankful that she found the right man for her. Raffy is an epitome of a perfect boyfriend. Mabait, matalino, walang bisyo, at hands-on sa negosyo. And the best bonus is that he's handsome and he perfectly understands her vow of chastity. He says that he loves her even more because of it. At sabi rin nito na mas nakaka-heighten daw ng kanilang sexual tension ang "waiting game" lalo pa't papalapit na ang kanilang kasal.

MONIQUE woke up feeling refreshed. Ginising siya ni Raffy at sinabihang kailangan niya nang maghanda para sa kanilang early breakfast. She told him to wait up. She'll just take a quick shower and bababa na sila. Matapos magshower, tinungo niya ang walk-in closet. She's contemplating on what to wear. Alam niyang pupunta sila sa construction site kaya kailangang komportable ang suot niya.

"No stillettos and pumps huh," she said while carefully checking each and every clothing she just unpacked last night.

Pinili niya ang isang mustard yellow Lacoste mid-thigh tennis dress. Since petite naman siya, hindi ito magmumukhang malaswa sa kanya. Plus, the color compliments her beyond-fair porcelain skin. She'll pair it up with her white Nike sneakers. After dressing up, she blow-dried her hair so she could tie it up into a high pony. She grabbed her oversized Abercrombie canvas bag.

As she stepped out of her suite, she saw Raffy approaching towards her. He looks so dashing in an ash blue polo shirt tucked in his tailored jeans.

"So, are we heading to the golf course?" Biro niya rito while giving him a smack on the lips.

"You look so beautiful, babe."

"And you're equally handsome, Mr. Big Shot Business Tycoon."

"You just simply know which buttons to push, 'no?"

She just chuckled and they headed straight to the lobby to have their breakfast. He pulled up a chair for her. As she sat down, a familiar man approached their table.

"Michael, pare, it's good to see you!" Halata ang fondness sa boses ni Raffy.

"Babe, you remember Michael? He's my close friend from business school."

She just nodded and smiled.

"We're classmates in AdMU. Since then, we've been best friends," singit ni Michael.

Again, she just smiled. Presko kasi ito. It actually kind of ruined her morning. And since she doesn't want to upset her fiance, she just opted to be civil towards his business partner.

"Sit, have breakfast with us, pare."

"Certainly, I wouldn't pass on that offer, 'tol."

And so they had their breakfast. She had to painstakingly endure Michael's braggy attitude for the entire duration of their meal.

"Hey, is that Xander?" Tanong ng kanyang fiance.

"It is! Huh, that bastard. What is he doing here?" sagot ni Michael.

"I'll talk to him for a bit, babe, excuse me for a while."

"Babe," aniya sabay hawak sa kamay nito. "Don't you think it's inappropriate? I mean, are you gonna discuss business prospects with him? At this hour?"

"Yeah, but I'm just gonna ease into it slowly naman, babe. I'll ask if he's interested in putting up condo units in CDO."

"But, you're practically trying to ambush his peaceful breakfast with his wife, babe."

"C'mon, Monique, it's just some harmless business chitchat," singit ni Michael.

"Besides, we're not even sure if that's really his wife," dagdag pa nito sabay ngisi at nag fist bump pa kay Raffy.

She gave him a disgusted look before turning to her fiance.

"But don't forget, we're heading to the construction site, babe."

He held her hand and kissed her cheek.

"So, Monique, how's your restaurant?" tanong ni Michael nang makaalis na si Raffy.

He's talking about her gourmet restaurant in Bonifacio Global City.

"It's doing great."

"But you're also an interior designer, right?"

"Yeah."

"Perhaps we can head to the construction site now? Alam ko tapos na ang showroom sa first floor. I think you can help with its interior design."

"Sure. Raffy and I will go there later."

"How about we go there now? Sigurado ako matatagalan pa si Raffy sa pakikipag usap kina Xander."

"But..."

"Wait here, I'll talk to him."

Naglakad ito patungo kina Raffy. They talked for a bit and then she saw him heading towards her.

"Alright, Raffy told me to take you there. Let's go?"

"What? P-pero..."

"Let's go. Susunod nalang si Raffy."

She looked at her fiance. Tumango ito at ngumiti sa kanila.

But she never stood up. Bakit naman siya sasama kay Michael?

"Come on, Monique." Ani Michael sabay hawak sa braso niya.

She forcibly yanked her arm from his clutch. She smells trouble. Everything about Raffy's business partner just screams bad news.

Nagkibit balikat lamang si Michael nang mapagtanto nitong wala talaga siyang planong sumama ritong mag isa. Ignoring him, she continued having her breakfast. Ilang minuto lang ay bumalik na sa kanilang mesa si Raffy. Tumabi ito sa kanya at pinunasan ang kanyang bibig. Kinuha niya naman ang kanyang bag at sabay na silang umalis papunta sa construction site...

NAPANGITI si Monique. It's funny how a simple act of immersing yourself in a bath tub could take you in a trance... a certain hypnotic spell.

But like a fragile glass, a trance could easily be broken. And a hypnotic spell won't last as long as you wish. Babalik at babalik ka pa rin sa realidad. The light that's brought by your flaming hope will soon be consumed by darkness. And when that happens, reality will bite you in the ass and you're left miserable.

Gaya nga ng sabi ni Dra. Delgado, mahilig siyang mag rationalize. Marahil ay sadista rin siya sapagkat paulit ulit na sumasagi sa kanyang isipan ang iba't ibang eksena ng nakaraan. Just like now, this tub allowed her to think of the past and create a whole new alternate scene out of what happened to them before.

Paano nga kaya kung ganoon ang nangyari? Paano kung hindi siya sumama kay Michael sa ipinapagawang condominium building? What if she brushed Michael off and waited for Raffy to finish talking to Xander?

Would that be a guarantee that the cheating won't take place? Or will it just delay the process because at some point, she will still succumb to her weakness and eventually cheat on Raffy?

CHAPTER 24

Baby

NAGMAMADALING bumalik patungong Maynila si Rafael kasama si Eon. Nakatanggap siya ng tawag mula sa mommy ni Monique. She was hysterical over the phone as she told him that Monique is nowhere to be found.

He could only imagine how scared Tita Consuelo was. Kaya naman ipinaliwag niyang mabuti kay Eon na kailangan na nilang umuwi. But he never told him the real reason. He just said that he needs to attend to some business.

Nang makarating na sila sa tahanan ng mga Velez ay agad silang sinalubong ng nag-aalalang si Yaya Mercy.

"Rafael, anak... Si Monique..." bulong nito. mahimbing kasing natutulog si Eon sa mga bisig niya.

"Hindi niyo pa rin ho ba siya na-contact?"

Umiling ito.

"Ano po palang nangyari, Yaya Mercy?"

"Hindi ko alam, hijo. Masaya pa nga siyang tumawag sa akin kahapon upang ipaalam na nagkausap na sila ng daddy niya," anito. Batid ang lungkot at takot sa boses nito.

"'Ya, iwan ko nalang po muna si Eon sa inyo. Hahanapin ko po si Monique."

"Hinahanap na rin siya nina Bert at Ma'am Consuelo. Mabuti nalang at nasa ospital ang mga kapatid ni Sir Manolo. Mag-ingat ka, Rafael. Tumawag ka agad kapag may balita ka na kay Monique."

Nang makapag-paalam na ay dumiretso siya sa dating condo unit ni Monique. Despite his worries, he still believes that she's okay. Marahil ay gusto lang muna nitong mapag-isa.

But he just arrived at an empty unit. Wala ring anumang bakas na nanggaling doon si Monique. Kaya nagmaneho siya papunta sa boutique ng matalik nitong kaibigan sa kolehiyo na si Camille.

"Hindi pa kami nagkikita. The last time she contacted me was when she was still in the States. Sabi niya uuwi raw siya kasama si Eon," paliwanag ng best friend nito.

"Is... is she missing?" Nahihintakutang tanong ni Camille.

He shook his head. Ayaw niyang mag-alala pa ito.

"I hope you don't mind me asking, but, a-are you two okay na?" Nag-aalangang tanong nito.

Ngumiti lang siya saka nagpaalam. Tinawagan niya si Tita Consuelo upang tanungin kung na-check na ba ng mga ito ang dating restaurant ni Monique sa BGC. Nailipat na ang pamamahala ng naturang restaurant sa mga magulang nito. It won't hurt though if they'd check whether Monique's in there. Pero sabi nito ay wala rin daw doon si Monique.

Doon na siya lubusang nabahala. A sudden pang of pain crossed his heart. Dati ay kabisado niya ang takbo ng utak nito. Kahit hindi pa nito sabihin, alam niya kung ano ang nais nito. Be it window shopping, eating out, or even just tight hugs. He knew her back then, he owned her.

But now, he has lost his touch. Wala na ang dating Raffy na eksperto pagdating sa dating kasintahan.

Kung anu-ano na ang tumatakbo sa isip niya. Baka ano na'ng nangyari kay Monique. As cliche as it sounds but it is indeed true that regret comes last. Pinagsisisihan niya ang lahat ng mga pagkakamaling nagawa niya. Kung sana lang nilawakan niya pa ang kanyang pang unawa. Na sana hindi siya nagpadala sa galit. Na sana hindi niya nagawang saktan ang babaeng minahal niya noon pa man.

Vivid thoughts of the happy moments he shared with Monique ran across his mind...

"'Wag ka nang magtampo, baby, please?" He pressed his chin on her shoulders.

He can only see her profile as he is hugging her from the back but he's certain that she's pouting.

"Baby, I had to fetch Becca because her car's busted," dagdag pa niya. It wasn't entirely a lie though. Hindi man sira ang sasakyan ni Rebecca ay hindi rin naman nito magagamit iyon dahil sa coding. Kinailangan niya itong sunduin. She has something that he needs.

"Hindi pala siya puwedeng mag-taxi?" Nakalabing turan nito.

Napahalakhak siya. Kung alam lang nito kung gaano kaarte si Rebecca.

"I'm sure she can call there family driver. Or her boyfriend, perhaps. Bakit kailangang ikaw pa?" Anito saka pilit na nagpumiglas.

Nakisuyo lang siya kay Rebecca para sa pinaplano niya para kay Monique. Nakatikim pa nga siya ng sermon kay Rebecca sapagkat sinasayang daw niya ang oras nito. Pero sino pa nga bang malalapitan siya sa ganitong bagay kun'di si Becca lang?

He has finally decided to settle down. Kaka-graduate lang ni Monique sa kolehiyo at sa palagay niya kaya na nilang bumuo ng pamilya. Nailipat na rin sa kanya ang pamamahala ng kanilang real estate business. Sa edad na bente kuwatro, handa na siya sa anumang responsibilidad na kaakibat ng pagbuo ng isang pamilya. And he's sure that he does not want to settle down with anyone else but this woman beside him.

And all he wants is the best for her. Kaya nga kinulit niya ang kanyang best friend na tulungan siya sa pagpili ng engagement ring. Rebecca comes from an affluent family. She's born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She grew up in luxury and class. So it is but fitting and proper to ask for her help in finding the most elegant engagement ring that would suit Monique's finger perfectly.

Ipinagpaalam niya ito kina Tita Consuelo at Tito Manolo. Bago pa man iyon ay humingi na rin siya ng basbas sa mga ito. Laking tuwa niya nang pumayag ang mga ito sa plano niyang pagpapakasal kay Monique. Kaya naman matapos ang graduation nito ay tumulak na sila sa isang bahay bakasyunan sa Tagaytay.

Casa Ysabela is owned by his godfather. It was a private vacation house which was purposely built for the his wife. Ang arkitektura niyon ay ginaya pa diumano sa bahay na kinalakhan ng kanyang ninang sa Espanya. The house exudes a cozy and romantic vibe. Perpekto iyon sa plano niyang pag-propose kay Monique.

They watched the sky as it transitioned into a monochrome of indigo and orange hues. Nakahilig ang ulo ni Monique sa kanyang balikat. He pulled her close and kissed the top of her head.

He inhaled deeply. He's not a fan of cheesy whatnots. Hindi na siya lumuhod pa. Kinabig niya lang ito ng mahigpit.

"I know this is too soon, but I can't wait any longer. When you were in high school, when you asked me to be your escort to your prom even though I'm already in college, I knew back then that you're the one. Kinaya kong maghintay, at kaya ko pang maghintay. But I want to wait while fully knowing that you're mine to keep. Kung hindi ka pa handa, okay lang. Maghihintay pa rin ako... Just, please spend your lifetime with me, Monique Valerie Velez..."

Hinawakan niya ang mga balikat nito at pinaharap sa kanya. Sunud-sunod ang pagpatak ng luha nito habang tila hindi makapaniwalang tumitig sa kanya.

Hinaplos nito ang kanyang pisngi at tumango tango. "Yes, I'll spend my lifetime with you, Rafael Ephraim Gamboa," sa wakas ay sagot nito kahit hilam ng luha ang mga mata...

That was the best day of his life. Just the two of them, pledging their love, overlooking the perfect view of Casa Ysabela.

Casa Ysabela...

Could Monique be there?

"BAWAL po talaga, Ma'am eh. Private property po kasi ito," anang security guard kay Monique.

She drove a long way just to be in this place. This perfect place where she had the best memories in her life prior to Eon.

Her impromptu therapy session with Dra. Delgado left her physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. She wanted to escape. She wanted to break free. Kung hindi niya iyon ibibigay sa kanyang sarili ay masisiraan na siya ng bait.

Napatitig siya sa kahoy na arko kung saan nakaulit ang pamilyar na mga titik.

Casa Ysabela...

The letters were elegantly etched. Napapaligiran din iyon ng mga gumagapang na halaman at bulaklak. Dumako ang tingin niya sa loob. Abot-tanaw niya ang poolside kung saan nag-propose si Raffy sa kanya noon.

Ibinalik niya ang tining sa kawaksi.

"Magbabayad naman po ako. Sige na ho..." pakiusap niya.

"Hindi talaga pwede, ma'am—"

"Manong?"

Napalingon si Monique sa nagsalita. She saw a girl with prominent mestiza features, probably sixteen or seventeen years old.

"Señorita, may gusto pong pumasok—"

"I just want to spend the night here. I promise, I'll pay. Please..." hiling niya.

"I'm sorry, Miss. But Casa Ysabela is not open to guests," hinging paumanhin ng dalagita.

Nanlumo siya. Nagsimula na siyang maglakad palayo nang tawagin siya nito.

"Miss, how did you know about this place?"

Huminga siya ng malalim bago nagsalita.

"This is where I got engaged..."

Tila nakiramdam ang dalagita. Makaraan ang ilang sandali ay pinapasok siya nito. Nagprotesta pa ang guard pero iginiya na siya ng babae sa loob.

"I'm Katarina Erica Isabelle," anito sabay tawa. "But you can just call me 'Kei'."

"Thanks, Kei. I'm Monique," taos pusong pasasalamat sabay lahad ng kamay. Inilapag niya rin sa couch ang kanyang LV tote na naglalaman ng iilang damit.

Kei shook her hand.

"I'll get going, Miss Monique. Kung may kailangan po kayo, just ask the caretakers. Nasa quarters lang sila sa likod."

Tumango siya saka nagpasalamat. When Kei left, she found herself walking towards the poolside. The crimson-hued sky reminded her of Raffy's proposal.

Masayang masaya siya noong mga panahong iyon. Ang akala niya ay magiging masaya rin siya ngayon. Na kahit sandali man lang ay maramdaman niya ulit na maging buo at masaya. Pero taliwas sa inaasahan ay mas lalo pa siyang nasaktan.

Dusk came. She decided to go inside the house. The bar counter was just so inviting. She picked one aged Sauvignon Blanc. Bahala na. Magbabayad naman siya.

NABUHAYAN ng loob si Raffy nang mamataan ang kotse ni Monique na nakaparada sa labas ng Casa Ysabela.

"Kuya Raff!" Sigaw ng dalagita na kabababa lang din mula sa isang SUV.

"Kei! Ang laki mo na. You were this little when I last saw you," aniya sabay muwestra kung gaano lang kaliit ang kanyang kinakapatid noon.

"Hey, kiddo, did someone come here? Petite, fair-skinned—"

"And pretty!" Putol nito sa iba pang sasabihin niya. "Yes, nasa loob. 'You know her?"

"Yeah," sabi nalang niya. They went in and he easily spotted Monique at the gazebo. May bitbit itong halos wala nang laman na bote ng alak.

Naglakad siya palapit dito. Hindi yata nito naramdaman ang kanyang presensya. When she suddenly turned, she lost her balance.

"Nique!" Agap niya. Hinawakan niya ito sa baywang bago pa ito tuluyang mabuwal. Napapalatak siya. Lasing na nga ito.

When she looked at him, he saw genuine fear in her eyes.

"T-Take your hands off me!" Sigaw nito habang nagpupumiglas.

Pero hindi niya ito pinakawalan.

"No...! Please! L-let me go!" Patuloy pa rin ito sa pagpupumiglas. Ngunit dahil sa alak ay wala itong lakas kaya natatakot siyang pakawalan ito dahil baka mawalan ito ng balanse. Wala ring tigil ang pag-iyak nito.

"Nique," aniya habang hinihigpitan ang pagkakayakap dito.

"P-parang awa mo na, M-Michael, 'wag mong gawin sa'kin 'to..." Nanginginig ito sa loob ng kanyang mga bisig.

Napatiim-bagang siya. He was too blinded by what Michael told him before. He was so outraged when he told him that Monique begged him to fuck her to the point that he never thought whether he took her against her will.

"Baby, tahan na. Sssshhh, it's me, Raffy... I'm here."

CHAPTER 25

Sunrise

MONIQUE woke up with a splitting headache. She tried to get up, but that just made the pain more excruciating. Sinapo niya ang kanyang ulo. Kulang nalang ay hilahin niya ang kanyang buhok sa tindi ng sakit na nararamdaman.

Iginala niya ang kanyang paningin sa buong silid. Her headache didn't stop her from being awed by the rustic interior of the room. Ang malaking canopy bed ay may mga makalumang adorno. Pero sa kabila ng pagka-antigo nito ay lumulutang pa rin ang karangyaan. 

She rubbed her eyes. She's being silly. Why is she even praising the interior of the room? Nasaan ba siya?

Tila bigla siyang natauhan. Nasa Casa Ysabela siya. At ang huling natatandaan niya ay ang pag-ubos ng isang bote ng alak. Iniangat niya ang kumot na tumakip sa katawan niya. Nakasuot na lamang siya ng isang manipis na cotton nighties. Bago rin ang underwear na suot niya.

Naihilamos niya ang mga palad sa kanyang mukha. Monique... what on earth have you done. Sa isip niya.

She fucked up once again. She left home to visit this place without even informing her parents. Sigurado siya na nag-aalala na ang mga ito. She did not mean to cause any trouble. All she wanted at that moment was to forget. She just wanted to forget.

And she thinks she got what she wanted. Heck, she can't even remember what exactly happened to her last night. Lalabas nalang siya ng kuwarto at magtatanong kay Kei. Perhaps she blacked out. And perhaps that poor kid was responsible for dragging her in this room.

Bumangon na siya at tinungo ang dresser. Naroon ang kanyang mga gamit. Grabbing her toiletries, she headed towards the bathroom. Kailangan niya nang umalis. Mamayang gabi ay iuuwi na ni Raffy sa kanya si Eon.

She smiled as she felt the warm trickle of water against her skin. Magkikita na silang muli ng kanyang anak. Sabik na sabik na siyang mayakap ito.

Matapos mag-shower ay pinili niyang suutin ang isang pale yellow off-shoulder sundress. Dahil biglaan ang kanyang desisyon na tumungo sa Casa Ysabela, iilang piraso ng damit lamang ang bitbit niya.

Inayos niya ang lahat ng kanyang gamit. She was almost done strapping her beige Valentino Rockstud flats when the door opened. Expecting that it might be Kei or maybe one of the caretakers, she plastered a sweet smile on her face.

Ngunit bigla ring naglaho ang kanyang ngiti. She's looking at Raffy. Ano'ng ginagawa nito rito?

"I thought you're still asleep," anito sa masuyong boses.

Judging from his outfit, she's quite sure that he went out for a jog. Basa ang damit nito at may tangang bote ng mineral water sa kaliwang kamay.

"What are you doing here?" Aniya. Trying her very best to sound calm and collected. Pero ang totoo ay ang lakas ng kabog ng dibdib niya. May namumuo nang hinala sa kanyang isip. And she'd die of shame if she confirms what she's thinking.

"You left without notice. Yaya and Tita Consuelo were so worried," sagot nito. Nagsimula itong maghubad ng suot na t-shirt.

"I'd love to take a shower first, pero magpapalit nalang ako ng damit. Baka malingat lang ako, mawala ka na naman," he said jokingly but she didn't find it funny. She even looked away.

Gusto niya sana itong tanungin kung paano siya natunton nito. But she restrained herself. Just being in the same room with him felt awkward. What more if they engage in small talk?

Raffy's acting casually. He walks and talks as if there is no awkwardness between them. She bit her lip. Eh ano ngayon kung komportable si Raffy na kasama siya? Siya lang naman itong  hindi mapakali at atat na atat nang maka alis.

"Don't worry about Eon. I left him with Yaya Mercy. Natawagan ko na rin kagabi sina Tita Consuelo. I told them that you're with me and you're safe."

Tumango lang siya. She never even bothered to say thanks. Bakit ba kasi ito nandito?

"We'll take my car. Ipapasundo nalang natin kay Mang Bert o sa isa sa mga empleyado ko ang kotse mo," he said as he grabbed her stuff.

Inagaw niya iyon. "I can drive," tipid niyang turan.

"No, you can't. You're hung over and I'm pretty sure you don't feel well right now."

Oo, masakit pa rin ang ulo niya. And it's even worse now that he's here.

Nauna na siyang lumabas ng kwarto. Mag-aalas sais na ng umaga. Pero malamig pa rin ang simoy ng hangin at hindi pa lubos na sumisikat ang araw. Habang naglalakad palabas ng bahay ay namataan niyang nakasakay ng kabayo ang dalagitang si Kei sa 'di kalayuan.

Everything here in Casa Ysabela is magnificent. The fresh air, the breathtaking scenery... It just makes you wanna live here forever.

She leaned on the porch's wooden baluster. Nilalanghap ang sariwang hangin at ninanamnam ang kagandahan ng lugar sa huling pagkakataon.

Napapitlag siya nang hawakan siya ni Raffy at dahan dahang ipanagsalikop ang kanilang mga kamay. He pulled her towards the wooden swing. Tahimik lang itong tumitig sa papasikat na araw.

"Do you remember the day after I proposed to you? We watched the sunrise together. Here. At this very same spot," wika nito.

How could she forget? Her Casa Ysabela memories will forever be treasured. It's one of the memories which were not tainted by her mistakes and shortcomings.

Naramdaman niya ang pag-alog ng mga balikat ni Raffy. She squeezed his hand on instinct. Hindi niya napigilan ang sarili niya.

"B-Bakit 'di mo sinabi sa'kin, Nique?" He asked. Still focusing his eyes on the sunrise.

"Pero kahit na... I still should have known. I should have f—cking known," patuloy nito. Naka-tiim bagang.

What is he talking about? Why is he being weird?

"But you should have told me. You should've told me back then... I could have killed him with my bare hands."

Nanlamig siya sa narinig.

"You know how scared you were last night?" Anito habang nakatingin sa kanya. "You thought I was him. You were so scared you're shaking in my arms. You were reliving the trauma. And I can't do anything about it. Do you know how hard it is for me to see you like that? At napakagago ko kasi sinaktan kita." Tuluyan na itong umiyak.

"R-Raff," basag ang boses na tawag niya rito. She pulled him close and let his head rest on her chest.

"Okay lang ako. I'm okay now. I've been on therapy. I promise, I'm okay..." alo niya rito. O mas tamang sabihin na ang mga katagang sinabi niya ay nagsisilbi ring pang-aalo sa kanyang sarili. Dahil, hanggang ngayon, masasabi niya na nga ba talagang okay na siya?

"He took advantage of you!"

"Y-Yes. He did. He r-raped me. On the second time, he threatened me. But... but I still made a mistake, Raff. I was so twisted because I still let him—"

"No, no..." he shook his head and cupped her face.

She closed her eyes as his lips covered hers. Parang hinaplos ang kanyang puso sa pamilyar na sensasyong hatid niyon. Lahat ng takot at pag-aalinlangan na baka hindi niya ito minahal noon ay tuluyan nang naglaho. Minahal niya pala ito. At hanggang ngayon, ang naturang pagmamahal ay naroon pa rin sa kanyang puso.

Mahal niya si Raffy. Hindi ito perpekto. Hindi ito gaya ng mga lalaking matatagpuan lamang sa mga libro. Pero alam niya na ito ang katuwang niya sa pagbuo ng sarili niyang kwento.

"I've never stopped loving you, Nique..."

CHAPTER 26

Together

NILAPITAN sila ng isa sa mga caretakers upang ipaalam na handa na raw ang agahan. Naghihintay na diumano sa kanila si Kei. Instead of heading towards the dining area, the caretaker guided them to the old-fashioned gazebo near the cliff.

Habang naglalakad ay nakahawak sa kanyang baywang si Raffy. Inaalalayan din siya nito sa mga mabatong parte ng daanan. She felt the cool breeze on her skin. Tinatangay naman ng hangin ang iilang hibla ng kanyang buhok. Bago niya pa man maisaayos ang mga iyon ay naunahan na siya ni Raffy. Inilagay nito sa likod ng kanyang tainga ang mga takas na hibla ng buhok na tumatabing sa kanyang mukha.

"Gosh! It's like I'm watching a scene from a romance film!" Kei shrieked.

Her cheeks flushed. Kinalma niya ang kanyang sarili. Ang tanda niya na para kiligin. Maglilimang taon na nga ang anak niya!

Ipinaghila siya ng silya ni Raffy. She was sitting in between him and Kei. Nang masigurong nasa ayos na ang lahat ay nag-usal ng dasal ang dalagita.

"Try this, it's delish!" Anito saka iniabot sa kanya ang isang mug ng umuusok na kape. Tinanggap niya naman iyon saka nagpasalamat.

"Cafe con leche," she said in a thick Spanish accent. "You should pair it with churros," nakangiti nitong dagdag.

Ngayon niya lang lubusang na natitigan ang mukha nito. Napakaganda nitong bata. Lutang na lutang ang pagiging mestiza.

She's enjoying her second serving of bacon when Raffy rested his hand on her thigh. He did it in a very casual manner. Parang kagaya lang noon.

Literal na nanayo ang kanyang mga balahibo sa ginawa nito. Ngunit hindi siya nagpahalata na apektado siya. After all, Raffy might just be doing it due to force of habit. She got lost in their conversation. Hindi niya na masundan ang takbo ng pag-uusap ng mga ito sapagkat nadi-distract talaga siya.

"Right, Ate Monique?" Wika ni Kei.

"H-Huh... Uhm," she just smiled and pretended that she was listening.

"Alright! 'Gotta go. Enjoy your stay at Casa Ysabela!" Ani Kei sabay halik sa kanyang pisngi.

What the hell?

Naiwan silang dalawa ni Raffy sa gazebo. Ang mga kawaksi naman ay nag-aabang lang sa 'di kalayuan. Nakahinga siya ng maluwag nang inalis na ni Raffy ang kamay nito sa kanyang hita.

"Are you cold?" He asked softly. "We can go inside," dagdag pa nito.

Sa totoo lang, giniginaw na siya. And her off-shoulder sundress isn't helping. Pero sunud-sunod ang pag-iling niya. Natatakot sa suhestyon nitong pumasok sila ng bahay. But her stupid body's betraying her. Hindi niya naiwasan ang panginginig ng kanyang mga labi dahil sa ginaw.

"You're shivering," puna nito.

"I... uh, it's a little chilly in here but I can manage. I'd still want to appreciate the view," sabi niya. Hoping that he'd buy it.

Sumilay ang isang pilyong ngiti aa mga labi nito. Alam niyang alam nito na nagdadahilan lang siya. After all these years, both of them still knew each other like the back of their hands.

Tumayo siya. She walked past him and stood beside one of the gazebo's foundations. She feasted her eyes on the magnificent view beyond the cliff.

Narinig niya ang maingay na pagkakahila ng silya nito sa marmol na sahig. Kasunod niyon ay ang mga papalapit nitong yapak sa papunta sa kinaroroonan niya. Nahuhulaan niya na ang susunod na gagawin nito ngunit nang hawakan nito ang kanyang balikat ay hindi niya pa rin naiwasang mapapitlag.

"You're cold, baby," he whispered. Kinabig siya nito hanggang sa ang kanyang likod ay lubusan nang nakalapat sa dibdib nito. He then slowly wrapped his arms around her for warmth. "There. Is that better?"

Napalunok siya. Nanunuyo yata ang kanyang lalamunan. The feel of his legs and thighs pressing against her just rendered her speechless. She just nodded and shivered uncontrollably.

"Nique, you're shivering. Halika na, doon na tayo sa loob," he said as he wrapped his hand around h...


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