A Promise Not To Break: Chapter 11

This entry is part 13 of 18 in the series A Promise Not To Break

“HEY, anong nangyari sa’yo? Maputla ka na naman. I told you not stress yourself too much,” nag-aalalang wika ni Dave kay Prie ng pagbuksan niya ito ng pinto.

“And hello to you, too,” sarkastikong sagot ni Prie bago siya naglakad patungo sa kusina where she was cooking dinner for the two of them. It was Saturday, at halos isang linggo din silang hindi nagkita dahil naging busy siya sa ad agency.

“Prie,” he called after her. “Come here.” She did. “Ikaw talaga,” masuyong wika nito as he pulled her to an embrace. “Nag-aalala lang naman ako. Ilang araw kitang hindi nakita tapos ganyan pa kitang dadatnan. I’m sorry if I was abrupt.”

“It’s okay.”

“And you’re still angry.”

“No,” tanggi ni Prie sa sinabi nito bago ito lumayo rito upang tignan ang kanyang niluluto. “Why don’t you just help me in set up the table? Para naman may silbi ka diyan kaysa para kang tangang nakatayo diyan.”

“Ah, tanga pala ah,” sagot naman ni Dave bago siya nito hinabol ng kiliti.

“Hoy, hoy,” humahangos na wika ni Prie. “Tama na, please. Pagod na ‘ko. Please.”

“Hindi ka na galit?”

“Mas magagalit ako kung hindi mo pa ako bibitawan,” sagot ni Prie. He released her. “Good dog,” natatawa niyang sabi dito. “Now, mag-ayos ka na diyan, aasikasuhin ko lang yung pagkain.”

“Yes, ma’am,” saludo nito sa kanya na puno ng halakhak ang mga mata. “Ano’ng ulam, mommy?”

He looked so ridiculous when he said that that she couldn’t stop the laugh from escaping her. “Mukha kang tanga, cute,” she said between breaths.

“Whatever, yung pagkain ko,” iritableng sagot ni Dave bago siya nito tinalikuran. Kahit kailan talaga ay pikon ito. Maya-maya’y humarap itong muli sa kanya.  “You called me ‘cute,’” amazed nitong sabi sa kanya.

She shrugged. So what? “You used to call me that when I was little.”

Her eyebrow rose up a notch, as if to say, “So?”

He smiled then shrugged. “Wala lang. Nakakabigla lang. I think I missed that.”

“You want me to call you cute?” mangha niyang tanong kay Dave.

“Not really,” sagot nito bago ito tumalikod ulit. “I’d rather have you call me ‘handsome,’” he added over his shoulders.

“In your dreams,” natatawa niyang ganti dito. “Baka hand-sama ng mukha, pwede pa!”

Sasagot pa sana ito ng tumunog ang kanyang cellphone. Kinapa niya ang kanyang back-pocket.

“Hello?”

“Prie? We need to talk.”

Parang binuhusan ng malamig na tubig si Prie ng marinig niya ang boses ni Mael. For a second, she thought about how she doesn’t look at her phone’s screen to know who’s calling before she answers it. Then she felt herself grow pale.

“Hey, who’s that?” nag-aalalang tanong ni Dave mula sa kanyang likod. Mukhang napansin nito ang pamumutla niya.  Huminga siya ng malalim at hinarap ito ng may ngiti.

“Someone from work. Can you, ahm, can you look after the kitchen for a while? Malapit ng maluto ‘yung sinigang. Ahm, kailangan ko lang sagutin ‘to agad.”

He was about to say something but decided otherwise. He smiled and then shooed her out of the room. Nagpunta siya sa back garden through the kitchen door. Ng masigurado niyang hindi na siya nito maririnig, she lifted the phone again.

“Out of earshot?” may himig ng pagseselos na tanong ni Mael.

She sighed. “I’m sorry. He came for dinner and—”

“No,” pigil nito sa kanyang pagpapaliwanag. “I was the one who told you to spend time with him. I’m sorry if I sounded like a jealous husband.”

“There’s nothing to say sorry about,” marahan niyang sagot dito. Then she heard him sigh. “Mael? What’s wrong?

“Prie…”

“Say it.”

“It’s back. The results of last week’s check up came in just now.”

Parang umikot ang lahat sa paningin ni Prie ng marinig niya ang sinabi ni Mael. Now there was no uncertainty anymore. She might die.

“Prie? Prie? Listen to me. Don’t worry, it can be treated. In two weeks, makaka-alis na tayo. May naka-usap na si mommy na doctor sa Washington. He’s good. Mom and I will be coordinating with him. It will be okay.”

“Two weeks?” wala sa sariling tanong niya. She was still reeling from the emotional blow.

“Yes.”

She thought about Dave. The concert. How he wanted her to be there. “I—ahm—may exact date na ba?” tanong niya kay Mael. Maybe she can still—

“On the thirthieth. We’re scheduled on the 11 pm flight.”

“Ha? Pero wala ng two weeks ‘yon!” Ten days. Ten days. Ten days left to spend with Dave. The day of the concert. “I—ahm, is there a…May posibilidad ba na makapagpareschedule tayo?”

“Is it the concert?” malumanay na tanong ni Mael.

“Yes.”

“Don’t worry, you can stay for the first half.”

“Pero si Dave—”

“Prie…I’m sorry. Nakaschedule ang first test mo doon for the first of June. Mom scheduled it, so we can’t—I’m sorry, love.”

She felt hot tears roll down on her cheeks. “I am, too,” sagot niya. Masasaktan na naman niya si Dave. Even the one month that she had promised him, hindi rin pala niya matutupad. Her love…Maybe she is cursed.

Paulit-ulit ng tinatawag ni Mael ang kanyang pangalan ng bago nito makuha ang kanyang atensyon. “Yes, yes, I’m still here.”

“Love, we—you have to do this. I want you alive. And I’m doing all that I can to keep you alive. Hindi ko gustong nasasaktan ka ng ganito—”

“It’s okay, Mael. I understand. And I thank you for it,” sagot niya rito with false cheerfulness. She wouldn’t let Mael blame himself. He had done so much for her already. “Sa tingin mo, sasabihin ko na ba kina mama?”

He became silent for a while. “I’ll go with you,” wika nito matapos ng ilang sandali. “I—I want to be there with you.”

She smiled despite herself. “I want you to be there,” sagot niya rito. “I need you to be with me when I tell them.”

“I will. When?”

“How ‘bout next Saturday? Para naman wala silang masyadong pagkakataon para pagalitan ako,” natatawa niyang sagot dito.

“Hindi ka nila pwedeng pagalitan kapag nandoon ako,” sagot nito na sinasabayan ang kanyang tono. After a beat, he said, “Are you sure about him?”

She knew whom he was talking about. “Yes, I’m sure,” seryosong sagot niya. “See you next Sat.”

“Yes. Take care of yourself, okay? I’ll see you. I love you, Prie.”

“I know. I know.”

Nang pindutin niya ang end button, hindi niya napigilang bumuntong-hininga. Bakit ba isa lang ang puso ng tao? If she could only have two hearts, ibibigay niya ng buo ang isa kay Mael.

Napatingin siya sa screen ng kanyang cellphone. Then, before she knew what she was doing, nabura na niya ang call history ng kanyang telepono. And as she walked back inside the house, one thought kept repeating itself on her mind: Ayokong malaman niya.

**

She looked cheerful when she entered the house. Too cheerful.

“O, kumusta? Bakit daw tumawag?”

“The usual. Pero naayos ko na,” sagot ni Prie sa kanya habang naglalakad patungo sa may stove. “Okay na ‘to. Pwede bang ikaw na lang ang maglagay ng pagkain sa mesa? Magpapalit lang ako ng damit sandali. Ang init, eh. Tapos amoy pagkain pa ‘ko.”

“You smell okay to me,” sagot ni Dave dito as he embraced her from behind. “You smell like flowers.”

“Bola,” sagot naman nito at agad na kumawala mula sa yakap niya. “Sige na, ‘wag kang tamad. Magbibihis lang ako. Ha? Tapos kain na tayo. Nagugutom na rin ako.”

“Sure,” he answered to her back, as she made her way to the stairs. Then his eyes caught Prie’s phone lying on the table’s edge.  Kinuha niya iyon and he started looking through her call history. There was none. A small bud of suspicion made its way to his mind. Why did she erase it? Was she hiding something from him?

He heard her flip-flops on the stairs. Agad niyang binitawan ang telepono at sinimulang kumuha ng pagkain.

“Asan na ang kanin?” tanong ni Prie ng pumasok ito sa kitchen.

“Sandali lang po, madam. Mahina ang kalaban.”

“Sabihin mo, tamad ka lang talaga,” nagkukunwaring galit na sagot niya rito. “Dalian mo na, nagugutom na ‘ko,” dagdag pa niya ng makaupo siya sa may mesa.

“Heto na po lahat, donya Priscilla,” wika ni Dave ng ihapag niya sa mesa ang pagkain. Umupo siya tapat ni Prie. “Ano pong gusto niyong kainin, donya?”

“He!” natatawang bawal sa kanya ni Prie. “Kumain na tayo.”

Tahimik silang kumain. Once in a while, sinusubukan niyang subuan ito ngunit ayaw talaga ni Prie. It irked him, but he decided not to make an issue out of it anymore. He wanted to know something and he knew it wouldn’t do him good kung mag-aaway sila. When they were down to mangoes, he started his subtle investigation.

“Akala ko naayos na ang leave mo?”

“Oo nga. Starting on Monday. Wala naman talaga akong pasok kapag weekends, so hindi counted. Why?”

“Wala naman. Natanong ko lang. So anong problema, ba’t napatawag sila?”

Sandali itong natigilan. “Ah…Ayun, may hindi lang daw sila nakita dun sa mga reports na tinapos ko kahapon. So pinatawag nila yung assistant ko to ask me about it.”

“Hmm.”

“How’bout you? How’s the rehearsals going?”

“Okay. Kanji’s being his dour self, but everything going according to plan.”

“So kailan darating si tita?”

“Baka mid-next week. Wednesday or Thursday. Do you want to meet with her?”

“Ha? I don’t think that’s a good idea…”

“Ano ka ba, she’ll know anyway, so there’s no point in hiding. Oh, do you want to go to the rehearsals with me sa Wednesday?”

“Ahm, okay.”

He smiled. “Good. Para din may dahilan ako na makatakas agad doon. Kanji’s getting more and more of a monster these days.”

“So ginagamit mo lang pala akong scapegoat,” sarkastikong turan ni Prie sa kanya.

“Don’t fret. You’re the most beautiful scapegoat in the world,” nakangiti niyang sagot.

“I know, right,” sagot naman ni Prie na ikinatawa nilang pareho.

“By the way, you can invite Mael if you want. You know, for old times’ sake.’”

As he expected, that stopped her. He didn’t want to invite Mael. Gusto lang niyang malaman kung makakakuha siya ng impormasyon mula kay Prie tungkol sa lalaking iyon kung babanggitin niya ang pangalan nito.

But she was a tougher cookie. “You want me to come with him sa concert?” tanong ni Prie sa kanya with raised eyebrows.

That irritated him. “Of course not.”

“So why do you want me to invite him?”

“For old times’ sake,” simpleng sagot niya. “But he can come with another woman. He can’t have mine.”

“Yours?”

“As in mine. You’re my girl and he can’t have you.”

She smiled. And for a moment, he thought: Finally! She’s accepted that she’s mine. Until she suddenly stood up and pinned him down with her piercing eyes.

“Let me tell you something Mr. Fuentebella,” simula nito. “I may be your girlfriend but I’m not yours. Nagkakaintindihan ba tayo? Hindi ako pwedeng ariin ng kahit na sino. And you better get that idea of owning me out of your mind, because you’ll never have it.  Do you understand?”

“Prie—I’m just—”

“Do you understand?”

“Fine,” sagot niya sabay taas ng kanyang kamay tanda ng pagsuko. “Fine, I get it.”

“Good,” pasalya nitong sabi. At pagkatapos ay padabog itong lumabas ng hapag-kainan, leaving him shocked and angry with himself. He didn’t understand her sudden outburst, and that hurt him. Pero ang ikinagalit niya ay ang katangahan niya. He was so cocky that he forgot the main reason why he was grilling her. In the end, wala din siyang nalamang bago. Shit.

**

“Hey, aalis na ‘ko,” dinig niyang sabi ni Dave mula sa kanyang likuran. Magkukunwari sana siyang tulog na but she thought better of it.

“Drive well.”

Hindi ito sumagot. Sa halip ay naramdaman niya ang paggalaw ng kanyang kama. “Prie? Sorry,” seryoso nitong wika kasabay ng paghaplos nito sa kanyang ulo.

“Okay.”

“I mean it. You’re right, I don’t own you. But I love you and that makes me so possessive of you. Forgive me please. Ayokong umalis ng magkagalit tayo.”

Humarap siya rito. He was looking so dejected that she couldn’t hold on to her anger.

“Hindi na ako galit,” sagot niya rito. Ayaw na niyang magalit pa rito. They have little enough time as it is. “Just—just don’t get too possessive. I don’t like it.”

“I’ll try my best,” wika naman ni Dave as he bent to kiss her. “Basta ‘wag kang masyadong maging friendly sa mga lalaki, ah?”

She smiled. “Parang ganun din ‘yon, eh. Anyway, sige na, gabi na. You better go home.”

“Can’t I stay here?”

“Dave…”

“Prie, ikakasal din naman tayo. It doesn’t matter—” her look stopped him. “Okay. Aalis na ‘ko,” he said, reluctantly as he straightened. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay? Text me if you need anything. I love you.”

“I will,” sagot ni Prie. “Goodnight.”

“I love you.”

She blew him a kiss.

**

“Okay, break!” sigaw ng director. “That was beautiful Dave, better than in your other concerts. Did something happen to inspire you?”

Ngumiti si Dave. “Actually, it’s a someone.”

“The beautiful girl you brought with you?” gulat nitong tanong. “Isn’t she an older cousin or something?”

Biglang napalis ang ngiti sa mukha ni Dave sa sinabing iyon ng direktor. Alam niyang hindi nito sinasadyang inisin siya ngunit nairita pa rin siya. “No. She’s my girl,” flat na sagot niya rito bago tuloy-tuloy na naglakad sa audience’s seat.

Inabutan niyang nagpupunas ng mata si Prie.

“Hey, were you crying?” nag-aalalang tanong niya.

“Hi-hindi.”

“You’ve always been a bad liar,” natatawang sabi niya rito. “Masyado ka bang nagandahan sa tinugtog ko?”

“Kapal mo! Masyado lang—”

“Malungkot?”

“Yeah.”

“Well that’s the purpose of that piece. So are you hungry?”

“No.”

“Anong oras na, what do you mean hindi ka pa nagugutom? Robot ka ba ha?”

“Hindi lang talaga ako gutumin, ‘di ba nga?”

“That’s the point. You never change,” wika niya. “Kapag kinasal tayo, hindi kita hahayaan na hindi kumain sa oras.”

Bigla itong tumayo sa sinabi niyang iyon. “Tara na, kumain na tayo, para matigil ka na.”

“Prie—”

“I though you want me to eat? Halika na,” wika nito sa kanya sabay yakag sa kanya palabas ng auditorium. “Oo nga, pala, hindi ba ngayon uuwi si tita Alexa?” tanong ni Prie ng makalabas sila ng building.

“Yup,” sagot niya. Tinignan niya ang kanyang relo. “I think mamayang mga five darating ang flight niya.”

“Susunduin mo ba siya?” Tumango siya. Hinila ni Prie ang kanyang kamay at binilisan ang paglalakad. “In that case, we better get going para maaga kang makarating sa airport.”

Tumigil siya sa paglalakad. “What do you mean? You’re coming with me, of course.”

“Ha?”

“You’re coming with me to the airport. ‘Di ba, I told you. We might as well tell her earlier about us.”

“But—”

“No buts. Okay?” Reluctantly, tumango si Prie. “Good. Oh, tara na. Let’s find a nice restaurant somewhere,” he said as he touched her upper arm.

“Ouch!” Gulat na napatingin siya rito. “My arm,” sagot ni Pries a kanyang tahimik na tanong.

He let go of her arm. “Why, what happened?” tanong niya habang tinitignan ang masakit na bahagi. What he saw made him curse angrily. “Saan galing ‘yan? Sino’ng nanakit sa’yo? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Wala,” sagot ni Prie habang ibinababa ang manggas ng polo nito. “Naumpog lang ako kanina sa kabinet. Hindi kasi ako tumitingin sa dinadaanan ko, eh.”

“Bullshit.”

“Stop cussing or I’ll cut-off your dirty mouth,” iritableng ganti nito sa kanya. Tumahimik siya. “Sinabi na kasing nabugbog lang kaninang umaga, ang kulit mo.”

“Then you should have told me!”

“Ano ka ba? Matanda na ‘ko. Pasa lang ‘to. Hindi ko naman ikakamatay ‘to,” sabi nito habang hinihimas ang may pasang bahagi ng kanyang braso.

“But it’s hurting you.”

“Malamang masakit,” sarkastikong sagot nito. “Nabugbog nga, eh. Basta ‘wag mo na lang hawakan. Gagaling din ‘to.”

“May nilagay ka ba diyan? Anything? Para agad gumaling.”

“Wala,” sagot nito. “And don’t look at me like that. Mas matanda pa rin ako sa’yo kaya wala kang karapatang pagsabihan ako. Tara na, kumain na tayo. Ilibre mo ‘ko dahil binugbog mo lalo ang pasa ko.”

“Malay ko ba naman—fine. My treat.”

**

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