She turned around from looking at her dresser’s mirror. The surprise in her eyes mirrored my own, and her sexy parted lips broke into her sweetest smile.
I swallowed, trying to hold myself up for a while. When did she become this beautiful? I mean I always knew she’s beautiful but looking at her now…
I couldn’t help myself gazing at her from head to toe. Her hair’s cut short and she rocks it, she looked younger but sexier and it fits her perfectly it accentuated her doll-like face and innocent eyes.
How long has it been? It feels like eons since I saw her like this. True, we still meet at every turn and we’re still at the same Sunday show but it felt like a millennium since… well, since I talked to her that day I left her…
“Are you looking for Ate? Nasa kabilang dressing room siya,” she asked, interrupting my thoughts. She looked around before giving me an apologetic smile. “Nandito kami lahat kanina but we were asked to transfer. May aayusin yata. Nagkataon naman na paalis na ako…”
“Ah,” why am I disappointed that she’s leaving? And I wasn’t really looking for her ‘Ate’. “Ganoon ba?”
She grabbed her bag and phone on the dresser. “Mauna na ako. See you,” she said gently, ending the longest conversation we had ever since. She walked past me and I had a whiff of her sweet perfume; different from the one she had on when we were together, but it suited her and still left the same an enchanting effect on me.
I followed her and closed the door behind me. I was about to call her; offer her that I’d walk her outside when someone grabbed my arm and hooked it with hers.
“There you are,” Little Miss Pudding looked up and smiled sweetly at me like she always does. Then she turned to her, still wearing her smile. “Alis ka na, Sis?”
She nodded. “Practice pa for my album tour…”
“Talaga lang? Kailangan mo pa ba ng practice?” her ‘Ate’ laughed teasing, with a medyo-fangirl, medyo-inggit tone in her voice. She partly released me to give her cheek an air-kiss. “Well, ingat ka…”
“Kayo rin,” she looked at me for a while before turning her back on us.
I watched her silently as she walked away. Did I just saw a flicker of pain in her eyes when she looked at me?
Impossible, I shook my head inwardly. I must be imagining things.
“Let’s go,” Little Miss Pudding tugged at my sleeve. “I’m hungry,”
I grinned. “Late lunch? Saan mo gustong kumain?”
She looked at her wristwatch. “More like early dinner. There’s a new place near our house! Try natin,” she said enthusiastically, and I know what she’s trying to imply with the ‘near our house’ part.
My head shook as I laughed, my hand slipping at the small of her back. “Your call, princess…”
“Hey… okay ka lang ba? Kanina ka pa tahimik,”
“Hm?” I barely heard her. “Yeah. Masarap ‘to, ah,”
She snorted. “I’m asking you kung okay ka lang. Parang ang lalim ng iniisip mo kanina pa habang nagda-drive ka…”
I leaned back on my seat, putting down my spoon and fork on my almost empty plate. “I’m just feeling really tired. Kakagaling ko from shooting kaninang madaling araw and I have to be at the studio for the dance practice…”
“Oh,” she stood up and moved to the seat right next to me. She embraced me, resting her face on my chest. “I’m sorry… nagpahatid na dapat ako sa ‘yo sa bahay para nakauwi ka na agad at nakapagpahinga…”
“Okay lang. Sabi mo nga, malapit na ito sa inyo. I’ll drop you off when we’re done. Uuwi na lang ako agad…”
Her face moved from my chest to my neck. “You’re really that tired? Pwede namang sa bahay ka magpahinga…”
But I didn’t hear her. From the entrance and to the reserved table near it, I saw HER coming. With her parents. With ‘The Tax Collector’. With HIS parents. My throat tightened.
They were on their backs as they took a seat each. He sat beside her; putting his arm at the backrest of her chair, uncaring of her parents’ watchful eyes. He whispered something to her, kissing her hair a little and she laughed, patting his shoulder.
My whole body tensed. She did that a lot to me, the face and shoulder pat thing when she’s being giddy. It felt like heaven whenever I made her laugh. I know I shouldn’t be feeling like this, but seeing her now with him… it’s killing me that I’m not the reason for her laughter anymore…
Looking at the direction where my eyes went, Little Miss Pudding pulled away from me, her whole body stiffening the instant she saw them. She grabbed her drink almost frantically and emptied it in one go. The waiter who served us attended our table and she asked for our bill, her foot tapping impatiently under our table until he came back.
“Tara na,” she took her purse and went ahead towards the door. I stood up, plucking a few bills from my wallet and quickly followed her.
“Ate! Andito rin pala kayo,” I didn’t expect Baby Girl will be the first to greet us.
Little Miss Pudding forced a smile, keeping her distance from the table, from everyone. “Paalis na rin kami,”
“Tito, Tita…” I greeted her parents who both gave me a slight nod, then him. “Bro,”
‘Musta, bro?” ‘The Tax Collector’ smiled at me, his arm sliding down possessively on Baby’s Girl’s waist that got me lifting an eyebrow. Deliberate or not, I want to kick his Italian a** for once and tell him to stay away from her.
As if I have every right to…
“Nice to see you again, Tito, Tita…” mimicking me, Little Miss Pudding paid respects to her ex’s parents before pulling my arm and almost shoved me to the door. “We’ll go ahead po…”
“I didn’t know he’d actually go for it… nililigawan niya na nga talaga siya,”
Just when I thought I’d enjoy the quiet while driving her home, Little Miss Pudding broke the silence between us.
“Sabagay… ganoon talaga ‘yon, eh. Kapag nai-set ang isip sa isang bagay, hindi titigil ‘yon hanggat ‘di niya ‘yon naa-achieve. Isa pa, he’s always been fond of her, kahit noong time na kami pa,”
My jaw clenched as I grasped the steering wheel tighter. What suddenly ticked me off wasn’t her blabbing about her ex but the ‘he’s always been fond of her’ part, specifically. I knew from the start the guy’s got a thing for Baby Girl, even before our first movie.
She shifted from her seatbelt and put her head on my shoulder. “Hmm… baka nga sila na. Kung ganyang kasama na nilang lumabas ang mga parents nila. Okay lang naman sa ‘kin. Kapag nakikita ko nga sila, kahit papaano nawawala ang guilt ko na pinili mo ako… they look happy. Tulad natin. Masaya rin tayo, ‘di ba?”
I sighed and smiled but kept my eyes on the road. “Oo naman,”
Masaya ba ako? I suddenly found asking myself. She was right— I chose her. I chose her over her friend who’s close to her as a sister. I chose to spend time with her instead, be with her and love and take care of her.
All this time, this is what I made myself believe— that Little Miss Pudding and I are happy. For a gazillion and a hundredth time I tried to convince myself I made the right choice, but deep down, I’ve been lying to myself.
I regret leaving and hurting her…
Seeing her now, with just that one moment our eyes met again, I realized it. Time has passed— days, weeks, month, years… but her face, her smile; everything about her, have always been etched in my mind. There she stays. In my heart she’ll stay. She will always be My Queen…
I straightened my back, steering my thoughts off of her at the same time. I’m being such an a**. Here I am with my new girl while I’m thinking of someone else who the whole world believed I’ve fallen out of love with.
“Hindi na ako bababa. Send my regards to Tita,” I told her when we finally reached their house.
She pouted. “Bakit hindi ikaw mismo ang bumati? Sige na, and at least walk me to my room. Please?”
I just shook my head and sighed. Not when she begged like this. Not with that seductive sweet voice.
It turned out her mother wasn’t home and went out shopping. I walked her to her room like she wanted.
“Did you enjoy today?”
“Like always,” I smiled and gave her lips a quick peck. “Gotta go, I—,”
I turned around but she grabbed the lapel of my shirt and pulled me, prolonging our kiss. She giggled and pulled me in to her room, closing the door behind me.
“Stay the night… please?” she begged again in an above whisper and that’s all it took.
Every time seems like the first time we did it. She made me feel I needed it; that I needed her. And right at this moment, tulad din noong unang pagkakataon, I needed to forget…
The moon rose above us, shining through the glass wall over her small, soft body covered with nothing but her sheets. Once again, she had me losing myself and had me spending the night with her when I tried and insisted to leave.
I sighed, removing the strands of hair that fell on her face as she sleeps. In the beginning we both know what happened between us after that one night was a mistake. We were together in an out of town tour and had one too many few drinks. It’s the same ol’ ‘one thing led to another’ cliché. She wanted us to forget what happened and she tried to avoid me.
But I was drawn to her. I couldn’t stay away and so did she. Kaya nasundan pa ng nasundan ang isang gabi na ‘yon…
Why did I choose her? Why did I think I needed her more than I needed my Baby Girl?
“Bakit siya?” some reporter’s voice suddenly took over my memory while I stared at her. I overheard them talking after my interview, when I made it known to the whole world that I want to court her.
“Ewan ko nga ba,” the other one answered. “Ang akala ko okay na okay pa rin sila ni Popstariray… tapos biglang may kasamang iba sa bakasyon…”
The older reporter sighed. “Well, we’re in showbiz, darling. Alam mo ang kalakaran dito— palipat-lipat, papalit-palit lalo na ang mga bagets na in demand at promising. Sana lang, in love nga siya talaga dito sa isa. Hindi ‘yung pinili niya lang for instant gratification— if you know what I mean, at dahil magiging less complicated ang mga bagay para sa kanya…”
I held my head and combed my hair with my fingers. Those reporters were right…
We’ve been together for months now and it’s all thanks to her. She loved me the best way she can. Pero ako…
I know I cared for her, I chose to be with her— but have I ever loved her back the way I should?
Treading mindlessly into her bathroom, I grabbed a towel before switching her showers from warm to cold. I have to hurry and leave before she wakes up. It’s difficult for me to sort this out by myself right now; this agitating, confusing feeling I had ever since I saw Baby Girl at the dressing room.
“Mahal kita. I love you…”
I want nothing and no one else in my life but you. Only you. Always…”
“At least you’ve been honest with me. Goodbye, Angel…”
I let the water furiously hit my face as I tried to drown the thoughts. Why now? Why are these memories haunting me, making me feel that everything happened just yesterday?
“You’re nothing but a fool! A big fool!”
Suddenly, there was my best friend’s voice ringing in my ears, the last thing I want to remember.
“You let go of a good woman— a very good woman for a… for a—!”
I could’ve punched him if he ever said the word but he didn’t. He obviously held his temper well.
“Hindi ka talaga nag-iisip. Your ex’s best friend?”
I sneered. “We’re history! Umiikot lang ang buhay. Hindi na kami mga bata para ma-stuck sa nakaraan!”
We were all expecting that. My involvement with Little Miss Pudding would create a rift between her and the best friend, my ex-flame. In return their show’s ratings unimaginably skyrocketed. People had the impression that their exchange of bi*ch-slapping scenes were so real and I wanted to believe I did them a favor. I’m f—king flattered.
“Not only that,” he continued as if he didn’t hear me. “They ARE friends. Her so-called sister was your fiancée, for christssake!” He shook his head. “You used to think things through pero sa ginawa mong ito… I don’t know, bro. Hindi na kita kilala…”
I couldn’t say anymore to that. Up until now it isn’t the same between us. He still is with me, protecting and supporting me but that’s just for our friendship, not for me personally…
He knew everything. He knew what I’ve been through to win My Queen’s heart. He vouched for her. He carried her torch. He was one of the very few people who knew we got engaged. And he knew when things got heated up between me and Little Miss Pudding. He was my voice of reason, saying I should cut it off with her and the sooner, the better. But he didn’t see my decision coming…
I swallowed an imaginary lump in my throat. Their voices were stuck in my head, haunting me. They’re all right— I took the easier way out. I gave up what I want most for what I think I needed now…
I went out of the bathroom, my thoughts messed up some more than they already had. I picked my clothes on the floor and put them on before leaving her room quietly.
The drive home seemed longer than it was before. I turned the radio on but turned it off as quickly when I heard one of her songs playing.
The ache in my head would pale in comparison with the throbbing pain in my heart. All it took was for us to see each other again, for me to look into those beautiful bright eyes again and it all came back. Those eyes revealed me my soul. It took me a while to face the truth but I admit it now. I’m an idiot, I’m a coward.
My Queen… she was my answered prayer. No, she was more than I wished for, much more than I prayed for. She’s my lifelong dream. The night I proposed to her was the moment that dream became a reality. It was the start of a new phase in my life, our lives. Knowing she’s by my side, I could take on anything. With her beside me, I am king. I promised her I will always be with her, be there for her; spend every waking moment with her. I wanted to be by her side to watch over her as she grows more and more beautiful before my eyes.
She was mine. I wanted to dedicate my whole life loving her, protecting her; making her happy… together we will make our dreams come true…
But I ruined it. The king that I was in our fairy tale turned up to be a villain destroying everything…
I blew my horn furiously when someone tried to overtake me on the road. Seriously, if someone wants to mess up with me right now that I’m all f—ked up, it wouldn’t be pretty.
“Kuya! You’re… late,” I ignored Baby Brother when I arrived home and went straight to my bedroom. He sure got the picture; I want to be left alone.
I fell on my bed face down. When I closed my eyes, it’s My Queen’s smiling face earlier that I see.
“Damn it,” I lied down on my back and pressed my forehead. Thoughts of her will keep me all night again, taking me back to those wonderful but bittersweet memories I shared with her.
Those moments when all I could do was to steal glances from afar while on shoot.
Our moments of laughter and banter behind the scenes…
The songs, shows and performances we shared where we had a lot of fun together.
Lunch outs, dinners… exchanges of messages; and the day I felt I want to be more than just her friend.
The day when I told her I like her and I like to court her,
The day I started we were both nervous I could cry.
The moment when she sang to me on her birthday concert…
The day I first say goodbye to her…
That stormy night she became mine.
Those times she sang to me over the phone whenever we’re not together,
Her smile, her voice, her scent; her touch, her kiss… everything about her.
The night I proposed to her and she said yes I felt like king of the world;
And the day I became I total suck up when I left her…
I covered my face with my arm, as if it could stop my tears from flowing. No matter how I tried to justify my actions, hurting her will never be right. Leaving her was never the right decision.
Now there’s someone new in her life as well; someone who makes her happy. And people see me as a guy so in love I’m not sure how long I could keep them believing that.
“My Queen…” I murmured under my breath. If I could, I would make things right; if I could, I’ll trade everything I have to turn back time; to get us back where we’re meant to be; to our rightful place— in each other’s arms…
But I know it’s too late. Now it’s just too late…
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.