HINDI pinansin ni Allysa ang kunot noong tingin ni Lance sa kanya nang makita siya. Casual na naupo siya sa katapat na silya nito. Inilapag niya ang itim na pouch bag sa mesa at inalis ang sunglasses sa mata. Nakipagkita ito sa isang coffee shop at kahit kabadong-kabado siya ay pinilit niya talaga ang sarili na uma-aura ng isang nag-waging kontrabida.
Naka all black lang naman siya from head to toe. She wore a plain off-shoulder black jumpsuit at black closed shoes with two inch heels. Wala lang, gusto niya lang ipagluksa ang nangyayari sa buhay niya. Binawi lang sa light make up at red lipstick. Syempre, hindi naman siya pwedeng humarap kay Lance na hindi nakaayos. Pinapangatawanan niya lang ang Allysa na kilala nito. Sa kaartehan niya, muntik pa niyang mahalikan ang sahig nang madulas siya sa may entrance. Buti na lang na i-balanse niya agad ang sarili. Shaks! Pero ‘di siya nagpahalata. Tuloy ang drama.
Bumalik ang seryoso nitong mukha.
Ang alam niya ay hindi pa rin nakikipagkita si Lance kay Alyce hanggang ngayon. Ni hindi nito sinasagot ang tawag ng kapatid. Tinawagan niya si Tita Sofia tungkol doon. Desidido na talaga si Lance na makipaghiwalay kay Alyce. At marahil ‘yon din ang rason kung bakit nakipagkita ito.
"You look different," puna nito.
Binigyan niya ito ng ngiti. "Hindi naman si Alyce ang pinatawag mo. Si Allysa, diba?"
Muntik pa siyang masamid sa sariling laway dahil sa kaartehan. Hay ewan ko sa’yo Allysa. Umayos ka na riyan at pag-uusapan n’yo na ang pormal n’yong paghihiwalay. Nakakalungkot pero wala na siyang magagawa pa.
It had been awhile Lance. Kumusta ka na?
Tila ba may kung anong puwersa na nagtutulak sa kanya na yakapin ito. She wanted to hug him badly. She missed the warmth of his hugs. He wasn’t smiling anymore. She couldn’t even see any glint of happiness in his eyes. He was sad. I ruined you, didn’t I? Gusto niyang hawakan ang mukha nito. Humingi ng patawad pero alam niyang hindi na ‘yon tatanggapin ni Lance. Sapat na ang mga ginawa nilang panloloko para kamuhian sila ni Lance.
Napangiti siya nang mapait sa isip. It’s sad to say but I could only love you from afar Lance. I’ve had enough of my lies. Lies that made me happy within the limited time life have given me. Don’t worry, I would not ask for more. Tila napansin naman ni Lance na titig na titig siya rito. Mabilis na tumikhim siya at umayos ng upo.
“Ano nga pala ang kailangan mo?” basag niya.
"I need your help. You see, our marriage can be considered void. Meaning, kapag napatunayan na hindi ang totoong Alyce ang pinakasalan ko ay mapapawalang bisa ang lahat. It would seem like there was no marriage at all."
"I want you to testify it. Although, malaki naman na ang chance na ma void ang kasal, still, I want your full cooperation to this Allysa. This would be the last favor I'm asking you. The first and last."
It’s for the better. Console niya sa sarili. Tama lang din ang desisyon ni Lance. Alyce needs to accept the consequences of her actions. Hindi tamang ikulong nito si Lance sa buhay nito. Kailangan ding matututo ni Alyce na panindigan ang lahat ng mga desisyon nito sa buhay. Mali man o tama.
She nodded. “Okay, I’ll do it.”
But she was really curious. She wanted to ask him if there is a chance that Lance would learn to forgive Alyce. Hindi man ngayon pero maybe in the future.
"Hindi mo na ba talaga mapapatawad ang kapatid ko?" tanong niya.
"Sa tingin mo Allysa, magagawa ko pa bang paniwalaan lahat ng mga sasabihin sa akin ni Alyce? Pinagmukha n'yo akong tangang dalawa. You think it's funny?"
"I-I'm sorry," naglapat ang mga labi niya.
"I would have appreciated it if you have told me the truth, Allysa."
"Alam ko, may kasalanan din ako. I'm sorry."
Marahas na napabuntong-hininga si Lance. “’Yong feeling na hindi mo alam kung alin doon ang totoo sa rami ng mga kasinungalingan niya. Alyce couldn’t even choose me over her dreams. Babalik lang siya kapag sawa na siyang habulin ang mga pangarap niya.”
Lance deserved to be loved back. Mahal na mahal nito ang kapatid niya pero hindi niya alam kung bakit iba ang depenisyon ng pagmamahal ni Alyce rito. It was heartbreaking to see Lance suffering because of their own selfishness.
She wanted to be there for him when Alyce couldn't choose him over her dreams. She wanted to be there for him sa panahon na iniisip nito na hindi na naman makakarating si Alyce.
Magsasalita sana siya nang maunahan siya ni Lance.
"I didn’t know you like baby’s breath?"
Naingat niya ang tingin sa mukha nito. Lance was looking at her necklace. Dinala niya ang isang kamay sa pendant ng kwentas niya. Didn’t you remember Lance? You gave this to me. Pero bakit tila ‘di nito ‘yon naaalala?
"Anyway, I have to go.” Bigla ay paalam nito. “I'll just give your number to Atty. Redillas. Isa sa mga araw na ‘to ay tatawagan ka niya. Sa kanya ka na makipag-coordinate if you have other concerns.”
“Don’t you remember?”
She was not sure if he was pretending not to know or totoo ngang wala itong naalala noong may amnesia ito. But does it really matter? Napangiti siya nang mapait sa isip. It may matter to her but not for Lance.
Umiling siya. “Wala,” Yes Allysa, it was better this way. “Alam kong nasaktan ka ng kapatid ko.” Pag-iiba niya. “At alam ko na hindi na magbabago ang desisyon mo. Pero sana, bigyan mo siya ng pagkakataon na ipaliwanag ang sarili niya. Pakinggan mo lang."
“Ikaw, Allysa, don’t you want to explain yourself to me? I didn’t give you the chance to defend yourself. But instead, you want me to listen to your sister. Why?”
May ngiting umiling siya. “No need, I don’t mind if you hate me. Everyone hates Allysa, Lance. I’m used to it. Besides, may kasalanan din talaga ako sa’yo.” Tumayo na siya. Inilahad niya ang isang kamay niya rito. Tinitigan lamang ‘yon ni Lance. “I wish you well. You deserve to be happy Lance.” Ramdam na ramdam niya ang paninikip ng dibdib sa sobrang pagpipigil ng iyak. Damn it!
She wanted to cry… so bad. She wanted to stay beside Lance but it was already too much for her to ask that. She needs to let him go. Siguro nga, hanggang doon lamang silang dalawa ni Lance.
It’s time to move on now Allysa.
“Thanks,” tanging sagot ni Lance sa kanya.
Hindi na niya hinintay na tanggapin ni Lance ang pakikipagkamay niya. Binaba niya ang nakalahad na kamay at nagpaalam na kay Lance.
TATLONG BUWAN nang awol sa buhay ni Darwin si Allysa. Hindi niya alam kung saan na napadpad ang babaeng ‘yon. Panay I’m fine lang ang nakukuha niyang sagot sa kaibigan sa chat. Ni hindi nito pinapaalam sa kanya kung na saang panig ng mundo ito naglalagi. Well, he could track her down but he chose not to.
Nasa rooftop siya ng Dolce Fate. Nakasandal sa railings habang nakatingin sa mga nagkikislapang ilaw mula sa mga gusali at mga sasakyan. I hope Allysa’s fine. She should really take care of herself.
“So how was your stay so far?”
“Wala ka bang trabaho sa itaas Tanda at panay dalaw mo sa akin dito?” balik tanong niya sa ama nang hindi ito binabalingan ng tingin. Alam niyang nasa tabi niya ito at gaya niya ay nakasandal din ito sa railings at nakatanaw sa mundo.
“Wala ka pa ring galang sa ama mo.”
“Did I made things worse?”
“Let things unfold on its own time Darwin and you will know.”
“I will never do this again.”
“You’ve been doing this for centuries at ngayon mo lang na realize ‘yon?” Ilang segundo silang naging tahimik bago ulit nagsalita ang ama. “Life gives us a lot of choices, Darwin. The world will throw a lot of questions for them to ponder. Their choices will mold them into a person they choose to become. Every person in this world has their own destiny but not all can fulfill it. Why? Because it takes courage and willingness to be the best person they can be. Everyone can be happy, Darwin. It’s just that, they chose not to be.”
“Hindi lahat ng mga nangyayari sa mundo ay kagustuhan ng nasa itaas. God had given them all the freewill to explore everything. He let them decide on their own. Do things on their own. It was their choice. What we do? We give them signs and we sent someone to be their guide but it would always be their choice. You see, the only constant in this world is change. Hindi natin hawak ang isip ng bawat tao. Magbabago at magbabago ‘yon. Our powers may help them but not to the full extent.”
“Does defusing a bomb somewhat related with what you are teaching me?”
His father chuckled. “Well, it was part of the lesson.”
“Right,” he smiled. “I was a fool, didn’t I?”
“To be honest, son. I’m quite impressed with your love manipulation. It did pretty well with other people. Sumimplang ka lang kina Allysa at Lance.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
His father gently tapped him on his shoulder. “I understand that you’re spontaneous, but please lessen your spur of the moment ideas, Darwin. At least, give it a thought before making a move. It will sure save you. Trust me.”
Natawa siya. “Thanks Pa.”
“You can come home anytime you want Darwin. I’ll give you back your powers, but please, use it wisely this time.”
“Dont worry about Allysa and Lance. Fading fate lines happens everytime. Don’t blame yourself too much.”
Mapait siyang napangiti. How in the hell will I move on with that? Isa siya sa dahilan kung bakit tuluyan nang namatay ang pulang linyang nakakonekta sa dalawa. Alangan namang, magpa-piyesta siya, diba?
He can’t help but sighed.
“What is meant to be will always find its way.”
Pagbaling niya sa ama ay wala na ito. Well, ano bang mapapala niya sa ama niya? He still have high hopes for Allysa and Lance. The chances may be thin, but he believes in Lance. Kung ‘di kaya ni destiny, let the love do the magic.
The heart wants what it wants.
Natigilan siya nang makita ang nakabendang kamay ni Alyce. Tumaas ang tingin niya sa mukha nito. She was smiling but it didn’t reached her eyes. He had agreed to meet her. Three months had passed and it was enough for him to face Alyce. If he wanted to move on, he should talk with her and end everything.
Alyce might have betrayed him but he couldn’t deny the fact that she was the woman he wanted to marry back then. And he also wanted to know something from her. Hindi niya alam kung bakit ‘di niya magawang makalimutan si Allysa.
Paulit-ulit na bumabalik sa isipan niya ang malungkot na ngiti nito noong huli silang magkita. Ever since he saw the baby’s breath necklace Allysa wore that day, he couldn’t take his mind off of her. He couldn’t understand why he felt like, something was missing in his life. He felt like, he lost someone precious.
“I couldn’t use my hand for the time being. Karma, I guess.”
“Kailan pa ‘yan?”
“Noong nasa New York pa ako. I had it checked already, last month I had my surgery. The doctor restricted me not to play the piano for a year and let it rest. Kung pipilitin ko ang sarili ko, I might not be able to play the piano forever. Despite the successful operation, my chances of playing the piano was still thin.” Malungkot itong ngumiti. “I’ve strained my hands too much because I wanted to be as great as Allysa. Sa sobrang focus ko na malamangan si Allysa ay pinabayaan ko ang sarili ko. Now, I got the punishment I deserved.”
Alam niya kung gaano kagusto ni Alyce ang tumugtog. It was her life. He could imagine how devastated Alyce was when she heard the bad news.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Salamat at pumayag kang makipagkita sa akin Lance. This means a lot to me. After what I’ve done to you.” She paused. “For the last three months, I’ve realized that Allysa was right. What we did to you was unforgivable. I’m sorry. I should have told you the truth.”
Tears started running down her cheeks.
Did I really love Alyce? Was she really the girl I’ve fallen in love with? Or was it Allysa?
“Hindi kita pinahalagahan. Lagi kong inuuna ang sarili kong pangarap. Naging kampante ako na hindi ka mawawala sa akin not realizing that I'm slowly losing you. I’ve always liked you but you seem so far away. Sobrang saya ko nang lapitan mo ako nang araw na ‘yon. I knew it was Allysa, but I couldn't just give her to you. Kaya nang inakala mo na ako 'yong babaeng nakita at narinig mong tumutugtog ng piano sinabi ko agad na ako. I took Allysa's identity and used your weakness of not distinguishing our differences.”
“I ruined Allysa para hindi mo na siya lapitan and for you to forget her completely. I want you to hate her. I want you to not like her. I don't want to hear you calling her by her name anymore. But everything backfired on me, I ended up pretending to be Allysa for you. I don’t like baby’s breath since I don’t like flowers.” A lie. “I have the same box of band aids with me in case Allysa got herself bruised again. She’s very clumsy at lagi na lang siyang nasusugatan. Minsan kasi, kahit na ako ang girlfriend mo ay lumalapit ka pa rin sa kanya. Sometimes, I pretended to be Allysa and I saw how you look at her and how much you care for her.” Another lie. “You don’t look at me the same way you look at Allysa. I hated it so much that I lied to you that she doesn’t like you for me.”
He remembers that, he felt upset that despite his care for Allysa ay hindi pa rin siya nito gusto for Alyce.
“I lied when I told you Allysa was the reason why I couldn’t attend your special events and some of our dates. Sa totoo lang, walang alam si Allysa tungkol doon. Gawa-gawa ko lamang ‘yon para ‘di tayo mag-away sa tuwing ‘di ako sumisipot sa pinag-usapan natin at para na rin tuluyan ka nang magalit sa kanya. There was just so many good opportunities for me that I couldn’t afford to lose. I knew, you’ll get tired of my excuses someday and would hate me, but I also don’t want to lose you, so I used Allysa. Ginamit ko ang kahinaan niya para mapasunod siya. I know for myself that I couldn’t rid of Allysa in our life. I need her to pretend as Alyce when I couldn’t be there for you. I need her to be Alyce when I couldn’t choose you over my dreams. That time, that was the best way for me to keep you."
“That’s so selfish Alyce.” Nagtagis ang mga panga niya. “Have you ever thought of Allysa’s feelings? You have everything in the palm of your hands. You have your mother’s love. Everyone adores you. You have live your life well while Allysa had nothing… she had no one.”
“I know,” she sobbed. “I’ve been a cruel sister to her.”
“Masaya ka na ba?”
He was damn hurt by Alyce’s confession. He was more hurt for Allysa. He had judged her the wrong way. She had done nothing wrong. Maaring mali ang pagpayag nito para magpanggap na Alyce but she has her own reasons for it. She only wanted to gain back her mother’s love.
Umiling si Alyce.
“I’ve never been happy and I’m about to lose the most special person in my life – ikaw ‘yon Lance. Patawarin mo ako. Alam ko na hindi ko na maibabalik pa ang lahat ng mayroon tayo pero sana mapatawad mo ako.”
“You may have hurt me Alyce but you have hurt your sister more. You took everything from her and left her nothing but blame. It didn’t make you happy because it was never right to step on other people for your own gain. Hurting others will never give you true happiness. It may for a limited time, but it will never be forever.”
DARWIN knocked on the glass panel wall when he saw Lance outside so he can get his attention. Good thing ay madali siya nitong napansin. Woah, it’s been awhile since he saw the guy in person. Sinensayan niya itong pumasok sa loob ng Dolce Fate. Tumigil man ito ay mukhang nawi-weirdo-han naman yata ito sa kanya. Hay naku, may mga tao talagang mainit ang dugo sa mga feeling close.
Pasimple niyang pinitik ang mga daliri for a small size whiteboard and pen. Sinenyasan niya itong huwag munang umalis. Mabilis na nagsulat siya sa whiteboard at pinakita ito rito.
INSTANT FRIEND for FREE.
Kumunot lang ang noo nito nang mabasa ang isinulat niya. Hay naku, ang loading. Binura niya ang unang sinulat niya at nagsulat ng bago.
YOU LOOK SAD. WANT TO TALK?
Inangat ni Lance ang tingin sa buong gusali at namulsa. Akala niya ay aalis na ito pero mukhang kinagat nito ang paanyaya niya at pumasok ito sa loob ng Dolce Fate. Dire-diretso itong naupo sa katapat na upuan niya.
“Hi,” may ngiting bati niya.
“You look familiar. Have we met before?”
“Yes, this was the same store kung saan ka bumili ng baby’s breath flowers. Felt old now?”
“Kaya pala,” tumango-tango ito.
“Kumusta ka naman? How was your fiancée?”
“Naalala mo pa?” manghang tanong nito.
Tumango siya. “Of course, so kumusta na kayo? How was the wedding?”
Mapait na ngumiti si Lance. “I had the big plot twist in my life. Long story.”
“So hindi kayo nagkatuluyan?”
“No,” anito sabay iling.
Mayamaya pa ay tila natigilan ito nang pumailanlang sa buong café ang piano version ng Can’t Help Falling In Love ni Allysa. Yes, it was Allysa’s version. Before Allysa left, he asked her own piano recordings as a her farewell gift for him. He always plays her piano pieces every afternoon at exactly 2:30 pm. And no, he did not intentionally play it for Lance.
Lace came five minutes before 2:30 pm.
“But you love her?”
Tila hindi siya narinig ni Lance dahil mukhang pinapakinggan nito ang tugtog nang maigi. There was a big shift in his sad expression earlier. Tila ba bigla itong nahulog sa isang malalim na pag-iisip. He seemed like he had lost someone so precious and he doesn’t know what it was.
“But you love her?” ulit niya.
“I-I don’t know,” tila lutang pa rin nitong sagot. “I’m not sure.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“How would I know?”
“Your heart knows.”
Nagsalubong ang mga kilay ni Lance sa sinabi niya. Natawa tuloy siya sa expression ng mukha nito. Lance was a bit pissed off by his lack of words of wisdom.
“Ang laki ng tulong mo,” sarkastiko nitong tugon.
“I don’t do kiss and tell. I’m helping you realize it by your own.” He leaned on his seat. “It doesn’t save time but it will be worth it. Gusto mo ng juice? My treat.”
“Ngayon ka pa manlilibre.” He sneered.
May ngiting nagkibit balikat lamang siya. “It is better late than never.”