As Long As Forever – CHAPTER 20

MUSHROOM woke up with a smile. She did her usual early morning routine. But something’s strange in what she was used to do. She’s humming a tune. Bagay na hindi niya ginagawa. But she felt good. Parang ang gaan-gaan ng pakiramdam niya. And she found herself uttering a prayer of thanksgiving. Because for the first time in a long long time, her morning is filled with happiness her heart could almost burst with it. And the reason was clear. Gino... Kumislot ang puso niya nang maisip ang kababata. Hindi niya mapigilan ang sariling reaksyon sa tuwing kaharap niya ito. She felt like a school girl unsure of what to do. Gino could make her melt with just a stare. And he takes her breath away whenever he looks at her intently in the eyes. He could turn all her Nos into Yeses. He just invaded her what used to be cold and gray world and filled it with sunshine which made her see all the colors she wasn’t able to see for a long long time. In a short period of time, after she gave him the chance, she felt like Gino occupied a great space in her life that she doesn’t want to be emptied again.

Though there were times when fear crept over her. Natatakot siyang masaktan ulit… Dahil alam niyang kapag nangyari iyon, hindi niya alam kung papaano kakayanin ang sakit. She loves Gino. She loves him now more than ever. And she keeps falling in love with him every single moment of everyday. But she can’t fully trust him. Dahil maraming agam-agam ang nasa dibdib niya. She has to know what happened in those ten years. Maging ano man iyon, pipilitin niyang maunawaan. At kahit gaano pa kasakit, pipilitin niyang magpatawad. Pero kailangan niya munang malaman ang lahat, para makapagsimula sila ulit. Kailangan niyang malaman ang lahat para alam niya kung saan siya lulugar… at sa kung paanong paraan maipagkakatiwala niya ang puso niya rito.

“GOOD MORNING, HIJA!” masayang bati ng Mommy’t Daddy niya nang mabungaran niya ang mga itong nag-aalmusal.

“Good morning!” aniyang nilapitan ang mga ito at kinintalan ng halik sa pisngi.

“Good morning, Mush,” anaman ni Gino na abala sa paghahanda ng mesa. Bahagya itong nag-angat ng tingin at nginitian siya. He looked so neat and fresh. And so so handsome… She felt butterflies roaming in her stomach again. Nakasuot ito ng apron. Kinikiliti ang puso niyang di niya mawari. He is so at home. Na para bang kasing natural ng pagkakaroon ng sandok sa kusina nila ang presensiya nito sa bahay nila. At gaya ng dati, tila mas kabisado nito ang bahay nila kesa sa kanya.

“Kiss ko?” ungot nito. Napatingin siya sa mga magulang na nagkunwang walang naririnig. Patuloy lang na nagbabasa ng newspaper ang Daddy niya’t patuloy namang kumakain ang mommy niya. Pero parehong nakangiti. Pinandilatan niya ang kababata dahil nagsisimula siyang mamula.

“Maya na lang,” anitong ngumiti. “Kain ka na.”

“I don’t eat breakfast,” aniya.

Nailagay nito ang daliri sa baba, tila matamang nag-iisip pakuwa’y napapitik. “Why don’t you eat for a change?” anitong tila napakagandang ideya ang naisip. Hindi pa man siya nakakasagot ay sinimulan na nitong lagyan ng toasted bread, bacon, at itlog ang plato niya.

“Oo nga naman, hija. Hinanda iyan ni Gino para sa’yo.” Anaman ng Mommy niya.

“Please?” ani Gino.

She really doesn’t eat during breakfast. But for the first time, she wanted to. Kaya naupo na siya. Kita ng sulok ng mga mata niya nang magtinginan ang mga magulang niya’t lihim na nagngitian.

“Mom, Dad…” ungol niya. “Stop that.”

“What?” patay-malisyang tanong ng mga ito.

“Wala,” aniya at nagsimulang kumain. Noong una’y asiwa siya dahil inaasikaso siya masyado ni Gino. Kulang na lang subuan siya. But he’s doing it like he had always done it. Natural na natural ang kilos nito. Ni hindi nahihiya sa mga magulang niya na magpakita ng sweetness sa kanya. Kaya unti-unting nawala ang pagka-asiwa niya. Pinilit niyang magconcentrate sa pagkain pero panay tahimik na hagikgikan ng mga magulang. At hindi nakaligtas sa tainga nila ang pinag-uusapan nito—kung ano ang magiging unang apo nila, babae kaya o lalaki, kung kanino magiging kamukha kung kay Gino o sa kanya.

“Mom, Dad…” muling ungol niya.

Tila enjoy na enjoy naman si Gino sa naririnig. Dahil tila ngumingiti ang mga mata nito sa panakaw na sulyap nito sa kanya.

“Ano na naman?” anang Mommy niya na napalingon sa kanya.

“Naririnig ko kayo.”

“Masama ang makinig sa usapan ng matatanda,” anang Daddy niya.

Sumimangot siya. Ganoon naman parati ang mga magulang niya. Tila may sariling mundo na ayaw siyang papasukin.

“Coffee?” tanong ni Gino.

“Juice lang.” Kumuha ito ng fresh juice at sinalinan ang baso niya.

“Uwi ka ng tanghalian?” tanong nito.

“Nope,” aniya. Hindi siya umuuwi ng tanghalian. Pero sa tuwing naiisip niya na makakasabay niya si Gino kumain, parang gusto niyang ipa-cancel ang lunch meeting niya ngayon at lahat ng future lunch meetings niya.

“What time ka uuwi mam’ya?”

“Late na siguro. Huwag n’yo na akong hintayin maghapunan. May tatapusin pa akong reports.”

“Gaano ka late? Susunduin na kita,” anito.

“Huwag na. Sanay na ako, Gino.”

“Sige na, Mush. Kahit ngayon lang.”

Napa-isip siya saglit. “Bahala ka nga,” pagkuwa’y sagot niya na ikinangiti nito. Bakit ba hindi niya magawang humindi kay Gino?

Kapwa sila napalingon nang medyo napalakas ang hagikgikan ng dalawa sa kabilang gilid ng mesa. Naririnig nila ang salitang engagement, kasal, honeymoon, at baby.

“Uhurmmm,” aniya. “Ang saya-saya naman,” aniyang tabingi ang ngiti.

Pero hindi narinig ng mga ito ang sinabi niya, talagang enjoy na enjoy sa pagpaplano’t hindi namalayang nakikinig silang dalawa ni Gino. They’re talking about renovation and all sorts. Kailangan daw may playground ang mga bata sa garden.

“Para ho mas malaking playground, tanggalin na ho natin ang bakod,” biglang suhestiyon ni Gino.

Umangat ang kilay ng niya.

Natigil ang masinsinang usapan ng mga magulang niya. At nakangiting bumaling kay Gino.

“That’s a very good idea, hijo!” masayang sabi ng ama niya.

Hindi makapaniwalang napatingin siya kay Gino.

“Para kapag gusto ng mga bata na dumalaw sa lolo’t lola, hindi na nila kailangang lumabas ng gate, diretso na sila kaagad dito.”

“Napakagandang ideya nga!” masayang sambit ng Mommy niya.

Mga bata? Nag-init ang magkabilang-pisngi niya. Nagka-amnesia ba siya’t nakalimutan niya ang parteng sinagot na niya si Gino? How can they talk about these planning stuff in front of her?

Napatikhim siya. “Hindi ko ho boyfriend si Gino.” aniya saka hinarap ang kababata. “Hindi pa kita sinasagot,” aniyang pinandilatan ito.

Nawala ang ngiti nito. Pagkuwa’y parang batang nagpapasaklolo sa mga magulang niya. “Tulungan n’yo naman po akong mapasagot si Mushroom.”

Nagkatinginan ang mga magulang niya pagkuwa’y binalingan siya.

“Hija, we just remembered,” seryosong sabi nga Daddy niya. “We talked about this last week.”

“About what?” aniyang napataas ang kilay. Parang gusto niyang magsisi at kumain pa ng agahan. Pakiramdam niya’y ginigisa siya roon.

“About giving love a chance?” anang Mommy niya.

Umungol siya tanda ng protesta. Napatingin siya kay Gino na tila ba siyang-siya sa naririnig.

“You said you’ll give it a try, remember?” dagdag nito.

“Let’s give it a try, Mush,” panghihimok ni Gino na tuwang-tuwa sa ekspresyon ng mukha niya. “C’mon, try me!”

“Heh!” aniya at umingos.

NANG matapos mag-agahan, nagmamadaling nagpaalam si Mushroom sa mga magulang. Ayaw na niyang magtagal ng kahit isang minuto sa mesa dahil pakiramdam niya’y pagpapawisan na siya sa pinag-uusapan ng mga ito. Saka ayaw din niyang ma-late. Maraming nakabinbing trabaho sa office dahil buong weekend siyang wala. Nakasanayan na niyang magtrabaho kahit walang pasok sa opisina. At araw-araw, quarter past seven pa lang, dapat nakalabas na siya ng bahay, samantalang ang Daddy naman niya, alas nuwebe na nagpupunta ng office.

“Bye,” aniya nang mapansing nakasunod sa kanya si Gino.

“Ihahatid na kita,” anito at walang babalang kinuha ang susi sa kamay niya. “You don’t need to,” aniya.

“I want to. Nililigawan kita, remember?”

“Do you really think na sasagutin kita dahil lang sa paghatid-sundo mo sa akin?”

“Ginawan din kita ng breakfast,” mabilis na sagot nito na halos ikangiti niya. Pagkuwa’y tinitigan siya. Yung titig na naman na nakakalusaw kahit bakal. “Kahit hindi mo na ako sagutin, basta makasama lang kita, ayos na.” seryosong sabi nito. Saglit siyang napipilan. May kung anong humaplos sa puso niya. Bigla’y hindi na niya gustong magpunta ng office at wala siyang ibang gustong gawin kundi ang makasama ito. Mushroom! sita ng isip niya. Well, Gino should stop being sweet. Because her sanity is at stake.

“Pag di kita sinagot, kukunin kitang houseboy,” aniya rito.

Tumawa ito ng malakas. “Houseband na lang, Mush. Kahit alilain mo ako habambuhay, ayos lang.”

“Pag-iisipan ko nga, huwag mo nga akong minamadali,” aniya.

“Hindi ka naman minamadali, kinukumbinsi lang.” Saka tinitigan siya ulit. “Pakasal na tayo?”

Pinigilan niya ang ulong tumango. “Ihahatid mo ba ako o ano?”

“Ihahatid na po,” anito saka inalalayan ang siko niya papasok ng sasakyan. And once more, she felt safe and secured with Gino driving her car. Naisip niya, she has trusted Gino with her life by doing so. Maybe… she can trust him with her heart again.

HALOS ganoon araw-araw, Mushroom wakes up with a smile in her face, have a few good laughs during the day, and still have that smile as she goes into her bed at night. She’s just happy. And she just realized how Gino made her days so well-lived. He always surprise her with gifts and flowers, balloons and teddy bears. He said he was trying to make up for the years he wasn’t able to live with her. One time he took her out on a lunch date. Nagtaka siya nang tinalunton nila ang daan patungo sa campus nila. Ganoon na lang ang tawa niya nang matantong talagang sa canteen ng campus nila siya idi-date ni Gino. It was the first time she heard herself laughed that hard. Nakasalamuha nila ang mga dating teachers nila. And she felt so so happy. Tila wala nang paglalagyan ang saya sa dibdib. And at that night, before she went to sleep, she hugged him so tight and thanked him for that very wonderful day. She felt that she will always be grateful for Gino…

FRIDAY night came. Gino reserved a fine dining at La Cocina de Tita Moning for him and Mushroom. Jordan suggested it’s a good place and the food was superb. He was planning on telling Mushroom everything she needs to know on that day. He wanted to surprise Mushroom again because it always makes him happy to see her eyes glitter in happiness. It lessens the guilt he carried for so long. Nakaligo na siya’t nakabihis. He wanted to be his best. Pero nanlumo siya nang tumawag si Mushroom. Hindi na ito magpapasundo dahil may trabaho daw itong dapat tapusin. Laylay ang balikat na nagbihis ulit siya. Lalabas na sana siya ng silid nang biglang sumakit ang ulo. Napaupo siya sa gilid ng kama. Nang tumindi ang sakit, ibinaon niya ang ulo sa unan at idiniin iyon. There’s nothing wrong with him. Everything was normal in his CT scan and MRI results. Dinala kaagad siya ni Jordan sa hospital and forced him for scan tests to make sure he’s okay. Pero nagtataka siya kung bakit sinusumpong siya ng matinding sakit ng ulo.

Kinagat niya ang unan para hindi mapasigaw. Pakiramdam niya’y hindi niya makakayanan ang sakit.

MUSHROOM went home tired. After closing the deal with Mr. Co, marami silang nakitang dapat pagtuunan ng pansin para ma-meet ang demands ng isang napakalaking kumpanya. She just had a brainstorming session with her team at pakiramdam niya’y nasaid lahat ng lakas niya ng araw na iyon. Papasok pa lang ng gate nakita na niya si Gino nakaupo sa bench sa garden. She smiled at the sight of him. Kinawayan siya nito. Lumapit siya rito at naupo sa tabi nito.

“Tired?”

Tumango siya. Pagod siyang magsalita.

“Sandal ka muna,” anitong tinapik ang dibdib.

Isinandal niya ang ulo sa dibdib nito. That was what she had in mind when she saw him. She felt his hands around her waist and held her. Lalo siyang napasiksik sa dibdib nito. She felt she’s recharging. Tila unti-unting nawala ang pagod niya.

“I felt so much better,” she murmured.

“Me too,” bulong din ni Gino. Masakit pa rin ang ulo niya pero hindi na kasing tindi ng sa kanina. And he felt better holding Mushroom in his arms. “I missed you,” bulong niya.

Tumingala ito at nginitian siya. His heartbeat quickened.

“I missed you, too.” anito saka niyakap siya ng mahigpit.

“I liked it when you’re tired,” aniyang di mapigil ang ngiti.

“Huh?”

“You become honest with your answers. And you’re not fighting with me.”

Lumabi ito. “Ngayon lang ‘to,” sagot nito.

“Sasamantalahin ko na,” aniya.

“Huh?”

Hinaplos ng likod ng kamay niya ang pisngi nito. And again, he is enthralled by her beauty. Itinaas niya ang baba nito. Napatitig ito sa kanya na tila alam na ang gagawin niya. Unti-unti niyang ibinaba ang ulo. At kapwa sila napapikit nang maglapat ang mga labi nila. He savored the sweetness of her mouth as he traced every corner with his lips.

Napayakap ng mahigpit si Mushroom kay Gino. Hindi niya napigilan ang pagkawala ng ungol sa bibig nang unti-unting lumalim ang halik. Then, she felt something different with the way he kissed her. Ibinuka niya ang mga mata at hindi siya nagkamali sa hinala. He’s smiling while kissing her.

“What’s… funny?” aniya sa pagitan ng halik. But he just kept kissing her. It took her all th willpower to push him. “Would you mind telling me?” aniyang tinarayan ito.

Pinisil nito ang ilong niya. “Nakakarami ka na ng halik sa’kin hindi mo pa rin ako sinasagot.”

Pinasingkit niya ang mga mata at tiningnan ito. “You always initiate the kiss.”

“You always make me do it.” anaman nito. “Sige na, Mush, be my girlfriend.” hiling nito.

Hindi siya sumagot. Nakatitig lang dito. Yeah, they are like couples. Pero hindi pa rin niya magawang sagutin ito.

“You can call me conceited again, but I just know you’re in love with me, too. Ano pa bang kailangan kong gawin para mapasagot na kita?”

Sumeryoso siya. Umayos siya ng upo at hinarap ito. “Okay, Gino. I admit, mahal nga siguro kita. I don’t just kiss for no reason. Mahal kita pero may pumipigil sa aking mahalin ka. I can’t even say I love you. Because fear always overtakes me. And you know why. So, if you want me to really love you, enlighten me. Hanggang ngayon, gulung-gulo pa rin ang isip ko. I can see and I can feel that you love me. But everytime I look back in the past, I start doubting about how you felt for me then. Sa tuwing naaalala ko ang sakit, hindi ko magawang maidugtong ang ngayon at ang nakaraan.”

Natahimik nang saglit ang kababata saka ginagap ang palad niya at tinitigan siya sa mata.

“Do you know why Fiona didn’t recognize Shrek? in Forever After?”

“Anong kinalaman ni Fiona at Shrek sa atin?”

“Because Shrek signed a contract with Rumpelstiltskin.” anito na tila hindi narinig ang sinabi niya. “And the moment he signed, everything in his life was changed. He got his old life back but he lost all the people he loved.”

“And that has something to do with us?” tanong niya pgil-pigil ang sariling magtaray dahil seryoso ang mukha nito.

“Yes.”

“We’re ogres now?”

Ngumiti ito. “Our story is quite similar to what they had.”

Kumunot ang noo niya.

“I signed a contract that changed my life.”

“With Rumpelstiltskin?” naguguluhan niyang tanong.

Umiling si Gino. “With Death.”

“That’s not funny.” aniyang napahalukipkip.

“It isn’t.” seryosong sagot nito. “I wanted to have my life back that’s why I signed. But death tricked me, he took my memories. And instantly, everyone was suddenly out of my life… including the only girl I’ve ever loved.”

Napatitig si Mushroom sa mukha ni Gino. She felt her eyes are stinging. She could feel the sadness in his voice, and she couldn’t almost bear to see it in his eyes.

“I…” Napabuntong-hininga ito. “I had a tumor since I was young,” anito. “on the brain.”

Instantly, Mushroom’s tears flowed. She tried to push back the lump on her throat but she could not.

“It was slow-growing. So I had routine check-up and scans every year. It finally went to an operable size when we were on our third year. Gusto na ni Mommy na ipatanggal na kaagad iyon. Pero ayoko pa. Kasi hindi pa ako handa. Kasi hindi kita kayang iwan. I want to be beside you on our graduation day. I could not just leave you. Mom didn’t have a choice because I insisted. So, I had to stay one more year.”

Tumigil ito sa pagsasalita. “That is the very reason I didn’t want you to know. Dahil iyakin ka.” Pinahid nito ang luha niya.

“Continue,” utos niya’t sumandal sa dibdib nito dahil tila nanghihina siya sa nalaman.

“I was right on my decision. I’ve had the best moments with you that year, minus the times with that Amboy. The prom was one of the nights I knew I would always remember. I didn’t plan on telling you about what I really felt for you before I left. But it went out. Dahil hindi ko mapigil. Dahil kung kikimkimin ko, sasabog ang dibdib ko sa sobrang sakit. And I could not tell you about my sickness, because I know you’ll worry, and you’ll be sad. And I didn’t want any of that. I was planning to tell you when everything is okay. When I’m as good as new. I thought that everything will go smoothly. I had my first operation on our second month in the States. It went well. But they found another tumor on the scan and have to do the surgery again. That was your eighteenth birthday,” anito saka malungkot na ngumiti. “After that, I woke up. And I remembered nothing. I wasn’t able to tell you until now.” Mapait itong ngumiti.

Pigil-pigil ni Mushroom na mapahagulhol. That’s why he never called again. Pakiramdam niya’y punit-punit na ang puso niya sa sobrang pighati. She could almost feel the pain that Gino went through, and she wasn’t there for him. While Gino was suffering, she was meddling with her heartache even reaching to the point of hating him.

“I had an amnesia,” patuloy nito. “The tumor was near where my memory was stored. It was one of the risks we took. I thought my memory would be gone forever. It took five years before I regained it back. But everything has changed. The world moved and I didn’t even notice it. You were already together with Michael. And I thought you were happy. I didn’t want to destroy your happiness. So I did what was the most horrible thing… I tried to forget all the promises I gave to you. I did try to forget everything about you, Mush. And I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you so much. I know that was stupid. But I didn’t know what else to do. Tinikis ko ang sarili kong makita ka ulit. Dahil pakiramdam ko iyon ang tama.”

“If I have not known you were single, I won’t be there in that reunion. But I saw a chance… And I had to hold on to that no matter how you pushed me away. Because I knew that it’s you that I wanted all my life. I can’t bear to lose you again. Now that you’re here, I never wanted to let you go. Now that I am able, I want to fulfill my promise again. I will love you as long as forever, Mush. I’m so sorry for all the hurts that I’ve caused you.”

“Gino,” tanging nasambit niya. Hindi na napigilan ni Mushroom ang sakit na umaalpas sa dibdib. Napabunghalit siya ng iyak. Niyakap niya ng mahigpit si Gino. Her heart cried for the anguish of what Gino had suffered all through out those years. She cried for what they had gone through without each other.

“Oh, Mush, please stop crying,” tila nahihirapang samo nito.

“I… can’t,” aniya sa pagitan ng pagsigok-sigok. “J-Just h-hold me.”

She felt like she was breaking apart. But with Gino’s arms around her, she felt stronger. She stayed in his arms hanggang sa humupa ang nararamdaman niya.

“We have to kiss before sunrise,” biglang namutawi sa labi niya.

Takang napatingin ito sa kanya.

“True love’s first kiss brought Fiona and Shrek back together. We have to kiss before sunrise,” aniyang napatingin sa guwapong mukha ng kababata. Buong pagmamahal na hinawakan niya ang mukha ni Gino at matamang tinitigan ang mga mata nito.

“I love you so much, Gino,” aniya at kasabay ng pagtulo ng luha niya, inilapat niya ang mga labi sa labi nito’t buong puso itong hinalikan.

54 thoughts on “As Long As Forever – CHAPTER 20

  1. bakit wala pa po ung next chapter???
    kanina madaling araw pa po ako nghihintay..huhuhuhu
    Calla Lily: cenxa na po… posted na po!

  2. wooooooooooo kilig-kilig na naman akoooo..greveh kakaiyak na..keep up the good work writer…^_^
    NXT CHAPTER NA!..ahehehe

  3. An0 va yan, s0brang nkakakilig…hal0s hndi q na mkaya, napapa iyak m0 na man aq Gin0….bkit kasi hndi pa sinabi ang t0t00, ayan 2l0y nabigla kmi, lal0 na c mush..,.(shhh…tag0 muna at iiyak hehehe) ch0000…fly fly away t0 chapter 21

Leave a Reply