"Leona, what's the meaning of this?!" I closed my eyes when I heard my mother.
"Mamá," I softly murmured.
"What is it? Is it true? Are you in a relationship with that Sandejas?!" Tumaas ang boses n'ya at humugot ako ng hininga at sinubukang pakalmahin s'ya.
"Ma, please, not now."
"What?! You woman! I warned you about that man! At anong ginawa mo? You even made him your boyfriend and cut classes! He's a bad influence to you, Leona! Can't you see?!"
"No, Mom, Ejercito is never a bad influence to me--"
"Really?" She cut me off. Her blazing, sharp dark eyes staring at me. "Hindi ba? You were put inside the detention, don't you?"
I froze, umawang ang labi ko sa gulat ang kumalabog ang puso ko roon.
"You think wala akong mata sa loob ng unibersidad mo?!" She is almost hysterical.
"Leona," Halos magtindigan ang balahibo ko nang magsalita ang Papá.
I looked at him and saw his cold stares at me, halos magsitaasan ang balahibo ko roon at kinagat ko ang labi ko.
"Pa," I called.
"Break up with him," He said.
I stopped. I bit my lip and shook my head.
"N-No, Papá." I murmured.
"He's going abroad, Leona, don't you know? Iiwan ka rin ng lalaking iyon!" He groaned.
"Ejercito is not what you think he is, he's a good person." Kumbinse ko sa kanila. "A-And about that... He wants to be a lawyer, Papá."
"And what? Leave you here alone?" Nakita kong kumunot ang noo n'ya.
"No..." I breathe. "He will be successful, Dad."
"He would?" My Mom raised her voice. "How could you say that? Kolehiyo palang kayo pero wala pa s'yang napatunayan! Is that really the man you think will succeed? He has no future, Leona! Mali ka ng sinasamahang tao!"
"You didn't know him!" I exclaimed, my eyes started swelling in tears. "You don't know him so you don't have the right to judge him!"
"Leona!" My Dad's voice roared. "Lower your voice!"
"Then, understand me!" I exclaimed. "Sana intindihin n'yo ang gusto kong iparating sa inyo! Don't judge him too quickly! He's a good man!"
"We were just thinking about you! Nawawala ka sa focus dahil sa lalaking 'yan! You should excel in school! You should get high grades! Paano 'yan kung nakadikit ka sa isang lalaking katulad n'ya? You should be studying instead of--" I cut my Mom off.
"There," Napaos na ang boses ko. "Aral, puro nalang d'yan umiikot ang sinasabi n'yo!" My tears fell.
"Dapat magaling ako, dapat mataas ako, dapat mabubuti ang kaibigan ko, dapat nag-aaral ako." My voice broke and my tears fell uncontrollably. "P-Paano naman ako, Ma? Pa? Paano naman po ang kasiyahan ko? I can't live forever with your high expectations of me."
"Leona!" My father exclaimed.
My lips quivered and I looked at the both of them, my Mom was eyeing me seriously mad and my father is cold.
"G-Gusto ko rin maging masaya... And Ejercito is my happiness." Napahikbi ako. "W-Will you take it away from me?"
Napasinghap ako nang galit na nagtungo ang Mamá sa akin at napapikit ako ng mariin sa pagtama ng kanyang palad sa aking pisngi.
I sniffed more.
"Wala kang utang na loob, Leona!" She said angrily. Napahawak ako sa pisngi ko at tahimik na humikbi. "Hihiwalayan mo ang lalaking iyan sa ayaw at gusto mo!"
I saw my Dad went behind her and tried calming her down pero nagpumiglas s'ya at dinuro ako.
"N-No..." I murmured, standing firmly to my own decisions. "I-I won't."
"You will." Mariing sinabi n'ya, puno ng galit ang mga mata. "That man is nothing, Leona. Pagsisisihan mo ang pagpili sa lalaking iyon!"
She glared at me and sighed, she pushed my father away and stormed out of the living room.
Naiwan si Papá sa harapan na kaagad na umiling sa akin at halata na ayaw sa desisyon ko.
"You'll regret this, Leona." Mariing sabi n'ya. "You are such a disappointment."
That night, I coudn't sleep, my eyes are swelled with tears, yakap ko ang mga unan ay tahimik lang ako sa ginawang paghikbi at hawak ang aking nananakit na dibdib dahil sa pag-iyak.
I believe Ejercito... I know he'll succeed. I know he'll be a great lawyer someday.
I believe him, he won't just sit there and watch his batchmates soar high, I know he'll be that someone who we will watch on court someday.
Wala kaming imikan kinabukasan ni Mamá at Papá, after they ate, they left the dining room, leaving me alone in there, staring non-chalantly with the empty chairs.
Is it really a bad thing to atleast love? To enjoy myself? Is it really that bad to break the rules I once set for myself?
Hinatid ako ng driver sa university 'nung umagang 'yun, the usually sunny and bubbly day is now gloomy.
Tahimik ang daan at walang makitang nagsasaya roon.
"Ma'am, sunduin ko po kayo mamaya." Tawag sa pansin ko ng driver.
"No, Kuya, I can manage." I said.
"Pasensya na po," He scratched his head. "Bilin po nila Ma'am, pagkatapos po ng klase mo sunduin kita kaagad."
My heart constricted at that, hindi na ako muling nagkomento at tumango nalang at pumasok ng eskwelahan.
Sa pagpasok ko palang sa unibersidad ay kaagad akong natigilan nang makita si Ejercito na nakaupo sa pangalawang baitang sa may hagdan malapit sa gate.
The moment he saw me, he stood. I saw him smiled and jogged towards me before taking my books.
"Good morning, hon." He said and I looked at him and nodded.
"Morning," Tipid kong sabi.
I saw him stared at me, his eyes were looking on my face, checking me out.
Kaaagad akong nag-iwas, nagsimulang maunang maglakad sa kanya pero mabilis n'yang nahuli ang kamay ko at marahan akong hinila palapit sa kanya.
"Harriet," He called.
"Hmm?" I blinked and looked at him. I saw his creased forehead and the confused look on his face.
"Are you alright?" He asked.
"Yeah," I nodded. I felt his grip on my hand, he looked at me as if he was reading me and caressed my palm.
"You're not fine." He concluded.
Mabilis akong nag-iwas ng tingin sa kanya.
"Masama lang ang pakiramdam ko."
"Really?" He stopped and went infront of me. Nagitla ako nang hawakan n'ya ang leeg ko para damhin ang ang temperatura ko.
I heard gasped and whispers beside me, mabilis akong tumingin sa paligid at napansing nakakakuha na kami ng atensyon mula sa mga tao.
"I-I'm good," Inabot ko ang kamay ni Jer sa noo ko at marahang hinila s'ya. "Let's go."
"Have you even sleep?" Masuyong tanong n'ya nang makarating kami sa room. He put his and my things on the chair before assisting me to sit.
"Not really," I smiled at him. "I'm good, hon, don't worry too much."
He sat beside me, I watched his hand as he caught mine and caressed it slowly.
"I won't force you to say something but if it bothers you so much, don't hesitate to tell me, okay?" He smiled.
I nodded and sighed. Marahang sumandal ako sa balikat n'ya at pumikit.
"Okay, class. Here is the application for you. You have to sign for the upcoming graduation. This will serve as a school record and since we have to advance things, you can put here your future jobs and such." The professor hand us the papers at kaagad akong naglabas ng ballpen.
"Mr. Sandejas." I froze when I heard my boyfriend's surname, mabilis akong lumingon at nakitang nakasandal si Jer sa pader at nakapikit.
My eyes widen, pasimple kong sinipa ang paa n'ya na nagpatalon sa kanya at mabilis na umayos ng upo.
"Y-Yes?" He said, disoriented. I saw how Mr. Recez's brows lifted and shook his head.
"Same old..." He sighed. "Do better, Mr. Sandejas, linggo nalang at ga-graduate na kayo, don't be too lazy, that won't bring you anywhere."
Tumikhim si Jer at ngumisi.
"Don't worry, Sir. I'll go anywhere in the future." He joked.
"Patunayan mo," He answered. "Wanna see you maybe as one of my colleaguess soon, Ejercito."
"Why not, Attorney?" Ejercito chuckled and my heart thumped.
"Well, see you at court sometimes, then?" He made a deal and offered his hand to Jer.
"Sure, Attorney. In court next time." He accepted his hand for a handshake.
Nang makaalis si Sir ay kaagad akong binalingan ng tingin ni Jer. His blue eyes flickered with lights as he stared at me, he flashed a smile and when I failed giving it back, his forehead creased.
"What's the matter?" He asked.
"Nothing," Ngumiti ako. "I just love you."
I saw him froze, I almost chuckle when he flushed and he cleared his throat afterwards and placed his hand over his chest.
"Damn, hon, you always make my heart flutter."
I just grinned at him, iniangat naman n'ya ang kamay at hinawi ang buhok ko bago pumatak ng marahang halik sa noo ko.
"I love you too, Harriet. Pahiram ako ballpen." He said at natawa na ako at nailing sa kanya bago halukayin ang bag ko.
I answered the application form quietly when I caught Ejercito looking at my paper. I looked at him and raised my brow, his lips protruded and spoke.
"What are your chosen career paths, hon?" Lumingon s'ya.
"Huh?" I asked. "Uhm, here." Iniangat ko ang papel at ipinakita sa kanya.
"Public relations specialist or Marketing research analyst." He read my answers aloud.
I saw him nodded before biting his lower lip and staring at his paper. Then he started scribbling words there kaya sumandal ako sa balikat n'ya at sumilip.
"Public relations specialist or Marketing research analyst?" Gulat kong sabi. "Why? Why are you writing that too?"
"That's my chosen career path." He answered non-chalantly.
"What?" My brows met.
"Why? My path is the path you chose for me." He said and I stopped at that.
"No, Jer." I said. "Your path should be what you choose. You just can't just depend it on me."
"I'll follow you, then." Aniya at hinuli ang daliri ko. "Wherever you are should be where I'd be."
"You...want to be a lawyer, right?" Tanong ko at hinuli ang mga mata n'ya.
I saw him stopped and looked away, avoiding my gaze.
"I do." He answered. "But not anymore."
"W-Why?" I asked, naninikip ang dibdib.
"I just don't anymore," He said, like it wasn't his biggest dream before. "I just realized it does not for me."
"It is for you, Jer." I insisted. "You'd be a lawyer someday! I know you are!"
"Hindi nga," He sighed. "Hindi para sa akin."
"H-Have you passed the exams? Harvard law school? How was it?" I asked and I saw how his jaw clenched.
"Jer," I called when he isn't answering me.
"I failed." Malamig n'yang sagot at halos mangilid ang luha ko.
No! You passed! You passed the law entrance exam, Jer!
"No way," I said. "It's impossible you failed the exams, Jer. Ikaw pa ba? I know how good are you--"
"I failed, Leona!" Mariing sinabi n'ya at natigilan na ako.
"J-Jer... No, I know you can do it--"
"I don't!" He whispered, annoyed. "I fucking failed, Leona. Can't you see it?"
"Let's stop talking about this." His forehead creased and his lips thinned.
"Quit it!" Iritadong sabi n'ya at napalunok ako ng marahas sa gulat nang tumayo s'ya sa upuan, halatang galit.
Napatingin sa kanya ang lahat sa biglaan n'yang pagtayo. I saw how the professor shifted his gaze at him.
"Yes, Mr. Sandejas?"
"Excuse me, Sir." Malamig na sabi lang ng huli na hindi sumusulyap sa akin.
"Okay," The professor nodded.
I saw how Jer took the application off his desk swiftly and took his bag. Walang lingong naglakad s'ya palabas ng room and my heart hurt when I saw him crumpling the form and threw it on the trash can before storming out of the room.
Nangilid ang luha ko. Narinig ko ang bulungan sa biglang pag-alis ni Jer at ang tingin nila sa akin.
I lowered my head, hinayaan kong matabunan ng buhok ang aking mukha at pasimpleng pinunasan ang luha sa mata ko.
No... No, Lena. You won't cry. You won't.
Natapos ang klase na hindi bumabalik si Jer at tulala ako. I noticed my friend, Cess, looking at me. I just smiled at her and when the class ended, mabilis s'yang nagtungo sa akin at nagsalita.
"Are you alright, Lena?"
"I think so..." I smiled a little at her.
"You weren't," She noticed, she stared at me and sighed. "Come on, Len, spill it. You might want someone to talk, right?"
Napabuntong-hininga ako. Hinanap ang mga mata ni Cess at marahang tumango.
"Of course," She sighed. "You can talk to me, come on."
Sinundan ko s'ya nang palabas na kami. I keep on looking around to have a glance of Jer but I coudn't see him.
I felt my heart aching, nang mapansin ni Cess na tahimik ako ay inabot n'ya ang braso ko at sinabayan ako sa paglalakad.
I noticed the people looking at me with such curiousity, hindi naman ako masyadong umimik at tumikhim lang.
Cess and I reached the soccer field and sat on the bench under the tree. Inilapag ko ang gamit ko sa tabi at nakita ang tingin sa akin ni Cess.
"Spill it, Lena. So, you can get it out of your chest."
"It's Jer." I started, sighing evilly. "And...his dreams."
She nodded and I sighed, I bit my lip and did my best to be strong before spilling my problem to her.
I ended up crying, yakap-yakap ako ni Cess habang pinapatahan at niyakap ko s'ya pabalik habang sumisinghap.
"I-I don't know what to do anymore, Cess... Mahal ko s'ya." I sniffed.
"Nakausap mo naman ba s'ya?"
"I did," Lumayo ako at pinunasan ang luha ko. "I asked him about his dreams and he said it already changed and I got to choose a path for the both of us. He said back when we're just friends that he wanted to take up law so much, he wants to be like his father...but then, nalaman kong nagtungo s'yang Cambridge para sa Harvard, law school and his mother told me he passed the entrance exam."
"And he doesn't want to take it anymore?"
"Y-Yes," Hinawi ko ang luha ko. "I assumed it's because of me... Auntie told me he doesn't want to go abroad to study law when in fact it was a big opportunity for him."
"He must've thought of separating, ayaw n'ya siguro kayong magkalayo." She said.
"Pero hindi naman ganun iyon dapat, Cess. It was his long time dream! And now that he's given a chance, he just can't ignore it! It's his dreams... I can't be a hindrance for that."
"Jer is hardheaded." Ani Cess at humugot ng hininga. "Kapag ayaw n'ya, ayaw n'ya."
"That's what I am saying, I tried convincing him, I even asked him about the results but he said he failed, he...he lied to me, Cess."
"Ayaw sa kanya ng magulang ko kasi wala raw s'yang future, they've been telling me to break up with him because he's nothing good to me. Sinabi nilang magiging failure lang s'ya and I defended him. Hindi 'yun magkakatotoo, my Jer will be successful, he will open his wings soon and fly just to reach his dreams, he will soar high, Cess. I believe he would."
"And he doesn't want to?"
"He just want to stay here and kept on declining his parents, he wants to be with me here, for us to stay together in work pero ayoko ng ganun... Ayokong iniipit s'ya sa pakpak ko lalo na kung alam kong kaya pa n'yang lumipad ng mas mataas. I don't like it when he chooses me over his dreams. It's his dreams, Cess... Ayokong... Ayokong ikulong s'ya sa akin at hindi maabot ang pangarap n'ya."
"But...he loves you so much, Lena. He might want to stay with you." She said.
"P-Pero pangarap n'ya iyon. Ayokong kunin sa kanya ang oportunidad."
I heard her sighed and took my hand.
"Lena, I won't interfere to your decision but you have to think this through and then decide... You need to clear your mind para hindi ka magsisi sa huli."
"I love him, Cess... So, so much and I want the best for him. I only want him to succeed." Bulong ko.
"G-Gusto ko lang namang pareho naming makuha ang mga pangarap... Na kahit magkahiwalay ay maaabot namin. Ayaw ko lang na magsisi kami balang araw na mas pinili namin ang pagmamahal kaysa ang aming pangarap. Gusto ko...sa hinaharap, sana ay magiging masaya kami dahil pareho naming nakuha ang aming gusto kahit hindi magkasama."
Wala ako sa sarili sa mga susunod na klase, still, no Ejercito for that period. Napakabagal ng oras, iniisip ko si Ejercito at lahat ng mga problema ko.
I want to prove my family, the people who underestimated Jer. I want them to believe that Ejercito isn't a failure, that he's a lot more than that. Sa lahat ng tao, ako ang pinakanakakaalam ng pangarap, galing at abilidad n'ya at ako ang pinakahuling taong haharang roon.
Yakap-yakap ko ang aking libro nang matapos ang klase, I was not in the mood. Britanny even tried pestering me pero hindi ko s'ya binigyang pansin, I was too preoccupied.
Paano na kami nito? I don't know... I don't know what to do anymore.
My heart almost ran out of chest when I saw Ejercito sitting on the stairs near the gate, he was tapping his fingers and sighing.
Nang makita ako ay nakita ko ang pagkabalisa n'ya at ang mabilis n'yang pagtayo sa hagdanan. I gasped when he ran towards me amd enveloped me in a tight hug. He placed his head in between the gap of my neck and spoke.
"I'm so sorry, hon..." Masuyong bulong n'ya. "I didn't mean to say and leave just like that."
I froze, my heart hurt amd ache with his sad and apologizing voice.
"I'm sorry, Harriet, hmm?" He murmured and hugged me more. "Hindi ko na uulitin, h'wag na tayo mag-away..."
"S-Saan ka galing?" I whispered.
Nangingilid na ang luha ko pero pinilit ko maging maayos.
"Nagpalamig lang," He whispered. "Para pagbalik ko sa'yo, hindi na mainit ang ulo ko. I'm so sorry for my short temper, hon... Hindi na ako uulit, sorry..."
Hindi ako umimik. I bit my lip at that, humiwalay naman s'ya sa akin at halos manlabot ako nang sapuin n'ya ang pisngi ko at hinanap ang mga mata ko.
His blue, sad eyes met mine. Puno iyon ng takot at nakita ko ang pag-awang ng labi n'ya nang makita ang mata ko.
"You cried?" He murmured and caressed my cheek. "I'm so sorry, Lena... Hon, let's not fight, hmm? Mag-usap tayo, diba? Pag-uusapan natin kapag may problema tayo?"
Hindi ako umimik, naramdaman ko ang paninikip ng puso ko at ang sakit ng lalamunan, pinipigil ang mga luha.
"Lena... Talk, hon. Pag-usapan natin? Sorry for leaving, h-hindi ko na uulitin. Talk to me." His eyes are begging. "Kausapin mo naman ako..."
"J-Jer..." I murmured, in pain.
"Yes, hon? Tara, pag-usapan natin." He murmured softly and took my hand but then I saw a familiar car, our car.
Nakita ko ang pagparada nito at ang paglabas ng driver para sunduin kaya natigilan ako at mabilis na kinuha ang kamay ko sa hawak ni Ejercito.
He froze, I saw him looked at me, scared and confused and I just shook my head.
"H-Hon?" He murmured, tried taking my hand again but I shook my head and looked away.
"S-Sa sunod nalang tayo mag-usap, Jer." I murmured and looked at his broken expression.
"W-Why? Ihahatid naman kita pauwi--"
"Pagod ako." I said stiffly and his mouth parted but before he could say anything ay tumalikod ako at mabilis na tumakbo sa sasakyan namin at tahimik na lumuha nang makita ang pagkakatulala n'ya sa pwesto kung saan ko s'ya iniwan.