“Oh, my God! Have you seen them? Hinatid siya dito and I saw him kissing her! Ang sweet!”
“Talaga? Sila na kaya? Lagi silang spotted together. Gosh, I am so rooting for them! Hintayin natin kung kailan sila aamin,”
Then I heard the girls giggling. I recognized their voices but I don’t have the slightest idea who they’re talking about.
Who am I kidding? Of course, I have. Baby Girl. And the new guy. Well, the not-so new guy. He was second lead in our first movie and had this longtime crush on her, and recently been with her in her several tours abroad. Now rumors that they’re already an item began circulating, and pictures of them so sweet together went viral it irritates me for some reason.
So the second lead gets the girl in real life, eh? No way. I battled it out with my mind as if it could change what’s happening. Irritated isn’t the right term for me but jealous. Burning, bleeding, infuriated, frustrated jealous.
You had the chance and you freakin’ lost it, I mused in pathetic resignation. I put this upon myself which makes it harder to accept; a harsh reality I have to live with because I made it happen.
I carried my duffel bag and headed to our dressing room. General rehearsals for our Sunday show’s anniversary were since this morning and I already missed out on a lot.
My phone in my pocket rang. Probably Little Miss Pudding trying to check up on me again. Sheesh… bakit pa, eh tinext ko na nga siya na nandito na ako? I ignored the call and headed to the dressing room.
As I passed by, I heard their voices. The frontrunners are on their last set of rehearsals. I peeked from backstage. There she was, on stage—My Queen— smiling, having fun with her friends, her fellow singers; always with that refreshing aura that one can’t help but smile too when around her.
A few weeks have quickly passed since that last time I saw her. Somehow I found a way to get over the nostalgia, because I have to. Whenever I see her, I’ll feel it over and over again and it had to stop. I’ve been telling myself guilt was all I’m feeling but it’s deeper than that. It hurts. It hurts I couldn’t be by her side like I used to be. It hurts every time I see her like this. But right now… I wonder why I just couldn’t look away…
I watched in the dark as the music director discussed adjustments on the arrangement. The stage was overly lit that I know they wouldn’t even notice me. Suddenly she turned and looked at my direction, her eyebrows curled, on her face a little unease.
My heart started beating faster. She must have felt I was there!
Of course she couldn’t. I answered myself feeling a little stupid. Asa pa ako…
“Ano’ng ginagawa mo dito? Kanina ka pa nila hinihintay, ah,”
I quickly turned around and found Little Miss Pudding behind me.
I glanced sideward at the stage. “Nanood lang ako saglit,”
Her eyebrows almost met. She stepped and peeked and I watched as her expression turned sour.
“Pinanood mo sila habang nag-uusap-usap?” her voice was pained. “Tayo na ang susunod diyan. Halika na,”
“I’ll go to the john first. Susunod ako agad,”
She eyed me with suspicion.
“I’ll follow you right away, I promise,”
“Just hurry. Late ka na nga, nagawa mo pang tumambay dito,” she turned around flipping her hair and trudged back, her tower-high heels making an annoying noise on the floor.
I sighed. I just came from a game and my body still ached I still need a few hours to rest. And there goes my girlfriend welcoming me jealous and irate. But I have to be here. I want to be here. It’s always been a joy to me being a part of this show, this family. I may have created a lot of issues, got involved in endless intrigues and controversies but they still kept me and I’m forever grateful for that.
After changing into my shirt and jeans, I went out of the john the same time my phone chimed again. I took it out of my pocket and saw Little Miss Pudding sent me a message.
I told them you arrived pero bakit wala ka pa rin daw. Bilisan mo naman…
Blowing out air, I typed my reply:
I turned from the men’s washroom to the corridor heading back to the stage. I was still deleting Little Miss Pudding’s message when I bumped into someone. We were both in a hurry my phone fell and we were both knocked down on the floor.
“Ouch!” she groaned in pain, holding her right ankle. I looked at her. No wonder her scent, the sound of her voice was so familiar. This feeling when we collided, when our bodies touched no matter how brief it was, sent ripples of emotions consuming me it was unstoppable.
I’m trying to stop myself from crying. My ankle hurts I think it really broke. I should have worn my flats before I went through with the rehearsals but I was late. We finished practicing for a number but I still have my solo performance to go through.
My bag was on the floor but good thing I found my belongings still intact. I reached for it. I was hurrying and checking my phone at the same time on my way to the ladies’ room.
“I’m really sorry… are you okay?”
The gentle words halted me when I tried to stand up. I looked up and saw him.
He offered me his hand. There was a worried frown on his face and I didn’t want to look into his eyes but I had no choice.
Ignoring his help, I wobbled when I tried to stand up on my own. His hand instantly held my arm and he helped me stand up. As if burned from his touch, I quickly freed myself from him.
“I’m alright. Thank you,”
“Are you sure? Should I call one of the medics? You look—,”
“I said I’m fine,” Good heavens… it could have been the janitor. Or Manong Guard or one of the lights men… why of all people, him?
Forgetting I needed a retouch, I turned around to go back to my dressing room.
“Baby Girl, wait!” he called when I tried to walk but couldn’t. I groaned in pain.
He grunted in frustration, in worry. “You’re hurt! I knew it! Let me see—,”
“I’ll be alright!” my voice was a notch higher. He tried to touch me again and I don’t want that. But I can barely walk…
I couldn’t say anything when he held my arm and put it on his shoulder. His hand went to my waist, his chest pressing against mine as he walked me to my dressing room.
“Almost there,” he whispered, his breath I could feel on my hair covering my face. His cool, sexy, manly scent assaulted my senses, the same scent he had during the time we were together.
“Oh, Bunso, ano’ng nangyari?” Kuya was in my dressing room waiting for me. Pinaglipat-lipat niya ang tingin sa aming dalawa.
“Na-sprain, Kuya,” he answered and pulled the seat of my dresser. “Sit down. I’ll massage your ankle para mabawasan ang sakit,”
“N— No, you don’t have to. I’m okay, really,” I looked at Kuya, my eyes pleading, ‘Don’t go! Don’t leave me here with him!’
“Sorry, Bunso,” he answered, getting my message. “Boss is calling for me I really have to go… but don’t worry, I’ll send someone. Bandage? Pain reliever? Ano’ng kailangan?”
“She’ll be fine, Kuya. Ako na’ng bahala sa kanya,” he replied with mild amusement.
Kuya shrugged, his smile apologetic. “Maiwan ko muna kayo,” he went out and closed the door.
I groaned inwardly, feeling my head swirl. He and I… in my dressing room… the last time we were alone in my dressing room, I was… he was…
He sighed and put his duffel bag on the floor before kneeling in front of me, stopping my thoughts before it goes back to somewhere long forgotten, long forbidden. He held my leg and folded the hem of my jeans up before unstrapping my wedge sandals.
“You don’t really have to do this. I just have to wear something more comfortable—,”
“Sshh. Just let me,” he cut me off gently. “This is my fault. Sorry ulit,”
I shook my head. I winced when he twisted my ankle and tugged my foot gently. He looked at me, in his eyes tenderness and worry.
“Does that hurt?” he asked, holding my foot with both his hands.
“Not at all…”
He smiled and kept pressing and massaging my foot. My muscles relaxed, softening into the warmth of his hands.
I stared at him, at his hands, at his handsome face. He seemed so focus, so serious about what he’s doing I can’t help but smile. I remembered the scene in our first movie where he did the same thing…
His head rose up, his eyes meeting mine. He was smiling too, and I could tell we were thinking about the same thing.
Both our smiles widened, the worried look in his eyes softened. I don’t know how long we stared at each other that way; as if the world stopped for a moment, when his phone chimed; breaking the magic between us.
He looked at it and after a while rejected whoever it is who was calling. He groaned and shook his head, holding his nape as if he forgot something important.
I cleared my throat and pretended checking my wristwatch. “Pupunta nga pala ako sa kabilang studio… papasadahan ko pa ang solo number ko,”
He stood up the same time I did. I could feel his eyes on me as I searched for my flats in the drawers. After wearing one on, I walked carefully to the door and opened it. “I’ll go ahead. Thank you,”
I halted in surprise when he called my name. It was as if it was foreign, like he called a stranger. All this time he was calling me Baby Girl. I wasn’t used to him calling me by my name…
I turned around. He wasn’t looking at me but at the seat I vacated.
“Kayo na ba?”
My eyes narrowed. Did I hear that right?
There was silence between us for a moment before he asked again, this time, his eyes on me. “Kayo na ba?”
My hand tightened on the strap of my bag on my shoulder. And this guy had the gall to ask.
“Is that, in any case, your business?”
“I have the right to know.”
I laughed, my tone mocking. “Oh, you do,”
Pain crossed his eyes but only for a second. “Just tell me,”
Get a grip, girl, get a grip, I whispered to myself. I could feel my whole body shaking. After a few deep breaths I answered.
“Paano kung ganoon nga?”
He swallowed, the muscles in his jaw flexed. “Don’t you think it’s awkward?”
“She and I. You and him,” I stepped backward when he walked closer.
I laughed again. “Who made it awkward?”
He bowed but didn’t stop until we’re just inches away from each other. His eyes bored into mine. Pain, guilt, remorse… longing… and love were all there…
“Do you love him?”
For a while I was taken aback he asked it so bluntly. I raised my chin, meeting his gaze as I answered without blinking.
“I do. I truly do.”
He sucked his breath harshly and nodded. When he finally didn’t say anything, I turned for the door again.
I felt him on my back. I gasped when he grabbed my arm and forced me to face him. He closed the door behind me; his hands fixed over my head.
“What are you doing—,”
“Liar,” his eyes were misty as he muttered.
I drew a sharp breath, feeling my anger shoot up. “Isang tao lang ang marunong magsinungaling dito at hindi ako ‘yon!”
The pain in his eyes doubled. He bowed, closing his eyes. He clenched his fist over my head and punched the door gently.
I didn’t budge. Pero ang pag-iyak ko ang baka hindi ko mapigilan…
“Let me go,” I pushed his chest with both hands when I felt tears warming my eyes. He didn’t move even one bit. I tried again, pushing him harder.
Wrong move, I scolded myself when his hands gripped my wrists. He pushed me not-so gently on the door, our faces almost touching. He drew his breath sharply, his voice hoarse when he spoke.
And in a flash his lips found mine.
No, no! I screamed inside my head, my eyes wide in shock. Hindi na dapat ako nagpapadala sa ganito. Hindi ko dapat hinayaang mangyari ito…
He put my hands around his neck. His lips left mine for a while as he possessively held my waist.
I closed my eyes. He angled his head to kiss me again but his breath was held mid-air.
He wiped a tear that fell on my cheek. He looked confused, troubled and shocked as I was.
My hands fell on my sides. He took his time letting me go, his hands sliding slowly off my waist.
“I— I wasn’t thinking…” his voice was rough when he spoke. “Sorry I just can’t help it. I’m so sorry—,”
He tried to reach for me again but I pushed him, in anger, in embarrassment. “Don’t touch me, and stop saying you’re sorry. I’m getting sick and tired of those words,”
“Stop— calling me that!” I yelled and turned around, hoping I could finally go out. But he pulled me, embracing me from behind, his face buried in between my neck and shoulder.
“I wasn’t sorry for kissing you, for wanting to hold you again… for missing you so bad, for being in pure hell because I know I deserve it…”
His arms around me went tighter, his lips I could feel on my neck as he whispered. “I’m sorry because I’ve hurt you, for putting you all through the pain… but most of all, I feel sorry for myself,”
I swallowed, trying to find my voice. When I spoke again I couldn’t even hear myself.
“What… are you saying?”
He didn’t answer and loosened his embrace. He sniffed, and I felt a tear fell on my shoulder. He’s… crying.
I felt our distance widened. I turned around slowly and saw him picking up his bag. I moved aside when he opened the door and went out of the dressing room.
It’s been minutes since he left but I stood there, stiff like a statue. Nakabalik na rin si Kuya’t lahat pero hindi pa rin ako makagalaw.
I’m in a daze, perturbed and shaken; weighed with questions and confusion much more now than I have ever been.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.