"Lena, eat." Katok ni Papá sa pintuan pero kanina pa ako tulala sa mga kamay ko at patuloy na lumuluha.
"Leona..." He called again and knocked.
I stared at the door silently and closed my eyes tightly.
"I-I'm full, Pa." I murmured softly.
Narinig kong natahimik s'ya at ako'y nanatiling tulala lang sa kamay ko, ang luha ay patuloy na pumapatak sa mga mata ko.
"Are you alright, hija?" He asked.
I didn't answered him. Pinunasan ko ang luha ko at tinakpan ang bibig ko para pigilan ang paghagulgol.
"Y-Yes po," I said a little bit loudly. "M-Masama lang po ang pakiramdam ko."
"Do you want medicine? I will ask the maids to buy you one." He said in concern.
"N-No, Dad." I said. "It's just cough, itutulog ko nalang." I lied for the nth time.
"Sigurado ka? Can you go to school tomorrow? To take your exam."
"Yes, Dad." I sighed.
"Okay, pahinga ka na." At nang mawala na s'ya sa labas ng kwarto ay kumawala ang mahinang hikbi ko sa mga labi.
My mother was furious the moment she found out I skipped my final exams. Hindi ko sinabi sa kanya ang dahilan, I told her I was not feeling well.
She scolded me, told me things but I was just quiet while listening to her. It was my fault, I admit.
Nang mapansin ni Papá na hindi ako nanlalaban kay Mamá ay nanahimik na s'ya at hindi na ako pinagalitan. I know he saw my tired and swollen eyes.
While my Mom continued scolding me, my father took me to my room and didn't say anything before leaving.
Mariing ipinikit ko ang mata at tahimik na niyakap ang unan ko para umiyak ng tahimik roon.
I'm so sorry, Jer... This is for you, for the best version of yourself.
I want you to get your dreams...and I won't be the hindrance of that.
Your love for me...will be your downfall.
Pinakiusapan ni Mamá ang mga professor at walang pagdadalawang-isip na pumayag ito sa kanyang gusto kaya kahit walang magandang tulog at hindi nakapag-aral ay pumasok ako.
"Make this good, Leona! Hindi na ako natutuwa sa'yo, simula nang makilala mo ang lalaking iyan, nagkanda peste-peste na ang buhay mo!"
"Ejercito has nothing to do with this, Mom!" Mahinanahon kong sabi at suminghap.
"Anong wala? Simula nang dumating iyan, pabaya ka na! Break up with him! He is no good for you! He is a good for nothing guy!"
"He isn't," I sighed. "Stop talking ill about him."
"Totoo naman! He was a disgrace to his family! Walang ibang ginawa kung hindi ang maging pasakit! Walang pangarap! You stay away from--"
"We broke up!" I groaned loudly, stopping her.
Her mouth parted, nakita kong natigil ang Papá at napatitig sa akin. His forehead creased and my mother grinned widely.
"I broke up with him..." Pinatatag ko ang boses ko kahit na sa totoo lang ay nanghihina na ang katawan ko at nanlalambot ang tuhod.
"That's great! I can call Augustine so you two can date--"
"I did this not for you! I did this for him, Mom!" I exclaimed and she froze.
"H-Huh? What do you mean?"
"I was a poison to him!"
"Anong...No way! There is no way you are--"
"I am, Mom! I am!" Nalaglag ang luha sa mga mata ko at sumikip ang puso ko. "S-So, please, stop blaming him! Stop telling me he has no future! That he was a disgrace because he is not!"
I dried my tears harshly and sighed.
"I-I broke up with him... Stop mentioning him." I said and before they could even say something, I walked away.
Suminghap ako at umiling at pinatatag ang sarili ko habang nasa byahe papunta sa unibersidad.
"Dito na tayo, Ma'am." Ani ng driver at tahimik akong tumango at niyakap ang libro ko.
I wore my cold and emotionless eyes and entered the university at hindi na ako nagulat nang makita kung sino ang nakaupo sa hagdan malapit sa gate.
My heart quickened, nanghina ako nang makita ang mga mata n'yang pagod at takot.
He stood quickly the moment he saw me. I gasped when he went towards me.
Hindi ako umimik at umiwas sa kanya.
"L-Lena... Hey, c-can we talk?" He tried getting my things from me pero umiwas ako at umiling.
"Pwede ba?" I eyed him coldly.
He froze, I saw how much pain crossed his eyes. It reddened more, the blue eyes of his brightened with agony and sadness.
"P-Pag-usapan natin, Lena..." He begged at sinubukang lumapit sa akin pero umatras ako at umiling.
"H-Hon, please?" He murmured.
I sighed, nang mapansing pinagtitinganan na kami ay hinarap ko s'ya at malamig na tinignan.
"Hindi mo ba naiintindihan ang sinasabi ko?" I hissed quietly, eyeing him coldly. "I broke up with you, okay?"
"N-No..." He caught my hand. "H-How can you decide for us? It is us in a relationship! Y-You want to break up with me but I don't!"
"I broke up with you because I don't want you anymore!" I said, pulling my hand away from him.
His eyes swelled more, I caught a tear falling on his cheek. Nanginig ang katawan ko, nang makita ko kung paano mamula ang pagod n'yang mata sa sakit ay umiling ako sa kanya at pagod na tumingin.
"Please...stop this." I sighed. "Stop this bullshit, Ejercito."
"B-Bullshit? W-What we had was never bullshit, Leona..." Bulong n'ya.
"It is!" I said. "I hated being in a relationship with you."
He lowered his head, nakita ko ang panghihina n'ya roon.
The once bubbly and always smiling Ejercito faded, I now can see a lost boy while lowering his head, staring blankly at the ground, unmoving and in pain.
"So...please, Jer. Stop this." I said. "I will take my exam now, don't bother me anymore."
Nang hindi na s'ya muling nagsalita pa ay umalis na ako at dumiretso sa room kung saan ako mag-eexam.
I saw people looking at me with such curiousity, mukhang gustong magtanong sa nangyari pero walang nagtangka.
Nang makapasok ako sa room ay binati ako ng professor ko at hinayaan akong makaupo.
She asked me if I can take my exams and I smiled weakly and nodded a bit.
"Yes, Ma'am." I said.
"Okay, sige, Lena. Umupo ka muna d'yan, I'll get the test from the dean's office." She said.
I nodded a bit and smiled, nang mawala na s'ya sa harapan ko ay bumagsak ang balikat ko at pasimpleng pinunasan ang luha ko.
You can do it, Lena! You can do it!
"Lena!" Nag-angat ako ng tingin at naabutan ko si Cecille na mabilis na pumasok at may inabot sa aking papel.
My forehead creased at that.
"What's this?" I said weakly.
"It was Jer," She sighed. "Hindi ko alam kung anong nangyari sa inyo but please...please talk to him. Pinabibigay n'ya."
"I-I can't take this," Nanginig ang kamay ko at inabot sa kanya pabalik at papel pero umiling s'ya at inabot sa akin.
"Just read it, Lena. Please, naaawa rin ako kay Jer, read it and talk to him." Aniya at nang mawala na s'ya sa tingin ko ay mariin akong napapikit at suminghap ng malalim.
I slowly opened the paper and my heart hurt when I saw what was written on the piece of paper.
Goodluck to your exam, Lena. Can you spare some time for me to talk to you later? Please? I'm begging you. I will wait for you.
I love you.
Nangilid ang luha ko, sa muling pag-angat ko ng tingin ay kumalabog ang puso ko nang makita si Ejercito sa labas ng classroom at nakatingin lang sa akin.
His necktie was loosen up, magulo ang kanyang buhok pero puno ng pag-asa ang kanyang mga mata.
I sighed. Nang ngumiti s'ya sa akin ay kaagad akong umiwas ng tingin.
"No, Lena. No." I stopped myself and even if my heart is breaking, I managed to crumple the paper with my hands.
I saw how Ejercito froze when he saw what I did. I stood, walang reaksyon at hawak ang papel na nagtungo sa basuran bago itapon iyon.
I saw how his eyes flickered in pain. The smile he practiced so hard to do faded.
His mouth parted, akmang papasok para lumapit pero dumating ang professor kaya wala na s'yang nagawa.
I looked away, mabilis ang paghinga ko habang pinipigilan ang sarili ko sa pagluha at pagbagsak sa sahig.
"Ayos ka lang, hija?" The professor took my arm when I somehow lost my balance.
"Y-Yes, Ma'am." I said a bit and looked away.
I am sorry, Jer... Forgive me, this is only for you.
I finished the exam with a heavy heart, I am not sure if I chose the right answers or just shaded any letters I can see.
Wala ako sa sarili at nang magpaalam sa professor ay diretso akong lumabas sa classroom.
I jumped in shock when I saw Ejercito standing on the hallway, nakasandal s'ya sa may pader pero kaagad na umayos nang makita ako.
My heart skipped painfully, kinagat ko ang labi ko at marahas na lumunok, nag-iisip ng paraan para makatakas pero sa paglapit palang n'ya ay halos manghina na ako.
"How's your exam?" He murmured softly.
"Ayos lang," I said coldly and walked past him but he was too quick and walked with me.
"A-Ako, uhm... Sa susunod na araw pa mag-eexam. My Mom also talked to the dean and pinayagan naman ako." Kwento n'ya.
"That's great then," Hindi tumitingin kong sabi.
He followed me when I attempted to go the quadrangle. Napansin ko ang tingin sa amin ng mga estudyante at nagwawala man ang puso ko ay pinili kong maging kalmado para hindi mapag-usapan.
"Lena..." He murmured, sinasabayan ang lakad ko. "C-Can we talk? Please..."
I stopped, marahang iniangat ko ang tingin at nakita ko ang pagod n'ya mga mata. He looks lonely and lost, magulo ang kanyang buhok at ang uniporme.
He looks like he haven't sleep too.
"Please?" He breathe, napatalon ako nang marahang hawakan n'ya ang kamay ko.
I remembered what Cess said, sa pagtingin ko ng tao sa paligid ay napansing nasa amin ang atensyon kaya pinatatag ko ang sarili at malamig s'yang tinitigan.
"Okay," I said a bit colder and walked, hindi ko na kinuha ang kamay kong hawak n'ya at doon ko naramdaman ang panginginig ng kamay n'ya.
Habang naglalakad ay damang-dama ko ang takot n'ya, he was holding my hand tightly, like he's too afraid to let it go.
We reached the soccer field, sa ilalim ng puno ay doon kami tumayo at nang mapansing wala nang tao roon ay kalmado kong hinarap si Ejercito na hindi lumalayo ang titig sa akin.
"What do you need?" I said and stared at him.
I slowly took my hand but his eyes flickered and hold it tightly.
"P-Please, don't do this to me." Mahinang bulong n'ya.
"Ayoko na," I sighed, muling akong tumitig sa kanya.
"W-Why? Did I do something bad? Did I messed up? Tell me...so, I can fix it. So, I can fix us."
"You can't fix us, Jer." I said. "W-Wala ka namang naging mali, it's just that I am too tired of this."
"T-Tired of me?" His mouth parted a bit. "A-Am I getting too demanding? I-I promise I won't be, kung ayaw mo...magbabago naman ako, kaya ko 'yun, Lena. H'wag ka namang makipaghiwalay sa akin."
"Y-You are a good man, Jer." I said, sighing. My heart starting to break into tiny pieces.
"T-Then why are you breaking up with me?"
"Because I am tired of this relationship, ayokong...ayoko na sa'yo. I realized that I didn't loved you that much, that I was only infatuated with you. I liked you as a friend and nothing more than that. Masyado lang akong nadala."
Nakita ko ang pagguhit ng kabiguan sa mata n'ya.
I've never seen his eyes this broken, the tears at the side of it made my heart crumpled, nangilid ang luha ko, gustong-gustong i-angat ang aking kamay para punasan ang pisngi n'ya nang pumatak ang mga luha pero hindi ko ginawa.
"B-Baka naguguluhan ka lang," Baka sakali n'ya. "H-Harriet, if it's about whenever I lack time to be with you, I apologized. G-Gumagawa naman ako ng paraan para makita ka. I was just too busy with my family, si Dad nasa ospital--"
"Spend more time with them, then. Kailangan ka nila!" I said hardly.
"H-How about me? I need you." Nabasag ang boses n'ya at doon na nalaglag ang mga luha ko.
His hand slowly withdrawed from mine, naghabol ako ng hininga nang makitang unti-unting lumuhod s'ya sa harapan ko.
"A-Ako, H-Harriet... Sobrang kailangan kita ngayon." His voice broke.
My body started shaking when he pulled my body softly and hugged my waist.
"A-Ako, mahal na mahal kita. Kailangan kita." Bulong n'ya at isinubsob ang mukha sa tyan ko.
It was as if the oxygen left my chest, sinubukan ko mang pigilan ang hikbi ay kusa nalang iyong kumawala sa labi ko.
"K-Kung hindi mo naman ako mahal...p-pagtatrabahuhan ko, I will do anything, I will work hard for you to love me. H-H'wag naman ganito." Bulong n'yang puno ng hinanakit.
I was in the verge of giving up, I was in the verge of saying I am just lying, I was in the verge of kneeling infront of me and apologized for the words I have said but I didn't do it.
"L-Let go..." I murmured.
"N-No," He whispered, his hand still wrapped on my waist. "I-I love you, Lena..."
"I promise, I really do love you." Pilit n'ya at nakita ko ang panginginig ng katawan n'ya.
"S-Stop forcing me to love you...ayoko na, Ejercito." Pilit ko at sinubukang itulak s'ya.
"M-Magpakasal tayo, p-papakasalan kita. H'wag naman--"
I caught my breath when I lost it, mas naging hilam ang mga mata ko sa luha at marahas akong umiling at pilit s'ya tinulak palayo sa akin.
"H-Hindi kita mahal!" I exclaimed. "H-Hindi mo ba maintindihan?! I don't love you, Ejercito! I don't!"
Bumagsak ang balikat n'ya at nakita kong napatungo s'ya, I took a step back and I saw him stared at the grass and the tears fell freely on his cheek.
"I-I love Floyd! Simula pa noon! I was just using you to make him jealous! I don't love you, please...let me go."
Mas nakita ko ang pagkabigo sa mga mata n'ya sa sinabi ko.
Durog na durog s'ya, I saw his trembling lips and lost blue eyes, they were drowning in such agony and loneliness.
"L-Let me go..." I murmured softly, my tears falling on my cheek.
Hindi s'ya nagsalita, nanatili s'yang nakaluhod roon, pagod.
I took a step back, nang hindi ko s'ya narinig magsalita ay dali-dali na akong tumalikod at tumakbo paalis habang kipkip ang gamit ko.
I sobbed loudly when I ran away from him.
I'm sorry, hon... I'm so sorry, Ejercito.
This is for your own good.
I am sorry for flying with you and leaving you in the air alone, letting you fall and crash the ground. It will hurt at first...but I believe you can fly alone, like how paper planes fly freely in the air, successful and is worthy to look up to.
I believe you, Ejercito, my love.