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"I might wanna fly like a paper plane but in the end, I'd still choose falling for you..."

Kabanata 15

"Lena, naasikaso mo na ang requirements?" My eyes left the empty chair beside me when Cecille spoke infront of me.

Kaagad ko s'yang binalingan at ngumiti ng maliit.

"H-Hmm?"

"Naayos mo na ang requirements?" She asked again and I slowly nodded.

"Y-Yeah," Sagot ko.

I saw how her eyes shifted from my face to the envelope I am holding.

"Ayos ka lang?" I saw her lowered her face to look at me.

"Oo naman," I smiled at her happily but she never smiled back at me. I saw how sadness filled her eyes, dumukwang s'ya at nang yumakap s'ya sa akin ay doon na tumulo ang luha ko.

The smile I faked faded, nang maramdaman ang lungkot ay unti-unti nang kumawala ang hagulgol sa bibig ko.

"C-Cess..." I sobbed.

"Shh, Lena..." She murmured. "It's alright, nandito lang ako."

"I-I let him go..." I murmured. "T-That's for him, I want him to suceed."

"I understand," She caressed my hair while I sob on her shoulder. "Sometimes, we have to sacrifice for the greater good. Minsan...makakasakit talaga tayo but you see, it's a part of life."

"I-I don't want to hurt him but I did." I murmured. "I love him so much, Cess... I just... I just want him to go after his dreams."

"I know Jer will understand it," Hindi na ako sumagot at mahinang umiyak habang yakap ang kaibigan ko.

We she saw me slowly calming down, she went dowstairs to get me some water. Nakita kong unti-unti nang nagkakatao ang classroom para sa orientation ng nalalapit na graduation.

I slowly lowered my head when I saw some classmates looking at me, nagsama-sama ang mga graduating students para isahan nalang.

I saw Brittany's group entering the large room. Isang titig palang sa akin ay narinig ko na ang bulungan nilang hindi ko maintindihan.

They sat on the seat almost infront of me, nakita ko pa ang ngisi sa akin ni Brittany pero nag-iwas lang ako ng tingin at itinago ang mukha ko.

Ang maingay na kwarto ay biglang naging tahimik, akala ko'y dahil dumating na ang speaker pero isang tila ay nagwala na ang puso ko.

"Hello, Jer!" Brittany's voice filled the place.

Marahas akong napalunok, nakagat ko ang labi at dahan-dahang nag-angat ng tingin. My heart stopped when our eyes met.

I saw how his forehead creased, looking at me, his cold eyes almost made me weak.

Nagbaba ako ng tingin at kumuyom ang kamao.

I froze when I saw a pair of shoes infront of me.

"May nakaupo?" His cold, baritone voice filled my ear.

Nagpapanic na nag-angat ako ng tingin at mabilis na umiling.

"W-Wala..." I murmured.

He nodded, nagpamulsa at naupo sa bakanteng upuan sa tabi ko.

Halos hindi ako makahinga ng maayos. I noticed the stares from our batchmates, masama rin ang tingin sa akin ni Brittany pero ang kaba ko ay para kay Ejercito na nasa tabi ko.

I saw an empty seat in the first row, kinuha ko ang bag ko at akmang tatayo na pero hindi ko pa man nagagawa 'yun ay narinig ko na ang boses n'ya.

"I won't bother you," His voice filled my ear. "You don't have to go."

Marahan ko s'yang nilingon at nakita ko ang pilit na itinatagong sakit ng mata n'ya. His blue eyes are cold but I know him...alam kong pilit n'ya lang na itinatago ang sakit na nararamdaman.

"I won't talk," He said and shifted his gaze.

Nangilid ang luha ko nang tumungo s'ya at umubob sa kanyang lamesa.

"Lena," Natauhan lang ako nang makita si Cess sa harapan ko. "Tubig mo."

I saw how her eyes shifted beside me and I saw how her mouth parted in shock.

I shook my head, she gasped a bit and opened her mouth to speak kaya marahan ko s'yang sinipa.

"O-Oh, sige, doon na ako sa upuan ko." Aniya at umalis habang sumusulyap kaya natahimik na rin ako.

I slowly leaned on my seat and took a glance at Ejercito beside me. He is keeping his head down, nakasubsob pa rin sa lamesa at kagaya nga ng sabi ay hindi nagsalita.

I'm sorry... I hope someday, you'll understand my reason.

Dumating na ang speaker pero wala pa rin ako sa sarili, my batchmate's attention shifted to the person in front kaya medyo nakahinga ako ng maluwang.

Nanatili s'yang nagsasalita sa harapan kaya lumipat ang tingin ko sa tabi ko at nakitang nakatingin sa harapan si Ejercito, walang imik at walang ngiti ang mukha.

When he noticed me looking, he shifted his gaze. Mabilis naman akong nagbaba ng tingin at humugot ng hininga.

"And congratulations to our batch Com Laude, Leona Harriet Abelló!" Halos mapatalon ako nang marinig ang pangalan ko at gulat na napatingin sa harapan.

They are clapping their hands, nakita ko ang speaker sa harapan at nang tawagin n'ya ako ay wala pa ako sa sariling napatayo at pumunta sa harapan.

"Congratulations, Miss Abelló." He commented.

"T-Thanks, Sir." I smiled a bit.

Iniabot n'ya sa akin ang mikropono, mabilis ko iyong kinuha at tumikhim para subukang magsalita.

"Uhm," I cleared my throat.

I noticed Floyd smiling widely in the front row, ganun rin si Cess at Winston na pumapalakpak pa rin sa tuwa.

"F-First of all... I wanted to say, thank you." I murmured.

Lumipat ang tingin ko sa likuran at halos magwala ang puso ko sa sakit at lungkot nang makita ang titig ni Ejercito.

He looks proud yet sad, his blue eyes glistened a bit but then, when he noticed my stares at him, he looked down.

Nakita kong tumitig s'ya sa kanyang kamay at hindi na tumingin.

"Thank you...for giving me the opportunity to graduate with honors. Thank you for everything, for the lessons, for the challenges and chances. I will miss this batch. Congratulations to us." I said and smiled.

Nagpalakpakan ulit ang mga tao at nang matapos ako sa pagsasalita ay muli akong nagtungo sa likuran para umupo.

A few announcement was made, kasama na ang requirements na tatapusin namin, ang attire, ang magiging takbo ng graduation at marami pa. Mas naging busy dahil ilang araw nalang at graduation na.

Pagkatapos ng meeting ay nagmamadaling kinuha ko ang bag ko at hindi lumilingong umalis na.

I spent my time talking to my friends, katabi ko si Cess habang kumakain kami ng pagkain sa canteen.

"Where are you going to buy a dress, Lena?" Ani Cess roon sa harapan ko.

Nakita kong lumingon sa akin si Floyd, I saw him curious too about my answer kaya ngumiti ako at sumagot.

"Well, ang sabi ni Mamá nagpagawa na s'ya."

"Yeah, I know Auntie." Cess chuckled. "She always wants the best for her unica hija..."

Hindi na ako umimik, tumitig lang sa pagkaing hindi ko mabawasan at nagulat lang ng lagyan ni Floyd ng pagkain ang plato ko.

"Lena, eat more." Gulat akong napatingin sa kanya.

"Hindi ko 'yan mauubos," I said.

"Why not?" He smirked. "May shoot ka ulit? You should eat more, para magkalaman ka pa."

"No, I just, medyo wala akong gana--" Isang sipa ang naramdaman ko kaya napatalon ako at gulat na napatingin kay Cess na pinalalakihan ako ng mata.

I gave her a confused look, ngumuso naman s'ya at nang nag-angat ako ng tingin ay halos magwala ang puso ko nang makita si Ejercito sa may tabi ng lamesa.

I blinked, staring at him. Nagpipigil na tumakbo at yakapin s'ya.

I saw how his eyes shifted beside me. Nakita kong kumunot ang noo at umigting ang panga n'ya nang makita si Floyd sa tabi ko.

I didn't do anything, sa halip ay tumikhim at tumitig sa kanya.

"Yes?" I said stiffly.

His eyes shifted to me, kita kong gusto n'yang umalma sa kung ano pero umigting lang ang panga at huminga ng malalim bago lumapit sa pwesto ko.

"Drink this and eat more." He placed a small pack of fresh milk infront of me at bago pa man ako makapagsalita ay nag-iwas na s'ya ng tingin at tumalikod mula sa akin.

My heart hammered inside my chest, bahagyang napatili si Cess sa harapan pero nang matantong kasama namin si Floyd ay tumikhim s'ya umubo.

My eyes lowered on the fresh milk infront of me and I bit my lip.

Natapos ang araw na pagod ako kahit wala naman masyadong ginawa. Nang magpaalam si Cecille ay naiwan kami ni Floyd na magkasama, he insisted na ihahatid ako pero hindi ako pumayag at sinabing susunduin ako ng driver namin.

He then left when I said no. Nagsabi lang na mag-ingat ako at pagkatapos ay umalis na.

Now, I am alone while looking at the exit near me. Hawak ko ang envelope na laman kanina ang requirements at inayos ang bag ko.

I was staring blankly at the hallway, akmang lalabas na sa unibersidad nang may mapansin akong tao sa may hagdan.

I almost jumped when I saw Ejercito there, nakita kong napatayo s'ya nang nakita ako.

I avoided his gaze, akmang lalabas pero mabilis n'yang naabot ang braso ko kaya napaharap ako sa kanya.

"Y-Yes?" I stuttered when I met his eyes.

"Congrats..." He murmured.

Kinagat ko ang labi ko at maliit na ngumiti.

"T-Thank you..." I murmured. "Sige, uhm, aalis na ako..."

Sinubukan kong kunin ang braso ko sa kanya pero dumulas lang ang kamay n'ya pababa sa palad ko at pinisil iyon.

My tears almost fell, naramdaman ko ang sakit na nararamdaman n'ya sa ginawang paghawak sa kamay ko at maya-maya pa'y dinala n'ya iyon sa labi n'ya.

Nag-angat ako ng tingin, I noticed how his eyes swelled with the unshed tears too. Pilit nalang ako kumalma kahit ganun na rin ang nararamdaman ko.

"A-Are you really giving up on us?" His broken voice said.

My lips quivered.

"D-Diba, napag-usapan na natin 'to?" I asked, bravely. "Whatever we had has ended. Please, don't hold try holding on."

His eyes are now bloodshot. Nakita kong nagbaba s'ya ng tingin at humigpit ang hawak sa kamay ko.

"M-Meet me in the park tomorrow evening," He murmured.

"J-Jer, please... Ayoko nang--"

"For the last time," He said. "Please... Kahit huli na."

Hindi ako kaagad umimik at tumitig lang sa kanya.

"P-Please..." He murmured, desperate. "P-Pagkatapos nito, hindi na kita guguluhin. If you want me to stay away, I-I will!"

"J-Jer..."

"P-Please, I'm begging you." He murmured at nang makita kung gaano n'ya gusto iyong mangyari ay marahan akong tumango.

I saw his relief, napapikit s'ya nang tumango ako at nagitla ako nang hilahin n'ya ako ng marahan at mahigpit na niyakap.

"T-Thank you... Thank you... I love you." He whispered.

I just got distracted from my thoughts when my mother announced that the dress I will wear on my graduation is on its final touches. Tanging pagsukat nalang ang gagawin ko kaya kinabukas ay nagtungo kami sa isang sikat na designer kung saan namin pinagawa ito.

Mrs. Paige really is great when if comes to dressmaking, hindi naging mahirap ang pag-adjust sa akin ng damit dahil sakto naman iyon sa katawan ko.

We spent our daily on her boutique and buying whatever accesories I needed, same as my sandals and such.

Pagod ako pagkapasok namin sa kotse at nakatitig lang sa daan habang bumabyahe.

"What time is it, hon?" Ani Mamá na nasa katabi ko sa backseat.

"It's eight," My Dad answered from the shotgun seat.

"Gabi na pala, I am tired in all of these!" Reklamo ni Mamá sa tabi ko.

"How about we have a short vacation after Lena's graduation? Let's say...Cali?"

"Ang layo, kahit sa park nalang d'yan." Tawa ni Mamá sa tabi ko kaya bigla akong natigilan.

"Park?" I murmured, saktong dumaan kami sa parke na iyon kaya kumalabog ang puso ko.

"Yes, hija." My mom chuckled.

"Ma..." Napaayos ako ng upo at marahas na napalingon sa magulang.

"Hmm?" My mom smiled.

"Stop the car." I said.

"Huh?" Nakita kong nagtaka si Mamá sa sinabi ko.

"Stop the car, Mom! I have to go to the park!" I said, panicking.

"Bakit?" Gulong sabi n'ya.

"Mom! Stop it! Dad!" I said in hurry kaya nakita kong tinapik ni Dad ang driver kaya tumigil iyon.

"Where are you going, hija?" Ani Dad sa harapan pero hindi na ako lumingon at dali-daling binuksan ang pintuan ng kotse at tinakbo pabalik ang park na dinaanan. My mom called me pero hindi na ako muling lumingon at mabilis na tumakbo.

I was catching my breath when I reached the park, halos mawalan na ako ng hininga pagkarating at nilakad ang daan patungo sa may mga bench at natigilan ako nang maabutan si Ejercito na nakaupo pa rin roon sa bench at tulala kung saan.

My heart skipped a beat, may pumatak na tubig sa pisngi ko kaya napahawak ako roon at napansing umaambon na.

Bahagya akong nagtago at pinagmasdan si Ejercito. He was wearing his usual white shirt and jeans, magulo ang kanyang buhok at doon ko napansing may hawak s'yang isang kulay pulang kahita.

I froze.

I watched him as he opened the red velvet box and I saw clearly...a shining diamond ring inside.

My heart constricted, I saw how the people ranaway from the rain, I saw how people opened their umbrellas to cover themselves but Ejercito remained sitting there, waiting for me.

I catched my breath, unti-unti kong naramdaman ang pagkabasa ng mukha ko sa ulan pero nanatiling nakatitig kay Ejercito.

I saw him staring at the diamond ring, kinuha n'ya iyon at tumingala sa ulan bago malungkot na ngumiti.

Is that for me?

He'll ask me to marry him?

Slowly, the rain started soaking him but he remained sitting there, unmoving.

"Hijo, umuulan! Nababasa ka na!" Ani ng matanda roon pero umiling si Ejercito at ngumiti.

"I'm good, Sir, I am just waiting for my girlfriend." He answered.

My tears fell, I felt how the rain covered the tears on my cheek while staring at the love of my life, sitting there for hours, waiting for me to come and pick him up.

"Tatlong oras ka na rito, ah? Bakit hindi ka nalang umuwi?" Ani ng matanda.

"S-She's just late, Sir." Ejercito smiled but I saw how tears fell on his cheek. "Dadating 'yun, Sir. Si Lena pa ba? Hindi ako binibigo 'nun, mahal ako 'nun."

I sobbed quietly, nasapo ko ang bibig ko at bumilis ang paghinga sa narinig ko.

I'm sorry, Jer... I'm so sorry, hon.

I harshly dried my tears, kahit basa na ng ulan ay lumabas ako sa pinagtataguan, handa nang lumapit at kausapin si Ejercito pero bago pa man ako makalapit ay isang hawak na sa braso ko ang nagpatigil sa akin.

I flinched, marahas akong napalingon at nanlaki ang mata nang makita si Papá.

"P-Pa..."

"What the hell are you doing, Leona?!"

"I-I have to talk to Ejercito, Dad!" I said.

"For?"

"I-I have to say sorry... I have to apologize for being a bad person, I-I never want to hurt him... I just want him to reach his dreams." Nabasag ang boses ko.

"And you think talking to him right now will make him reach his dreams?" My Dad asked, stopping me.

"P-Pa..."

"If you go there..." He sighed. "And talk to him, if you go there and apologize, he will never go to Cambridge."

"B-But..." Nanginig ang boses ko at mas napaluha. "I-I love him..."

"He will ask your hand in marriage, anak." Mas napaiyak ako sa sinabi n'ya.

"Listen to me, Leona." My father squeezed my hand.

"Pa..." I cried more.

"There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing your love slowly becoming successful." He murmured.

"If you go there and meet him, kapag nagbati kayo. I know he'll be more stronger to go against his parents. I know them, the Sandejas always know how to get what they want, even if it means they'll hurt someone. They have principles but they always break it when it comes to their love ones."

"Hija..." My father sighed. "Isn't it more exciting seeing Ejercito after years? Na nakuha na n'ya ang pangarap n'yong dalawa para sa kanya? If we love someone, we will never do anything that will stop them from achieving what they truly deserved."

Mas humikbi ako, unti-unting tumatango, naiintidihan ang ibig n'yang sabihin.

"N-Natatakot lang ako...Pa, paano kapag makalipas ang ilang taon ay wala na talaga? P-Paano kung magkaroon ng iba? K-Kung dahil sa desisyon ko ay mawalan na ng pag-asa?"

"His dreams is also your dream." He smiled sadly at me. "Kung kayo ang itinadhana, anak, kayo talaga sa huli."

I sobbed harder when my father pulled me for a tight hug.

"You know, anak, a bird might fly away freely in the sky but you know, it always come back where it truly belongs. It will always come back to his home, no matter what."

I sniffed and cried on his shoulder. Nang halikan n'ya ang ulo ko ay humiwalay ako sa kanya at unti-unting lumapit sa pwesto kung saan nakikita ko si Ejercito.

He was still sitting there, like me, he's soaking in rain. Nahuli ko kung paano n'ya marahas na punasan ang kanyang luha at tumitig sa singsing na hawak n'ya.

I'm sorry. I believe you will get what is truly and destined for you, Jer.

I just wish that someday, when the right time comes and the fate is truly for us, I hope the wind will decide to take you back to me.


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