A Promise Not To Break: Chapter 5

This entry is part 7 of 18 in the series A Promise Not To Break

“GOOD MORNING,” bati ni Dave kay Prie pagpasok nito sa kitchen. “Breakfast?”

Ngumiti ito sa kanya at naupo sa isang high stool sa may island. “Mukhang masaya tayo ngayong umaga, ah,” pansin nito sa kanya. “’Yan ba ang ipinagmamalaki mong omelet sa’kin, ha? Tuwing susulat ka iba’t ibang flavor ng omelet ang ibinabalita mo.”

“Yup,” sagot niya rito. “Tuna omelet. Favorite mo ‘to ‘di ba? Rice or bread?”

“Bread. Sige nga, pakitaan mo ‘ko,” natatawa nitong hamon. Inabutan niya ito ng coffee with creamer and sugar. “Wow. You got my taste!”

“Of course. You always tell me about how you drink buckets of coffee everyday. Aren’t you acidic yet?” Umiling ito. “Thank God. You know, you should start taking coffee out of your system, Prie. If you won’t be acidic, you’ll have ulcer.”

“What a positive mind you have, my dear. Na-encouraged ako grabe.” Naglagay ito ng isang plate ng omelet sa harap niya. “And kahapon ko pa napapansin, ah. You don’t call me ‘ate’ anymore. Even in your letters, you just call me endearments and never ‘ate.’”

Napatingin siya rito sa sinabing iyon ni Prie. Ate? She was his girlfriend, isn’t she? Ever since he was six—he decided to take a safer route. “Ate? Prie, we’re in Australia. You call people ‘mate’ or you call them by their names. Does it bother you that much?”

“Not exactly—Hmm, masarap ‘to, ha. Akala ko binobola mo lang ako when you told me you can cook a mean omelet. By the way, where’s tito Mike and tita Alexa?”

“They left early.”

“But it’s just eight thirty!”

“Yeah, I know. Their busy people.”

“And you’re not?”

“It’s summer. I don’t work summer jobs. Mom won’t let me, so here I am. A bum asking you to accompany me the whole day,” madrama niyang sabi dito habang nakasalum-baba sa harap nito at pinapanood itong kumain.

“Gusto kong magshopping,” wika nito habang ngumunguya. He groaned. He hated shopping!

“Can’t we just play video games?” Umiling ito. “You’re killing me.”

Malaking ngiti ang isinagot nito sa kanya. “Okay, okay. After breakfast. But here’s the deal. I’ll go with you but you’ll have to say yes to a favor I’ll ask of you.”

“Aba, ang galing nating mangblackmail, ah!”

“Your answer?”

“Okay, okay. Ano ba yun? Ililibre naman kita ng lunch so you don’t have to resort to blackmail.”

“Hindi naman ‘yun,” may kunot sa noong sagot nito. “I’ll tell you tomorrow. And I’ll treat you lunch.”

“Asus. Ako ang ate so ako ang maglilibre. Hindi mo na kailangan g mahiya, wala ka naman nun,” natatawang sagot ni Prie sa kanya.

“Whatever. Just finish your breakfast, then we’ll argue later,” sagot niya rito sabay subo sa sariling pagkain. Bakit ba nito parating pinipilit na ate niya ito? She couldn’t have forgotten their pact, could she?

**

“Dave?”

Hindi agad napansin ni Dave ang pagtawag sa pangalan niya kung hindi lamang siya siniko ni Prie. Masyado kasi siyang naimmersed sa kinukwento nito sa kanya about sa mga ate nito na magkasunod na nagpakasal last year.

“Maggie! Hello,” bati niya sa matangkad na babaeng nakangiti sa harap niya. Nang mapadako ang tingin nito sa braso ni Prie na naka-abrisiyete sa kanya, bigla ay kumulimlim ang mukha nito. Mukhang napansin rin ni Prie ang naging tingin nito dahil kumalas ito sa kanya.

At bago pa man siya makapagsalita, nagpakilala na si Prie.

“Hi, Maggie—may I call you Maggie? I’m Priscilla—Prie—I’m Dave’s older sister.”

Parang nabingi siya sa sinabing iyon ni Prie. How can she say such a preposterous thing? “What are you—”

“Older sister? I thought he’s an only child?”

“Oh, he is. I’m his surrogate sister. Her mom’s my godmother.”

“Oh.”

“Are you his girlfriend?”

Bigla ay namula si Maggie. “Oh, no. We’re just, ahm, classmates,” nauutal na sabi nito at pagkatapos ay napatingin ito sa kanya. He must have looked really mean dahil bigla itong nagpaalam agad. “Ahm, I think I better go—I see you’re busy. Anyway, nice meeting you, Prie. Dave, see yah on Saturday!”

Humarap ito sa kanya. Halata sa tingin nito na alam nitong naging masama ang trato niya kay Maggie. Well, he didn’t care. How dare she misrepresent herself!

“Bakit mo naman binastos iyong tao? Wala namang ginawang masama sa’yo, ah.”

“None of your business.”

“What? Hoy Dave, whatever happened to you? Kanina lang ang ganda ng mood mo, ah! That girl was just trying to get your attention.”

“I don’t need her.”

Bigla ay tumigil ito sa paglalakad at humarap sa kanya. “Hoy David, ano ba talagang nangyayari sa’yo ha? Hindi na’ko natutuwa sa’yo.”

“And you think I’m happy with you?”

“What? What are you talking about? Kanina si Maggie, now you’re taking out your heat on me? Nasisiraan ka na ba, ha?”

Nasisiraan sa’yo! “Why did you tell her that you’re my sister?”

“That’s it? You’re angry at me because of that simple thing? How can you be so shallow?”

“Maybe for you that’s a simple thing, but it means everything to me!” sigaw niya rito. Nagsimula ng kumuha ng atensiyon ang pag-aaway nila kaya hinila niya ito sa pinakamalapit na exit.

“Bitawan mo nga ako,” pumiglas nito ng makarating sila sa parking lot. “What are you talking about? Bakit ba? Ikinahihiya mo na ba akong maging ate? And to think I even flew to this country just to spend time with you. How could you?”

“That’s not it!”

“Then what?”

“You misrepresented yourself to that girl!”

“I did no such thing. I even told her that I’m your surrogate sister. Have you gone nuts?”

Pumasok siya sa loob ng kotse at itinapon ang mga pinamili nila sa backseat. Sumunod naman ito.  “That’s not—oh, just shut up.”

“How dare you use that tone with me! You may be fifteen but that doesn’t give you the right to be rude to me. I’m still older that you.”

“That’s the problem isn’t it? That you’re older than me? If I happened to be older that you, you would never say such things to a girl flirting with your guy!”

“Huh?”

“Nothing.”

“Don’t ‘nothing’ me! What the heck are you talking about?”

“Fasten your seatbelt.”

“Go home by yourself,” wika nito at pagkatapos ay biglang bumaba mula sa kotse. Sa pagkabigla niya, nakasakay na ito ng taxi bago pa niya ito nahabol.

**

“Hi baby. How are you? Sorry ngayon lang ako nakatawag, medyo busy kasi. Palagi akong double-shift ngayon. Anyway, how’s little Dave?”

“Not so little anymore. And I’m fine. How are you? Kumakain ka pa ba sa oras?”

Tumawa si Mael sa kabilang linya. “I should be asking that. Ikaw ang madalas lumiban sa pagkain. Are you sure you’re okay? You sound upset.”

Huminga siya ng malalim. Wala talaga siyang matago kay Mael. Kilalang-kilala siya nito. “Yeah. Just a bit irritated. Not-so-little-Dave argued with me earlier because of a reason I find unworthy and shallow.”

“Hmm. So hindi pa kayo nagbabati?”

“Nope. I don’t intend to say sorry until he does. Siya ang nagsimula ng away. Anyway, I’m sorry, I’m boring you.  How was your day? Save any lives today, doc?”

“Yeah, a baby,” sagot nito. Dinig na dinig niya ang ngiti sa boses nito. “First stages of pneumonia, but we had Dr. Abejo so we were able to save him. He was really cute—are you sure you’re fine? Hindi ka naman siguro masyadong nagpapagod diyan? Sige ka! Susundan kita diyan kapag pinagod mo ang sarili mo.”

Natawa si Prie sa sinabing iyon ni Mael. They both knew that his flying out of the country was impossible.  “Yes, doc. I’m taking care of myself. Ikaw ba, natulog ka na? Tunog toxic ka.”

“Kauuwi ko nga lang, eh. Namiss ko lang talaga yung paborito kong pasyente.”

“Whe, I miss you, too, doc. Hindi mo pa naman ako pinagpapalit di ba?”

“Pwede ba naman ‘yon? Sa tatlong araw na hindi tayo nagkikita, hindi ko na mapigilan ang sarili ko na titigan every hour ang picture mo—‘yon ba ang kaya kang ipagpalit? It really pains me not to go there with you.”

“Ala, nagdrama na naman si doc. Alam ko naman iyon no, nagjojoke lang ako,” natatawa niyang sagot rito. “Sana nga kasama kita rito. It’s so beautiful. But I still love you kahit nandiyan ka. I know you’re doing hero work.”

“Ouch! Darn! You just made me fall deeper for you,” sagot ni Mael. “Go home, baby. How I miss you.”

“Ha-ha, corny. I really miss you, too, doc. But I think—”

“Prie?”

Napalingon siya ng marinig ang boses ni Dave mula sa labas ng kwarto niya. Iminosyon niya itong pumasok. Bumaling siyang muli kay Mael. “He’s here, doc,” natatawang kwento niya rito. “And I think he’s repentant. I’ll just talk to him. Matulog ka na muna, okay? Pahinga kang mabuti. Drink your vits, hindi na maganda ang tunog ng boses mo. I’ll call you tomorrow. Love you.”

“Love you more, baby. Relax and don’t let not-so-little-Dave get on your nerves too much. Talk to you tomorrow. Goodnight. Dream about me. Mwah!”

Nang ibaba niya ang telepono, isang malaking ngiti ang nakadikit sa kanyang mukha. Kahit kailan talaga ay gumagaan ang pakiramdam niya sa tuwing nakaka-usap ang kasintahan. Bumaling siya kay Dave na nakaupo sa gilid ng bed.

“Who were you talking to?” kunot ang noong tanong nito.

“I thought you came here to say sorry?”

“Yes, well, I mean—but who were you talking to? You sounded so sweet.”

“My favorite doctor. Now, where’s the sorry?”

“You talk like that to your favorite doctor?” hindi makapaniwalang tanong nito. Well, let him think. She wanted to surprise him with the news pero dahil he was being difficult, she would just keep the secret to herself.

“I do. Not that it’s any of your business. Well, I’m waiting.”

“Sorry.”

“Yeah? Hindi ko yata narinig—”

“I’m—I—I’m so…sorry… I snapped at you like that. Please forgive me.”

“Hanggang ngayon ba naman hindi ka pa rin marunong magsorry ng maayos? Again. I want to hear it again.”

“I’m sorry, Prie. I really am.”

“Okay. I forgive you. Just don’t repeat it anymore.”

“I promise, I won’t,” mabilis na sagot nito. Pagkatapos ay tumabi ito sa kanya at hinawakan ang kanyang mga kamay. “Prie…”

“Yeah?”

“You really say I love you to your doctor?”

Sa sobrang seryoso ng itsura nito na tila maiiyak na, gusto niyang humalakhak. Only to her boyfriend who’s a medical student, she wanted to say. But she held her tongue. “Yes, why?”

“Nothing,” sagot nito na mukhang may gusto pa sanang itanong ngunit nagpasya na huwag na lang. Then after a few seconds of silence, muli itong nagsalita. “Prie, about that favor—you know, the one we talked about earlier?”

“Yeah?”

“Ahm, you see, there’s this party on Saturday that our batch organized. Kindof an end of sem slash graduation party. We all have to have dates, and well, I think, ahm, would you please go with me?”

“Of course not,” sagot niya rito. How can she ever go to a highschool party with a fifteen year old date?

“Huh? But we had a deal!” balik ni Dave sa kanya na halatang-halata sa mukha ang pagkagulat sa kanyang naging sagot.

“Yes, I know. But I can’t escort you to a highschool party. Dave, I’m twenty-two years old. I’ll feel awfully out of place. Iba na lang ang hilingin mo. Besides, you can always go with Maggie. She likes you.”

“I don’t want to go with her. I’m asking you! And you owe me. Is that what promises mean to you? You always tell me I’m immature because I’m moody. But you are too! Because you don’t know how to keep your promises. You’re a liar.”

Pagkasabi noon ay padabog itong lumabas mula sa kanyang kwarto. His outburst shocked her so much that she wasn’t able to react until a few minutes have passed. Nagpasya siyang habulin si Dave at kausapin muli ito. And it took her two hours before Dave opened his bedroom door.

**

“Thank you for coming with me,” nakangiting sabi sa kanya ni Dave ng nasa loob na sila ng limousine ng mga Fuentebella papunta sa party ng mga ito. Two days ago, when Dave threw a tantrum at her, hindi niya kinaya ang pangongonsensya nito and so she was eventually bulldozed into accompanying him. She wasn’t looking forward to the event dahil alam niyang magiging fish out of water lang siya, especially puro highschool students ang mga naroroon. At kahit pa na mga eighteen and nineteen ang mga kasabayan ni Dave dahil nga accelerated ito, alam niyang siya pa rin ang pinakamatanda. She just hoped that all the efforts she’d given to the task of looking fresh and young would suffice para naman hindi sila parehong mapahiya ni Dave.

“…and you look beautiful—I mean more than usual—in that dress,” narinig niyang sabi ni Dave. Medyo lumilipad kasi ang utak niya kakaisip kung ano ang kahihinatnan ng gabing iyon.

“Thanks, cute. You look good yourself,” pilit ang ngiting sagot niya rito. Gusto niyang magalit rito dahil sa pangbablackmail nito sa kanya, pero alam niyang  kinakabahan din itong makihalubilo sa iba kaya siya ang pinilit nitong isama. Kung nagkataon kaya na hindi siya nagpunta ng Australia, pupunta kaya ito sa party na ‘yon? Maybe not. They we’re both loners.

“Thanks, Prie,” balik nito sa kanya. “Prie…”

“Yeah?”

“Are you still angry at me?”

“Of course not. Bakit mo naman naisip na galit ako? Medyo kinakabahan lang ako dito sa pinapagawa mo sa’kin.”

“Kanina mo pa kasi ako hindi pinapansin. You never look at me when you’re talking.”

“Nerves. Sorry kung iba ang dating sa’yo.”

“It’s okay. I guess.” Hinawakan nito ang kaliwang kamay niya. When he looked into her eyes, his eyes were full of emotions she couldn’t name. Then he suddenly leaned over and kissed her on the cheeks. “Thank you for being with me.”

Nagulat siya sa ginawa nito kaya hindi siya agad nakapagsalita. Naramdaman na lamang niya ang pag-akyat ng dugo sa kanyang mga pisngi. Mukhang nahalata naman nito ang kanyang pagkabigla dahil umusog ito lalo sa may window at doon itinuon ang pansin. But he didn’t release her hand. Siya naman ay wala sa sariling hinawakan ang pisnging hinalikan nito. Dave was becoming more and more of a puzzle to her. Marami ng nag-iba rito na hindi na niya maintindihan.

A smile crept to her lips.

“We’re here.”

Hindi namalayan ni Prie na tumigil na pala ang limo dahil sa dami ng iniisip niya. At nang buksan ni Dave ang pintuan niya, doon lang tila rumaragasang bumalik ang kanyang kaba na sandali niyang nakalimutan. “Welcome to our little party,” wika nito sa kanya. “Let’s go.”

Dahil sa sinabi nitong “little party,” somehow, ang naenvision niya ay isang maliit na salo-salo lang at mga 30 or so guest. Ngunit ng i-lead siya nito paakyat ng isang wide staircase at patungo sa isang malaking ballroom hall, doon lang niya napagtanto na ibang-iba talaga ang meaning ng “little party” para sa mga private school kids.

The “little party” was full of almost a hundred or so beautiful people in evening gowns and tuxedos. Para bang nakapasok siya sa isang pekila kung saan isang prom scene ang pinapalabas at nagniningning ang paligid. “Dave,” ipit ang boses na wika niya sa kasama sabay higpit sa pagkakahawak sa kamay nito. “Sigurado ka bang mga highschool students lang kayong lahat dito? Parang business functions ah.”

Ngumiti ito ang pinisil ang kanyang kamay na hawak nito. “Relax. Ganyan lang talaga dito. Preppy people. After an hour, the illusion will fade and you will see party animals. And I mean the animal part—with all the music and the whole works.”

“You go to these things often?”

“Nope. Mostly just business and congratulatory parties with mom and dad. I just happened to attend two of this thing last year. Horrible.”

“Then, bakit nandito ka? Dinamay mo pa ako!”

“I’m playing a solo. Lover’s Waltz,” sagot nito habang iginigiya siya patungo sa isang table for two. “Actually, it’s the principal who wanted me to do it. He’s a fan of mom so he wants to know if I can measure up to her.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I just did,” he replied with a mischievous smile. “Drinks? I think punch is the only thing available.”

“Sure,” sagot niya rito. She should have brought her CD Player to pass the time. “What time will you be playing?” tanong niya rito pagkabalik nito dala ang kanilang mga drinks.

“In a moment. So you’ll have to miss me for a while. Do you want to dance after?”

“I’m not a good—”

“Please, Prie? Sayang naman kung hindi pa natin ieenjoy. You’ll be leaving next month so I want us to spend time together like in the old times…please?”

“Oh, okay. Grabe, hindi talaga ako makatanggi sa’yo. Hey, I think they’re already calling you.”

“Darn,” he exclaimed when they called his name once again. Bumaling ito sa kanya. “Wish me luck.”

Mukhang kilalang-kilala ito dahil napakaraming taong bumati rito habang papunta ito sa stage. And when he finally stood there, confidently smiling at everyone with his violin on his hands, everyone gave a loud round of applause.

Then for one second, he looked at her. Looked at her in a way that made her heart beat faster. “This is stupid,” pangaral niya sa sarili ng pinutol na nito ang eye contact nila. “That’s your brother, Priscilla!”
Nag-umpisa itong tumugtog. And every couple in the hall gathered in the middle and danced the famed Lover’s Waltz.

“Hi, would you care to dance?”

Isang rugged pero gwapong mukha ang pinanggalingan ng boses. Standing infront of her was a 6’2 feet of a man who strongly reminded her of Mael except for the hair. Mael had wavy black hair. Kung kailan matindi pa man din ang pangungulila niya rito…

“I’m Caleb. And I don’t think I’ve seen you before. What’s your name?”

“Hi,” nahihiyang sagot niya rito. Iminosyon niya itong maupo muna sa upuan ni Dave. “I’m Priscilla, everyone calls me Prie.”

“Well, Prie, it’s my pleasure to meet you here. I’m not interfering a date, am I?”

“Oh no, no. I came here with my brother, I mean, his mother is my godmother so technically we’re almost related—what am I saying—well, you get my point.”

“Oh, let me guess, this sort-of-brother of yours bullied you to be here, right?”

“Bingo!” sagot niya rito sabay salute with her punch glass. Maybe it was the alcohol but she felt herself easily opening up to this easy-manered guy. “You must be a séance, huh?”

He laughed. “Nope. Just a lonely guy trying to make a lovely woman dance with him,” sagot nito na ikinapula niya. Grabe talagang makiflirt ang mga bata ngayon! “So, may I ask you to dance with me? It’s such a lovely waltz.”

“Lover’s Waltz actually. And yes,” sagot niya sa paanyaya nito. “The one playing the violin is the brother I’m talking about.”

Lumingon ito sa stage kung saan pikit-matang tumutugtog si Dave. “Oh really? Dave Fuentebella? You must be a really patient girl to be with that guy.”

Bigla siyang nakaramdam ng inis sa sinabing ito niyon. How dare he insult Dave sa harap niya mismo? “How can you say that?”

“I know Dave. We’re friends. And I know how surly and rude he is,” sagot nito sa kanya na may kasamang ngiti ng paumanhin. Narinig marahil nito ang galit sa tinig niya. “He’s lucky to have you with him. Are you sure you’re not his girlfriend? Because I’ve never seen him, you know, close with girls before.”

“No,” sagot niya rito. “We’re just childhood friends. How did the two of you become friends?”

“School geek meets the school prodigy,” sagot nito na titig na titig sa kanyang mukha. Ramdam na ramdam niya ang pagakyat ng dugo sa kanyang pisngi. Nagbaba siya ng tingin.

“You don’t look like a geek,” she said after a while, still not looking at him directly.

“I used to. Dave’s mom gave me a make-over,” wika nito na naging dahilan upang tignan niya muli ito ng diretso. “Wait, you said childhood friends? You mean back in the Philippines? Oh shit, Priscilla Israel? You that Prie?”

“Yeeees,” she answered slowly. “Why?”

“What the eff! And to think I almost made a move on you. He’s going to—shit, no. Oh yeah, payback time, Davy-mate.”

“Excuse me?” naguguluhang tanong niya kay Caleb. Parang nakalimutan na nito na may kasama ito sa dating ng pagsasabi-sabi nito. “Whatever are you talking about?”

“Would you—ahm, can I ask you a favor?” She nodded. “Can you lean closer to me? And put your head on my shoulder…no, no, I’m not harassing you, I’m just—let’s just say I’m playing a joke on my friend. Okay? Nothing criminal. We do this a lot of time—what I mean is—”

“Yes, yes. I get what you mean. Child pranks. I don’t like you using me but you seem okay—so okay.”

Halos isang minuto rin silang sumasayaw sa ganoong posisyon ng biglang may humablot sa kanyang braso mula sa likuran. “What the heck is this!” sigaw ni Dave sa kanilang dalawa ni Caleb. Galit na galit na itunulak nito si Caleb. Pagkatapos ay bumaling ito sa kanya. “I turn one minute and you’re already with another guy?”

“Dave—hey man, it was just a joke. I was the one who—”

“Shut up!” ganti ni Dave kay Caleb. At nang sinubukan siyang muling awatin ni Caleb, sinuntok niya ito. Nagsimula na silang pagtinginan ng mga tao.

“David, tigilan mo nga ‘yan,” pigil niya rito sabay hila rito palayo sa dance floor. “Umuwi na tayo.”

“How dare you touch my girl!”

“It was just a joke, man. Like that joke with Maggie. You know I liked her.”

“Well, go to hell with her. Just stay away from my girl—you sonofabitch!”

“Dave! Stop that. Umuwi na tayo!”

Tumingin ito sa kanya na nanlilisik ang mga mata, pagkatapos ay halos kaladkarin siya palabas ng hall. “You’re hurting me.”

Hinila siya nito patungo sa parking lot kung saan naghihintay ang limo, pagkatapos ay itinulak siya papasok. “How can you do this to me? Bakit ba parati mo na lang akong sinasaktan?”

“What? Are you mad? You’re the one who bruised me for some craziness I cannot begin to comprehend. And you hit your friend!”

“At pinagtatanggol mo pa siya? After mong makipag-flirt sa kaibigan ko—you didn’t even hear me play! Siya pa ang ipagatatanggol mo?”

“Ano bang nangyayari sa’yo? It was just a joke! Wala kaming ginagawang masama!”

“Joke? He was touching you. You call that a joke? Are you that stupid?”

“You are stupid! What’s happening to you? Everytime I happened to give my attention to another person, nagwawala ka.”

“It’s because I’m jealous.”

“Oh yeah? Well, that doesn’t give you the right to act like an animal! Caleb was a nice young man. And you’re a narcissistic childish boar. Paul? Can you take us home please? And can I seat with you in front?”

“We’re not yet—”

“Paul?”

“Of course, Miss Prie.”

Lumabas siya at sumakay sa tabi ng driver. Hindi na niya kaya pang makipag-usap kay Dave. Sigurado siyang hindi siya titigilan nito kapag nanatili siyang katabi ito.

**

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