NAGKUNWA siyang walang naririnig. She didn’t look back no matter how much she wanted to. She was hoping he’d leave her alone. He’s not supposed to see her like this, weak and pathetic!
Napayakap siya ng mahigpit sa sarili nang muling umihip ang malamig na hangin. And then she felt something in her shoulders. Gino is putting his coat on her.
“Take it off, I don’t need it,” matigas na sabi niya’t umiwas kahit nangangatal na siya sa lamig.
“You’re cold,” anito at ipinagpilitang ipatong ang coat nito sa kabila ng pagtanggi niya.
Please leave… tahimik na dasal niya. Because she doesn’t know if she can still hold herself. She hates him so much for causing all these silly feelings she feels right now. For tearing down the wall she built for the past years so easily. For unmasking the broken person that she really is. She felt young and naive and vulnerable and so confused again. For all the while since the moment she saw him, she wanted to hold him, to hug him tight and never let go. That was the craziest thought she had and she doesn’t know how long will she still be able to control herself.
Walang salitang tumabi ito sa kaniya. She wanted to run. But she doesn’t want to give Gino the impression that he can still affect her. Pasimple niyang pinahid ang luha at pilit pinatatag ang sarili. She just have to wait for him to leave. Even when her insides are trembling because he is just inches away from her, she won’t be the first one to leave that place.
Namagitan sa kanila ang katahimikan. Wala silang ibang naririnig kundi ang mabining paghampas ng alon sa dalampasigan at ang kanilang salitang paghinga. Mushroom tried to breathe evenly.
“I missed you.” He finally broke the silence.
Now, that’s too much. She isn’t ready for this. Her feet are shaking. At alam niyang hindi dahil sa ginaw iyon. Gino still has the power over her and she can’t stand long enough to prove he doesn’t matter to her. She gave up. Mabilis siyang tumalikod para tumakbo palayo rito pero tila nabasa nito ang iniisip niya’t hinawakan nito ang kamay niya. Kaagad siyang napapiksi dahil sa kuryenteng dumaloy sa katawan niya. She won’t allow herself to betray her. Tinangka niyang bawiin ang kamay pero mas lalo pa nitong hinigpitan ang pagkakahawak sa kanya. Ganoon na lang ang lakas ng tibok ng puso, tila lalabas na iyon sa dibdib niya. Every beat actually hurts.
“Let me go!” sigaw niya.
Pero sa halip na bitiwan siya’y isinalikop nito ang isang braso sa balikat niya at niyakap siya mula sa likuran. Mahigpit. At kahit anong pagpupumilit niyang makawala, hindi niya kayang makaalis sa matitipunong bisig nito. Napasinghap siya. She felt his hard body pressed on to hers. She felt his warmth. She felt his heartbeat which was as fast as her own. He burried his jaw at the corner of her neck and she could hardly breathe.
“I missed you, Mushroom. I know I don’t have the right to say these things to you after being silent for all those years. But still, I miss you. At kahit ngayong kausap kita, kahit hawak-hawak na kita, I still miss you so much.”
It was then that Mushroom’s tears fell again. Mas hinigpitan nito ang yakap sa kanya na tila ba takot itong mawala siya. And her strength to resist him died right away.
“You missed me too, didn’t you?” It sounded more like a plea. Pero hindi siya sumagot. Because she’s fighting so much not to cry in front of him. She isn’t the same high school girl he left ten years ago. She has to show that to him. She has to show how tough she had become when he left her. Pero muling iginupo ang anumang lakas na meron siya sa presensiya nito.
Lumuwag ang pagkakahawak nito sa kanya at pinaharap siya nito. Nagkaroon siya ng pagkakataong makawala at tumakbo. Pero alam niyang oras na kumawala siya sa pagkakahawak nito’y matutumba siya. Her whole body is shaking. Nanatili siyang nakayuko. Takot siyang tingnan ito. Takot siyang mabasa nito ang nasa loob niya nang mga sandaling iyon. Naramdaman niya ang kamay nito sa baba niya at unti-unting itinaas ang mukha. At hindi niya magawang tumutol. Hindi niya kayang umiwas. Hilam ang mga matang napatingin siya rito. And for the first time in a long long time, she looked at him. The moonlight shone in his face. Though it has changed, it was still the same face Mushroom loved for so long. When she met his gaze, a deep longing struck her heart. And she could not lie. She missed him. So much. It’s almost unbearable.
Pinahid nito ang luha sa mga mata niya. Nanginig siya nang maramdaman ang kamay nito sa pisngi niya. His touch was so gentle that it makes her shiver. She should push him and run, that’s what a sane Mushroom would do. Pero tila naitulos siya sa kinatatayuan at hindi siya makagalaw.
“I’ve been dreaming of this since the day I left, to get close to you again. But not like this. I never wanted to see you cry, Mushroom. Never. Because I couldn’t stand it.” puno ng hinagpis ang tinig nito.
Unti-unting bumaba ang ulo nito. And the next thing she knew, he’s kissing her tears. At wala siyang lakas na tumutol. Because she felt she needed it. She needed him. And it felt good feeling Gino’s warm lips on her skin. Ramdam niya ang mainit nitong hininga sa balat niya. Ramdam niya ang masuyong paghagod ng kamay nito sa likod niya patungo sa batok niya.
She felt his hands at the back of her head and then he slowly pulled her closer. She could inhale his breath and along with the scent of his perfume, she felt dizzy. She couldn’t think straight. And when he finally claimed her lips, she closed her eyes and her arms eagerly encircled his nape. She pulled him closer to deepen the kiss. And Mushroom felt that familiar ache in her heart. That certain ache she didn’t cease to feel eversince the moment Gino was gone. She ached to hold him, to touch him, to feel him. Gino kissed her in a certain gentleness that broke the wall she built for years. That even when she knew she should resist him, she could not. He kissed her softly and she could not help herself but kiss back. Tuluyan na siyang nagpaalipin sa yakap at halik nito. He parted her lips with his tongue and she willingly opened up for him. And when he explored the corners of her mouth she felt soaring in the highest heights of pure ecstasy. Unti-unting lumalim ang halik. And the last thing Mushroom had in mind is to breathe. She kissed Gino back with so much hunger. And right there in the middle of that passionate kiss, Mushroom knew, she is still in love with Gino.
“Mushroom…” Gino murmured as he kissed her. He let his fingers run through her soft hair and touch her warm delicate skin. He groaned as he tasted the sweetness of her mouth. It’s what he had been dreaming of. It’s what he always wished for. His heart is pounding so hard in his chest as he pulled her closer. It had always been the kind of effect Mushroom gives to him. As she breathed with him, he found himself, he felt at home. Ninamnam niya ang tamis ng labi nito at buong pagsuyo itong hinalikan. The kind of kiss he’s been aching to give her. Mushroom’s lips were soft and sweet. The same sweet taste way back when they were young, when he felt love for the very first time. She’s driving him crazy with her every touch. All he knows is he can’t get enough of her. Nothing could fill up the longing he felt for all those year he was deprived of the only woman he ever loved. Mas hinapit niya ito palapit sa katawan niya. He wanted to feel all of her.
Mushroom wasn’t feeling cold anymore. She felt like she’s burning inside. Her knees felt wobbly with Gino’s kisses. His touch sends fire to her skin. And just before she knew, they are on the sand and she’s on top of him. Mushroom let out a soft moan as Gino kissed the hollow of her throat and gently bit her skin. Gino’s kisses make her delirious. She felt completely unaware of everything, of time and space, because all that mattered to her is Gino and the way he makes her feel. He pressed himself into her and she felt his pulsating hardness which made her tremble in anticipation. When he kissed her lips she kissed back in total surrender.
Pero bago pa siya tuluyang madarang naalala niya kung bakit siya naroroon. She remembered that beautiful woman who’s with Gino. And she remembered all the beautiful women he was rumored to be with. Muli’y naramdaman niya ang hapdi sa puso buhat ng sugat na muling nanariwa sa pagbabalik nito. Bigla’y para siyang nabuhusan ng malamig na tubig at tuluyang nagising sa mahabang pagkakatulog, malakas na itinulak niya ito.
“I’m not your girlfriend! And I’m not one of your women!” galit na sigaw niya at mabilis na inilayo ang sarili rito. At bago pa man ito makatayo, tumakbo na siya at iniwan ito.
“Mushroom!” sigaw ni Gino sa papalayong dalaga. He felt an urge to follow her pero pinigilan niya ang sarili. It won’t do good. He saw the hatred in her eyes when she pushed him away. That kind of hatred he always feared he would see. Nahilamos niya ang sariling mukha. He shouldn’t have kissed her! He should’ve waited. He knew he has to work hard to gain Mushroom’s trust back and now, he just ruined it.
Napabuntong-hininga siya. Napapikit siya nang maalala ang malalambot nitong labi. Mushroom could drive him crazy without effort at all. She takes his breath away without even noticing it. She could make him lose all his control. He shouldn’t have kissed her… but he wasn’t able to stop himself because he always wanted to. From the very first time he kissed her, he never ceased wanting to kiss her again.
Her face… is still the most beautiful face he laid his eyes on. And her smile… he wanted to see that again. He missed his Mushroom. And he won’t, not ever, lose her again. He will do all means to make her love him back. Because nothing ever changed in ten years… He loves her and he knew, he always will.
Napagpasiyahan niyang bumalik sa kasiyahan, umaasang makikita niya doon ang kababata. Muli niyang tinalunton ang daan nang may mahagip ang tingin niya. Kumunot ang noo niya. It seems like his Cinderella forgot her pair of shoes. Naiiling na pinulot niya ang mga iyon.
DUMIRETSO si Mushroom sa tinutuluyang cottage, abot-abot ang kaba sa dibdib. She can’t go to the party anymore. Not with her messy hair and her crumpled dress, smeared make-up, and her skin covered with sand. They almost made love in the sand! She felt her skin is still burning from his touch. And her cheeks are burning in shame. She can’t believe she was that easy!
Nang tinawagan siya nina Dinah at Betchy, nagkunwa siyang pagod sa biyahe. Alam niyang hindi siya pinaniwalaan ng mga iyon pero hindi na nagpumilit ang mga ito pero pinapangako siya na mag-aattend sa activities kinabukasan at wala ng excuses. Napilitan siyang mangako. Kahit na hindi niya alam kung makakagalaw siya ng maayos habang nakikita si Gino. Gusto na niyang umuwi. But she won’t give Gino the satisfaction of seeing her weak. She had to be there and show him that he didn’t matter to her anymore. She had to make him feel she doesn’t need him even if it takes her to lie. She had to prepare herself or else mauulit ang nangyari kanina. That was the most shameful act she ever did in her entire life!
She can’t believe she gave in just like that. And she can’t believe how powerless and how weak she is in front of Gino. Ni hindi niya nagamit ang utak niya. Ni hindi niya naisip na may pride siya. How foolish of her!
Gino left her. He abandoned her. He just can’t come and storm into her life after she had gained control after he left. Wala itong permisong muling pumasok sa buhay niya at guluhin siya. She’s done with hurting. She’s better off alone without him.
Bitter tears started to stream down her face again. Hindi na siya nag-abala pang pahirin iyon. Dumiretso siya sa shower at itinapat ang sarili doon. She let the water carry her tears away. She needs to be stronger. No, she won’t let him hurt her again. Ginagap niya ang dibdib. You are stronger now. You can get over him... pampalakas-loob niya sa sarili.
As she went to bed that night, she prayed so hard that tomorrow won’t be as worse as what happened tonight.
She loves him still… But it’s not the kind of love that’s worth keeping… for love should be something magical, something healthy, something that brings forth happiness… but the love she felt for Gino is something that is too strong that could consume all of her, something that cuts deeply, something too painful she almost can’t bear… She needs to get rid off it. That would be the best thing she can do for herself… to teach herself to finally let go. Muli niyang narmadaman ang hapdi sa dibdib sa huling naisip.
This hurting should stop… aniya sa isip at niyakap ang sarili habang pigil ang sariling mapahagulhol.