Days to Thirty-Five: Two, Three, Twenty-Seven

Day Two & Three-Fourths to Day Three: Someone to Rely On

“I smell of smoke,” I said as we entered his unit. “I smell of grilled pork, grilled squid… I smell grilled.”

I was almost blinded by the light that Jeff had turned on, and I had to wait before my eyes had adjusted to fully appreciate the place. It was a bachelor’s pad—I watched as Jeff went around, gathering the shirts he had left over one of his couches—complete with a flat-screen TV, a PS3, and a DVD player. I can bet my salary that his ref contains booze.

Jeff laughed. “We both do. We sat near the grill, remember?” he said, smelling his clothes as well. He cringed his nose, and then he looked at me, letting out a whistle. “Yeah, not nice,” he agreed, and then he told me to stay where I was. I watched him as he disappeared into one of the two rooms. I scanned the place while he was gone. There was a kitchen painted in sky blue with royal blue trimmings, equipped with a coffeemaker, a microwave, a ref, an oven over a stove, and a blender. The living room where I was is also in blue—navy blue this time. It had a modern feel to it, everything either blue or silver, the center table made of steel and the couches in navy blue. It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that Jeff’s favorite color is blue.

When he came back he was bringing a couple of shirts and shorts. “You game to wear this? If you’re staying over, I’m thinking you’d want to be comfy,” Jeff said, tossing me an oversized shirt and a pair of shorts—men shorts. I rolled my eyes. “I appreciate it that you cared enough to make me wear the shirt. But the shorts?” I said, holding up the shorts that he gave me. Without even trying it, I knew it would fall off because it was so big on my waistline.

“Uh, wait,” he said, and he went into the room again. I followed him this time, and I saw that he was pulling the bottom drawer of his cabinet and was rummaging through the stuff there. He threw some stuff onto the bed, and I walked in to check what he threw there. I found a used toothbrush and a new one, a couple of shirts, and a deck of cards with the words Ice Breaker on the pack. That one gave me an idea.

I pocketed the Ice Breaker cards in my slacks. “Here,” Jeff said, and he held up his prized find: a short shorts—with a waistline at least at or around my size. Why does he have a pair of women’s shorts?

Maybe I should find it comforting that it is at the bottom of his drawer, with some of the stuff that he obviously does not use anymore or haven’t used yet.

But still.

“You can change in the bath,” he said, pointing to the door directly in front of me. I nodded, psyching myself that I should not think about it—or anything else—for, like Jeff, I wanted to enjoy this night. That doesn’t necessarily mean something significant or intimate would have to happen, but I am going to enjoy the night as it is.

And oh, the bathroom is still in blue.

After I finished changing into the clothes that Jeff gave me (it was a given that the shirt will cover the shorts because of its huge size, but I hadn’t thought that the shorts would be that short—it only reached up until where my panties had ended), I decided to do a mini pantry check.

Nope, no makeup on the sink and nope, no girly smelling shampoo in the shower area. No sanitary napkins or tampons stuck anywhere in his bathroom cabinets, and no birth control pills hiding in the medicine cabinet.

Apparently, whoever owns the shorts that I am wearing hasn’t been to this unit in the past month or so—or Jeff had taken pains to clear the house of things that reminded him of that person.

I retrieved the pack of Ice Breaker cards from my slacks, folded my clothes, and breathed deeply three times. If I am to put up a show that this is going to be a good night and I will enjoy it, I’d have to psych myself of blocking whoever owns the shorts I am wearing out of my mind.

I found Jeff seated at the edge of his bed when I emerged from the bathroom. He looked so laidback in his shirt and shorts, and when he beamed at me, my heart almost melted. He had brought my bag inside the room and laid it on one of the chairs next to the bed, and I placed my clothes there. “So,” I began when I faced him, “what are you planning to do?”

Jeff looked up at me and thought for a while. “Can we just talk?” he said, and I nodded. “Yeah, I can do talk,” I said, and I tossed him the Ice Breaker cards. “This should help us in talking,” I said, and he smiled. “I thought about this when I saw it awhile back,” he said.

“You used it before?”

A pregnant pause. He remembered someone. “Uh-huh.”

“Is it okay to use it now?”

He nodded slowly. “Sure.” He patted the space next to him on the bed and I Indian-sat on the bed, and he did the same. I grabbed one of the pillows to cover whatever the shorts and the shirt couldn’t. He took out the cards from the box and shuffled them, and then laid them in a nice deck between us. “Who goes first?” he asked, and I shrugged, picking up the card at the top of the deck.

“Wow, heavy,” I said upon reading the question on the card. He leaned over to peek at the card but I closed my hand over it so he couldn’t see it. “What is the greatest crime one person can commit against another? Why?” I said, my voice sounding a bit hollow. This question hits the nail on the head.

Jeff looked at me, his eyes filled with a myriad of emotions, awaiting patiently for my answer. “I guess cheating?” I said, and he nodded for me to continue. “Lying or cheating or betrayal,” I clarified. “Nothing beats the feeling of being betrayed. Everything you’ve ever believed in turns out to be something that’s not true, and that just feels so bad. You’d feel lost and confused and angry and hurt all at same time.”

“Speaking from experience?”

“Twenty times betrayed? Definitely.”

“That’s too many a number.”

I sighed, smiling bitterly. “I only learned after the twentieth guy betrayed me. Barely trusted anyone after.”

“Why are you doing this now?”

I frowned. “Doing what?”

Jeff clasped his hands together, as if thinking of a proper way to phrase his question. “You’re telling me something. You’re telling me and showing me yourself. You’re trusting me—at least in a way. Why?”

I opened my mouth to reply, only to find myself searching for the answer. I ended up with: “That’s not in the card.” He smiled, and then reached out to hold my hand. He gave my hand a light squeeze before saying, “Answer it. Please.”

His eyes did the trick.

“Because I’m tired of keeping things to myself. I’m tired of knowing things about myself on my own. Eight years of that kind of life sucks, you know? You’d explode somehow,” I said truthfully.

“And I appreciate it,” Jeff said, and I frowned. “I appreciate you trusting me with yourself—at least parts of it,” he clarified. He smiled, and then released my hand to pick a card. He took the one on the top of the deck like I did, and then laughed when he read the question. “What?” I asked him, and he passed me the card. “Do you consider yourself…” My voice trailed when I realized what the continuation was, blushing.

He took the card from me and read it. “Do you consider yourself a good lover? How?”

I gathered myself, trying to contain my smile, and looked up at him, waiting for his answer. This should be fun. “I think I am—both in the physical and emotional sense,” he said after clearing his throat. Like me, he was blushing. “I love with all that I could possibly give, and I am fairly supportive in my partner’s endeavors. I care for those people my partner cares for, and I am not usually demanding. As a ‘lover’—” he made quotation marks with his hands at this point—“I think that one should be judged by performance, and I daresay have been up to par.”

I opened my mouth in awe, as Jeff gave me a mischievous smile and a wink. “Ah,” was all I managed. In place of the words I couldn’t say, I picked another card from the stack. “What do you feel when you stand on the shore of the ocean?” I read. “Peaceful? I haven’t been to the beach lately, but I feel that. Like if you have a lot of problems, you’d forget them just by staring at the ocean. It’s calm,” I answered, and Jeff accepted my answer.

“What is the most expensive thing you have bought?” Jeff said as he read off the card he had picked. He rolled his eyes, tossing the card into the “done” pile. “That’s easy. A ring. An engagement ring.”

“You were engaged?” I asked, shocked, and he gave me a pointed look.

“Not in the card,” he said coldly.

“Unfair,” I defended.

He shook his head vehemently and handed me the next card on the pile. “I still want to have that good night that you promised,” he said. I pouted, mad that he didn’t want to answer my question. I grabbed the card, and then read, “What is your greatest fear?” Without missing a beat, I said, “That would be death and rejection.”

“Fair enough,” Jeff said, and he read the next question, “If you have one super power, what would it be?”

“X-ray vision,” he said with a smart smile, and I rolled my eyes. “So you can check out women?” I retorted, and he laughed. “Just kidding. It’s mind-reading,” Jeff said.

I laughed bitterly at the next question. “When do you feel most lonely?” I read, and then threw it aside. “Who in the world makes these questions?” I asked him, and he replied, “I’d answer it too if that would make you feel better.”

Nice bargain. “Okay,” I reconsidered, and then added, “When I feel like everything is just falling apart and nothing seems right. It’s those kinds of times when I feel like I need someone who would hold me together.”

“I feel most lonely at night,” Jeff answered, and I let out a “hmph.” “No, no,” he said, shaking his head, “I didn’t mean in that kind of way!” I laughed, and he pulled me closer to him. I was seated next to him now. “I meant I feel most lonely at night because it’s the time when I am alone. I have a two-bedroom unit with no one to share it with. I spend most of the time thinking. And even if I have my own friends and I go out to gimmicks from time to time, that doesn’t fill in the loneliness.”

“Good that you clarified.”

I laid down on the bed and stretched, and he grabbed the cards before following my suit. “What movie character can you most identify with?” he said, and I turned to look at him. He was deep in thought, trying to discern the right movie character. “Tom Hansen, from (500) Days of Summer,” he said after a long while. I raised my eyebrow in question. “The story of that is Tom was left by Summer, right?” I asked. “I remember she left him because she found a guy who gave her what she wasn’t sure of in Tom.”

Jeff smiled sadly. “Story of my life,” he said, and I groaned. “Should I move on to the next question or you’re going to explain that?” I asked, and he shrugged. He turned to so that he was facing me. He placed down the cards on the tiny space left between his body and mine, and then exhaled loudly. “I was with someone for six years. Everything revolved around her. I asked her to marry me last year. Midway through the wedding plans and the gowns and the flowers, she called off the wedding. Said she has found the right man and it wasn’t me.”

I didn’t offer words of comfort or advice. I didn’t even ask how long ago it has happened, or if he had moved on or if it’s the reason why he’s always lonely and thinking. I just picked up another card from the stack and placed it between us. “You read it for me,” I said, and he nodded. He understood I didn’t want to pry, and I almost thanked him for that. I didn’t want to know because I know it might hurt—for him and for me.

“Ah,” he said. “Raya, do you often fall in love?”

“I am not so sure. What if I wasn’t given the opportunities to fall in love?” I asked back. He raised an eyebrow almost to tell me to just answer the question. “I don’t think so. I have truly fallen in love only once or twice, I guess,” I replied, and I handed him the next card.

“Would you rather meet the love of your life, knowing she will die within a year, or go on without meeting her? Explain,” Jeff read, and his face was unreadable. He stared at me for a long time (so long that I was already feeling conscious), and then said, “I’d rather meet the love of my life, because I still have that one year to make the most out of it. At least I get to experience what it’s like to love her and to be loved by her. I get to spend moments and treasure memories with her.”

He finished his statement with a yawn. “Sleepy?” I asked him, and he moved his body in a way that I wasn’t so sure if it was a shrug or a nod. I glanced at the clock at his bedside, and the red numbers of his digital clock flashing me 12:01.

“Oh goody. Happy birthday!” I greeted, and Jeff looked over my shoulder and saw the clock. “Oh, yeah. I’m officially twenty-seven,” he said, and I placed my hand on his arm, giving it a slight squeeze. “You’ll find her. That’s my wish for you. There’ll be no more lonely nights once you find her,” I whispered, and he smiled at me warmly. He held my hand that was on his arm, and just looked into my eyes.

“Thanks, Raya. I had fun today. I really did,” he said softly. I was about to reply when his cell phone beeped, and I am guessing that these are his early greeters. He groaned and then turned to look at his phone, while I gathered the cards and placed them back into the box. I placed the box on Jeff’s bedside and turned to that side to get ready to sleep.

I spent the first minutes of Jeff’s birthday, staring at the moon and the stars in the sky outside Jeff’s window. I was hearing him punching the keys of his cell phone still, and I yawned two more times before I heard him speak.

“Can I ask you for something?” he said. “I know it’s too much—especially since I’ve asked you to have dinner with me and to spend the rest of the night with me—but can I hold you?”

I laughed, turning to face him. “You’ve been holding my hand for parts of the night. I didn’t have any qualms, did I?” I asked back, and he nodded.

“I meant hold. As in real tight hold. Not just your hand.”

I stopped and absorbed what he was asking. “Oh.”

Jeff looked reluctant, on the verge accepting that I would not want to heed his request. I opened my arms and moved closer to him. “I need a hug anyway,” I told him, and he thanked me. He enclosed me in his arms, the warmth of his body immediately transferring to mine, and I cuddled closer. I could still detect a faint smell of smoke on his skin along with his musky scent, and I closed my eyes.

“Happy birthday,” I said again through his skin, my voice muffled.

“Thanks. Goodnight, Raya.”

“Goodnight, Jeff.”

I felt him kiss me on the forehead, and I knew I couldn’t ask for more from this day.

 

I opened my eyes and was surprised to find out that it was still a bit dark. I was greeted by the blinking red numbers of the digital clock by Jeff’s bedside, and it read 4AM. It seemed just a few hours ago Jeff and I were talking like there was no tomorrow. I wonder who had fallen asleep first. I remembered the moment of silence that befell us after our goodnights, but I didn’t know who succumbed to fatigue first.

I tried to turn but couldn’t, for Jeff’s arm was around my waist and he was holding me tight against his body. I twisted and squirmed until I was able to face him.

I couldn’t stop myself from staring at him. He was breathing slowly, his chest rising up and down with each deep breath. I wanted to touch his face but was afraid to wake him up so I didn’t. My eyes traveled from his tousled hair down to his eyes which I just noticed now that has long lashes, and further down to his pointed nose and then stopping at his thin, pink lips. The dimple on his left cheek was also there, and I wished he would smile more often so that I could spot this every single time.

I sighed—more of content than disappointment. I am happy, that even just for a day or two, I had this moment with him.

Just wished it could be a moment I’d see for a lifetime.

And by then I should have just treasured this moment, for what I am about to hear isn’t for the fainthearted.

Kidding.

“Char,” I heard Jeff mumble, and I stopped. Charlene or Charlotte? One thing I am so sure of is that Char is a lady. His ex-fiancée perhaps? “Char,” he said again.

Every single shred of enthusiasm has gone out of my body.

I shifted positions and stared at the ceiling instead before darkness consumed me again.

 

Someone is pinching my nose.

That is my first thought when I woke up.

I opened my eyes and saw Jeff’s face—smiling face. He was also the one who was pinching my nose. I rolled my eyes. “This is a very weird wakeup call,” I said, and he laughed, his breath fanning my face.

“Good morning,” he said brightly, and I smiled at him. “Happy birthday, Jeff,” I said, and he nodded. He leaned closer and I wondered if he would kiss me, and he did—on the nose. I stopped myself from sighing. Should I bury the Char thing that I had heard this morning and continue this charade or keep it in my head and not enjoy this moment?

His arms were still around me, our legs entangled beneath the sheets. “You slept well?” Jeff asked in a whisper.

I mumbled some semblance of a yes under my breath. It was a good sleep, discounting the fact that I heard him say “Char” in the middle of the night. “You?”

“Yeah. Surprisingly, I did,” he said, and I frowned. Aw. He didn’t sleep well because I was here?

“No, I didn’t mean that to be offensive,” he added quickly when he saw the pain on my face. “I meant, I have been sleeping like crap the past few days. Today’s different. I slept amazingly well.”

“Ah,” was all I managed to say, and I looked away before my face could betray me again. Sleeping like crap because he’s dreaming of an ex. Uh-huh. I slid out of his arms and legs and stood up. I stretched my arms way up in the air, and it was only when I saw Jeff swallowing a large lump in his throat had I realized that it was some sort of a mistake. His shirt that I was wearing had hiked up, revealing the short shorts and my long pair of legs.

I put down my arms and pulled the shirt down, and Jeff blushed in embarrassment for he knew I saw him staring. These are the moments when staring is okay, because it is somehow flattering. “Uh,” was the only sound that came out of his mouth, and I couldn’t say anything either. And then my phone blasted the tune “Don’t Trust Me” by 3OH!3, signaling to me that it was already 6:45 in the morning. It was my daily alarm reminding me that I have a real life.

“You have work,” Jeff said, making it sound like it was the most disappointing and absurd thing in the world. I nodded. “I am not the one who is celebrating the birthday today, so I don’t have any birthday leaves for today,” I replied. He moved closer to me as I stood at the edge of the bed. I grabbed my ponytail that I had removed last night, and placed my hair in a quick bun. Jeff watched me, a weird look on his face.

“What?” I asked.

Jeff sat up, reached out and held both my hands. “I realized something,” he said, his voice raspy. “Uh-huh?” I said, waiting for the continuation of his statement. He moved so that he was kneeling on the bed, and then he pulled me close by tugging at my shirt.

“I realized that I hadn’t kissed you, and that I had wanted to ever since last night,” he continued in that raspy voice, and before I knew it, his lips were on mine, soft and sweet. I couldn’t move because of the surprise, and when I recovered, I started to respond.

One of his hands slid to my waist to pull me closer to him, while the other cupped my face to deepen the kiss. He playfully bit on my lower lip to urge me to open my mouth, and when I did, his tongue drove in. I held onto him this time, the kiss making me weak.

Midway between being breathless and enjoying the kiss, I think I heard someone moan.

And then Jeff released me. I was so sure I was blushing furiously, and I looked away so that he wouldn’t see.

My first real kiss.

And it was with a guy who isn’t even my boyfriend.

Jeff stared at me for a long time (I realized later on that it’s some sort of a hobby of his to stare) and I stared back into his eyes, again swirls of mixed emotions. I was about to turn away when his face lowered again down to mine. I welcomed his kiss, and he slowly guided me so that I was already lying on the bed as we flat out made out. I think I am doing fairly okay in my first ever makeout session, don’t you think?

I felt him and his body weighing down on me, and it was at that moment Jeff stopped the kiss. “What do you want to eat for breakfast?” he asked me, and I smiled. He moved so that he and I were on the bed side by side, so that I won’t be burdened by his weight. His face was still a few centimeters away, our lips barely touching.

“I can cook for you if you like,” I said, and he grinned.

“Really?”

I exhaled, my breath going into his open lips. “Why not?” I asked, and he claimed my lips in the shortest kiss he ever gave me and then said, “Okay. You will cook for me. You might want to call in sick—or late—in your office.”

I shrugged. “No need,” I said, and he helped me stand up. He walked with me to the kitchen, my hand in his, and showed me his fully-stocked refrigerator. True enough, there was booze in the fridge. “Surprise me with what you can cook,” he said, and he dipped his head again, kissing me lightly, before turning to head back to his room.

Hmm, good thing I had training from my mom and cousin, who are both fairly respectable cooks. I took out eggs, ham, bell peppers, onion, and some leftover chicken, and decided to do an omelet.

 

Day Twenty-Seven: Full Speed Ahead

I watched the other cars on the road as Jeff and I headed to the meeting place. It was the early morning traffic that Jeff and I had wanted to avoid, but obviously failed because Jeff had woken up fifteen minutes late.

I sighed.

Why had I agreed to this?

Oh yeah.

Because Jeff said it was important to him. And since he is some sort of important to me (okay, he is important to me), this is something I knew I had to do sooner or later.

In the past twenty-four days of my life, Jeff was there, involved in seemingly everything. He picks me up to and from work—although I have to be a few minutes late because his work starts at 9AM, while mine starts at 8:30AM, and I have to stay until 6PM because that’s the time when he gets off—and in the event that I do overtime, he comes back to pick me up, or hangs around and waits for me (which is actually saying a lot, since when I do overtime, I mean it. I get out at 10PM or something). We would never have lunch together, for he rationalized that we already do dinners together and we still have to be mindful of our lives before he and I officially gone out (which I agree to, for I wouldn’t want to get tired of Jeff that easily). We watch movies at least twice a week and go bowling and ice skating, and he dared me to do wall climbing at one point (and I survived, albeit my slight fear of heights).

There’d be roses on some days, chocolates on others. I tried to do respectable drawings for him (for I swear, all I could do is stick figures), but make up for my lack of artistic prowess by writing him cutesy love notes. We finally had that chance to set up that charcoal drawing session he promised me (we did it, though, with my clothes on—unlike in Titanic). I was wearing, in the charcoal and even now, the necklace he had surprised me with—a simple silver necklace with my name in elegant calligraphy as the pendant.

And even though my officemates—knowing of his situation with the ex he had dreamed of—warned me that I might just be Little Miss Rebound, I still went for Jeff, knowing and feeling that he is worth it.

“Ry,” I heard Jeff say, interrupting my thoughts. He reached out and rubbed the back of my neck, and I sighed. “Come on, don’t be nervous. They’re nice people, and they’ll like you,” he said, and I forced a smile.

“Yeah,” I said, and he fell silent.

Don’t get me wrong—I want to do this, but I just think it’s too early in whatever Jeff and I have to do this.

And here we are.

Jeff held my hand as we walked towards his friends who are huddled around a white AUV, cheering and laughing. Jeff had borrowed an AUV from his dad, and that will serve as the second car for the trip. I pulled back on him.

“We’re here. They’ll like you,” he whispered, and he kissed me on the forehead before pulling me towards the group again. His barkada, whose name I couldn’t recall as of now, looked at us as we approached.

“Jeff!” they greeted in chorus, and he released my hand to greet his friends. I counted six of his friends, four males and two females, and watched them as they gave Jeff their versions of man hugs and pecks on the cheeks.

And then Jeff turned to me.

He held out his hand and I took it. He smiled, and I knew he felt the coldness of my palms. Hey, don’t blame me. This is the first time I am meeting the barkada of someone I am going out with, much more spend four days with them in a beach resort in Bolinao. Not your everyday circumstances.

“Guys, this is Raya,” Jeff said, and I waved at them. “Raya, these guys have been my barkada for the past decade of my life.” He pointed to a petite, chinita girl that I would bet half my salary has a lot of suitors. “That is Jade,” he said, and Jade stepped towards me and hugged me warmly. “This is James,” Jeff continued, and the guy with a burly built, shoulder-length hair and a look that I could classify as emo stepped forward, offering his hand. I shook his hand, and saw up close that he has a piercing on his upper lip.

“Dennis,” said the man who looked almost saintly and obviously the opposite of James. He has an angelic face, and he looked a bit handsome. He has a lot of sex appeal too. Maybe if I wasn’t with Jeff, I’d be interested in this Dennis guy. We shook hands momentarily, before the tall lady in a summer dress smiled at me. She has the longest, silkiest black hair I’ve ever seen. “I’m Sandra,” she said, and she hugged me tightly too.

“Nice to meet you,” I said, smiling at her warmly.

“Hey Raya,” said a voice, and when I turned, the first thought in my head was that I was seeing double. A pair of identical twins is standing in front of me. Both are tall, with clean cut hair and deep set eyes. The difference lies on the dimples. One of them has it on the right, the other doesn’t. And as they moved closer to me, I saw that one of them has a mole near his left eye, and the other doesn’t.

“I’m Carlo,” said the one with the mole, and he shook my hand. He gave me a smile, which I returned. The other half of the set of twins offered his hand and gave me a smug smile. Aside from having the dimple on the right cheek, this one is more arrogant than Carlo. “I’m Jonathan,” he said, and I nodded.

When that was done, I turned to Jeff and exhaled a sigh of relief. He pulled me into a half-hug, whispered, “I told you it’ll be a breeze,” and kissed me on the hair.

“What about us? Aren’t you going to introduce us to her?”

I saw the ghastly look on Jeff’s face before I turned. I should have sensed it, but how could I have known?

“Hi,” greeted a lady in a long white dress, with wavy hair and round, dark brown eyes. She is simply pretty, and she becomes more beautiful when she smiles, for her smile is captivating.

And she is sporting a nice baby bump.

“I’m Charlene.”

The breath caught in my throat. Charlene as in the “Char” that Jeff was calling out in his dream before? I recovered and smiled at her. “Hi Charlene,” I greeted back, and I welcomed the hug that she was offering. She then turned to the man standing next to her. He is taller than she is by a few inches, but carries himself well because he exudes confidence. He also has that same captivating smile that Charlene has.

He is handsome, in the Joseph Gordon-Levitt kind of way.

“This is my husband, Mark,” Charlene said, and I shook his hand. And then Charlene turned to Jeff, giving him a warm smile. “Hi Jeff,” she said, and I felt the muscles in Jeff’s body tighten. “Hey Charlene. Hi Mark,” he said, his voice hard. I think the others felt the tension in the air, for Jonathan interjected with, “I am riding with Jeff. I missed this guy.”

The rest chimed in by choosing which car they’d ride in, and I was almost thankful that Charlene and Mark would be riding with Dennis. When everybody turned to get their things, I looked at Jeff, touching his face, turned hard by seeing Charlene.

“Hey,” I whispered, and he looked down on me. I gave him a small smile, and he relaxed. He leaned his forehead against mine, and then said, “I am thankful that you’re here.”

I fell silent, for I felt that there was a hanging continuation to his sentence. He pulled me back to his car as Jonathan, Jade, and James were loading their things. I exhaled loudly, a feeling that this is not good creeping into me.


It seemed to me that the barkada has been here before, for they have a resthouse rented already. Five rooms, and news has it that we’re splitting into pairs. The logical partner for me was Jeff, even though I had wanted to get away from him at this very moment. He had chosen the room with the best view of the ocean, and nobody had complained about his room choice.

I was standing by the window when I heard him arrive with our bags, and he closed the door behind him. “We’re leaving for a late lunch in an hour, and then maybe swim for a while,” he told me, and I mumbled an “okay,” not bothering to face him. I felt him shuffling around, and then he was beside me.

Jeff placed his arms around me. “You alright?” he asked, and I sighed.

“Who is she?”

“Who?”

I faced him. “Charlene.”

Jeff heaved a sigh and looked away, his eyes on the ocean. His face turned stony, and I thought for a moment he isn’t going to answer me. “She was my ex-girlfriend. My ex-fiancée,” he said, his voice hollow.

“The lone heartbreak,” I quipped, and he nodded.

“Why did you bring me here? Did you know they’d be here?” I asked quietly, and Jeff quickly looked at me, his eyes sharp and fiery. “I am not using you to get back at her, okay? I just want to enjoy this weekend with you and with my friends who I also miss. I didn’t know they’d be coming, for they never did come to outings like this ever since they got married,” he said, anger marking his voice.

“Okay,” I said, and I looked away. Jeff twisted me in his arms to face him. “Charlene was the love of my life. She was my destruction as well. When she broke up with me and left me, I thought I’d never start all over again. I am just shocked that she’s here, with Mark. It’s the first time I have ever seen her ever since we broke up a year ago. But I’m trying to turn over a new leaf, Raya, and I am doing it with you. I would never use you just to get over her or to hurt her. I am past that stage, Raya,” he said, and I closed my eyes and shook my head.

“Let’s just enjoy this weekend,” was all I managed to say after a long while, finally opening my eyes, and he hugged me.

“I promise you that we will,” Jeff whispered, and he lifted my head and kissed me lightly.

Somebody tell me if what I’m doing is right?


Find out what Raya did by clicking here.

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I watched the other cars on the road as Jeff and I headed to the meeting place. It was the early morning traffic that Jeff and I had wanted to avoid, but obviously failed because Jeff had woken up fifteen minutes late.

I sighed.

Why had I agreed to this?

Oh yeah.

Because Jeff said it was important to him. And since he is some sort of important to me (okay, he is important to me), this is something I knew I had to do sooner or later.

In the past twenty-four days of my life, Jeff was there, involved in seemingly everything. He picks me up to and from work—although I have to be a few minutes late because his work starts at 9AM, while mine starts at 8:30AM, and I have to stay until 6PM because that’s the time when he gets off—and in the event that I do overtime, he comes back to pick me up, or hangs around and waits for me (which is actually saying a lot, since when I do overtime, I mean it. I get out at 10PM or something). We would never have lunch together, for he rationalized that we already do dinners together and we still have to be mindful of our lives before he and I officially gone out (which I agree to, for I wouldn’t want to get tired of Jeff that easily). We watch movies at least twice a week and go bowling and ice skating, and he dared me to do wall climbing at one point (and I survived, albeit my slight fear of heights).

There’d be roses on some days, chocolates on others. I tried to do respectable drawings for him (for I swear, all I could do is stick figures), but make up for my lack of artistic prowess by writing him cutesy love notes. We finally had that chance to set up that charcoal drawing session he promised me (we did it, though, with my clothes on—unlike in Titanic). I was wearing, in the charcoal and even now, the necklace he had surprised me with—a simple silver necklace with my name in elegant calligraphy as the pendant.

And even though my officemates—knowing of his situation with the ex he had dreamed of—warned me that I might just be Little Miss Rebound, I still went for Jeff, knowing and feeling that he is worth it.

“Ry,” I heard Jeff say, interrupting my thoughts. He reached out and rubbed the back of my neck, and I sighed. “Come on, don’t be nervous. They’re nice people, and they’ll like you,” he said, and I forced a smile.

“Yeah,” I said, and he fell silent.

Don’t get me wrong—I want to do this, but I just think it’s too early in whatever Jeff and I have to do this.

And here we are.

Jeff held my hand as we walked towards his friends who are huddled around a white AUV, cheering and laughing. Jeff had borrowed an AUV from his dad, and that will serve as the second car for the trip. I pulled back on him.

“We’re here. They’ll like you,” he whispered, and he kissed me on the forehead before pulling me towards the group again. His barkada, whose name I couldn’t recall as of now, looked at us as we approached.

“Jeff!” they greeted in chorus, and he released my hand to greet his friends. I counted six of his friends, four males and two females, and watched them as they gave Jeff their versions of man hugs and pecks on the cheeks.

And then Jeff turned to me.

He held out his hand and I took it. He smiled, and I knew he felt the coldness of my palms. Hey, don’t blame me. This is the first time I am meeting the barkada of someone I am going out with, much more spend four days with them in a beach resort in Bolinao. Not your everyday circumstances.

“Guys, this is Raya,” Jeff said, and I waved at them. “Raya, these guys have been my barkada for the past decade of my life.” He pointed to a petite, chinita girl that I would bet half my salary has a lot of suitors. “That is Jade,” he said, and Jade stepped towards me and hugged me warmly. “This is James,” Jeff continued, and the guy with a burly built, shoulder-length hair and a look that I could classify as emo stepped forward, offering his hand. I shook his hand, and saw up close that he has a piercing on his upper lip.

“Dennis,” said the man who looked almost saintly and obviously the opposite of James. He has an angelic face, and he looked a bit handsome. He has a lot of sex appeal too. Maybe if I wasn’t with Jeff, I’d be interested in this Dennis guy. We shook hands momentarily, before the tall lady in a summer dress smiled at me. She has the longest, silkiest black hair I’ve ever seen. “I’m Sandra,” she said, and she hugged me tightly too.

“Nice to meet you,” I said, smiling at her warmly.

“Hey Raya,” said a voice, and when I turned, the first thought in my head was that I was seeing double. A pair of identical twins is standing in front of me. Both are tall, with clean cut hair and deep set eyes. The difference lies on the dimples. One of them has it on the right, the other doesn’t. And as they moved closer to me, I saw that one of them has a mole near his left eye, and the other doesn’t.

“I’m Carlo,” said the one with the mole, and he shook my hand. He gave me a smile, which I returned. The other half of the set of twins offered his hand and gave me a smug smile. Aside from having the dimple on the right cheek, this one is more arrogant than Carlo. “I’m Jonathan,” he said, and I nodded.

When that was done, I turned to Jeff and exhaled a sigh of relief. He pulled me into a half-hug, whispered, “I told you it’ll be a breeze,” and kissed me on the hair.

“What about us? Aren’t you going to introduce us to her?”

I saw the ghastly look on Jeff’s face before I turned. I should have sensed it, but how could I have known?

“Hi,” greeted a lady in a long white dress, with wavy hair and round, dark brown eyes. She is simply pretty, and she becomes more beautiful when she smiles, for her smile is captivating.

And she is sporting a nice baby bump.

“I’m Charlene.”

The breath caught in my throat. Charlene as in the “Char” that Jeff was calling out in his dream before? I recovered and smiled at her. “Hi Charlene,” I greeted back, and I welcomed the hug that she was offering. She then turned to the man standing next to her. He is taller than she is by a few inches, but carries himself well because he exudes confidence. He also has that same captivating smile that Charlene has.

He is handsome, in the Joseph Gordon-Levitt kind of way.

“This is my husband, Mark,” Charlene said, and I shook his hand. And then Charlene turned to Jeff, giving him a warm smile. “Hi Jeff,” she said, and I felt the muscles in Jeff’s body tighten. “Hey Charlene. Hi Mark,” he said, his voice hard. I think the others felt the tension in the air, for Jonathan interjected with, “I am riding with Jeff. I missed this guy.”

The rest chimed in by choosing which car they’d ride in, and I was almost thankful that Charlene and Mark would be riding with Dennis. When everybody turned to get their things, I looked at Jeff, touching his face, turned hard by seeing Charlene.

“Hey,” I whispered, and he looked down on me. I gave him a small smile, and he relaxed. He leaned his forehead against mine, and then said, “I am thankful that you’re here.”

I fell silent, for I felt that there was a hanging continuation to his sentence. He pulled me back to his car as Jonathan, Jade, and James were loading their things. I exhaled loudly, a feeling that this is not good creeping into me.

It seemed to me that the barkada has been here before, for they have a resthouse rented already. Five rooms, and news has it that we’re splitting into pairs. The logical partner for me was Jeff, even though I had wanted to get away from him at this very moment. He had chosen the room with the best view of the ocean, and nobody had complained about his room choice.

I was standing by the window when I heard him arrive with our bags, and he closed the door behind him. “We’re leaving for a late lunch in an hour, and then maybe swim for a while,” he told me, and I mumbled an “okay,” not bothering to face him. I felt him shuffling around, and then he was beside me.

Jeff placed his arms around me. “You alright?” he asked, and I sighed.

“Who is she?”

“Who?”

I faced him. “Charlene.”

Jeff heaved a sigh and looked away, his eyes on the ocean. His face turned stony, and I thought for a moment he isn’t going to answer me. “She was my ex-girlfriend. My ex-fiancée,” he said, his voice hollow.

“The lone heartbreak,” I quipped, and he nodded.

“Why did you bring me here? Did you know they’d be here?” I asked quietly, and Jeff quickly looked at me, his eyes sharp and fiery. “I am not using you to get back at her, okay? I just want to enjoy this weekend with you and with my friends who I also miss. I didn’t know they’d be coming, for they never did come to outings like this ever since they got married,” he said, anger marking his voice.

“Okay,” I said, and I looked away. Jeff twisted me in his arms to face him. “Charlene was the love of my life. She was my destruction as well. When she broke up with me and left me, I thought I’d never start all over again. I am just shocked that she’s here, with Mark. It’s the first time I have ever seen her ever since we broke up a year ago. But I’m trying to turn over a new leaf, Raya, and I am doing it with you. I would never use you just to get over her or to hurt her. I am past that stage, Raya,” he said, and I closed my eyes and shook my head.

“Let’s just enjoy this weekend,” was all I managed to say after a long while, finally opening my eyes, and he hugged me.

“I promise you that we will,” Jeff whispered, and he lifted my head and kissed me lightly.

Somebody tell me if what I’m doing is right?

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2 thoughts on “Days to Thirty-Five: Two, Three, Twenty-Seven

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