GINO could not almost believe his ears… Mushroom just confessed her love for him for the very first time. And when she kissed him, he could feel the joy outpouring his own heart… He could feel love like he could almost touch it. And all of a sudden all the sufferings he had gone through was nothing compared to what happiness Mushroom made him feel right at this very moment. He wanted to capture this moment and keep it. Because he knew, he can face the greatest trials with this love that he is now holding.
He let Mushroom kissed him. He could feel her trembling lips, her cheeks wet because of tears. He let her communicate with him in a way much deeper than words could ever relay. And when he couldn’t take it, he kissed her back. He wanted her to feel how much he loves her and how much he needs her. He kissed her like it’s all what he wanted to do in his whole existence.
Mushroom didn’t care about the world or anything. All that matters at that moment was Gino. Her heart is throbbing with great love for him. And she felt released from all the pains in the past the moment she confessed her love for him. No, nothing can separate them again. She won’t let anything separate her from him.
They kissed for what seemed to be forever, until they were out of breath. Kapwa sila naghahabol ng hininga nang magkahiwalay ang mga labi nila. Namula ang pisngi ni Mushroom nang mapagtanto kung gaano ka-intimate ang posisyon nila. Pero imbes na lumayo, niyakap niya ng mahigpit si Gino.
Then she cupped that face that she had loved all her life and she will love for all time.
Mushroom traced the line of his mouth with her finger then nibbled his upper lip gently and slowly and then she nibbled his lower lip with the same slowness it could take a lifetime. And Gino just didn’t care to breathe. They were both gasping for air when their lips unlocked.
Pinisil nito ang ilong niya. “Please don’t tease me too much, Mush,” samo nito. “I might not be able to hold it.”
Mushroom knew they’re at the brink of their controls. She could see the desire in his eyes, and she knew that was what he is seeing in her eyes too. And she could feel how much he wanted her, how much he needed her. And she felt just the same.
“Gino…” aniyang nakatitig sa mga mata nito. She could give it to him, right now. But she wanted so much to wear white on her wedding day. She cleared her throat.
Pumikit ito at umiling. Na para bang siya ang namimilit. Natatawang tinampal niya ito.
“I can wait,” pagkuwa’y sabi nito.
And she loved him more and more.
“I’ll give you butterfly kisses, instead,” aniya at inilapit ang mga pilik-mata sa pisngi nito. She then let her eyelids flutter. And she heard him laughed silently.
Hinawi nito ang ilang hibla ng buhok na tumatabing sa mukha niya. “I love you so much, Mushroom.”
She smiled at him. “I love you, too, Gino.” sagot niya’t inihimlay ang ulo sa dibdib nito. And she wanted to lay there forever, enveloped in his arms, listening to the loveliest sound she has ever heard– the beatings from his heart which from then on she silently vowed to take care of until her very last breath. She could still feel the pain of what Gino had went through and she knew she will weep for it for some time. But she won’t let it happen again. She will by all means protect him from hurting even if it costs all that she has… and she will do everything just to make him smile in every moment they are together. That’s how much she loves him. She will live all her days loving him.
MADALING-ARAW na nang mapagpasyahan nilang pumasok sa loob ng bahay. At kagaya ng dati, matagal silang nakatayo sa labas ng silid niya dahil pareho nilang ayaw mawalay sa isa’t isa.
“Can I go ask your mom and dad if I can sleep in your room tonight?” bulong ni Gino.
“Go ahead. Bukas na bukas din, naka-impake na yang gamit mo,” aniyang hininaan din ang boses dahil baka magising ang mga magulang.
“Hindi naman kita aanuhin,” anito. “Kahit nga inaakit mo’ko parati good boy pa rin ako.”
“Excuse me?” aniyang pigil ang pagtaas ng boses na pinameywangan ito.
Nanunukso ang mga mata nitong tiningnan siya. Natatawang naiiling si Mushroom. Kahit kailan si Gino talaga. Napangiti siya nang maalala kung gaano siya naiinis makita lang ito noon, kung gaano siya naaasar sa mga biro nito at sa lahat-lahat ng tungkol dito. She was so mad at him she didn’t even realize she was in love with him. And the moment she realized she was in love, the feeling never left her… even for the longest time Gino was gone, she loved him even when it was hurting her. Ngayon alam na niya kung bakit. Gino didn’t stop loving her too. Maybe he stopped when he had his amnesia, but when he gained back his memories, he loves her still. Kung pupwede lang niyang ibalik ang nakaraan, gagawin niya. She could’ve helped him recover. They could’ve spent more time together.
“I do wonder what you have in mind right now,” anitong nakatitig sa kanya. “Mind sharing?”
“Siguro pwede ka namang pumasok. Iwanan na lang nating nakabukas ang pinto,” aniya rito.
They went to her room. Gino thought that the bed is inviting. It took him a lot of mind control to stop wanting to make love with her. And now that idea is so tempting.
“What your imagining won’t happen,” bigla’y sabi ni Mushroom.
“Imagine lang naman,” anito na kunwa’y nagtampo. Nag-init ang pisnging tinampal niya ang braso nito.
PINASADAHAN ni Gino ng tingin ang silid ng dalaga. Masinop. Malinis. Saka Mabango. Parang si Mushroom din. Napangiti siya nang makita ang music box na iniregalo niya rito noon. Naaalala niya na unang kita pa lamang niya sa music box, alam niyang magugustuhan iyon ni Mushroom. At hindi nga siya nagkakamali, dahil hanggang ngayon, nandoon pa rin ito.
Nang lingunin niya si Mushroom may kipkip itong mga album at inilatag iyon sa carpeted na sahig.
“For all the times you’ve missed,” anito. They squated on the carpet as they looked at the pictures. Unang bumungad sa kanya ang larawan nila ni Snowhite. Gino realized he missed his cat so much.
“She lived for six years. Died of old age.”
“She’s fat,” ani Gino nang mapagmasdan ang mga larawan.
“Masipag siyang kumain. Palaging nilalambing si Mommy. Ayun, bigay naman kaagad si Mommy ng pagkain. Tapos si Daddy naman, konting ngiyaw lang, sasabihin nagugutom daw si Snowhite saka pinapakain ulit. So she got that big.” Lumambong ang mga mata ni Mushroom nang maalala ang alaga.
“I missed her,” halos panabay na bulong nila.
“Her grave is in the garden. We could visit her. And Beast too.”
Kumunot ang noo ni Gino.
“There was one time we met, Jordan and Dinah. And Jordan brought along Beats para takutin kami. And, Snowhite ate Beast. So, they are on the same grave.”
Gino could not help himself but smile at the thought of it. And there was that same longing again, na sana, nandoon siya sa mga pangyayaring iyon. Then there were pictures of them during highschool. Tawa sila ng tawa sa ayos nila. Dahil walang picture na hindi nakabusangot si Mushroom.
“These were when you were away,” anang dalaga at ipinakita sa kanya ang mga kuha noong college ito. She was really really beautiful. The kind that stops his heart from beating at the sight of her. Then there were couple pictures.
Itinulak ni Gino ang album. Pero ibinalik iyon ng dalaga.
“I want you to know my life. I told you a lot of things happened. These are the people who have been a part of me. Gusto kong malaman mo para matanggap mo ng buo kung sino ako ngayon.”
Napilitan siyang tingnan ang larawan kahit pa gusto niyang itapon ang mga iyon. “Sweet,” walang-buhay na sabi ni Gino sa lahat ng larawan. Mushroom had three exes. Levi, Dan and Michael. Si Michael lang ang kilala ni Gino. Alam niyang wala siyang dapat ipagselos. Pero talagang hindi siya masaya sa mga pictures na ipinapakita si Mushroom sa kanya.
“Why do you want me to see these?” aniyang pilit huwag ipahalata ang inis sa boses.
“Because, in a way, they helped me get through the pain of missing you.” tipid na sagot nito na ikinaumid ng dila niya. “They are not just exes, they are my friends too. And I’m in good terms with them, just in case we get to meet them somewhere. Seloso ka pa naman,” anito.
Humaba ang nguso niya sa sinabi nito.
Then the next were news clippings of him with his past girlfriends. There he was with a french model, a hollywood actress, a daughter of a prime minister and a lot more.
“And why keep these?” takang-tanong niya.
“Did you ever love them?” tanong nito, malungkot ang mga mata. Napipilan si Gino. He knew these had hurt her. “I liked them.” totoo sa loob na sagot niya.”But they could not take you away from my thoughts. Not even a single minute.” Napabuntong-hininga siya. “But why do you keep these?” naguguluhang tanong niya.
“Para hindi ako ma-guilty,” anitong malungkot na ngumiti. “When I thought you’ve completely forgotten about me, I was so scared I won’t be able to move on. So I engaged in a relationship, kahit hindi ako handa. But everytime I kiss someone else, I felt my heart breaking. It’s like I’ve sinned against you and I could not bear the guilt. Palagi kong iniisip na nauna kang bumitaw sa pangako. And my proof are these. I should not feel guilty at all. But still, I felt horrible. All my relationships ended with a first kiss. I thought it would be different with Michael because I knew him more than anyone else. But then still, it didn’t work. Even when I convinced myself it was okay, something just pulls me out. But then that guilt feeling was from deep within me… because I knew I love you. I sinned against my love for you. And I am accountable for that. I’ve been carrying that guilt for so long.” Biglang tumulo ang luha nito. “Could you forgive me, Gino? Could you still love me despite what I’ve done?”
Gino hugged Mushroom tight. Kinukuyumos ang puso niya sa bawat salitang binibitiwan nito. “I should be the one saying sorry. I’m taking all the blame, Mush. I’m sorry for not taking the courage to tell you the truth. I am sorry for hiding for a long time. I’m so sorry for everything,” aniyang mas lalong nanikip ang dibdib nang marinig ang hikbi nito. “And if it makes you feel better, I forgive you. Di ba, sabi ko nga, kahit paulit-ulit mo akong saktan,paulit-ulit din kitang patatawarin. And the reason is obvious. Mahal kita. Mahal na mahal. Walang kasalanang hindi napapatawad ng isang pusong tunay na nagmamahal. And that’s the kind of love I feel for you. Kahit nga may asawa ka na, mamahalin pa rin kita. Hindi na mababago iyon kahit kailan.”
“Gino…” anitong humihikbi at lalong humigpit ang yakap sa kanya. “Pinapatawad na din kita. Nasaktan ako, oo. Pero kahit gaano kasakit, hindi nabawasan ang pagmamahal ko sa’yo.I thought I could hate you completely. But you proved me wrong when you came back. Dahil kahit anong pilit kong kamuhian ka, nangingibabaw pa rin sa puso ko ang kagustuhang mahalin ka. That’s all I ever wanted to do that day you stole my first kiss.I was just afraid to admit that I’ve loved you since then.”
Hindi makapaniwalang napatitig si Gino sa dalaga. Her words were like balm in his open wounds, slowly healing him from within.
“I am telling you all these things, for you to know that my life without you was awful. It was miserable. Pero hindi ko ito sinasabi sa’yo para makonsensiya ka. Dahil naiintindihan ko kung bakit kinailangan mong lumayo. Sinasabi ko ito para alam mo na kung ano ang mangyayari sa akin kung mawawala ka. I’ll die, Gino. I am sure of it. I’m making it clear, para hindi mo na ako iwanan ulit.”
Gino tried to push back the tears. “I won’t let anything hurt you again, Mush. I’ll make sure nothing will separate us. Dahil hindi ko rin kakayanin pag nawala ka ulit sa buhay ko. Nothing else will make me be apart from you.”
“This is the beginning of us, together?” anito. “Forever?”
He held her hands and locked it in his. “Yes, us. Forever.” And they sealed that vow with a kiss.
WALA na sigurong sasaya pa sa dalawang pusong nag-iibigan. They are together all day. And Mushroom couldn’t ask for more. Her prayers were answered. Gino is finally with her and they are finally together. Nang sabihin nila sa mga magulang niya na sila na, kitang-kita ang tuwa sa mga mata nito. And just like before, the two of them started planning about the renovations and all, especially their long-time wish to have a baby in the house. And she began to wish that too. It will be a wonderful feeling being a mother… to start a family with Gino.
SINCE then, they do things a lot more together. They woke up at the same time and prepare breakfast together, they take a walk around the subdivision, they go malling and pretend they are teen-agers dating, they cuddle in front of the tv, they share jokes, they both tell each other the persons important to them, and they plan a lot. Kadalasan tinutudyo siya ni Gino na gusto nito ng isang dosenang anak. Nginigitian lang niya ito. She could see that Gino can be a good father. He is so thoughtful, especially when it comes to children. And her love for him grew deeper.
Nang tumawag si Tita Donna, napatili ito sa tuwa nang malamang sila na ni Gino, naririnig din nila ang masayang boses ni Yaya Melba. They are on their way home, dadalo ang mga ito sa exhibit ni Gino kinalunesan. She’s so excited to see them. She missed them so much. Hindi niya mapigilang kabahan sa nalalapit na exhibit. She knew it’s gonna be big. She always see it on TV. Even the president is attending to give Gino a heroe’s welcome for bringing a great pride to the Filipinos. She really felt so proud with Gino. And then again, she felt so grateful, that despite all the fame and all the wealth, siya pa rin ang pinaka-importante para rito.
THE most awaited night came. Tita Donna ang Yaya Melba arrived on Monday morning. They took two cars and off they went to the art gallery. The moment they arrived, flashes of camera were blasting in all direction. Sinalubong kaagad sila ni Dianne. There were a lot of people there, some of them were famous people. Halos hindi makapaniwala si Mushroom. Dinah, Jordan, Betchy and Louie were there too. The founder of the children cancer foundation and all its staffs were there, some parents and children were there too. May hinandang programa para sa mga ito. Mushroom’s heart was gripped as she saw those children’s smiles. Hope glitter in their eyes. She saw happiness too. Yet she knew, they are all suffering on an illness they still have no specific cure.
Nang maupo na sila’y bahagya siyang tinapik ni Dianne.
“Do you mind a minute?” anito. “Follow me.”
Gino was welcoming the guests, bahagya lang siyang kumaway rito.
They entered a silent corridor.
“Where are we going?” takang tanong niya.
“Somewhere your decision is needed.” anitong nangiti.
Hindi niya napigilan ang mapataas-kilay. Anong klaseng talinghaga naman iyon?
Then, they entered a room dimly lit. The light only comes from the two paintings on the wall. Nakuha ng atensiyon niya ang pinakamalaking painting na nandoon. It was so attractivedahil dominant color was rosy pink. Ilang ulit siyang napakurap nang mamasdan nang maigi ang painting. Nahigit niya ang sariling hininga. She swallowed an invisible lump as her heart raced. She won’t forget the rosette’s in that gown. And she won’t forget the staircase she had known all her life. And looking up a little higher, she was now face to face with herself, ten years ago. That was her! During the prom night! Nakagat niya ang pang-ibabang labi.Gino painted it so well it looked so real. She looked so real…
She looked at the painting intently. Everything was in perfect detail. She wants to hug Gino tight right at that moment.She was so mesmerized by the painting she almost forgot Dianne was there. Tatawagin niya sana ito nang makuha naman ang pansin niya ng pangalawang painting.
She felt her heartbeat stopped for a second. It’s a scene from her own memory. And just before she knew, her tears fell. If she had not known it, she would mistake it for an abstract. Because the shapes were almost indefinite, as well as the colors. But she knew it. Because her own eyes had seen it. It was a blurred vision of the ring as Gino put it in her finger. May nasali pang buntot ni Snowhite. How could she ever forget that? It was one moment she will never ever forget.For by that ring, Gino made a promise which she kept for so long in her heart.
Naramdaman niyang may nag-abot sa kanya ng panyo. Dianne was teary-eyed too when she looked at her.
“I was there when Gino painted that. He was so many times frustrated and only finds himself when he’s painting. And these two are his major artwork. Everybody wants it. But it’s priceless. Because Gino made it for you. The highest bidder for the two paintings is Madame Desmarais. A french art collector, and a fan of Gino. It can sell 500,000 Euro, each. And if they know it will be on sale, the bid will go up. But Gino wants you to decide. If you want to keep them, you can.”
Napatingin si Mushroom sa dalawang paintings. She wanted to. She want to have both in their home. Pero nang sumagi sa isip niya ang mga batang maaaring pagkalooban ng ganoon kalaking halaga, she need not think it over. She can keep these in her memory. The children needs help most.It would benefit for the research of cure for cancer too.
“You can sell them,” aniya at ngumiti. “The children needs it.”
Dianne looked at her in awe. And her eyes showed admiration.
“I can see why Gino loves you so. You have a beautiful heart,” anito. Dianne gave her another minute to look at the paintings. And she memorized the details of it, trying to see how Gino made it. Kumunot ang noo niya nang makita ang date sa baba ng painting. One was 2003, the other 2004. Weren’t those the times Gino lost his memory? Then something hit her heart so hard she could not control her sobs. Gino didn’t stop loving her, did he? She was still in his thoughts even when he didn’t remember her… She stood there, trying so hard to control herself.
When Dianne came back, she offered her a shoulder to cry on. And she did. She could not dare imagine how Gino made it through those times he was so lost… yet, still, he thought of her… And she felt even more guilty she chose to hate him at some point. It took her time before she regained her composure. Alam niyang namamaga ang mga mata niya pero kinailangan niyang makita si Gino.
PAGLABAS nila sa silid na iyon, she hurriedly looked for Gino. He was on the center stage, receiving a heroes welcome. She felt so proud as she watched him receive his award. Dianne pushed her to go nearer. And as she sees him clearly, her love for him overflows. She’s so blessed this man loves her so much.
“I am grateful for all of you who are here. I could not express my thanks. I give this to God,” anitong itinaas ang trophy na hawak. “Because He gave me the life, and the talent that made me who I am today. And so much more, He gave me people who inspired me to be the best that I can be. This is for you Mom, Yaya Melba, Dianne,” anitong bahagyang gumaralgal ang tinig. “Tito Frank and Tita Cleo; my best pal Jordan; my teacher, Mr. de la Cruz; these young children here,” He smiled at them lovingly, “Go for your dreams. Being sick cannot stop us from being happy.” Napangiti ang mga bata. “And for my source of inspiration,” Napatingin ito sa kanya, at hindi niya napigilan ang luha. “My Mushroom, Oh please, stop crying.”
Nagulat siya nang bumaba ito ng stage at nilapitan siya. Sinundan ito ng Spotlight at ng camera. “I wouldn’t have made all these work of arts if it isn’t because you. And I want to spend the rest of my life being inspired by you. So,” lumuhod ito sa harapan niya. He smiled at her and whispered, “I hope you wont say no.” He took out a shimmering diamond ring. “Will you marry me, Mush?”
She couldn’t stop her tears. In national television she is crying ! Tumango siya at ibinigay ang kamay.
“Yes, Gino. I will marry you.”
And he stood up and kissed her. She could feel him smile. And she was smiling while kissing him too.
“I guess I was just born to love you Mush… And I will die loving you. So while we still have here and now, I want the best for both of us. I’ll be the hand that holds you until forever.”
“I’ve loved you since I the first time I knew love. And I know I’ll grow deeper in love with you each day. Thank you so much for loving me, Gino. I’ll hold on to you until, yeah, forever.”
At lahat ng nandoon napatayo at napapalakpak. They are looking forward for the days ahead they’re gonna spend with each other.
THAT night was the best night of all. Finally, Mushroom said yes. Tila walang paglagyan ang kaligayahan niya nang mga sandaling iyon. He is excited for the coming days. He can’t wait to start a family with Mushroom. But what supposed to be the happiest moment turned upside down when he received a call from the hospital.
They were apologizing for the incorrect MRI and CT scan results. There was a mistake. And the doctor told him that they found a mass in his brain…
His tumor’s back.
And he doesn’t know how to tell Mushroom about it.
Super Sorry for the late post. Nawalan ako ng connection. Next week po, last three chapters na… I cannot promise na on time yung publishing kasi ini-edit ko pa. But rest assured, next week, ending na…
Thank you for your overwhelming comments. Thank you for being a part of Mushroom and Gino’s life. Hindi ako makapaniwala sa lahat ng reaction mula sa inyo.
Mula sa puso ko po, maraming-maraming salamat. I love you all! God bless 🙂