A Promise Not To Break: Chapter 12

This entry is part 14 of 18 in the series A Promise Not To Break

PA-SIMPLENG hinihimas ni Prie ang kanyang pasa sa braso habang hinihintay niyang bumalik si Dave from the vendo machine. It hurt like hell. Pasa lang ‘to. Hindi ko naman ikakamatay ‘to…

If only she could fool herself with a simple statement like that. Nitong mga nakaraang araw, it was getting harder and harder to act normal. Nararamdaman na niya ang panghihina ng katawan niya. The way it did years ago. At lalo siyang nahihirapan sa kaisipan na konting araw na lang ay kailangan na niyang iwanan si Dave. This time, for good.

Naramdaman niyang nagvibrate ang kanyang cellphone. “Hello?”

“Prie, how are you?”

“Mael…”

“Did something happen?”

“Nag-uumpisa na naman akong magkapasa,” halos naiiyak na sagot niya sa tanong nito. Dahil ayaw niyang makahalata si Dave, pinipilit niya ang sarili niyang tiisin ang sakit. But it’s getting harder and harder not to cry. But with Mael, she could somehow be herself.

“Damnation, I want to be there for you!” galit na sigaw nito mula sa kabilang linya. “Nakahalata na ba siya? Maybe I should see you…How ‘bout your migraine attacks?”

“He—no. I try to block out the pain when I’m with him,” sagot niya rito. Hindi na niya napigilan pa ang pagpatak ng mga luha niya. Agad niyang pinunasan ang kanyang mukha. Dave couldn’t see her like that. “And the migraine attacks are still manageable. Pero hindi ako maka-tulog kapag gabi.”

“Pupuntahan kita ngayon.”

“No,” pigil niya rito. “You can’t. I’m—nasa airport kami ngayon. Hinihintay si tita Alexa.”

“Damn it,” inis na wika nito. Alam niyang nag-aalala na ito ng matindi sa kalagayan niya. “Then I’ll see you as early as possible tomorrow. Okay? I have to see you.”

“I—okay. Hindi ko muna siya papupuntahin sa bahay bukas. What time?”

“Eight? Kung hindi mo pa kayang gumising ng mga ganung oras, I’ll let myself in. I still have the spare key.”

“Okay. I’ll see you.”

“Prie, love, please. Please take care of yourself.”

“Don’t worry too much,” she replied with false cheerfulness. “I’m a big girl.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” tugon nito.

Nang magpaalam ito sa wakas, somehow, nabawasan ang bigat sa kanyang dibdib. At least, with Mael by her side, okay lang kahit hindi muna siya maging isang mature na tao. She could cry to him. She needed so much to cry. She was so afraid.

“Here’s your coffee, hon.”

Ng lumingon siya, inabot ni Dave ang isang styro-cup of coffee. “Is it still hurting you?” tanong nito ng mapansin nitong hinaplos niya ang kanyang braso.

“Hindi naman masyado,” sagot niya ng may pilit na ngiti. Tumayo siya.

“Oh, s’an ka pupunta?”

Ibinaba niya ang bigay nitong kape sa tabi ng kanyang handbag. “Punta lang ako sa powder room sandali,” paalam ni Prie. Tumango naman si Dave.

When she left, napansin niyang naiwan nitong bukas ang handbag nito. Cursing her absentmindedness, he was about to zip the bag when her vibrating cellphone caught his eyes. May tumatawag dito. His gut tightened when he saw Mael’s name on the screen.

“Hello?” bruskong sagot niya. Sandaling hindi nagsalita ang lalaki sa kabilang linya.

“Where’s Prie?” tanong din nito sa parehong tono.

“She went to the bathroom. What do you want?”

“I’ll just call back later.”

“The hell you will,” halos sigaw niya sa telepono. Nang pagtinginan siya ng mga tao, ibinaba niya ang kanyang boses. “Prie and you are through. Nada. Zilch. So don’t call her anymore.”

Walang sumagot mula sa kabilang linya. Ng tignan niya ang screen, tanging ang wallpaper ni Prie ang nakita niya. Binabaan na siya nito ng phone. The bastard!

Pabalibag na ibinalik niya ang cellphone sa loob ng handbag ni Prie. He was so angry that he also forgot to zip it. At ng bumalik si Prie, his mood was worse.

“Dave? Ano’ng nangyari sa’yo?” nag-aalala nitong tanong ng datnan siya. He was about to tell her that he just talked to her ex when his mother’s voice cut through his mind.

“David!”

Napatayo siya. “Mom!” bati niya rito as she kissed his cheek. “You’re looking good.”

“And you’re looking dashing,” balik naman nito sa kanya. “If not angry, if I might add.”

“Tita Alexa…”

Bumaling ito ng tingin kay Prie. Napasulyap ito sa kanya ng puno ng pagtatanong ang mga mata bago nito binalingang muli si Prie.

“Prie, iha, how are you? It’s been years since I’ve last seen you. You’ve grown more beautiful.”

“Salamat po tita,” Prie replied with a hesitant smile.

“Mom, ‘yan lang ang dala mo?”

“Yes,” sagot ni Alexa sa kanyang anak. “Dave, why don’t you put this on your car? We’ll walk after you.”

Bumaling ang tingin ni Dave kay Prie. Nagtatanong. Tumango si Prie at ngumiti. Binuhat niya ang dalawang maleta ng kanyang ina at naunang naglakad patungo sa parking lot.

Nang maiwan silang dalawa ng kanyang tita Alexa, hindi alam ni Prie kung ano ang dapat niyang gawin. “Tita—”

Humarap ito sa kanya at ngumiti. “Not now, Prie. We’ll talk eventually. But not now.”

“Pero—kami po ni Dave…”

Ginagap nito ang mga nanlalamig niyang kamay. “I know about the two of you,” wika nito na ikinabigla niya. “Oh, no. Don’t look so shocked. Your mom told me.”

“But I never told—”

“Iha, you can’t hide everything from your mother. Mel knows more than you tell her. And with Dave living next to her, there’s no keeping it quiet.”

“I’m sorry,” yuko ang noong paumanhin ni Prie.

“Don’t be,” nakangiting ganti ng kanyang tita Alexa. Muli nitong pinisil ang kanyang mga kamay na hawak nito. “I haven’t seen him like this for years. You’re good for him.”

Umiling siya. “No—no I’m not, tita. I’m not. I’m just being selfish.”

Nagulat ito sa sinabi niya. Ngunit bago pa ito makasagot, ang iritableng boses na ni Dave ang pumutol sa kanilang usapan. “Hey, dalian niyo!”

Nagkatinginan silang dalawa. “We’ll talk tomorrow, okay? Enough for today,” tanging sabi na lamang ng kanyang tita Alexa. Tumango siya.

Naupo siya sa likuran upang bigyan ng pagkakataon ang mag-ina na na magkasarili. Ngunit sa kanyang pagkabigla, agad na ginagap ni Dave ang kanyang kamay from the backseat. The whole time that they were on the road, he never let go of her hand.

“Dave, if you don’t mind, pwede bang idaan mo muna ako sa apartment? Para naman makapag-usap kayo ng maayos ni tita Alexa.”

To her surprise, his grip tightened. “Matulog ka na lang sa bahay niyo.”

“I—”

“Sige na, David. Idaan na natin si Prie sa apartment niya,” ligtas sa kanya ni Alexa. She winked at her. “We need to talk anyway.”

“I—fine,” he replied, defeated.

Nang bumaba siya, bumaba din si Dave, while tita Alexa just waved. “Bumalik ka na d’on,” taboy niya rito. “I’m sure pagod si tita Alexa, so you better head home now.”

“What did she tell you?” puno ng pag-aalalang tanong sa kanya ni Dave.

She smiled and then touched his cheek. “Wala,” sagot niya. “Nangumusta lang.”

“She didn’t tell you anything bad?” hindi makapaniwalang tanong nito.

Umiling siya. “No. So stop worrying, okay?”

Ipinatong ni Dave ang kamay nito sa kanyang kamay. “I’m glad to hear that,” nakangiti nitong wika. “Sana matanggap niya tayo.”

She smiled. “Umuwi ka na. Kita na lang tayo sa Friday.”

“Friday?”

“I’ll be busy tomorrow, so sa Friday na lang tayo mamasyal. Okay lang ba?”

His eyes told her that it wasn’t okay with him. “O—okay.”

“You need to spend time with tita Alexa, kaya ayoko ring sumama muna sa rehearsals niyo bukas. Be a good son, ha?”

“I’m always a good son,” pagmamalaki ni Dave.

“We’ll see about that,” natatawa niyang sagot dito. Tumingkayad siya at hinalikan ito sa pisngi. “Goodnight, Dave,” paalam niya rito. Ngunit hindi pa siya nakakaatras ng hablutin siya nitong muli at halikan siya ng mariin sa labi.

“Goodnight,” he said with a smile as he walked back to the car.

She stood there hanggang sa makita niyang lumiko ang sasakyan ni Dave. When she felt that enough time has passed para makalabas ang mga ito ng subdivision, binuksan niya ang gate at sumakay sa kanyang kotse.

**

“Doc, may naghihintay po sa inyo sa lobby,” wika ng nurse kay Mael ng lumabas siya ng ICU.

“Sino?”

“Prie daw po,” sagot nito habang sinasabayan nito ang kanyang lakad. “’Yun po ang girlfriend niyo, ‘di ba, doc?”

Sa halip na sagutin ito, pinasalamatan na lamang ni Mael ang nurse. Pagkatapos ay nagmamadaling naglakad siya patungo sa lobby.

“Prie?” tawag niya sa babaeng nakaupo sa plastic chair sa may lobby. Tumingala ito at tumayo.

“Hi,” bati ni Prie sa kanya. She looked paler than the last time he saw her.

“What happened?” he asked her with panic in his voice. It was already late, and he couldn’t help thinking that there must be something wrong with her kung nagpunta siya ng ospital sa ganoong ka-late na oras.

Ngumiti ito at umiling. “Wala naman. I just—is this a bad time?”

Sinipat niya ang kanyang relo. His next rounds will be in thirty minutes. “No, I’m free for half an hour. Kumain ka na ba?”

“I can’t eat. Can we just talk somewhere private?”

“Let’s go to my office,” yaya niya rito. Ng maisara niya ang pinto, naupo sila sa maliit na sofa sa kanyang hospital office. Muli niya itong tinanong kung may masamang nangyari.

“Wala naman,” sagot nito. “I just—”

“Prie?”

“Pwede bang pahiram ng balikat mo?” tanong nito. Hindi na nito hinintay ang kanyang sagot ng umiyak ito sa kanyang balikat. It was a cry that was both hopeless and sorrowful. He didn’t want to hear her cry like that, but he knew that Prie needed to cry. He enveloped her in with his arms.

“I’m so selfish,” she said between sobs. “I don’t want to hurt them but I know I’m going to hurt all of them.”

“It’s not your fault, love.”

“Dumating si—si  tita Alexa ka-kanina. And she—she told me that I’m good for Dave! I’m not. I’m not. I’m so selfish.”

“Hush. You’re not selfish, Prie. Ginusto mo lang na makasama siya.”

“I am. Mael…I’m going to hurt him. Hindi ba? Masasaktan ko na naman siya.”

“Nagsisisi ka ba?”

“When I think about the times I’m with him, hindi ko mapilit ang sarili ko na magsisi. See? I—I’m so selfish. I shouldn’t have loved him. Dahil minahal ko siya, I can hurt him more than I did before.”

“You have the choice to tell him.”

“I can’t—I can’t let him know. It will tear him apart.”

“So what’s the difference between making him believe that you left him for someone else and telling him that you’re sick? I’m very sure that he will do anything in his power to help you.”

“That’s just it, isn’t it? He will do everything—anything—just for me. Mael, Dave is so young…Ayokong tumigil ang buhay niya kapag namatay ako.”

“And I told you, I won’t let you die.”

“I know. I know you won’t. And I feel grateful that you’re doing so much for me when I’ve done nothing but break your heart.”

“Hush. It wasn’t your fault. I chose to love you. I wanted—needed to love you. And you shouldn’t even be grateful. Ginagawa ko ang lahat ng ito for personal gain. I want you in my life.”

“Mael…”

He tightened his embrace. “Don’t ever think that it’s any of your fault, Prie. It isn’t. Tayo ang pumipili ng kapupuntahan ng buhay natin. I chose to love you. Dave chose to love you. And you chose to love. Walang may kasalanan.”

“I wish he would hate me so much that he would forget about me and live.”

And I hope that you will eventually forget about him and love me instead. And live for me.

**

The food was excellent. The ambiance of the restaurant was so cheerful that it somehow cheered her a little. And tita Alexa has been so nice to her. That was why when the topic eventually led to her relationship with Dave, she didn’t have the heart to lie anymore. She only had three days left.

“I’m dying, tita,” pahayag ni Prie kay Alexa ng tanungin siya nito kung ano na ang mangyayari sa relasyon nila ni Dave. “I’m dying.”

“What?” gulat nitong tanong sa kanya.

“I have leukemia. It’s in an advance stage. I’m going to have a bone marrow transplant, but there’s a huge chance that I may die.”

“Leukemia…” hindi makapaniwalang ulit nito sa sinabi niya. “Why, Prie? Why didn’t you tell us? Does Dave know?”

Umiling siya. “I don’t want him to know.”

“But leukemia—what about you and Dave? He loves you!”

“It’s better this way—”

“Gaano mo na katagal alam ito? Why didn’t Mel tell me anything? Madaming magagaling na doktor sa Australia. You should’ve told us.”

Ngumiti siya. “Hindi alam ni mama na—na bumalik na naman ang sakit ko. They thought—akala nila tapos na ang lahat ng mapigilan ang pagkalat ng cancer years ago.”

“What?”

“I was diagnosed with leukemia ten years ago. Then nawala. But—bumalik na naman siya.”

“Oh, Prie…”

“I’m going to the US in three days. I haven’t told mama and papa yet. Nakahanda na ang lahat doon.”

“But Prie—why didn’t you tell us? Parang anak ka na rin namin.”

“Tita, I have no right to ask for your help anymore. Not after what I did to Dave.”

“But—”

“Tita, promise me you won’t tell Dave.”

“But Prie—”

“Please promise me. Don’t tell him anything. I told you I’m selfish. I want him to hate me for being one. I want him to hate me so much that he would forget about me. I want him—I want him—”

“Priscilla, why do you hurt yourself so much? Maraming paraan to—”

“If I’m going to die, I don’t want him to die with me, tita,” she told Alexa as tears flowed continuously from her eyes. “I love him. So please promise me.”

**


“Kumusta ang date niyo ni mommy?” tanong ni Dave kay Prie ng makapasok sila sa apartment ng huli.

“Pretty,” sagot ni Prie sa kanya. “Paano mo nga pala nalaman? Akala ko secret lang ‘yon.”

“Well, I have my ways,” sagot niya rito.

“Stalker ka, no.”

Ngumiti siya. “Of course not,” tanggi niya. “I’m too handsome to be called a stalker.”

“Mayabang,” ganti nito sa kanya, sabay bato sa kanya ng unan. “Hoy, labas ka muna, magbibihis na ’ko.”

“Hindi ba pwedeng panoorin na lang kita?”

“Pervert!” sigaw nito sa kanya as he got out of the room. Bababa na sana siya ng maisipan niyang mag-stay na lang sa labas ng pinto.

“Prie?” tawag niya rito through the door.

“Oh?”

“I love you.”

Mahabang katahimikan ang bumalot sa bahay habang hinihintay niya kung sasagot ito. Nang akala niya’y hindi ito sasagot katulad ng madalas nitong gawin, bumukas ang pintuan ng kwarto nito.

“I love you, too.”

He was so stunned that she answered him that it took him a few seconds to react. When he did, the kissed he gave her was so full of pent up passion that in his next breath, namalayan na lamang niya that they were already on the bed.

“Prie…”

“Dave—”

“I want you.”

When he said the words, parang biglang binuhusan ng malamig na tubig si Prie at dali-dali itong tumayo at inayos ang damit nito.

“Prie?”

“I’m sorry. It shouldn’t have come to this.”

“I want to marry you. I will marry you.”

“That has nothing to do with this.”

“It has everything to do with it, dammit!” sagot niya rito na hindi na mapigilan ang pagsigaw. He was angry. He was hot. And he was hurt. “I want you! I want you so much that it hurts. I thought you love me?”

“I do. And that’s why I’m saying no. This—love is more than sex! And I told you that I wouldn’t do it with anyone unless he’s my husband. I love you, but you aren’t my husband.”

“Then marry me!”

“You’re asking me to marry you so you can bed me?” gulat na tanong ni Prie sa kanya.

“No. I’m asking you to marry me because I want you to be my wife, dammit!” sagot niya rito ng pasigaw.  At bago pa ito makasagot, nakalabas na siya ng kwarto. He needed to cool down.

**

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