1. Distance (Chapter 7)

    Mabilis na bumaba si Julie ng building para maabutan pa si Elmo sa parking lot. Mabuti na lang at hindi na niya suot ang heels na sinuot niya sa restaurant kaya mabilis siyang nakababa ng hagdan. Mas magtatagal kasi kung sa elevator pa siya dadaan. Pagdating niya sa parking lot ay pasakay pa lang si Elmo ng pick-up nito.

    "Elmo!" Hinihingal niyang tawag sa binata.

    Napatigil ito at napalingon sakanya. Bakas sa mukha ang pagtataka. “Julie? Bakit?”

    Hinabol muna niya ang hininga bago sumagot, “Uh.. you forgot your phone.”

    "Huh," kunot noong kinapa ni Elmo ang bulsa ng pantalon nito at narealize na wala nga dito ang phone ng binata. Natatawa itong tumingin sakanya at inabot ang phone mula sakanya. "Oo nga ‘no. Thanks, Julie."

    Ngumiti lang siya dito at nanatiling nakatayo doon. “Um..”

    "What?" Nagtatakang tanong ni Elmo.

    Hindi niya alam kung paano yayayain ang binata lumabas. Dahil alam na niyang birthday din nito at mukhang hindi talaga siya makakatulog sa gabing iyon, gusto niyang magpalipas oras na lang muna kasama ito. Para na rin mapasalamatan niya ng maayos ang binata sa pagligtas nito sakanya kanina.

    "Ano kasi.." Kinakabahang pagsisimula niya. "Feeling ko kasi I won’t be able to sleep tonight.." Huminga siya ng malalim at iniwasan ng tingin ang binata. "Do you.. do you want to, uh, hang out for a while?" Bumukas ang bibig ng binata para magsalita pero patuloy lang siya sa pagmomonologue. "That’s only if you want to.. Kung di ka pa din pagod or inaantok or.. something."

    Shit. Why am I rambling?

    Sasagot na sana ulit si Elmo. “Uh—”

    Nako. Baka ayaw niya pala niya. Wag na lang.

    "Okay lang din naman kung ayaw mo! Naiinti—"

    "Julie."

    Napatigil naman siya sa pagsasalita nang sabihin nito ang pangalan niya. Saka lang siya tumingin sa mukha nito at narealize niyang nagpipigil ito tumawa. Ramdam niyang namula ang mukha niya sa hiya.

    "Stop."

    Great, Julie. You’re just making a fool out of yourself in front of your boyfriend’s brother.

    "Yeah, I want to," sagot nito na sincere ang ngiti. "I was just actually thinking of ways to keep myself awake for the rest of the night."

    "Okay." Hindi na din niya napigilan ngumiti pabalik dito. "Wait lang ah, magbibihis lang ako ng mabilis."

    Tumango lang ito sakanya at nasandal sa gilid ng sasakyan. “Take your time. I’ll be right here.”

    Suot niya pa din kasi ang dress na pinili niya para sana sa date nila ni Zeke. Medyo madumi na iyon at may kaunting sira kaya hindi na niya iyon pwede suotin ulit. Isa pa ay malamig na din ang gabi dahil madaling araw na. Kaya naisipan niyang maghoodie, maong na shorts na hindi gaano kaiksi at sneakers na lamang. Hindi naman date ang gagawin nila ni Elmo kaya walang dahilan para mag-ayos siya ng bongga.

    Dahil kakabalik lang ni Elmo ng Pinas ay wala pa itong masyadong alam kung saan may bukas na gimikan o kahit ano ng disoras ng gabi. Kaya naman naisip niyang dalhin ito sa isa sa mga paborito niyang puntahan noon.

    May isang night bazaar kasi sa isang plaza na malapit sa beach ang madalas nilang puntahan ni Maqui kapag walang pasok kinabukasan. Buhay na buhay ito tuwing gabi pero sarado kapag may araw. Medyo malayo ito sa school nila ngunit worth it naman ang biyahe. Kumpleto kasi ito sa lahat ng makikita mo sa malls at iba pang lugar pasyalan. Maraming stalls ng kainan at inuman. May mga nagtitinda din ng lahat ng klase ng damit at sapatos. May mga live bands din kapag weekend at open mic. Kapag gusto mong magrelax at tumambay lang, halos katabi lang din nito ang beach.

    Dahil Sabado iyon ay madaming tao ang nandoon ngayon kaya medyo nahirapan sila makahanap agad ng space para makapag-park.

    Pababa na sana si Elmo nang mapansin ni Julie ang suot nito. Iyon pa din kasi yung sira-sirang shirt na suot nito kanina at hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa din pala ito nakakapagpalit.

    "Elmo.."

    "Huh?" Nagtatakang napalingon ito sakanya.

    "Lalabas ka ba ng ganyan t-shirt mo?" Nahihiyang turo niya sa damit nito. Napatingin si Elmo sa saril nito. "Baka sabihin ng mga tao, ni-rape kita."

    Napahagalpak naman ito ng tawa ag umiling-iling sakanya. Tinanggal nito ang seatbelt nito at saka dumukwang sa likod para may kunin.

    "Right. Wait up, buti na lang may spare shirt ako sa backseat."

    Pagkaayos nito ng pwesto ay walang sabi-sabing naghubad ito ng t-shirt sa harap niya. Sa sobrang gulat niya ay muntik na siyang mapasigaw at napapikit na lang siya. Ngunit bago siya pumikit ay pasimpleng dinaanan muna niya ng tingin ang matigas na dibdib at ang abs nito.

    Habang nakapikit ay naisip niya na kahit magkasing-katawan si Elmo at Zeke ay mas prominente ang abs ni Elmo kesa sa kasintahan. Sa ilang beses niyang nakitang topless si Zeke, alam niyang mas pinaghirapan ni Elmo ang katawan nito kahit ngayon niya lang nakita si Elmo na topless.

    Napalunok tuloy siya sa mga bagay na tumatakbo sa utak niya. Alam niyang kahit madilim sa kotse ni Elmo ay namumula ng husto ang mukha niya habang pinagkukumpara ang katawan ng dalawa. Kahit na 21 na kasi siya ay inosenteng inosente pa din siya. Nirerespeto siya ni Zeke at kahit kailan ay hindi nito sinubukan gumawa ng kahit anong ayaw niya dahil alam ng kasintahan na hindi pa siya handa. Isa iyon sa mga dahilan kung bakit mahal niya si Zeke. Handa ito maghintay at hindi iyon ang habol nito sakanya.

    Pero pakiramdam niya ay parang nagkakasala siya kapag nasa paligid si Elmo.

    Lord. My eyes. My mind. My innocent mind.

    Napapitlag naman siya nang marinig ang boses nito. “Julie? Are you okay?”

    Narealize niyang nakapikit pa din siya kaya dahan dahan niyang minulat ang kanyang mga mata.

    "Ikaw kasi bigla ka na lang naghuhubad sa harap ko!" Hinampas niya ito sa braso.

    Humagalpak naman si Elmo ng tawa at umiling-iling. “Hahaha. Sorry,” sabi nito habang bumababa. Bigla itong lumitaw sa kabilang side ng pick up at pinagbuksan siya ng pinto. “Let’s go?”

    Napangiti naman siya sa pagka-gentleman ng binata.

    Naks. Magkapatid nga kayo ni Zeke. Parehong gentleman.

    Sabay na silang naglakad kung nasaan ang ingay at gulo na na-miss niya. Matagal na din kasi siyang hindi nakakapunta doon dahil sa busy na schedule. Naglalakad muna sila para mamasyal saglit at para na rin mailibot si Elmo sa lugar.

    "Wow. I’ve never been here before," narinig niyang sabi ni Elmo habang lumilingon lingon ito sa paligid. Halatang nagustuhan nito ang ambiance ng lugar.

    Napangiti naman siya sa reaksyon ng binata. “You just got back from States, di ba? Mga 3 years pa lang ‘to dito.”

    "Do you always go here at night?" Tanong ni Elmo.

    "Not as often as always. But Maqui and I used to go here a lot during our third year," pagkkwento niya. "Dito kami nagsshopping madalas kasi mas mura dito eh. Mas magaganda pa yung products nila kesa sa mall."

    Hindi pa niya naisasama si Zeke dito dahil lagi itong busy sa pag-aaral. Lalo na ngayon na bagong tayo ang business nito. Hindi rin ito masyadong pala-puyat kahit weekend kaya hindi niya ito pinipilit sumama dito. Nakakapag-date pa din naman sila sa ibang lugar kaya ayos lang kay Julie.

    "Are you hungry?" Baling ni Elmo sakanya.

    Sasagot na sana siya nang biglang tumunog ang sikmura niya. Nagkatinginan naman sila at parehong natawa. “Yeah, obviously. Hindi ako kumain sa resto kanina, remember?”

    Tumango lang ito sakanya at hinila na siya sa mga kainan. “Okay, let’s eat. My treat.”

    Dahil maraming pagpipilian at gutom na gutom na sila ay marami silang binili na pagkain. May kanin at mga ulam din pero dahil hindi sila makuntento ay bumili pa ang mga ito ng burger at siopao. Nakahanap sila ng isang bakanteng table sa dulo ng lugar kung saan katabi na nila ang dagat. Mahangin doon pero hindi naman kalakasan at medyo tahimik din at relaxed ang atmosphere dahil acoustic at soulful ang tinutugtog ng live band ngayong gabi.

    Habang kumakain sila ay naisip niyang iyon din ang tamang oras para makilala pa niya si Elmo. Tutal friends naman na sila at pagkatapos ng lahat ng nangyari sakanila ngayong gabi ay hindi na sila pwede bumalik sa pag-iwas sa isa’t isa na parang hindi sila magkakilala.

    "Can I ask you a question?" Si Julie.

    "Shoot."

    "Bakit ka pumunta ng States?"

    Isa iyon sa mga tanong sa isip niya simula noong family dinner ng mga ito kasama siya. Noong gabing nalaman niyang magkapatid pala ito at si Zeke.

    "To study," simpleng sagot ni Elmo.

    Napakunot noo naman siya sa tipid na sagot nito. “Bakit kailangan sa States pa? I mean, marami namang universities dito di ba.”

    Hindi agad ito sumagot na parang nag-iisip muna. “I.. I think I just want to get my own life.. away from everything,” mahinang sabi ni Elmo.

    "Huh?" Hindi niya naintindihan ang sagot nito.

    Ngumiti lang ito at siya naman ang tinanong. “So why Architecture?”

    Gusto man niyang kulitin pa ito na linawin ang sagot nito kanina ngunit hinayaan na niya lang niya ito. Tumigil siya sa pagkain at sinagot ang tanong ni Elmo.

    "I want to build something permanent someday. Something that would stay the same even if everything has changed. Like buildings, I guess."

    Alam niyang medyo malalim ang sinabi niya pero iyon ang totoo. Kapag kasi tinatanong siya ng ibang tao tungkol sa kursong napili niya ay lagi niya lang sinasagot ang mga ito na parang wala lang. Si Zeke at Maqui lang ang tunay na nakakaalam ng totoong dahilan at ngayon ay pati si Elmo.

    "Why?"

    "Huh?" Napaangat siya ng tingin sa binata.

    Nakatingin ito sakanya na parang isa siyang puzzle na sinusubukan nitong i-solve. “Why do you want to build something permanent? Don’t you like change?”

    Napaisip tuloy siya sa tanong ng binata. Ngayon lang kasi may nagtanong sakanya ng ganoon. Kahit sa mga kwentuhan nila ni Zeke ay hindi nila napag-uusapan ang mga ganoong topic. Kahit na sa tingin niya ay mas malalim na tao si Zeke kesa sa nakababatang kapatid nito dahil sa pagkakakilala niya kay Elmo ay narealize niyang mali siya.

    "Well, not really. Change is good sometimes. Especially when life gets too boring. But when I see something great changes into something.. broken and sad. And you couldn’t do anything about it.. I guess, that’s when I hate change," malungkot sagot ni Julie sa binata.

    Ang tinutukoy niya dito ay ang relasyong ng kanyang mga mga magulang sa isa’t isa. Muntik nang maghiwalay ang mga ito noon ngunit nang mangyari ang aksidente niya ay naipagpaliban muna ng mga ito ang issue na iyon. Ngunit ngayon, nakikita niya sa mga ito na wala na talagan pag-asa na maisalba pa ang dating pagmamahalan ng daddy at mommy niya. Alam niyang siya na lang ang dahilan kung bakit pinipilit ng dalawa na pakisamahan ang isa’t isa. Nagsimula ito noong fourth year highschool pa lamang siya. Napapadalas ang pag-aaway ng mga magulang niya at kahit sinusubukan ng mga ito na wag ipakita sakanya, nahuhuli pa din niya ang mga ito paminsan minsan. Naririnig ni Julie na nagsisigawan ang mommy at daddy niya kapag akala nilang tulog na siya. Isa din iyon sa rason kung bakit mas napili niyang mag-apartment na lang noong nagsimula siyang mag-college. Hindi na niya kayang makita na tinitiis na lang ng mga magulang niya ang isa’t isa lalo na kapag oras ng kainan.

    Alam niya ring mahal na mahal siya ng mga ito kaya ginagawa nila ang lahat para maayos pa ang pamilya nila. Ngunit hindi kaya ng konsensya niya na pilitin ang mga ito sa bagay na matagal na nilang hindi gusto. Kahit na mahirap at masakit sakanya ay wala na siyang magagawa dahil gusto niyang maging masaya ang mga magulang kahit hindi na sila sama-sama.

    Napabalik naman siya sa kasalukuyan nang magsalita ulit si Elmo.

    "Too bad change is inevitable. You really can’t do anything about it. You just have to accept it. And live with it. Especially if you were the only one who was given the chance to do so."

    Seryoso at malungkot ang boses nito. At nang napalingon siya dito ay nasa malayo ang tingin ng binata na para bang malalim din ang iniisip. Nakita din ni Julie sa mga mata nito ang iba’t ibang emosyon na nagsasabing may mas malalim na kahulugan pa ang pahayag ng binata.

    Bigla siyang nag-alala siya para sa kasama.

    "Elmo?" Tawag pansin niya dito.

    Napapikit mata ito na parang narealize ni Elmo na nag-space out ito. Ngumiti ito sakanya at magsasalita na sana nang biglang tumunog ang phone nito. Pagsilip ng binata sa telepono ay lalong lumuwang ang ngiti nito at biglang tumayo.

    Tumingin ito sakanya at itinaas ang phone na hawak. “Hey, I should get this. Is it okay?”

    "Go ahead," tumango siya at naisip niyang ito ang chance niya para sorpresahin ang binata. "Kailangan ko din gumamit ng restroom," tumayo na siya at nagpaalam saglit dito. "I’ll be right back."

    Ngumiti ulit ito sakanya at tumayo na din palayo ng kaunti sa table, papunta sa sea shore para sagutin ang tawag. Habang siya naman ay pumunta sa pinakamalapit na bake shop sa lugar na iyon para bumili ng birthday cake para kay Elmo. Naisip kasi niya na masyadong naging seryoso ang usapan nila ng binata kahit na birthday nito kaya oras na para pagaanin ulit ang mood nilang dalawa.

    Marami pang available na flavors sa shop na iyon pero nabaling ang atensyon niya sa chocolate cake at blueberry cheesecake doon. Chocolate cake kasi ang paborito ni Zeke kaya naisip niyang iyon na lang din ang ibili para kay Elmo. Pero narealize din niyang magkaibang magkaiba ang magkapatid kaya baka hindi ito pareho ng hilig. Isa pa ay lagi na lang chocolate cake ang inihahanda kapag may mga birthday kaya pinili niya na lang ang blueberry cheesecake. Pakiramdam niya din kasi ay bagay ang cake na iyon sa personality ni Elmo.

    Don’t ask why. I just feel it.

    Dahan dahan siyang nagbalik sa table nila dala ang cake na may isang birthday candle ang nakasindi sa gitna. Inilapag niya iyon sa table at naupo habang hinihintay si Elmo na matapos makipag-usap sa telepono. Hindi siya namalayan ng binata kaya tahimik lang siya doon. Dahil hindi naman masyadong malayo si Elmo ay medyo narinig niya ang mga huling sinabi nito sa kausap.

    “Yeah, with Zeke’s girlfriend… Yeah. The bastard has! Who knew?… I know. Of course, you do… Thank you. I miss you, too… Take care okay? I’ll see you soon. Bye…”

    Bumuntong hininga ito bago muling humarap sakanya. Nang pabalik na si Elmo sa table nila ay mas lumaki ang ngiti nito sakanya dahil sa dala niyang cake. Mas malawak pa sa ngiti nito nang mag-ring ang phone nito sakanya.

    Ngumiti din siya dito ng malaki. “Surprise!”

    Habang itinuro ang cake na dala niya.

    "Oh.. Wow," iyon lang ang nasabi ni Elmo.

    "Happy birthday!" Masayang bati ni Julie sa binata.

    Nagtataka man at nakakunot ang noo ay nakangiti pa din ito. “How.. how did you know?”

    Bigla naman siyang nag-blush ulit at saka umamin. “Um. I accidentally read Zeke’s message on your lock screen. Hehe.” Nahihiyang tumingin siya dito. “Sorry?”

    "No. Don’t apologize. It’s okay," mabilis na sabi ni Elmo. Umupo ulit ito sa tabi niya at hinawakan ang kamay niya sa ibabaw ng table. "Thank you, Julie. Really."

    Pinisil ng binata ang kamay niya at ibinalik naman niya dito ang gesture. “I hope you like blueberry cheesecake. I just figured chocolate cake is so mainstream for birthdays. So I went for this one,” kinakabahan niyang pagpapaliwanag.

    Ngayon niya lang napansin na parang namamasa ang mga mata ng binata. Hindi tuloy siya sigurado kung tama ba ang ginawa niya.

    "No, it’s perfect. Blueberry cheesecake is my favorite. I haven’t had them for my birthday since I was five, though," bulong ni Elmo.

    "Why?"

    Elmo just shrugged. “Zeke loves chocolate cake.”

    Natawa siya sa sagot ng binata. “Yeah, he does.”

    Ngunit ‘di niya maiwasang malungkot sa sinabi nito.

    Does that mean that Tita Lea only baked cakes for Zeke on their birthday?

    Pero mukha namang kung gaano kamahal ni Tita Lea si Zeke, ganun din naman nito kamahal si Elmo.

    Though Elmo seemed so aloof around them.

    "Make a wish, Elmo."

    Elmo smiled at her softly and nodded. He then closed his eyes as he silently prayed for his wish. Nagkaroon siya ulit ng pagkakataon na titigan ang mukha ng binata. Kahit na may kaunting sugat at pasa ito ay talagang gwapo ito. Although Zeke and Elmo do really looked alike, the features of their faces were contradicting each other’s. She didn’t know how it was possible but it really was.

    Napakurap siya nang biglang nagmulat ng mata si Elmo. He gently blowed the candle and looked at her.

    "Thank you, Julie. This means a lot to me," sincere na sabi ni Elmo sakanya. Napangiti naman siya dito. "Is this why you wanted to hang out tonight?" Taas kilay na tanong ng binata.

    Natawa naman si Julie dahil tama ito. Nagsimula na nilang ubusin ang hindi cake na binili niya.

    "Yeah, partly. But I don’t think makakatulog din talaga ako agad. After…" She trailed off. She wanted to push the bad stuff away. "Anyway, bakit di mo sa akin sinabi na birthday mo din?"

    Elmo shrugged nonchalantly. “It doesn’t really matter.”

    Sinamaan naman niya ito ng tingin. “Of course, it does! It’s someone’s birthday! It’s YOUR birthday.”

    Tumawa lang ang binata at hindi na siya sinagot ulit. Tumitig lang siya sa binata habang pinag-iisipan ng mabuti kung itatanong ba niya ang kanina pa niya gustong itanong dito.

    Mukha namang napansin ng binata na may gusto siyang sabihin dahil siya na ang nagtanong dito. “What?”

    "How old are you, Elmo?"

    "22."

    "Um.."

    "Just ask it out," sabi ni Elmo na para bang alam na nito kung anong itatanong niya dito.

    "Kambal ba kayo ni Zeke?" She blurted out.

    He just laughed and rolled his eyes at her like it was what exactly he was expecting her to ask.

    "What do you think?" Kumindat pa si Elmo sakanya.

    Yeah, I think so. That explains why they looked really alike. Fraternal twins pala ang mga ugok.

    "It’s just that.. he never told me," she confessed, creasing her forehead. "He always refers to you as his ‘little brother’."

    Narealize niya tuloy na marami pa siyang di alam tungkol sa kasintahan.

    Elmo snorted at that. “He was just 25 minutes older than me.”

    Natawa naman si Julie sa reaksyon ng binata.

    "He just likes to boast that he was born first. He thinks it would make him more mature," natatawang sabi ni Elmo.

    Nagtawanan lang sila hanggang sa pareho na silang natahimik. Nag-iisip pa siya ng pwedeng itanong kay Elmo nang biglang tumunog ang phone niya. May isang message siyang na-receive galing kay Zeke. Dahil nakapatong lang ito sa table sa pagitan nila ni Elmo ay nabasa din ng binata ang message sa lock screen ng phone niya.

    'Honey, I just landed in Cebu. Call you later. Love you!'

    Kukunin na sana niya ang cellphone para mag-reply dito nang biglang tumawa si Elmo.

    Napalingon siya sa binata. “Bakit ka tumatawa?” Kunot noong tanong ni Julie dito.

    Hindi ito sumagot at natatawa pa ring umiling lang sakanya ang binata. Sinamaan naman niya ito ng tingin.

    "Bakit nga kasi?" Pangungulit pa niya.

    Pinipilit ni Elmo na pigilan ang ngiti nito nang magsalita. “‘Honey?’ Seriously? Zeke calls you that?!”

    Nang ma-gets niya ang ibig sabihin ni Elmo ay hindi niya alam kung mahihiya ba siya o maiinis dito, ngunit alam niyang namula siya ng husto sa pang-aasar ng binata. Sa totoo lang din kasi ay hindi siya fan ng mga terms of endearment kaya kahit hinahayaan nalang niya si Zeke na tawagin siya ng ganoon ay hindi niya ibinabalik sa kasintahan ang tawag nito sakanya.

    "Bakit ka ba nakikialam sa kapatid mo?!" Pagtatanggol niya sa kasintahan ngunit kahit siya ay natatawa din sa pang-aasar ni Elmo.

    "But really, ‘honey’ talaga? Ano ka, bubuyog?" Then Elmo burst laughing again. "Julie… Julie-bee?" Walang tigil na pang-aasar nito sakanya.

    Tuluyan na ngang napahagalpak si Julie ng tawa sa mga sinabi ni Elmo hanggang sumakit ang tiyan niya. It’s been a long time since she laughed that hard that she almost forgot how good it felt.

    "That’s it. That’s what I’m calling you from now on. ‘Julie-bee!’" Pahayag ni Elmo na tumatango tango pa. "Wait. I think ‘Bumblebee’ is cuter. Mas bagay sa’yo. Cute." Taas kilay na dagdag sakanya ni Elmo.

    Aha. So he thinks I’m cute!

    Nag-blush naman siya ulit sa sinabi ng binata kaya inirapan nalang niya ito. “Shut up.”

    Kumindat lang sakanya ang binata na nangingiti pa din. Pagkatapos ng asaran na iyon ay nagkwentuhan pa sila tungkol sa mga random na bagay. Mostly, puro debate lang ang ginawa nila dahil narealize niyang magkaibang magkaiba silang dalawa ng hilig at paniniwala sa ibang bagay. It was actually refreshing for her dahil kapag si Zeke ang kausap niya ay halos pareho lang sila ng takbo ng isip at mga hilig.

    Nang maubusan na sila nang pagkkwentuhan ay bigla na lang silang natahimik. But it was a very comfortable silence between them for full five minutes. She felt like no words were really needed to fill the moment up.

    Noon niya lang din napansin na halos wala nang tao sa lugar na iyon. Pati ang bandang tumutugtog doon kanina ay tapos na din mag-pack up at nagsisimula nang magsara ang mga stalls. Tiningnan niya ang oras at napasinghap siya nang marealize na halos 5:30 na ng umaga. Nagsisimula na rin magliwanag ang langit.

    Bigla naman tumayo si Elmo at nag-inat ng katawan. “So… It’s almost 6 AM. We should go home and sleep. Finally,” nakangiting sabi niyo sakanya.

    It was only then that she noticed how tired his smile was. Mukhang nararamdaman na ni Elmo ang pagod at sakit ng katawan nito pagkatapos itong mabubugbog kagabi.

    She smiled at him apologetically. “Right.”

    Nagsimula na siyang tumayo ngunit nang makita niya na malapit nang sumikat ang araw sa dagat, bumaling siya kay Elmo. “Do you.. do you want to watch the sunrise, first?”

    Elmo turned and checked out the horizon over the beach and saw what she meant. He smiled and nodded at her. She took her hand and pulled her toward the white sand beach. She sat there and Elmo sat next to her.

    When she was younger, she used to watch the sunrise with her dad because they were both early birds. She never missed the opportunity whenever she got the chance.

    But this time, she chose to stare at the person sitting next to her as the sun rose. His gaze was fixed on the view in front of him though, overwhelmed by the beauty of the sky and the sea under the sunrise. It was mesmerizing to watch the look on his face as the peace and calmness settled on its features. Elmo looked like he was reminiscing and she realized that it was actually the first time Julie saw the soft look on his face. He looked so young and vulnerable for the first time, not the flirty and arrogant Elmo he first met. And she tried to savor every moment of it.

    Julie hugged her knees to her chest and laid her head on them as she continued to gaze at Elmo. The wind softly blowing her hair to her face.

    "Happy birthday, Moe," she gently whispered.

    He finally looked back at her, as if he had forgotten she was there. His forehead was creased again and she found herself reaching out to smooth the skin between his eyebrows with her fingers. He smiled softly, almost grateful, at her as he tucked a few strands of her hair behind her ear. She realized he had always done it with her like it was was a natural thing for him to do.

    He heaved a sigh of contentedness. Then he said sincerely, “Thank you, Julie. For everything.”

     
  2. Distance (Chapter 6)

    "Bitawan niyo siya!!!" Sigaw ni Elmo.

    Good Lord. Thank you po.

    Julie almost felt relieved because Elmo had come to her rescue until she realized there were two bad guys against him. Not to mention, the other was carrying a deadly weapon. Naisipan niyang magdasal ulit.

    Naramdaman niyang magsasalita pa sana si holdaper no. 2 na may hawak sakanya ng biglang sumugod si Elmo dito. Bumitaw sakanya si holdaper no. 2 at itinulak siya nito sa gulat kaya naman bumangga siya ng bahagya sa pader ng eskinita. Tumama ang likod niya sa pader pero mabuti na lamang at hindi masyadong malakas ang pagkakatulak sakanya kaya hindi rin siya masyadong nasaktan. Dahil nagulat si holdaper no. 2 kay Elmo ay natumba ito nang sinuntok ito ng binata ngunit napansin niyang papalapit si holdaper no. 1 sa binata, kinuha nito ang kutsilyo na nabitawan ni holdaper no. 2 at ito naman ang sumugod kay Elmo.

    "Elmo!!!" Sigaw niya para balaan ito.

    Nang sinubukan ni holdaper no. 1 na saksakin si Elmo ay napatili siya sa takot. Mabuti na lamang at mabilis si Elmo na nakailag at sinipa nito ang kalaban sa tagiliran. Ngunit mabilis na nakatayo si holdaper no. 1 na nagbabantang sumugod ulit sa binata. Hindi nila namalayan na nakabangon na ulit si holdaper no. 2 at sinipa nito si Elmo sa likod. Napasigaw naman si Elmo sa sakit pagkatapos ay biglang hinila ni holdaper no. 2 ang mga braso nito patalikod para pigilan si Elmo makagalaw.

    Nanginginig na naman siya sa takot dahil pinagtutulungan na bugbugin ng dalawang holdaper si Elmo haban siya ay hindi makagalaw sa kinasasandalan niya sa pader. Ngunit nang makita niya na hawak na naman ni holdaper no. 1 ang kutsilyo ay bigla siyang nagising. Hindi niya hahayaang mamatay si Elmo dahil sakanya. Bigla siyang tumakbo at mula sa likod ay dinambahan niya si holdaper no. 1 na gulat na gulat sa ginawa niya. Pumasan siya sa likuran nito at kinalmot niya ang mukha nito tinusok ng mga kuko ang mga mata. Nabitawan nito ang hawak na kutsilyo at napasigaw sa sakit habang hawak hawak ang mukha sa mga kamay. Habang si Elmo naman ay ginamit ang pagkakataon na iyon para makawala sa hawak ni holdaper no. 2 na na-distract sa ginawa niya.

    Itinulak siya ng malakas ni holdaper no. 1 sa sobrang galit, muling bumangga ang katawan niya sa pader ngunit pati ang ulo niya ay tumama din. Nahilo siya at napaupo habang si holdaper no. 1 ay unti unting lumapit sakanya. Alam niyang sa pagkakataon na iyon ay baka wala na siyang ligtas ngunit biglang lumitaw si Elmo sa pagitan nila.

    "Don’t you dare touch her!" Galit na galit na sigaw ni Elmo.

    Napalingon siya sa paligid at nakita niyang nakahandusay na at wala nang malay si holdaper no. 2. Sa wakas ay napatumba na ito ni Elmo.

    Susugod na sana muli si holdaper no. 1 nang biglang may dumating na ilan pang kalalakihan. Mga baranggay tanod na handang tumulong sakanila.

    "Wag kang kikilos!" Sabi ng isa sa natitirang holdaper. Tatakbo na sana ito sa kabilang direksyon ng madapa ito sa katawan ni holdaper no. 2. Kaya naman naabutan ito ng mga tanod at parehong hinuli ang mga ito.

    Nanatili siyang nakaupo sa kinalalagyan niya habang si Elmo ay nakatayo pa din sa harap niya, nakatalikod pa din ito ngunit napansin niyang nawala na ang tensyon sa mga balikat nito na parang nagsasabing tapos na ang gulo. Bumuntong hininga ito bago humarap sakanya.

    Nagulat siya nang makita ang hitsura nito. Punit punit ang t-shirt na suot nito na parang hiniwa hiwa ng kutsilyo. Mabuti na lamang at wala siyang nakitang dugo sa damit nito, ibig sabihin ay hindi ito nasaksak.

    But when her gaze went up to his face, Julie gasped sharply. His lower lip was busted, blood dripping from it. As well as from his left eye brow. There was a cut that started to swell just above his eye but it didn’t look bad. And there was already a bruise on his right cheekbone. There was a look on his tired face that seemed like asking if she was okay.

    She wanted to stand up and approach Elmo but when she tried, her legs gave in. Aside from the dizziness from banging her head, she realized her whole body was still shaking. As the adrenaline left her body, the terror and fear she felt during the attack came back to her and it overwhelmed her. She started to sob uncontrollably.

    She jumped when she felt a pair of arms circled her small frame and pulled her toward to a body. Which apparently belonged to Elmo.

    "Shh.. You’re okay. You’re safe now," he whispered softly to her ear, reassuring her.

    She suddenly felt his soft lips against her temple as he hugged her tightly to his body. His lips stayed in touch with her skin as the sobs finally settled down and she started to breathe properly. Somehow that sweet little gesture seemed to soothe her and calm her down. Her body stopped shaking terribly and she matched her breathing to the steady beat of his heart.

    When she finally stopped crying, Elmo let go of her and he plopped down beside her, leaning his back to the wall and his legs spreaded wide apart. Like he was so spent and exhausted. But of course, he was.

    She glanced to Elmo beside her who closed his eyes. She stared at him for a moment then he must had sensed her stare because he opened his eyes again and looked back at her. She jumped again when she heard footsteps coming toward them but when she looked up, it was just one of those baranggay tanod who helped them, Elmo noticed her reaction and he suddenly wrapped a protective arm around her tiny waist and gently pulled her to him, her back to his chest.

    She immediately felt safe in his arms. His warmth radiating through her body and his breath fanning the back of her neck reassured her that nothing could harm her.

    "Ah, ma’am, sir.. Kailangan po kayo sumama sa presinto para magbigay ng statement niyo sa nangyari," said the tanod.

    She couldn’t find her voice to speak and when she finally did, Elmo beat her to it. “Yeah, okay. Susunod kami,” he answered.

    Pagkatapos nilang pumunta sa police station para magpa-blotter ay hinatid na siya ni Elmo sa apartment. Inalok niya din ang binata na pumasok para makapagpahinga saglit.

    "Okay ka lang ba?" Tanong ni Elmo na nakaupo sa sofa. May hawak itong ice pack sa kaliwang mata nito.

    Ngumiti naman siya dito. “Hindi ba dapat ako magtanong sa’yo niyan?”

    "I’m okay."

    Naupo siya sa tabi nito. “Thank you, Elmo,” sincere na bulong niya. Ngumiti lang ito sa kanya at nabaling naman ang tingin niya sa mga sugat nito sa mukha. “Gamutin natin yang mga sugat mo.”

    Umiling-iling ito at bumitaw sa kamay niya. Saka lang niya na-realize na hinawakan niya pala ang kamay ni Elmo. “I’m good. I’ll just swing by the hospital first, before I go home. Or I can just clean it up myself later.”

    Napakunot ang noo niya sa pagtanggi ng binata. “Elmo.. I insist. It’s the least I can do after you saved my life.”

    Nagtitigan lang ang dalawa at nagpapatigasan nang sa wakas ay sumuko na din si Elmo.

    "Okay.." Buntong hininga nito.

    "I’ll just get the first aid kit in the bathroom," tumayo na siya para kunin ang mga gamit.

    Nang bumalik siya ay tumayo siya sa harap nito at nagsimulang ilapag ang kit sa tabi ni Elmo. Nagsimula na si Julie na linisin ang mga sugat at dugo sa mukha ni Elmo.

    "Teka, marunong ka ba maggamot, ha? Baka naman ma-infect mga sugat ko ah," pang-aasar nito sakanya.

    Napansin din siguro nito na masyadong tahimik at mabigat ang atmosphere sa apartment niya kaya naisipan nito magbiro to lighten the mood.

    Natawa nalang siya sa halip na mapikon. “Shut up. I know how to do first aid treatment. Nagvovolunteer ako sa Red Cross once in a while.”

    "Wow. Impressive," sarcastic na sagot ni Elmo. Bigla naman niyang diniinan ang ginagawa. "Ouch!"

    "Hehe. Sorry, ‘di ko namalayan."

    "Sinadya mo eh!" Sagot nito na hinuhuli ang mga kamay niya para patigilin.

    Tinawanan lang niya ito at sinubukan pang buhusan ng alcohol ang mukha ng binata. Nagpatintero ang mga kamay nila ng ilan pang sandali bago sumuko ulit si Elmo at hinayaan siyang ipagpatuloy ang ginagawa.

    Bigla namang natahimik si Elmo at pagkatapos ay kumunot ang noo. “Have you talked to Zeke already?”

    Nagulat siya sa random na tanong ng binata kaya hindi siya nakasagot kaagad.

    Habang nagbibigay ng statement si Elmo sa police station kanina ay lumabas siya para tawagan si Zeke. Nag-usap sila at pinatawad na niya ito dahil sa lahat ng nangyari noong gabi na iyon ay nawala na sa isip niya ang galit sa kasintahan. Halata din naman kasi sa boses ni Zeke na hindi rin talaga nito sinasadyang iwan siya sa ere. Sinabi din niya na kasama niya si Elmo ngunit hindi muna niya pinaalam ang nangyari sakanya. Ayaw na niyang pag-alalahin si Zeke lalo na’t pasakay na ito ng eroplano noong mag-usap sila.

    "Yeah, we’re okay.. But hindi ko pa sinabi yung nangyari kanina," mahinang sagot niya.

    Lalong napakunot ang noo ni Elmo sa narinig. “What? Bakit?”

    "I don’t want him to worry. Hindi siya makakapagtrabaho ng maayos. I’ll just tell him myself when he gets back so don’t tell him yet either."

    Labag man sa kalooban ay pumayag din ang binata. “Fine. But he needs to know, okay?”

    Tumango siya at nagsimula nang lagyan ng band-aid ang mga sugat ng binata. Bumuntong hininga siya bago nagsalita ulit. “I’m sorry, Elmo.”

    "Huh?"

    "For being a bitch to you at the restaurant earlier," nahihiyang paliwanag ni Julie.

    Ngumiti si Elmo sakanya. “It’s okay, naiintindihan ko naman.”

    Nang matapos siya sa ginagawa ay niligpit na niya ang kit at naupo ulit sa tabi nito ngunit naglagay na siya ng space sa pagitan nila.

    "How did you find me? Akala ko bumalik ka na sa trabaho mo when you left."

    "Nah, I just waited for you in the parking lot. But I was talking to Zeke on the phone when you came out of the resto so hindi kita agad nasundan," sagot nito. Kumunot ulit ang noo niya at saka nagpatuloy. "Then bigla kang lumiko sa eskinita, I had to ditch my car on the side of the road just so I could follow you through. Then shit happened."

    Napalunok naman siya nang maalala na naman ang nangyari kanina. Bigla din pumasok sa utak niya yung unexpected breakdown niya sa harap ng binata. Hindi niya maintindihan kung bakit pero nang yakapin siya nito ay bigla siyang kumalma. Lalo nang halikan siya nito sa gild ng kanyang noo. Alam niyang isang gesture lamang iyon ng isang taong nag-aalala sa kapwa nito at wala iyong malisya, ngunit feeling niya ay nararamdaman pa din niya ang mga labi ng binata. Not to mention the way he protectively pulled her against his body when someone came back for them in the alley.

    Alam niyang paulit ulit na siya pero hindi alam ni Elmo kung gaano kalaki ang utang na loob niya dito.

    "Sobrang salamat talaga, Elmo."

    "Don’t mention it." Tumahimik ulit ito na mukhang malalim ang iniisip. Lumingon ito sa kanya at seryoso siyang tinanong. "Hey, will you be okay here? Alone?"

    "Yeah, I guess.." Sagot niya pero hindi siya sigurado kung makakatulog siya noong gabing iyon na mag-isa.

    Masyado namang malaking abala na kay Elmo kung tatanungin niya ito na mag-sleep over sa apartment niya. At kahit na isang life and death situation ang nangyari sa kanilang dalawa ay hindi niya pa din masasabi na close o friends na talaga sila. Isa pa ay may boyfriend siya, parang pangit naman tingnan na may ibang lalaki ang matulog sa apartment niya kahit na kapatid pa ito ng kasintahan.

    Saka lang naputol ang pag-iisip niya nang tumayo na si Elmo. “I should get going. You need to rest.”

    Tumayo na din siya at sinundan niya ito sa front door ng apartment niya. Magpapasalamat na naman sana ulit siya pero narealize niya na parang isa na siyang sirang plaka.

    "Ingat ka."

    Binuksan na ni Elmo ang pinto at bago ito tuluyang lumabas ay humarap ito sakanya. Tinitigan siya nito na para bang sinisigurado kung ayos lang ba talaga siya. Kumunot ulit ang noo nito habang ikinawit ang ilang hibla ng kanyang buhok sa likod ng tenga niya. Tatanungin na niya sana si Elmo kung anong problema nang bigla nalang niyang naramdaman ang mga labi nito sa noo niya. Nanigas na lang siya sa kinatatayuan niya habang ngumiti lang si Elmo sa kanya ng matipid at saka tuluyang umalis.

    Nakatayo lang siya doon sa harap ng pinto nang may marinig siyang tunog sa sala. Napapitlag siya sa gulat at hinanap kung saan nanggagaling ang ingay. Nakita niya ang isang cellphone sa sofa kung saan nakaupo si Elmo kanina. Narealize niyang naiwan ng binata ang phone nito at kinuha niya iyon. May isang message si Elmo galing kay Zeke. Tiningnan niya ang oras, 1:23 AM. At narealize niyang birthday na ng kasintahan. Nalimutan na niyang batiin ito kahit na magkausap sila kanina sa telepono.

    Nag-pop ang message sa lock screen ng iPhone ng binata kaya nabasa niya ito nang di sinasadya.

    'Happy birthday, lil' Sam. We're 22! Anyway, thank you for looking after Julie tonight. I owe you one, bro. See you when I get back.'

    Biglang napaisip si Julie sa nabasa.

    Birthday din ni Elmo?

    Ano daw? “We’re 22?”

    Wait.

    Kambal sila?!

     
  3. 15:20 17th Jul 2014

    Notes: 275

    Reblogged from imafan

    Tags: julielmo

    JULIELMOES:

    -More than being followers, we are supporters and friends.
    -We’re not rude, we are witty.
    -We shout it with heart, we never scream.
    -We don’t just listen with them, we sing along.
    -We don’t watch them as years go by, we grow with them.
    -When we say Trend, we mean…

    (Source: ilovekrisangeline)

     
  4. Distance (Chapter 5)

    "I still can’t believe Elmo’s your brother," pahayag ni Julie sa kasintahan habang paakyat sila sa 3rd floor kung nasaan ang unit niya.

    Hinatid siya ng binata hanggang sa pinto ng apartment niya. Aalukin pa sana niya ito para pumasok sa loob pero alam niyang may early morning meeting si Zeke kinabukasan.

    "Yeah, I’m surprised you knew each other already, too," natatawang sagot ng binata sakanya. Tumigil sila sa harap ng pinto niya. "So paano kayo nagkakilala?"

    "I met him at the cafe in the campus. He was working part time there, di ba?" Sagot ni Julie. Sumandal siya sa front door ng apartment niya. "Then siya din yung tumulong sa akin when I sprained my ankle."

    Napalingon si Zeke sakanya na nanlaki ang dalawang mata. “Wow, small world.”

    "Yeah," nangingiting sagot niya. Kahit siya ay napapaisip pa din sa mga pangyayari. "Get home safely, okay?" Hinawakan niya ang kamay nito at tumingkayad para halikan si Zeke sa pisngi.

    "Yes, hon." Ngumiti ito sa kanya at napatitig siya dito. Iniangat naman nito ang magkahawak nilang kamay at hinalikan ito ng binata. Nagtitigan lang sila ng matagal hanggang sa magtawanan silang dalawa.

    "Ba’t di ka pa umaalis?" Nakangiting pang-aasar ni Julie.

    "Ba’t di ka pa pumapasok?" Ganti naman ni Zeke.

    Tumaas ang isang kilay niya dito. “Kasi di ka pa umaalis.”

    "Kasi di ka pa pumapasok," natatawang sagot ng kasintahan.

    Alam ni Julie na tatanggi ito sa itatanong niya pero gusto niya pa din mag-baka sakali. Namimiss na din kasi niya ang binata dahil masyado na silang busy para magkasama ng mas matagal. “Wanna sleep over?”

    Bumagsak naman ang mukha ng binata sa tanong niya. “Ah. As much as I want to, I can’t tonight.” Ngumiti ito ng malungkot na parang nagi-guilty. “I have an early meeting tomorrow with my investors. I’m sorry?” Malungkot na sagot ni Zeke.

    Na-guilty tuloy siya. Sana ay di na lang niya ito tinanong para di nalungkot ang boyfriend niya sa pagtanggi sa kaniya. Naiintindihan naman niya talaga ito, ngayon pa lang nagsisimula ang binata kaya binibigyan niya ito ng panahon para mag-focus sa bagong career ng buhay nito since mas nauna nga ito magtapos kaysa sakanya.

    Ngumiti na lang siya dito ng matamis at mabilis na hinalikan sa labi. “It’s okay. Alis na.”

    "Get inside first," nakangiting sabi nito.

    Tumango na lang siya at binuksan na ang pinto sa apartment niya para pumasok. Bago niya ito tuluyang isara ay tumitig ulit siya dito ng matagal na para bang kinakabisa ang buong mukha ng binata.

    "I love you, Zeke," malambing na bulong ni Julie sa kasintahan.

    Binigyan siya nito ng malaking ngiti na paborito niya mula sa binata. “I love you more, Honey.”

    "WHAAAAT?!" Sigaw ni Maqui sa tenga niya.

    Kasalukuyan silang naglalakad sa loob ng mall at naikwento niya dito ang natuklasan niya noong isang gabi sa family dinner ng boyfriend niya. Expected na niya ang reaksyon ng kaibigan pero natatawa pa din siya dito. Kahit kasi siya ay di pa din makapaniwala na magkapatid si Zeke at Elmo kahit na kung tutuusin ay magkamukha naman ang mga ito.

    "Maq! Ang ingay mo!"

    Tumigil si Maqui sa paglalakad at humarap sakanya. “Wait. Did you really just tell me that Sam—Zeke’s brother— and Elmo are the same person?”

    "Yes," she answered as she rolled her eyes at her bestfriend.

    Napatanga naman si Maqui at hinablot bigla ang mga braso niya saka ito inalog alog. “Oh my god. That explains Elmo’s charm and hotness! It runs in the family!” Excited na sagot ng kaibigan. “You need to hook me up with him!”

    Nanlaki naman ang mata niya sa sinabi nito at bumitaw sa pagkakahawak nito sakanya. “What?! Ayoko nga.”

    "Why? Are you jealous?" Nakataas na kilay na tanong ni Maqui sakanya.

    Natawa naman siya at naglakad na muli.

    "Duh. Of course not, I have a boyfriend. Not to mention it’s his brother," irap niyang sagot dito.

    "So bakit ayaw mo?" Ikinawit ni Maqui ang braso nito sakanya at sabay na sila naglakad.

    "Well, hindi kami close to start with."

    "Hay. Napakaarte mo talaga." Buntong hininga ni Maqui. "What are we doing at the mall anyway?"

    "It’s Zeke’s birthday next week! Gusto ko siyang bilhan ng regalo, at tutulungan mo ako," nakangiting sabi niya kay Maqui.

    "Only if you’ll hook me up with Elmo," kumindat pa ito sakanya.

    Pabirong sinabunutan niya si Maqui. “Err, shut it.”

    Natawa na lang ito sakanya at saka siya nito hinatak sa isang stall.

    Nauna si Julie na dumating sa restaurant na pina-reserve nilang dalawa ng kasintahan para sa celebration ng birthday nito. Kinabukasan pa ang kaarawan ni Zeke pero ngayong gabi na sila mag-cecelebrate dahil lilipad pa ang binata bukas pa-Cebu. Tatlong araw itong magsstay doon para i-meet ang mga suppliers nito.

    Excited siya para sa gabing iyon dahil alam niyang magugustuhan ng binata ang regalong nabili niya para dito. Isa iyong mamahaling relo na kulay red dahil iyon ang paborito ng binata. Matagal na kasing gustong bilhin ng kasintahan iyon pero wala lang itong time para magshopping sa mall kaya siya na ang bumili nito para sa binata. She wanted to laugh at the irony of things. Parang simbolo na rin kasi iyon na kailangan ni Zeke ng proper time management sa trabaho nito para hindi ito ma-late sa mga appointments nito at para na rin ipaalala sa binata na kailangan din siyang isingit nito sa oras nito kahit gaano pa ka-busy ang kasintahan.

    May kalahating oras na siyang naghihintay pero hindi pa din dumadating ang kasintahan. Tinawagan niya ito pero hindi naman ito sumagot. Ayaw niyang ma-disappoint at magalit sa binata lalo na’t birthday celebration dapat ang gabing iyon.

    Mag-iisang oras na siyang nakaupo at naghihintay nang sa wakas ay nagtext na si Zeke sakanya.

    'Hon, I'm so sorry something really important came up here at the office. I can't leave. I don't think I can make it tonight. :('

    Hindi na niya mapigilan mainis sa binata. Kahit anong pilit niyang intindihin ang kasintahan ay hindi niya pa din maiwasan magtampo. Kung tutuusin ay hindi naman siya nakakalimutan ni Zeke kahit na busy ito sa trabaho, madalas pa din silang nag-uusap at nagkikita araw araw. Ngunit kapag mga importanteng okasyon na ay saka ito nawawala. Una, noong first anniversary nila pagkatapos itong birthday dinner naman.

    Julie knew she was being childish but she decided not to reply to his message and just stayed seated there. Kahit na siya lamang ang walang ka-date doon at matagal na siyang mag-isa ay hindi pa din siya umalis. Hihintayin niya ang kasintahan hanggang sa dumating ito kahit abutin siya doon ng madaling araw.

    'Hon. Please pick up your phone.'

    'Talk to me, please? I love you. Please forgive me.'

    'I promise to make it up to you.'

    Nakailang messages at missed calls na si Zeke sakanya ngunit kahit isa sa mga ito ay hindi pa din niya sinasagot.

    Tatlong oras na ang nakalipas ay wala pa din ang binata. Naiiyak na siya habang hawak hawak ang kahon na regalo niya dito. Nakailang balik na nga ang waitress sa table nila para tanungin kung oorder pa ba siya ngunit tahimik lamang siya.

    Her head was bowed down as she stared at her hands, trying to stop the tears that were falling from her eyes when she heard a familiar voice.

    "Julie."

    She looked up and found Elmo in front of her table. “What are you doing here?” Naiinis na tanong niya.

    Ngumiti ito na parang di sigurado sa gagawin bago sumagot. “Zeke called me to check on you.. Sabi niya you still might be here. And he’s right.” He paused to stare at her then he heaved a sigh. “Tara na? I’ll drive you home.”

    Alam niyang nagmamagandang loob lang si Elmo pero di niya maiwasang magsungit dito. “No.”

    Bakas sa mukha nito ang pagkagulat pagkatapos ay napalitan ito ng awa. Lalo siyang nainis sa binata kahit wala naman itong ginagawa. He didn’t want his boyfriend’s brother’s pity.

    "Julie—"

    Sinamaan niya ito ng tingin. “Leave me alone.”

    Tumitig lang ito sakanya na parang hinihintay pa din siya nitong tumayo at sumama sakanya. Pero nanatili lang siyang nakaupo doon habang nanatili ding nakatayo si Elmo na parang waiter na naghihintay ng order niya.

    Sa pagkakaalam niya ay shift ni Elmo ngayong gabi sa cafe kaya alam niyang naabala pa ito para lang sunduin siya dito. Kung sa normal na araw ay mahihiya siya dito at di na magmamatigas pa. But since Zeke was not there to confront, Elmo became the target of her anger.

    Ilang minuto pa ay hindi pa din sila umaalis sa mga pwesto nila kaya napikon na si Julie sa binata. Tumingin siya ulit dito. “Go away! I don’t need you to babysit me.”

    There was a flicker of hurt in his eyes and she suddenly felt guilty for lashing out on him. But the hurt look Elmo had went away just as fast as it happened and he just stared at him blankly. Elmo opened his mouth like he was about to say something but decided against it. He stood there for a few moments and shook his head. She was about to apologize but he suddenly turned and leave, not saying anything to her.

    All the things she was feeling— frustration, anger, self-pity & now guilt—doubled when Elmo walked out on her. Despite her anger, she really felt bad for being a bitch to Elmo. Kaya naman di na niya talaga napigilan maiyak. Nang kumalma siya ay naisipan na niyang umuwi na lang dahil napagod na din siya sa paghintay at pag-iyak doon. Sigurado siyang hindi na rin darating si Zeke. Isa pa ay malalim na ang gabi. Delikado na maglakad pauwi ng kaniyang apartment. Wala siyang dalang kotse dahil magkasama sila ni Maqui kanina at inihatid lang siya nito sa restaurant.

    Naglalakad na siya ng mabilis dahil malapit na ring umulan at wala pa siyang dalang payong. Habang pauwi ay naisip niya si Elmo at naiinis siya sa binata dahil kailangan pa nitong magmagandang loob sakanya. Pero sa totoo lang ay sa sarili siya naiinis dahil sa pang-aaway niya dito. Alam niyang kailangan niya mag-sorry dito pero hindi niya alam kung paano.

    Elmo naman kasi. Nakakainis ka talaga.

    Lumiko siya sa isang madilim na eskinita dahil shortcut ito papunta sa building ng apartment niya. Naisip niya na sana ay sumama na lang siya kay Elmo kanina para naihatid siya nito. Hindi na sana niya kailangan maglakad pag-uwi. Malamang ay bumalik na din si Elmo sa trabaho nito dahil sa inis nito sakanya. Malalim pa din ang iniisip niya kaya di niya namalayan na may sumusunod pala sakanya nang bigla nalang may humablot sakanya at nagsalita ito.

    "Hold up ‘to."

    Nagulat siya sa mga pangyayari at nagsimula na siyang mag-panic. Hawak hawak kasi siya ng mahigpit ng lalaki sa bewang mula sa likuran at hindi siya makagalaw. Napatigil siya sa paghinga nang maramdaman ang isang matulis na bagay na nakatutok sa tagiliran niya.

    Shit. Shit. Shit. Lord, please. Keep me safe! Oh my God.

    Saka lang din niya napansin na may isa pang lalaki sa harap niya. Naglalakad ito papunta sakanila. Makakahinga na sana siya ng maluwag dahil may makakita sakanila at baka matulungan pa siya nang makita niya na may suot itong bonnet na pang-holdaper din.

    Oh shit.

    Lord. Bakit po?

    Wag naman sana nila akong rape-in, patayin na lang nila ako.

    Nanginginig na siya at naiiyak sa sobrang takot. Hindi na niya alam ang gagawin. Gusto niyang sumigaw pero natatakot siya na baka bigla na lang siyang saksakin ng lalaki sa likod niya.

    Elmo..

    "Akin na bag mo," utos ni holdaper no. 1 na nasa harap niya. Mabilis niya itong binigay. "Ano ‘to?" Hawak nito ang box na regalo niya para kay Zeke.

    Nanlaki ang mata niya. Kahit naman nagtatampo siya sa kasintahan ay importante sakanya ang regalot nito. “Wag yan please. Regalo ko yan sa boyfriend ko.”

    Alam niyang hindi na sana siya nagsalita dahil malamang ay mas mapapahamak lang siya.

    Shit. Julie Anne, mas importante pa ba yang relo sa buhay mo?!

    "Ah. May boyfriend ka pala miss. Sa akin mo nalang iregalo ‘to," nakakalokong sagot ni holdaper no. 1 sakanya.

    Bigla naman bumulong sa tenga niya si holdaper no. 2 na ikinagulat niya. “Kami na lang muna boyfriend mo, wala naman siya dito ngayon eh.”

    Oh my God. Please, help me. Please!

    Nagtawanan ang dalawang holdaper at lalong lumapit si holdaper no. 1 sakanya. Napapikit na lamang siya at nagmakaawa sa lahat ng mga santo na tulungan siya. Tumulo na ang luha niya.

    Elmo. Please.

    Bigla siyang nakahinga ng maluwag nang marinig niya ang isang boses sa ‘di kalayuan. Wala pa mang nangyayari ay pakiramdam niya ay ligtas na siya.

    "HOY! Bitawan niyo siya!!!"

    Si Elmo.

     
  5. image: Download

    thefanartfactory:

Holding her hand…

Quote (c) Eleonor & Park
Pic (c) Leonila14

    thefanartfactory:

    Holding her hand…

    Quote (c) Eleonor & Park

    Pic (c) Leonila14

     
  6. Bright Lights and Cityscapes

    Note: How about you listen to the song while you read this? Click here. :)

    Elmo was trying to beat the time but he was suddenly caught in heavy traffic. He silently wished that he makes it on time before it was too late for him to make things right.

    He was still eyeing the red light across the road, a few cars ahead of him when his phone vibrated in his pocket. He checked the caller’s ID. It was his good friend, Christian.

    "Bro, where are you?" His bestfriend said as a way of saying hello. His voice sounded impatient.

    "Uh, I just left the auditorium… To go to the airport…" He stuttered.

    His friend was clearly pissed with his answer. “What?! Why?”

    "Mela’s flight is tonight, 8pm. I have to see her before she gets in to that plane," he explained. The traffic light was still flashing a red.

    "Idiot! But it’s Julie’s recital!" Christian hissed quietly on the phone.

    He sighed, feeling guilty for leaving. “I know, but she told me it’s okay to go. Besides, it’s her last song already.”

    Tonight was Julie’s recital and he arrived at the venue earlier than anyone else to support her in the biggest night of her life by far. Ironically, he was also the first one to leave.

    They had been bestfriends since Elmo could remember and he knew how important that recital was to her. She was very talented but naturally a shy person, that he even had to push her to finally grab the chance to showcase her talent to everyone.

    He didn’t want to leave her but he didn’t have much of a choice. Her ex-girlfriend, Mela, was about to leave the country for good and he couldn’t afford not to see her for the last time before she took off. They had been together for almost three years and things ended between them poorly. They didn’t have a proper closure and he was sure he hadn’t fully moved on from her.

    She just broke up with him telling him, 'I’ve always known since the beginning that this was never going to work. Not when only one person was fully committed to make this relationship last.' And with that, she just walked away and never explained what she meant with that. He was confused and hurt when he thought that Mela didn’t really love him. He realized that it had been a one-sided relationship all along and he was the only one who cared enough about their relationsnhip.

    So he decided to go and talk to her for the last time, to clear things up and maybe to fight for her. If there was anything left to fight for, anyway.

    Elmo knew he was being a jerk to his bestfriend for leaving her in the middle of the most important event in her life but he had his reasons. And if there was one person who understood him more than anyone else, it was Julie. She was even the one who told him to go after Mela when he went to see her earlier at the backstage as she took a five-minute water break before the last song.

    "God. You’re such a moron!" Then Elmo heard his friend push some buttons on his phone on the other line. "Wait, you need to hear this."

    His eyebrows pushed together, confused at what his friend meant. “Huh? Wh—”

    "…but since my bestfriend just left a while ago, I decided to change my last song for tonight. And I dedicate this to him," he heard a familiar voice say.

    He recognized Julie’s voice immediately. “Huh?” He momentarily pulled the phone away from his ear to stare at the screen. “Julie?”

    Christian put his phone to loud speaker so he could hear her in the background. He decided to plug his phone to the audio speakers in his car so he could hear her more clearly as the red light turned green, allowing the cars to finally move.

    He drove slowly, his mind forgetting where he was supposed to head as he listened to Julie’s voice. “He’s been my bestfriend since I was eight. He has always been there to take care of me protect me, and make me happy. He always looked out for me and supported me in everything I do. Especially tonight.”

    He smiled when he detected the smile in her voice. He knew her that much that he could tell when she was smiling without even seeing her.

    And for all the things he has done for me, the only way I know how to repay him is to be there for him whenever he needed a friend, especially when his heart breaks for someone who didn’t even deserve half of him,” he suddenly heard her voice crack. He furrowed his brows as he listened further. "And it was so hard to watch him cry over her because I could feel myself die a little more each time."

    There was a long pause and he noticed that everyone in the auditorium was so quiet he almost thought the other line was dead. Then he finally heard Julie heave a sigh to the mic before she spoke again to her crowd.

    "He doesn’t know it but I’ve been in love with him for years now…" She croaked.

    His blood suddenly turned to ice and he almost stopped in the middle of the highway. “What?”

    He was feeling lightheaded and he suddenly felt dizzy he didn’t notice he was slowing down to stop on the side of the road. His breathing escalated and he could hear his heart beating the way it never had before, faster and louder like it was about to leap out from his chest and bounce its way back to that auditorium.

    He tried to calm himself as he focused on her voice again. “I’ve never had the chance to tell him.. or had the courage to let him know.. because I know it wouldn’t change anything. His heart already belonged to someone else,” he could hear her trying to keep her voice under control but it was obvious to him that it was breaking. He figured out that she was about to cry or already starting. “Do you know how hard it was to be close to someone.. to be near them.. but you can only love them from afar.”

    His heart was still beating wildly as he anticipated her next words. “I’ve never really let this all out before but I’m choosing to do it right now. I know I can never tell this to him but at least I can let you all know that I love him. Just don’t rat me out to him, okay? This will be our dirty little secret.” She forced a laugh in an attempt to lighten the mood but it came out bitter.

    There was a long pause again before she spoke but this time, her voice was finally even, though he could still hear her sniff.

    "I love him more than anything. I love him so much that all I ever wanted was for him to be happy. I love him too much that I chose to let him go tonight. And as much as my heart breaks right now, I couldn’t be happier for him.. because he left tonight to follow his heart, to chase his true happiness. And even though it hurts to know that I can never be that person, I know I’ll be okay as long as he’s happy."

    With that, he snapped out of his trance and he finally remembered that he was about to drive to the airport to catch his ex before her flight. But he suddenly did a U-turn and went back to where Julie was performing. Thankfully, the traffic was lighter on his way to the auditorium.

    On the speakers, Julie continued to monologue. “As I sing this song tonight, I’m letting all these feelings out as I finally decided to let go of him as well.”

    His eyes went wide in panic and immediately slammed the gas to speed up as possible as it could. “What? No.. no..”

    "So.. Moe, wherever you are right now.. I hope you’re truly happy with her," she said with finality and sincerity. It was like the weight of the world was finally lifted off her chest.

    He should’ve been relieved by the tone of her voice as it was finally light and somewhat happy but it meant that she was finally giving up on him as well. And he couldn’t bear it to be true. Not now when he finally understood everything. Not now when he finally knew where his heart really belonged to.

    Then he heard the piano playing in the background. Julie just started her last song for tonight.

    For me.

    It was a familiar tune he heard her play at times whenever he came over to her condo or she to his. He thought it was just a classical piano piece because he never heard her sing along with it. He now realized it was for him and she never sang it when he was around for fear of him finding out the truth.

    Why didn’t you say anything? It would’ve changed a lot of things.

    It was a sad tune and he was dreading to hear the lyrics but at the same time, wanting to hear what the message Julie wanted for him to know but couldn’t tell.

    Hold my breath and I’ll count to ten
    I’m the paper and you’re the pen
    You fill me in and you are permanent
    And you’ll leave me to dry

    I’m the writer and she’s the muse
    And the one that you always choose
    She will falter and gift her blame
    And it starts all over again
    Again again again

    His heart broke as she started to sing, hearing different kinds of emotion, especially the pain in her voice. Knowing he was the reason for all of it.

    She is bright lights and cityscapes
    And white lies and cavalcades

    And she’ll take all you ever have
    But I’m gonna love you

    You say maybe it’ll last this time
    But I’m gonna love you

    You never have to ask
    I’m gonna love you

    'Til you start looking back
    I’m gonna love you
    So right

    I wouldn’t need a second chance

    He didn’t realize he was already crying until he felt the tears ran through his face. He didn’t care if he was already breaking some traffic rules by overspeeding and beating the red lights. He just needed to get to her fast. When he finally arrived back at the venue, he didn’t bother to park his car properly. He just snatched his phone from the center console so he could still hear her sing while he hurriedly ran inside the auditorium.

    When he barged in, the whole place was quiet and everyone in the audience was listening intently to her as she sang her heart out. Even a few were already silently sobbing as they felt everything she was feeling through the song. No one even noticed the sound he made when he entered the room.

    His eyes immediately found Julie. There were streaks of tears on her cheeks and he just wanted to kiss them away. Her eyes were closed as she effortlessly ran her fingers through the keys. Her mouth letting the words out smoothly. And her voice, cracking at some points when it was too much for her but still strong and thick with emotion.

    But it was still beautiful. She was still beautiful to him. And she was the only one he could see.

    I’m feeling them, too, Julie. For a really really long time now.

    Shield your eyes from the truth at hand
    Tell me why it’ll be good again
    All those demons are closing in
    And I don’t want you to burn

    Nevermind what I said before
    I don’t want any less anymore
    You are carbon and I am flame
    I will rise and you will
    Remain

    In that moment, everything came back rushing to his mind. Elmo was suddenly flooded with memories he created with Julie. They overwhelmed him that he almost couldn’t breathe.

    The way they’d fought many times whenever Julie went out of the house when her hair still damp from the shower because she always got sick. That one time when he had come and picked her up after she had a fight with his ex-boyfriend; he went straight to her ex after he dropped her off at her house and punched him square in the face. Those nights when he’d come over to her apartment in the middle of the night when there was a thunderstorm; she hated the rain so much she couldn’t sleep. And especially that day on their anniversary, when he left Mela on their date just to come to Julie when she called to tell him she was lost somewhere. The way she’d done his homeworks when he was too sick to even hold a pen. He remembered when she always hugged him from the back when he was having a bad day. Those times when she’d cook for him first before she left for some trip for a few days. He recalled how she had done everything to cheer him up when he thought he was heartbroken over his break up with Mela.

    The way she had always been smiling at me and I looking at her. It had been there all this time.

    Slowly, Elmo walked his way to the aisle, not taking his eyes from her. He was shaking he was afraid he might trip as he took small courageous steps toward the stage. It was dark in the auditorium except from the spotlight that was trained on Julie but the people started to notice him and silently gasped as he finally reached the stairs. Julie’s eyes were still closed the whole time, oblivious to the fact that he was already standing in front of her and the grand piano. He just stared at her in awe and longing. He wanted to tackle her and hold her close to her but held himself. He didn’t care if he was making a scene in front of everyone. All that he cared about was Julie and how much he realized he loved her all this time.

    For bright lights and cityscapes
    And landslides and masquerades

    And she’ll take all you ever have
    But I’m gonna love you

    You say, “Maybe it’ll last this time”
    But I’m gonna love you

    You never have to ask
    I’m gonna love you

    'Til you start looking back

    Julie slowly opened her teary eyes as she sang the words and the shock settled in them upon seeing Elmo there. She almost forgot to sing but she managed to catch up and held his gaze as she sang the last few lines to him.

    I wouldn’t need a second chance

    I wouldn’t need a second chance

    I wouldn’t need a second chance

    She was crying hard by the time the last line left her mouth, her voice broke.

    I wouldn’t need a second chance

    When she finished singing, the audience didn’t even give a round of applause or a standing ovation to Julie. Not because she wasn’t fantastic but they, too, were anticipating the next scene. They just sat at their seats and kept still, holding their breaths as he held his own. Still frozen on his feet. Still under her spell. Still locked under her gaze.

    Julie finally stood up from her chair, ever so slowly. She then choked out, “E-Elmo? What.. what are you doing here? I thought—”

    He couldn’t stand the distance between them anymore, he walked to her and pulled her small frame to his body then he wrapped his arms around her tiny waist, burying his head to his neck as he cried.

    "Moe?" She called out his name, confused and still, hesitant to hug him back.

    He kissed her neck before he whispered to her skin. “Julie. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. God, I love you. I love you so much.” His hold to her tightened as he sobbed uncontrollably.

    "But—"

    He then pulled away just enough to look at her eyes. “I was going to the airport just to tell her a proper goodbye..” This much was true, but at that time he just didn’t realize it was really what he was planning to do. “But I didn’t go to her, I came back to you. I heard everything.”

    Her eyes widen and she covered her mouth with her hand. “What? But h-how..”

    He shook his head empathically. “It doesn’t matter. What matters now is that I chose you,” he said. His voice breaking as he finally said the words. “It’s you. It has always been you. I know that now.”

    He remembered what Mela said to him when they broke up. And now he understood that he was the one she was referring to. He didn’t love her enough to make things work between them. Because he’d been in love with Julie then. He just didn’t know it but Mela knew.

    Julie was still stunned to speak. She just stood there pale and wide-eyed. He waited for her to speak up but she just continued to stare at him. It then hit him that maybe it was already too late. She had already let him go.

    But I won’t give up. Not now, not ever.

    He pulled her back to him again and he whispered to her ear. “I love you. Please tell me you love me, too. Please don’t let me go,” he pleaded.

    She suddenly pulled away and he felt the world crumble down around him.

    Too late. No second chances?

    But then Elmo saw the smile break out from her face and she surprised him by leaning to kiss him fully on the lips.

    That’s when the crowd finally roared in happiness and applaused at them. Cheers and catcalls filled the entire room as they celebrated with them. He embraced her tightly again, never wanting to let go.

    But despite the loud noise in the background, he could clearly hear her whisper to his ear, “I love you, too.”

     
  7. 22:42 25th Jun 2014

    Notes: 24

    Reblogged from imafan

    YAHOO! CELEBRITY AWARDS 2014

     
  8. Distance (Chapter 4)

    Napatayo si Julie sa tanong ni Zeke.

    "Magkapatid kayo?!" Gulat na gulat niyang tanong kay Elmo, saka naman siya bumaling sa kasintahan. "Siya si Sam?!" Turo niya kay Elmo.

    Bumalik naman ang tingin niya kay Elmo nang magreact ito sa tanong niya. “Oh, not you too!” Sabay baling kay Zeke. “Zeke, you a-hole. Drop that stupid nickname already.”

    Natatawa naman si Zeke na tinapik sa ulo ang sinasabing kapatid nito. “Haha. Sorry, bro. But wait, how did you two meet?” Takang tanong niya pero nakangiti naman ito sakanilang dalawa.

    "Ah—" sasagot na sana si Elmo pero naguguluhan pa din siya sa mga pangyayari. Kaya di niya napigilang sumabat agad.

    "Wait, I thought your name is Elmo?" Sinamaan niya ng tingin ang binata.

    Elmo just rolled his eyes before he answered. “It’s Elmo. This stupid boyfriend of yours is the only one who calls me Sam.” Pabirong sinuntok nito si Zeke na tumatawa lang.

    "Hey! We call you Sam, too." Sabat naman ni Ed.

    Pabalik balik ang tingin niya sa buong pamilya. Gulong gulo pa din siya. “Bakit Sam?” Kunot noong tanong niya.

    "Haha. I used to tease him about his name when we were younger. Elmo, the muppet, was from Sesame Street right?" Lumapit si Zeke kay Elmo at inakbayan ito. Habang nagmamaktol naman ang kapatid nito. "So I started calling him Sesame back then. Nasanay na lang ako, so when we grew up, I just called him Sam, short for Sesame." Ngumiti ito sakanya na parang siya na ang pinakamatalinong nilalang sa mundo nang maisip nito ang pangalan para kay Elmo.

    Unti-unti nang nag-sink in sakanya ang pangalan ni Elmo at di niya na napigilang mapahagalpak ng tawa. “Hahahaha. Cool nickname!”

    Lalo naman siyang natawa nang makita ang mukha nito. Naka-pout na ito at salubong ang kilay. Tinanggal nito ang braso ni Zeke sa balikat niya at nagsimulang maupo sa harap ng dining table. “Stop laughing, you two.”

    "Tama na yan, kids. The food is getting cold, let’s eat," saway ng mama nila na si Lea. Nakangiti ito na tila naaaliw sa kanilang tatlo.

    Naupo na silang magkasintahan. Si Ed sa kabisera, sa kanan naman nito ay si Lea at si Zeke sa kaliwa. Katabi ni Lea si Elmo at katapat naman niya ito. Nakasimangot pa din ito kaya sinipa niya ito nang pabiro sa ilalim ng mesa. Sinipa din siya nito pabalik pero umaangat na ang tingin nito sakanya at ngumiti. Napangiti na lang din siya at nagsimulang kumain.

    Kahit cute ka pag nakasimangot, mas cute ka pag nakangiti.

    Habang kumakain ng hapunan ay nagkwentuhan silang lahat maliban kay Elmo na tahimik lang at tumatawa sa usapan ng buong pamilya. Si Zeke ay nagkkwento sa progress ng bago niyang negosyo habang ang mag-asawa naman ay nagkwento sa out of country na trip na pinagpplanuhan nito para sa extended celebration ng anniversary ng dalawa. Maging siya ay nagkwento din tungkol sa school pero si Elmo ay nanatili lang na tahimik at nakikinig. Magsasalita lang ito pagtinanong ngunit tipid pa din ang sagot.

    Nalaman niya sa pamilya nito na umalis ng Pilipinas si Elmo noong nag-eighteen ito para mag-aral sa States sa sarili na din nitong kagustuhan. Ngayon lang ito bumalik ng Pilipinas para na din tuparin ang hiling ng mga magulang dahil namimiss na ng mga ito si Elmo. Katulad niya ay graduating student na din ito pero Industrial Engineering ang kursong kinikuha nito.

    Ah, kaya pala hindi ko siya nakikita sa campus dati.

    Hilig din nito ang kumuha ng mga part time jobs kahit hindi naman kailangan para lang makaipon. Talagang gusto lang nito na may sariling pera at hindi umaasa sa pera ng pamilya nito.

    Wow, that explains the job in the coffee shop. Independent. Hmm.

    Sa totoo lang ay marami siyang tanong dito ngunit alam niyang hindi iyon ang tamang oras para itanong ang mga iyon kaya naisipan niyang itanong na lang iyon pag hindi na nila kaharap ang mga magulang at kapatid nito.

    Nasa terrace siya ng bahay ng mga Magalona para magpahangin mag-isa. Nag-uusap kasi si Zeke at ang Papa nito tungkol sa isa sa mga kaibigan ni Ed na gustong mag-invest sa business nito. Hinihintay lang niya na matapos mag-usap ang mga ito para magpaalam na uuwi na siya. Malalim na din kasi ang gabi.

    Napalingon siya sa likod niya nang marinig niya ang yabag ng paa. Hindi na siya nagulat nang makita si Elmo na papalapit sakanya.

    "Hey," simula ni Elmo.

    "Hi, Mr. Magalona," natatawa niyang bati dito.

    Napangiti si Elmo at tumabi sa kinatatayuan niya. “So you’re the infamous Julie Anne San Jose.” Ganting pang-aasar nito sakanya.

    "Matagal mo na pala akong pinagttripan eh." Kunwaring asar na sabi niya dito.

    "Ha?"

    "You knew I’m your brother’s girl." She said it as a matter of factly, not as a question.

    Natawa ito sakanya. “Uh, not really.. not until today.”

    Sinamaan niya ito ng tingin. Alam niyang niloloko na naman siya ni Elmo.

    "No, seriously," pagtatanggol nito sa sarili. Tinaas pa nito ang kanang kamay na parang nangangako. "I didn’t really realize that you and the Julie Anne my brother is crazy about are the same person. Until you showed up here tonight."

    Tinaasan niya ito ng kilay na nagsasabing kailangan pa ni Elmo na i-elaborate ang sinasbi. Bumuntong hininga naman ito bago nagsalita ulit.

    "When we first met at the cafe, I had no idea it was you. I mean, you gave me your name, right? But I knew my brother’s girl name is Julie Anne. Not just Julie. Then remember when you sprained your ankle? After I brought you to the infirmary, I went to work. Then Zeke showed up in the cafe to hang out for a while, he said he was just in the area so he decided to drop by. Tinanong ko siya kung ano’ng gingawa nya around the area and he told me he picked up her girlfriend from the infirmary because she sprained her ankle. That was when I first thought na ikaw yung tinutukoy niya. But I wasn’t so sure. Malay ko, baka coincidence lang di ba. Until earlier this afternoon in the cafeteria, I wasn’t still sure that you were the same girl my brother was talking about," pagtatapos ni Elmo sa kwento nito.

    She just nodded, still skeptic but his story made sense so she decided to just let it go.

    "I told you we should be friends," dagdag ni Elmo na kumindat pa sakanya at ngumiti ng maluwag.

    Bigla naman niyang naalala iyong unang beses na nginitian siya ni Elmo ng ganoon. It just made sense na kaya niya naalala si Zeke nang ngumiti si Elmo ay dahil may pagkakahawig ang dalawa. Kahit na malaki ang pagkakaiba sa features ng mukha ng magkapatid ay halos iisa lang ang facial expressions ng dalawa. Mas nakakadala lang talaga ang ngiti ni Elmo dahil mas madalang itong magpakita. Speaking of that first encounter, bigla niya ring naalala iyong phone number na nakasulat sa cup niya noong unang beses silang nagkakilala.

    "Wait, but you tried to hit on me!" Pag-aakusa niya dito.

    "What? Of course, not. When did that happen?" Takang tanong nito sakanya.

    Inirapan niya ito pero sinagot naman niya ang tanong ni Elmo. “That first day of school, the first time we met. You wrote your number in my cup.”

    He looked at her incredulously and she just looked back, hard. Narealize ni Elmo na hindi siya nagbibiro kaya nag-isip ito at inalala ang nangyari noong araw na iyon. Bigla naman itong tumawa pagkalipas ng ilang sandali.

    "Haha. Julie, that was not me."

    "What do you mean?" Tinaasan niya ito ng kilay.

    Natatawa pa din itong nagpaliwanag. “It was Seb, my friend at work. He was just messing with me. Siya yung nagsulat ng number doon because he loves getting me into trouble. I totally had nothing to do about that.”

    "Promise?" Masama pa din ang tingin niya dito.

    Ngumiti naman ito sakanya. “Promise. I would never do that,” seryosong sagot nito sakanya.

    She didn’t understand why but his words stung a little. So she decided not to answer him. Baka kung ano pa ang masabi niya. Umiwas na lang siya ng tingin dito.

    Am I that ugly to him? He would never try to hit on me, my ass.

    Not that it really matters because I already have a boyfriend.

    But..

    Really, though?

    There was an awkward silence between them and she could feel him staring at her. The cool wind was blowing her hair softly to her face and she just let them cover her face so he wouldn’t see the natural blush his intense gaze caused on her cheeks. They stayed like that for a few minutes when Elmo suddenly reached out and tucked the strands of her hair behind her ear. His gesture caught her off guard and she just stood there frozen and not knowing what else to do. She didn’t even try to meet his gaze but from the corner of her eye, she saw that Elmo opened his mouth like he was about to say something to her.

    Just when Zeke went out to join them in the terrace. “Hon.”

    Nagpasalamat naman siya ng palihim sa pagdating ng kasintahan.Humarap siya dito at ngumiti. “Tapos ka na?”

    "Yup, tara hatid na kita sa apartment mo. Ipapa-convoy ko nalang sa driver yung kotse ko para diretso na ako sa condo after kita ihatid," sabi ni Zeke.

    Wala na siya sa mood tumanggi dahil pagod na din siya. It had been a long day at gusto nalang niyang magpahinga. “Okay.”

    Ngumiti ito sakanya bago bumaling kay Elmo na tahimik lang silang pinapanood. “Ikaw, Sam? Are you sleeping here?”

    "Yeah. Hindi ko pa naayos yung gamit sa condo ko. At bukas pa lang dadating yung kama at other furnitures, so I guess dito muna ako ulit," sagot ni Elmo.

    "Alright. Julie and I are going," paalam ni Zeke sa kapatid. Hinawakan nito ang kamay niya para hilahin papasok ng bahay. "Tara hon, magpaalam na tayo kina Mama."

    Ngumiti nalang siya at tumango. Bigla naman siyang napatigil nang tinawag siya ni Elmo. “Julie.”

    Lumingon siya dito pero hindi siya nagsalita. Hinintay niya lang ito na may sabihin.

    "So.. friends?" Ngumiti ito na parang kinakabahan.

    Hindi naman niya napigilang mapangiti sa hitsura nito. Parang isang bata kasi ito na nagtatanong ng kung ano sa crush.

    "Yeah, friends." Ngumiti siya ulit at saka tuluyang nagpaalam dito.

     
  9. Distance (Chapter 3)

    "Um. Si Maqui."

    "Maqui brought you here?" Tanong ni Zeke sakanya.

    "No, I just remembered I have to call her. We’re supposed to meet later tonight but I guess I can’t go out with a sprained ankle, right?"

    "Right." Natawa naman si Zeke habang nagmamaneho ito papunta sa apartment niya. "So sinong tumulong sayo kanina?"

    "Well, the one who brought me to the infirmary was someone I met in the cafe. Maybe you know him, bago lang siya dun," sagot niya.

    Natawa ulit ito. “Hmm. I know someone. What’s his name?”

    "El—"

    "Oops. Wait, hon," putol nito sakanya. Kinuha nito ang phone sa bulsa bago tumingin sakanya na parang nagsosorry. "Someone’s calling. Gotta pick this up, it’s my accountant."

    "Go ahead," nakangiting sagot niya.

    Saka lang niya narealize na nalimutan na nilang ituloy ang pinag uusapan nila kanina ng kasintahan nang maihatid na siya ni Zeke sa apartment niya.

    It was already two in the afternoon and Julie was reading a book as she ate her lunch alone. Wala na kasi halos tao sa cafeteria dahil karamihan ng estudyante ay alas dose ng tanghali ang lunch break. Samantalang siya naman ay hapon na ang vacant time niya para kumain. Naeenjoy niya ang ganung schedule dahil tahimik ang paligid at pwede siyang mag-aral o magbasa ng maayos kapag gusto niya.

    She was still engrossed in her book as she chewed her apple when she heard a voice spoke to her.

    "Hi, Julie."

    "Huh?" Napaangat ang tingin niya nang marinig ang pangalan niya at nagulat siya sa nakita. "Um. Elmo?"

    Ngumiti ito sa kanya na parang nahihiya. “Can I sit here?”

    Nilibot naman muna niya ang paningin sa cafeteria. Kakaunti lang kasi ang mga estudyante na nakatambay doon at maraming tables ang bakante kaya nagtataka siya na napili nitong makiupo sa table niya. Nag-aalinlangan naman siyang sumagot. “Sure..”

    "Thanks," masayang sabi ni Elmo. Naupo na ito dala ang sariling tray at nagsimula nang kumain.

    "So… What are you exactly doing here?"

    Umangat ang tingin nito sakanya habang ngumunguya. “Having my lunch?”

    "Of course, but.."

    "What?" Taas kilay na tanong nito.

    Kumunot naman ang noo niya. Ang alam niya ay nagttrabaho ito sa coffee shop. “Don’t you have work?”

    "Ah, tapos na shift ko kanina. Besides, part time lang iyon. I go to class after my shift," casual na sagot ng binata.

    Nagulat naman siya sa narinig kaya di niya maiwasan magtanong. “Estudyante ka din dito?”

    "Yup, why does that surprise you?" Natatawa nitong sagot nang makita nito na nanlaki ang mata niya sa sagot nito. "I work in the morning and some nights but I go to classes in the afternoon.

    "It’s just that I’ve never seen you around the campus.." Mahinang sagot niya. Sa apat na taon kasi ay hindi niya ito nakita kahit saan sa campus kaya nagtataka siya.

    "Why? Have you been looking for me?" Tanong na nang-aasar nito sakanya at kumindat pa ito.

    She just rolled her eyes on him, “Jerk.”

    "Joke lang," sagot nito in between his laughs. Then he continued eating. Napatingin naman ito sa plato niya. "Kakainin mo pa ba yan?" Sabay turo sa tirang salad niya.

    She shook her head, wondering why he bothered. Nagulat pa siya nang bigla na lang nitong abutin ang plato niya at kinain din ang tirang salad sa lunch niya. Natawa naman siya dito. Parang sobrang kumportable na kasi ng binata sakanya.

    "Don’t you have friends?"

    "I would be sitting with them if I had. Do you?"

    Ibinaba na niya ang librong hawak at pinanood na lang niya itong kumain. “Of course, I do. My schedule just don’t fit with theirs so I have to eat lunch alone sometimes.”

    "I guess we can have lunch together every Friday, eh?" Casual na tanong nito.

    Pakiramdam niya ay pinopormahan na naman siya ng binata. Kaya hindi niya alam kung papayag ba siya o hindi. Isa pa ay may boyfriend na siya kaya sa tingin niya ay hindi maganda na hayaan niyang maging magkaibigan sila ni Elmo, lalo na’t attracted siya dito. Mahirap na baka magselos pa ang boyfriend niya dito.

    "Um. I don’t know about that.." Mahinang sagot niya kay Elmo. She tried to smile but it came out as a wince.

    Napakunot naman ng noo si Elmo na tila ba ay disappointed sa sagot niya. “Why not? I thought we’re friends?” Natatawang tanong nito.

    "When did we become friends?" Tinaasan niya ito ng kilay nang bigla itong tumawa. "Anong nakakatawa?"

    "You," natatawa pa ding sagot ni Elmo.

    "Huh?"

    "You’re tough." Ngumiti ito ng maluwag sakanya at bigla naman siyang namula.

    "Are you hitting on me?" Naiinis na tanong niya dito.

    Tumaas ang dalawang kilay nito na parang nagulat pa sa tanong niya. “What made you think that?”

    She ignored his question and prompted him to answer her own. “Are you?”

    "Of course, not," mabilis na sagot ni Elmo. Ngumiti pa ito sakanya nang matipid.

    Liar.

    Naguguluhan siya sa kilos at sinasabi ng binata. Minsan ay friendly at masayang kakwentuhan si Elmo pero minsan din ay may pagkamahangin at malandi ito. Hindi niya masabi kung kailan talaga ito nagsasabi ng totoo. Although she remembered that day when she literally bumped into him in the school grounds. His concerned look that afternoon was sincere and he did take care of her the entire time she was with him. But she decided not to dwell on that day. She couldn’t afford to let her guard down.

    "Really? Good, because I have a boyfriend," madiing sabi niya dito.

    Ngumiti lang ito sakanya na parang nagsasabing I know. “Okay. So.. Can we be friends now?”

    "No." Nagsimula na siyang ligpitin ang mga gamit sa table na inuupuan nila.

    "Hey, I helped you the other day!" Protesta nito sakanya habang natatawa.

    "Well, thank you." Tumayo na siya. "I gotta go to class. See you around, Elmo," nakangiting paalam niya bago siya tumalikod at nagsimula nang maglakad papalabas ng cafeteria.

    "Hon!" Bati ng kasintahan sa kabilang linya.

    Napangiti naman siya nang marinig ang boses nito. “Hi, Zeke.”

    "Are you done with your classes today?"

    "Yup. Kakatapos lang ng last class ko. Why?"

    Naglalakad na siya papunta sa parking lot. Dala niya ang kotse niya ngayong araw, may mga panahon kasi na tinatamad siyang maglakad kahit malapit lang ang apartment niya sa campus at lalo na kapag madami siyang dala, and it was one of those days.

    "Ah, ini-invite ka ni Mama dito sa bahay. It’s my parents’ wedding anniversary today. Can you come?" His voice sounded hopeful.

    "Of course. I’ll be there in an hour," nakangiting sagot niya dito.

    "Thanks, hon. Love you! Ingat sa pagdrive."

    "Love you. Bye." Sumakay na siya sa kotse at nagsimulang magmaneho.

    Nasa isang exclusive na subdivision nakatayo ang bahay ng mga magulang ni Zeke. Kahit na umalis na si Zeke sa bahay ng mga ito para tumira sa condo na nabili ng kasintahan, dumadalaw pa din si Zeke sa mga ito ng madalas. Minsan ay dito din ito nakikitulog kapag walang trabaho kinabukasan.

    Hinahanap niya ang driver’s license niya sa bag dahil kailangan ito ng guard sa subdivision na iyon bago makapasok sa loob. Strikto kasi ang pagbabantay sa lugar na iyon dahil mayayaman lang nakatira doon. Abala pa siya sa paghahalungkat sa bag nang biglang may tumigil na kotse sa kanan niya.

    "Hi, miss."

    Napaangat siya nang tingin at nang makilala kung sino ang bumati sakanya ay inirapan niya ito. “Ikaw na naman?”

    "Yup. Are you following me?" Natatawang pang-aasar nanaman ni Elmo.

    Sinamaan niya ito ng tingin bago sumagot. “Wow. Ibang klase ka din talaga no? Nauna ako dito, baka ikaw ang sumusunod sa akin.”

    Natawa ito ng malakas sa sinabi niya. “FYI Ms. Julie, I live in this subdivision.” Bilang patunay pa ay sumaludo ito sa guard at binati naman si Elmo ng magalang nito. “I don’t know about you though.”

    "What?" Gulat na tanong niya.

    He lives in an exclusive subdivision pero nagttrabaho siya sa coffee shop?

    Not to mention, may kotse siya at Chevrolet pa ang brand nito.

    "Gotta go." Kumindat lang ito sakanya at saka nagdrive papasok ng subdivision.

    Sinundan niya ito ng tingin habang inaabot ang lisensya sa guard at binigyan naman siya nito ng visitor’s pass bilang kapalit. Nahihiwagaan pa din siya sa pagkatao ni Elmo kaya naisip niya itong sundan. Ngunit bago pa niya napaandar ulit ang kotse ay bigla nang lumiko ang kotse ni Elmo kung saan. Naisipan nalang niyang maglibot muna sa buong subdivision para hanapin kung saan naka-park ang sasakyan ng binata. Di na nga niya namalayan na nilagpasan na niya ang street kung saan nakatira ang mga magulang ni Zeke.

    Baka naman hiniram lang niya yung kotse na yun. Tapos may binibisita siya dito sa subdivision.

    O baka naman houseboy siya o driver dito.

    Shit. What am I doing? Stalking someone I barely know!

    Nang nahiya na siya sa sarili ay nagpasya siyang itigil na ang kabaliwan. Halos may kalahating oras na pala siyang naglibot at paubos na ang gas ng kotse niya. Lumiko na siya sa street kung saan naroon ang dating bahay ng kasintahan. Nagulat na lang siya nang makita ang sasakyan na kamukha ng kotseng minamaneho ni Elmo sa tapat ng bahay ng mga ito. Pilit niyang inalala ang plate number ng kotse ng binata para sana masiguro kung iyon nga ang kotse ni Elmo pero di niya maalala. Napakunot noo naman siya sa naisip.

    Magkakilala sila ni Zeke?

    Baka driver siya ng mama ni Zeke?

    Nagpark siya sa likod ng misteryosong kotse at pumasok na sa loob. Malaki ang bahay ng mga ito at moderno ang disenyo. May dalawang floors ito at halos kasinglaki na ng cafeteria nila sa school. Anim na sasakyan ang kasya sa garahe ng mga ito pero tatlo lang ang naka-park doon, kasama ang kotse ni Zeke. Sa labas kasi naka-park ang kotse niya at ang Chevrolet na kamukha ng kay Elmo.

    Pagpasok niya ay sinalubong siya ng halik ni Zeke sa pisngi. “Bakit ngayon ka lang?”

    "Um.. Naligaw ako eh," pagsisinungaling niya kahit sigurado siyang hindi ito kapani-paniwala.

    Natawa naman ng malakas ang kasintahan. “Seriously, hon? You’ve been here a numerous times already! Paano ka pa naligaw?”

    Napakamot nalang siya ng noo at ngumiti dito. “Ah, basta long story. Anyway.. Sorry, I’m late.”

    "It’s okay. At least you’re here now," sabi nito sabay yakap sakanya. "My baby brother is also here, you’ll get to meet him finally!"

    "Hi, Julie!" Bati sakanya ng Mama ni Zeke, galing ito sa kusina at may dalang ulam para ihain sa dining table. Kasunod naman nito ang asawa. "Hi, hija."

    "Hi, Tita Lea & Tito Ed. Happy anniversary po! Sorry, I’m late po," bati niya sabay nagmano at bumeso sa mga ito.

    "Thank you! It’s okay, hija. Come, have a seat." Hinila na siya ng mama ni Zeke paupo. "Ezekiel, call your brother down," utos naman nito kay Zeke.

    Naglakad ito papunta sa dulo ng hagdan at saka tinawag ang kapatid. “Sam! Dinner!”

    "Tito Ed, may iba pa po ba kayong bisita?" Tanong niya sa papa ni Zeke.

    Nagtataka namang sumagot ito sakanya. “Wala naman. Why?”

    "Ah. Kanino po yung Chevrolet na naka-park sa labas?" Nahihiyang tanong

    Ngumiti naman ito malaki. “Hmm. Yun ba? Kay—”

    "Mine," sabay sabi ng kapatid ni Zeke sa likuran niya. Napalingon naman siya sa pinanggalingan ng boses.

    "—Sam yun." Masiglang sagot ni Ed.

    Sa pangatlong pagkakataon, nanlaki na naman ang mga mata niya nang makita ulit ang binata. “Elmo?”

    Bahagyang nagulat din ito pero napangiti ito ng malaki sakanya. Kumindat na naman ito sakanya bago siya binati. “Hi, Julie.”

    "Whoa." Gulat na baling ni Zeke kay Elmo na nakangiti pa din sakanya. Pagkatapos ay tumingin naman ang kasintahan sakanya. "Hon? So you’ve already met my baby brother?"

     
  10. Please vote for JuliElmo as Female and Male Performers of the Year and Bakit Ngayon as Song of the Year at Yahoo Celebrity Awards 2014! :)

    Please vote for JuliElmo as Female and Male Performers of the Year and Bakit Ngayon as Song of the Year at Yahoo Celebrity Awards 2014! :)