NYAH: “We’ve got a curfew.”
I rolled my eyes at Justin’s stern warning.
“Believe me, I would want to leave two hours early to beat that curfew,” I told him as I lost him into the crowd. I called out after him, “Hey! Don’t drink too much! You’re still driving!” I saw a hand wave in the air nonchalantly and I knew he heard my warning.
I turned and was stopped by a couple of friends from back in college, and I had started to wonder why I am here again. Ah, because one of our childhood “friends,” Ciara, who had also been my longest standing neighbor, threw this party up as her despedida. She’s leaving for San Francisco as part of her job.
That’s the press release, but rumor has it that she’s pregnant and would want to give birth abroad because the kid’s dad is there.
Whichever way, I got dragged here because it’s some sort of an obligation to be there when someone you had actually grew up with—but not necessarily had liked—is leaving.
“Nyah! How are you?” asked Nicole, one of the abovementioned college friends, as she bussed both my cheeks in a sosyal beso-beso. I tried so hard not to cringe away from her. “Fairly doing well,” I told her meekly. She gave me a head-to-toe assessment, and it seemed like I passed, judging by the nod she gave me. I am taller than her at five-eight, my hair naturally black, naturally wavy, and naturally long, unlike hers that was obviously salamat salon (cellophane-d to be chestnut brown, and I remember her telling me a month ago that she got hair extensions), me a morena and her a thank-you-Dr.-Belo-and-glutathione pale skin, and my breasts a good 34B and hers a surgically-enhanced 36A. I don’t know what got into her to seriously get all this body alterations—she had always been beautiful.
“You’re still working at the, uh, market research company?” she asked, making it sound sleazy, and I nodded. I had followed my mom and dad’s initial career path, and would want to pursue this.
She smirked, flashing me those pearly whites. “I wonder why you still have to work when your father owns twenty restaurants and partly-owns half of the malls in the country, and your mom is a well-known author internationally, her books being made into movies and TV series,” she said, sounding critical.
I looked up at her, held her honey gaze—her contacts are hazel—and said, “Those are my parents’ achievements, not mine. What about you, Nicole? What have you been doing for yourself that isn’t connected to your dad being the owner of one of the biggest telecommunication companies in the country?”
She rolled her eyes at me like I’m impossible and walked away in her pricey Jimmy Choos.
I heaved a sigh of relief once Nicole is gone.
Now you know why I hated parties.
I am Nyah Coraline Romero Santillan, the only daughter of Miguel Anthony Santillan and Jennifer Jayden “JJ” Santillan. I am twenty-two, and my fraternal twin Justin Daniel also is twenty-two (duh, what am I saying), and we have two brothers, Alex Gabriel and Jared Derek, both of whom are thirteen. As you’ve probably realized by Nicole’s mini-speech, my father, Miguel, owns a chain of restaurants and has shares in half of the most popular chain of malls in the country (because of Gramps). My mother, JJ, is a writer, and her works are already being made internationally as movies and television series.
Maybe I wouldn’t have to say that our family is rich outright.
But one thing that I really loved about my mom and my dad was that they let us do what we wanted. Dad never forced Justin to run the restaurants or the malls, and Mom didn’t force me to write when I surely can’t—not in the creative way that she does, I mean. Justin is computer engineer, and he has a small company that he had started with a couple of his college friends. I am, as I have stated, a market researcher. And if you have any questions regarding my career path or what the hell does “market research” mean, I am open to questions (Ha, ha).
I headed to the bar and asked for an iced tea—yes, iced tea—because aside from inheriting my parents’ aversion to parties, I am not a fan of alcohol just like them. I watched the crowd milling around, small chats in between, and I saw Justin dancing much too closely with a couple of girls in the dance floor. Eek. One of them copped a feel of Justin’s butt, and he didn’t react.
What the hell.
“Not a drinker?”
I turned to the sound of a deep, liquid voice and was surprised to see one of the country’s best players in amateur basketball, Joshua Simons, standing next to me, a beer in hand. Boy, he looks so yummy up close, like that Axe commercial where you just want to bite that guy because he smells of chocolate. That kind of yummy. His eyes were naturally gray because of his foreign blood, and his face was accented by his patrician nose and high cheekbones. His cheeks were rosy pink but I could still see some freckles. He is a bit short for a basketball player for he’s just a six-flat, but he makes up for his lack of height by being quick and having the on-court smarts.
Besides, he’s still going to grow. Last time I checked, he’s just seventeen or eighteen.
And yes, I inherited my mom’s love for basketball.
“Yeah. Not a drinker. And I’m the second driver if my brother drinks too much,” I said, cocking my head to my brother who had just asked the bartender for another bottle of beer. From my count, that’s his second.
Joshua leaned closer, for the disc jockey that Ciara had hired already arrived and the music’s upped. He didn’t look to where I pointed my brother is. He touched a strand of my hair and tucked it behind my ear. I shivered when his hand touched my skin the slightest for an unknown reason. “I am Joshua Simons,” he said, holding out the hand that had earlier tucked my hair. I shook it, saying, “Nyah Santillan,” and he gave that heart-stopping, breath-taking Colgate smile.
“Nyah. A unique name, huh?” he quipped, making me shiver again with the way he said my name.
ARGH. This can’t be good.
“Yeah. It means ‘purpose’ in African,” I said, trying hard not to stutter.
“Ah,” he said, “and your purpose tonight is to make my heart melt.”
I stared at him, figured he is so damn serious, and then decided to smile. “And you have had way too much to drink,” I whispered, pushing past him and headed for the balcony of Ciara’s house. He followed me though, and I felt his hand on the small of my back as he leaned closer to me. The bottle of beer he was holding earlier was gone.
“Nah,” he said, and I looked into his eyes, and got lost in those gray swirls. I am looking for a love life, yes, I am sure of that, for my boyfriend of quite a number of years decided to ditch me.
But with a guy who is not this young.
“How young are you?” I blurted out, moving away. “Seventeen,” he said simply, shrugging.
“And I’m twenty-two. Bother you much?”
“I figured,” he said, shrugging yet again. “I am still in high school.”
I opened my mouth, and closed it again. Not only is he a minor—well, by his physical appearance, he isn’t—he is also not in college (YET)!
“Tell me what you’re thinking?” Joshua asked, his finger on my chin so that he can see my eyes. I dropped my gaze right away. There must be some hypnotic quality to his stare, or at least a knee-to-jelly thing to it.
“That you’re young, and I’m old,” I said, “and if you have a girlfriend who would kick my ass for corrupting your—”
“I’m single, and I’ve never been happier at being one since I saw you now. That is, assuming, you are single.”
“I am sing—” I stopped myself just in time. Why am I acting so enthusiastic? He shouldn’t know!
I took a deep breath to gather myself. “I am signing off singlehood,” I told him, flashing him the ring on my right hand, where wrapped around my ring finger is a ring that could be passable for an engagement ring. It was a gift from Dad—a small diamond set on silver—for my eighteenth birthday. Justin actually has nearly the same ring—minus the stone, for his was only a silver band—that Dad gave to him on that day as well, since we turn eighteen on the same day (I know, I know. I have no logic at this point).
Joshua shook his head. “You can’t get rid of me that easily,” he said, and it surely felt like a warning. I shrugged, and walked away, looking for Justin in the crowd.
I am not planning on complicating my life just yet.