Chapter 14

[A story from haveyouseenthisgirl.blog]

“Ma, aalis na po ako!” Nagmamadaling sinusuklay ko ang buhok ko habang pababa ng hagdan, medyo nahuli na ako ng gising dahil sa kaka-extend ko ng another 5 minutes.

“Kain ka muna ng almusal, anak.” 

“Ma! Nagluto ka na naman! Hindi ba sabi ng doktor sa ’yo huwag ka na po masyadong magpagod!” Pinagalitan ko si mama nang makita ko siyang nagaabala na naman sa kusina. Kamakailan lang ay naospital si mama dahil sumama ang pakiramdam niya. May katandaan na rin kasi si mama at may mga sakit na rin na kinakailangan siyang naka-under maintenance sa gamot. 

“Ano ka ba, konti lang naman ito. Prito prito lang. Halika na at kumain ka na, ang tagal mo mag-ayos, natapos na kumain si Brian.” 

“Good morning, love.” Binati agad ako ni Brian with a quick peck on the lips. He’s sitting at our dining table with an empty plate and a half empty cup of coffee. Madalas siya mag-breakfast sa bahay namin kapag hinahatid niya ako to work. 

“Good morning, love.” I greet him back as I take a pandesal to eat quickly. Ibinaling ko rin kaagad ang tingin ko kay ate Lalay, kasambahay namin at nagbabantay kay mama kapag wala ako. “Ate Lalay, huwag mo po kalimutan ang mga iinuming gamot ni mama this morning ha. Alam mo naman ‘yan si mama, pasaway.”

“Yes po, ate.” Sagot ni ate Lalay habang nagliligpit ng plato at baso na ginamit ni Brian.

“Rinig kita, Sairyl.” Nakasimangot na sabi ni mama. 

Nginitian ko lang siya at hinalikan sa pisngi. “Totoo naman mama, ang pasaway mo po kaya. Ikaw talaga! Huwag ka na makulit at makinig ka kay ate Lalay ha. See you later po!”

Lumabas na kami ng bahay ni Brian at sumakay na sa kotse niya. 

“Nagpuyat ka na naman, ano? Ano na namang Kdrama tinapos mo kagabi?” Kilala na talaga ako ni Brian, alam niya kapag ganitong late na ako nagising na may bininge watch na naman ako.

“Tinapos ko lang yung Moon Lovers kagabi, ang ganda kasi. Sobrang nakakaiyak!” Kwento ko sa kanya habang nagpa-powder. Sa pagmamadali ko, sa kotse niya na ako nag-makeup. 

“Kaya naman pala pugto na naman ‘yang mata mo.” 

“Halata ba?” Humarap ako sa kanya at saglit niyang ibinaling ang tingin sa akin. Ngumiti lang siya, inilagay ang kamay sa likod ng ulo ko para hilahin ako palapit ng kaonti sa kanya at hinalikan ang noo ko. “Medyo, pero maganda ka pa rin naman.”

Hindi na ako umimik pagkatapos at itinuloy na lang ang pagme-makeup ko. It’s not hard for me to do my makeup while Brian drives because he never drives fast when he’s with me. After the accident 7 years ago, I have never learned to drive and I have also developed anxiety riding cars. I get panic attacks kapag bumilis ang sinasakyan ko thinking that another accident may happen. This is one of the reasons din kaya Brian always make it to a point na ihatid sundo ako palagi sa trabaho o sa ibang pupuntahan ko. As much as possible, he wants me to avoid commuting. 

“Kinulit na naman ako ni tita, kailan daw natin siya bibigyan ng apo.” 

I laugh nervously, “Si mama talaga kahit kailan! Ang kulit! Pagpasensyahan mo na ha.”

“Okay lang ‘yon, sanay na ako kay tita. Pero ikaw, kung gusto mo na rin, sabihin mo lang.” He winks at me and I jokingly slap his arms. 

“Baliw!” 

Tumawa lang siya sa reaksyon ko.  “I’m always ready. I’m just waiting for you.” 

He is laughing but I know there’s seriousness in his voice. Nginitian ko lang siya, “In the right time.” 

Then there is silence between us. Only the song “You Are The Reason” by Calum Scott playing in his Spotify playlist is filling the car.

It always gets awkward between the two of us whenever we open the topic of “marriage”, “getting kids” or “settling down”. I know he wants it, he is ready, but I never am. My dad died 2 years ago from a heart attack and I am now the only one supporting my mom with her maintenance bills. I also pay for everything in the house and with mama’s health deteriorating, she frequently goes in and out of the hospital. I earn fairly well but all of it just goes to medical bills, I barely have any savings. Brian always wants to help me with paying things but I decline him most of the time as I don’t really want him to shoulder my burdens too. He is always patient and understanding of my situation. That’s why he never pushes me about marriage, pero from time to time, the topic slips in our discussions and we just always end up with awkward silence just like today. 

“We’re here.” It startles me a bit when he speaks. I spaced out during the whole trip and didn’t notice na nasa tapat na pala kami ng office ko. “Have a great day at work, love.”

“Thank you, ikaw din.” I give him a quick kiss before jumping out of the car. I smile as I wave him goodbye, my smile quickly fading as soon as his car disappeared from my sight. I turn my back to face the big door of our office building. With a heavy heart and a big sigh, I opened it. 

I hate going to work. It’s not really the job that I hate, but it’s the people I work with. 

“Good morning.” I greeted as soon as I entered the office. I force a smile kahit wala naman good sa morning tuwing papasok ako dito. 

“Morning, Sai! Busy ka ba?” Sasagot pa lang ako when Anna, my co-worker with the same position as me, throws a bunch of papers in my desk. “Pa-review naman ng mga reports na ‘to. Need for budgeting proposals, ipe-present agad sa execs bukas. Let me know kapag tapos mo na today ha.”

“W-wait, meron pa akong gagawing reports. Hindi ba pwedeng paghatian natin ‘to kung need na today?” 

“Sorry Sai, sinasama ako ni sir Migs for client meeting this afternoon. Matagal daw ‘yon hanggang end of shift na, hindi na rin ako makakabalik ng office after. Kaya mo na ‘yan!” She’s not really sorry. She doesn’t really need to be in that client meeting pero rumors in the office says na there’s something going on between her and sir Migs kaya she’s always getting all the favors. This is why I hate this place, palakasan at ang daming power trip. I’ve been here for a year at resign na resign na ako pero I can’t. This is a good paying job and I just have so many financial responsibilities that I can’t afford to lose this job kaya tinitiis ko na lang talaga. 

“Para kay mama.” Huminga ako nang malalim, kinuha ang essential oil sa table ko at itinapat sa ilong ko para ma-relax ang sarili ko. “Kaya mo ‘to, Sai. It’s just going to be another day.”

I kept myself busy the whole day to survive the day. It’s almost the end of my shift and I still have a pile of work to do. Isa pa ‘yong budgeting proposals na pinasang trabaho sa akin ni Anna kaninang umaga, as much as I want to go home na, I still need to finish it and email it within the day. 

“O.T. ako today, not sure anong oras ako matatapos. Una ka na.” I texted Brian to let him know na male-late ako ng uwi. He responds a few minutes later.

“I’ll just wait for you sa coffee shop sa baba ng office ninyo later. Just text me kapag tapos ka na.”

“Baka gabihin ako, may urgent ako today. Una ka na.”

“It’s fine, I have some leftover work din. I’ll do it in the coffee shop habang hinihintay ka.” 

He never really lets me go home on my own kahit maghintay pa siya ng matagal. I only get to go home on my own kapag siya naman ang nag-O.T. sa work kasi ayaw niya naman akong pinaghihintay. 

“Kaya hindi natatapos agad sa trabaho, panay ang text.” Nagulat ako ng makita ko si sir Harvey, senior accountant namin, sa likod ko. 

“A-ah, nagpapaalam lang po sa boyfriend ko na mamaya pa ako uuwi. Marami pa po kasi tatapusin.” Tinuro ko ang pile ng papel sa table ko. I really feel uncomfortable with sir Harvey kasi ever since I’ve been here, he’s been trying to hit on me even after I’ve told him na I already have a boyfriend. 

“Sure, sure.” He said nonchalantly as he took the empty seat next to me. He even grabs the papers in my table without my permission and looks at it. “Budgeting proposals pala pinapagawa sa ’yo. Help na kita.” 

“Hindi na po sir, it’s fine. I can do it po on my own.” Of all the people to help me, I don’t really want it to be him. He’s just creepy at times and knowing almost all of the people in the office are going home na, it’s really making me extremely uncomfortable to sit next to him. 

“It’s okay, help na kita dito para makatapos ka kaagad. You can just go with me to dinner in exchange for helping you.” I tried not to roll my eyes, I knew he’d say something like that. He never stops asking me to go out on dinners or whatever with him whenever he gets the chance even after I reject him multiple times. 

“Hindi na po talaga need at saka po my boyfriend is waiting for me, sorry po I can’t have dinner with you.” I tried my best to be polite with him. Kahit I don’t like him, I still have to be nice to him dahil he’s a senior in our department and he has so much influence with the management. 

“Why do you always play hard to get?” Nagulat ako when he takes a strand of my hair and plays  it with his fingers. I look around the office to see if there’s still anyone but to my dismay, the last person in the room aside from me and sir Harvey just left the door. I move my head and casually move my seat as well in an attempt to remove his fingers from my hair. 

“S-sir Harvey, uwi na rin po kayo. Ako na po talaga ang bahala dito.” I take some of the paper and pretend to work so I don’t have to look at him. 

“Do you want to get promoted, Sairyl?” I froze when I felt his hand on my legs and his face closer than I wanted on the side of my face. “Dump your boyfriend and just go out with me. I’ll make everything easier for you.”

“E-excuse me sir, this is too much,” I tried to remove his hand from my legs but it stayed there firmly. “Pa-remove po ng kamay ninyo, sir.”

He snickers and starts moving his hand upward, scaring me more. I stood up immediately to get away from him but he caught up to me and pinned me to my desk so I couldn’t run. 

“Isang taon mo ng tine-test patience ko ha. Fine, if you don’t want to date me then just sleep with me for a night, I’ll get you promoted right away.”

“Hindi ko po kailangan ng promotion! Paalisin ninyo po ako or I’ll report you sa HR for sexual harassment!”

Instead na ma-intimidate sa sinabi ko, mas lalo pa niyang inilapit ang mukha niya sa akin at bumulong sa tainga ko. “Go, isumbong mo. As if they would believe your words more than mine.”

He’s so confident because he is friends with the HR head plus the fact that he’s been in the company longer than me and he’s been one of the top performers here makes him more credible than someone like me who’s only here for a year and barely made any notable achievements.

“Ang arte mo rin kasi Sairyl, a lot of girls are after someone as successful as me and yet you’re such a stuck up snob!” 

I am not really listening to what he’s saying habang tinatry kong kapain ang desk ko to find something to protect me and when I feel a pen on my hand, I click it and stab it on his right hand making him jump away from me as he curses in pain.

“You’re the stuck up snob and not all girls want a d*ckhead like you!” I took the opportunity to knee him in his groin area and put him in more pain. I grab my bag immediately, run towards the door and get to the elevator as quickly as I can. Fortunately, he didn’t chase me. 

I go straight to the toilet on the ground floor before meeting Brian. I am shaking in fear as I cry in one of the cubicles. I have been inside the cubicle for almost an hour trying to compose myself. When I relaxed a bit, I went to fix myself in the mirror. I take out my makeup to try to hide the distress in my face. It took me another round of makeup as I couldn’t stop crying and ruined my first try. When I’m done with my makeup, I try to practice my smile in front of the mirror. 

“Hi!” I try to wave and smile in front of the mirror. I repeat it every time I am not satisfied with my energy.  “Hi, love! How are you?”

“That should do it.” I let out a sigh before I finally decided to go out of the toilet. My footsteps feel heavy as I walk towards the coffee shop where Brian is waiting for me. I see him seated next to the window, he is drinking his frappe while he is busy looking at his laptop, probably reviewing some work. He might’ve felt someone watching him as he turned his head to my direction. His serious face immediately forms a smile when he sees me, he waves his hands and I wave back, forcing out the smile I practiced earlier. 

“Hey, I thought matatagalan ka pa? Everything okay?” 

“Yup! Hindi pa pala needed today, pwede pa naman pala bukas kaya nakatapos ako ng maaga today.” I lied casually, “Uwi na tayo?”

“Sure, want to have dinner somewhere? My treat!” 

As we walk to his car, I listen to him as he happily talks about his day at work. I told him that it was just another boring day in the office for me so I didn’t have much to talk about. 

Brian has no idea how much I hate going to work. I lie about how it’s such a great workplace. He doesn’t know what kind of people I deal with every day. He doesn’t know about sir Harvey and he doesn’t need to know what happened earlier. I don’t like telling Brian my problems. As much as possible, I don’t want him worrying about me. I keep everything to myself. Along with my fear of riding fast cars, my guilt from 7 years ago never left me. 

Brian already suffered so much because of me. I crashed his dream and made him abandon the thing he loves doing the most. The only thing I can do to pay for that is to make him happy and never burden him with my own problems. 

[A story from haveyouseenthisgirl.blog]

The next day is one of the worst days for me. 

I got fired at work for neglect of duty dahil inabandon ko raw ang task for the budget proposal na ipe-present dapat today. Second infraction ay nanakit daw ako ng co-worker. Sir Harvey reported me to HR for attacking him and of course, with his way with words and his influence with the management, binaliktad niya ang kwento. He made up some crazy story that I stabbed him with a pen without any reason when he was just trying to help me finish my work. And for some “magical” reason, the CCTV in our office wasn’t working yesterday! Wow! As much as I wanted to argue and defend myself, they just wouldn’t listen to me and to make the day worse, I received a call from ate Lalay. Mom had a hard time breathing, fainted and was sent to the emergency room. I rushed to the hospital to only hear from the doctor that mom’s worsening condition would require an open heart surgery as soon as possible to lessen the risk associated with her existing complications like diabetes and kidney problem.

I just have the worst luck. Where do I get the money for surgery when I just got fired today? 

I only allowed myself to cry for 30 minutes today. I don’t have time to break down as I didn’t want to waste time. I need to find a new job right away or where else can I get the money to pay for mom’s medical bills?

This problem is something I couldn’t hide from Brian as he would know it sooner or later anyway. Of course, I skipped the part where I was harassed at work and I just made up a different story about how I got fired. As soon as he heard it, he wanted to take an emergency leave at work but I stopped him and said I will be okay. Hiningi niya na lang sa akin ang resume ko saying na ire-recommend niya raw ako sa mga kakilala niya at clients nila to help me get a job right away. 

Inayos ko kaagad ang resume ko, applied to every relevant job posting I could see at nagbukas din ako ng LinkedIn. Nag-post ako doon saying that I am open to work along with an attachment of my credentials. I’ve received some responses pero most of them are offering very low salaries compared to my recent one, halos kalahati ang difference. As much as I’m desperate to get a new job, I couldn’t accept a very low salary dahil it won’t be enough to pay my immediate bills. 

With so many things that happened today, time passed by so quickly. It’s already midnight and I’m lying in bed with my phone next to me. I’ve been looking at it all day waiting for some good news but I never received one. 

Umokay naman na kahit papaano si mama at si ate Lalay ang nagbabantay sa kanya sa ospital. Na-chat ko na rin lahat ng possible relatives namin about sa kondisyon ni mama. Some of them have already offered to donate money for mom’s operation pero it’s far from enough. It would require me around a million to pay all the bills that come along with the surgery. Brian also gave me a big amount to help me which I promised to pay him back kapag nakaluwag na ako pero he rejected the idea. Brian also suggested na gumawa raw ako ng GoFundMe at i-share ko sa social media pages ko para other people can also help. It did work as I have some of my friends in social media donating in the GoFundMe link, but it’s still a long way from the amount I need for mom’s surgery.

Naputol lang ako sa malalim na pagi-isip nang tumunog ang phone ko at nakita kong tumatawag si Brian. 

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay there with you?” Kanina pa siya nagi-insist na puntahan ako at samahan sa bahay, but I keep on rejecting him. I don’t really want to bother him. 

“I’m okay, thank you for helping me out today. Tulog ka na please, maaga pa pasok mo bukas.”

“Nag-file na ako ng leave kanina, wala akong pasok tomorrow. Samahan kita tomorrow, my friend said pwede ka niya ikuha agad ng interview tomorrow sa company nila. Maganda ang offer doon, on the same salary range mo sa previous company mo.”

I sigh mentally. He worked himself up again; knowing him he probably called all the people he knew just to find someone who could get me an interview right away. 

“Thank you, Brian pero hindi ka na dapat nag-file ng leave. Matatambakan ka na naman ng trabaho, malapit pa man din ang deadline ng isa sa mga projects ninyo.”

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it. I just want to be there for you, love.”

“Thank you.” Nag-usap kami ni Brian sa telepono hanggang sa antukin na ako at makatulog. He comforted me and helped me survive a lonely night.

The next day arrives and as promised, Brian picks me up for my interview. Mukhang okay naman ang naging interview, I am told na they will update me in the next few days. We headed to the hospital after the interview para bisitahin si mama. On the way there, I received a message on LinkedIn. It’s an inmail from a Head Recruiter ng Nimble Recruit. I’m not quite familiar with it pero when I look at the recruiter’s profile, I learned na Nimble is an outsourcing company for Australian-based businesses. She’s inviting me for an interview upon seeing my LinkedIn post daw looking for a similar position that they currently need in the team. Salary range and benefits are already laid out in the message. I’m surprised to know the salary range is double of the one I was receiving before plus the benefits are so good that it got me excited. Nag-reply agad ako to say na I’m interested and I’m immediately scheduled for an interview tomorrow morning.

The interview happened, I also did a few tests on the same day. I received two calls late in the afternoon. One from the company of Brian’s friend and the other one from Nimble, they were both offering the job to me. I guess I still have some luck left in me for getting 2 job offers in less than a week. I weigh my options before getting back to those two companies and I choose Nimble as they offer a better salary at mas malapit kasi ang office nila sa bahay namin. 

Brian is happy for me and he is excited to hear na I can start agad the next day. I ask him to drop me off early to my new office para I can take my time to relax in the lobby before orientation starts.

“I guess masyado akong napaaga.” I whisper to myself seeing na wala pang katao tao sa reception area kundi ang guard pa lang at receptionist na mukhang kakarating lang din. Dumiretso na ako sa elevator and pressed the 11th floor. I also press the close button dahil ako lang naman ang nasa elevator.

Achoo!

Bigla akong nabahing so I took out my handkerchief from my bag para ipunas sa ilong ko. 

“Mukhang sisipunin ata ako, dahil siguro sa kakapuyat ko lately.” As I blow my nose, the elevator that I thought was already close suddenly opens again.

Standing in front of me, I see a familiar face holding a phone on his right arm while the other is holding a grey laptop sleeve. He didn’t look up when the elevator door opened as he seemed busy with whatever he’s reading on his phone. Pumasok lang siya at pipindot na sana sa elevator button pero tumigil din siya nang mapansing napindot na ang 11th floor. Pinindot niya na lang ang close button para magsara agad ang elevator. 

I don’t think he saw my face kasi bukod sa busy siya sa sa cellphone niya, naka-cover ng panyo ang kalahati ng mukha ko. I’m done blowing my nose but I just can’t put down my handkerchief. Natatakot akong mapansin niya ako at mamukhaan. 

I try to carefully look at him from the side of my eyes. 

He changed his hairstyle which made him look more mature. His eyes look a bit more sullen than I could remember. Not sure but he seems to grow taller and he looks more toned. His grey suit makes him look so professional but at the same time emanates an aura that makes him intimidating and unapproachable. He still uses that same perfume that smells so fresh and relaxing at the same time. I remember it clearly because it was the perfume that I gave to him back then. 

I probably looked at him longer than I should and it alerted his senses. Inalis niya ang tingin niya sa telepono niya para ibaling ang tingin sa akin. Nagkatinginan kami, hindi ko alam kung gaano katagal kaming nagtinginan hanggang sa umimik siya.

“Excuse me, do I know you?” 

Hinigpitan ko lalo ang hawak ko sa panyo na nakatakip sa kalahati ng mukha ko as if my life depended on it.

[A story from haveyouseenthisgirl.blog]

Lie About Love

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