Fun to Live the Illusion

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Solace Ep. 47 December 4, 2009

Filed under: Solace,Stories by episodes — Kesh @ 10:13 pm
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Justin: I was doing fairly okay with that life rehab—a term Nyah came up with to encapsulate what both our plans are in the remaining months of the year—when she came into my life. AGAIN.


Even if I had encountered her for a total of seven times in the course of three months—four times after talking to Alisa—I have already memorized Alexi’s soft voice. I finished writing my email first—a good three minutes—before I looked up at her. “Alexi,” I said, wondering silently what brought her here since our project with her company is over already. I stood up.

“Another project for Mr. Chua?” I asked. “I’ll call Charlie,” I said, reaching for my intercom.

“No,” she said abruptly, and I left the phone off the hook, frowning at her.

“Why are you here then?” I asked very slowly, trying not to make it sound like I wanted her to get out of the office (…when that’s really what I wanted. How can you do a life rehab when the one you want to do it for is standing right in front of you right now?). “Shall we?” she asked, motioning for us to seat. I sat down on my swivel chair, closing my laptop as I waited for whatever Alexi has to say. She glanced at my desk, surveying the items I had there—a picture frame that holds the Santillan family portrait, both in formal and wacky shots, another frame that has my picture and Nyah’s, a glass mug that has my pens and pencils, and a desk calendar that actually holds every appointment that I ever had and will have.

“Your twin?” Alexi asked, and I nodded, my lips pursed. “Why are you here?” I asked her again, and she breathed deeply.

Alexi hesitated before speaking. “I am here to… ask you out,” she said, her words coming out more of a question rather than a statement. I smirked. “If this is about Alisa—”

“She’s over, right?” she cut me off, her eyes intense. I frowned at her term. “I mean, she stopped talking about you and how you’re such a bastard. That’s why I asked her if you guys had talked or something. We’re best friends, Justin. She can’t keep anything from me. She said you talked and have reconciled things.”

“Apparently she kept the part where I told her not to talk to you about me,” I said bitterly. I sighed. Alisa. I remember how she had trusted select few people and when she trusts you that much, she’d tell you anything and everything you wanted to know.

“You don’t want to talk to me anymore?” Alexi said, shrinking in her seat. Her cheeks flushed in embarrassment. Was this another way of asking if I am still interested in her? I shook my head, standing up and taking the seat across her. I reached out for her hand and breathed deeply. “No, it’s not that,” I began to say very slowly. “I do want to talk to you. And I am still very much interested in you.” She looked up and cast me a sharp look. “I didn’t ask you that,” she said defensively, and I shrugged.

“FYI,” I said with an easy smile, and she breathed deeply.

“Look, I am putting myself out here in the open,” Alexi said, and I nodded for her to continue. “I have been interested in you, ever since Alisa told me about you back in college. I liked you from way back. But I am Alisa’s best friend,” she said, and she took her hand from mine and fidgeted with her fingers.

“And you don’t think it’s a good idea if you go for the guy who has hurt your best friend with what we both thought was beyond repair?” I filled in, and she nodded slowly.

“What did Alisa tell you?” I asked her, and she moved her shoulders as if to shrug. “She said that you guys are okay now, and that she knows you won’t hurt me.”

I stopped. That’s saying a lot. How can she be sure I won’t be hurting her best friend?

I cleared my throat. “Alexi,” I said, and she looked up at me, her eyes almost too hopeful, “I am trying to fix myself and my life. I am not out to undo the mistakes I’ve done before, but I am planning to patch things up while I still can. I am undergoing what my twin called a ‘life rehab.’”

“And that includes?”

“Not dating?” I teased, and she raised an eyebrow. “Just kidding. It involves finding myself, and just like Alisa, making myself whole. Complete. Before I enter another relationship that’s not just for trial and error’s sake. That’s not just for kicks. I want my next one to be my last, Alexi. I want it to be serious. I want it to be real.”

Alexi nodded slowly, her face thoughtful. And then she stood up and walked to the door. I amused myself because I didn’t take any efforts to stop her.

She was already near the door when she stopped to face me. “We can still be friends while you’re undergoing life rehab, right? That’s not one of the conditions that you took when you decided to undergo rehab,” she said, and I gave her an assuring smile.

“Of course, I’d love that. We can be friends as of the moment,” I said, and she nodded. She flashed me a wide smile. “I left my calling card there at your desk. My mobile’s at the back. See you around, dear friend,” she said, and before I could say anything more, she was out my door.

I picked up the calling card at the edge of my table and looked for her number.

There was a smiley with a heart next to her name.


Review: Dead Until Dark (Charlaine Harris)

Filed under: Book Reviews — Kesh @ 9:45 pm
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Summary (from Good Reads):

Sookie Stackhouse is a cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana, but she keeps to herself and doesn’t date much because of her “disability” to read minds. When she meets Bill, Sookie can’t hear a word he’s thinking. He’s the type of guy she’s waited for all of her life, but he has a disability, too–he’s a vampire with a bad reputation. When one of Sookie’s coworkers is killed, she fears she’s next.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I caught the vampire fever after reading Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight Saga, so I decided to look up other vampire reads and came across Charlaine Harris‘s Dead Until Dark. This is the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series (a.k.a. Southern Vampire series), and is also the basis of HBO’s TrueBlood series.

It will be a weird read if you’ve pranced on this after Twilight, for in this series, the vampires are:

  1. legal by law – they’re existence is open, unlike in Twilight where they hide.
  2. capable of sleeping (and they sleep in coffins!)
  3. allowed by law to have business establishments like bars.
  4. NOT capable of getting you pregnant.

Plus, this book isn’t for the eyes of the younglings. Characters here are older and bolder (literally and figuratively). Character-wise, Sookie Stackhouse is your Edward Cullen — she can read minds because she’s a telepath. What I liked more about this novel (and the series) is that it is more of an adventure-slash-mystery rather than a love story. It is a real page-turner (I read this and the next book in one day), and definitely worth the money.

(Review originally posted at my Multiply site).


Review: Hush Hush (Becca Fitzpatrick)

Filed under: Book Reviews — Kesh @ 2:40 pm
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I first got drawn to Becca Fitzpatrick‘s Hush, Hush because of a promo that National Bookstore was doing, pitting Team Vampires (uh, yes, pertaining to Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight Saga) against Team Angels (pertaining to the book in review). So out of sheer curiosity, I read the book, since I have a liking to angels.

First up, a summary taken from Good Reads:

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along.

With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen – and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

And then the rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Overall, it was a good read—entertaining and able to make me laugh and smile, allows room for thinking and doesn’t give everything on the plate. One downside is that there were parts of it that I had found dragging, but it was manageable.

Patch is no Edward, by the way, and I like him more than I do like Edward because of his dangerous, mysterious feel (Okay, Edward has these two attributes, but he’s dangerous and mysterious in a sort of good way. Patch isn’t.). He has a very interesting “past,” plus the concept of a fallen angel is a good one. Not as common as vampires (which have a lot of stories, by the way), and this gives a whole new twist to the white, good angels that I have in mind.

If you’re looking for a read that (1) would distract you from all the vampires and werewolves roaming around the bookstores; (2) would give you a feeling of suspense and kilig; (3) would somehow make you stop and think, pick up Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush. I am definitely looking forward to its next installment, Crescendo.

P.S. I sorely wonder if young adult love stories have this common theme: the main protagonists meet and get close in Biology class. 🙂


Solace Ep. 46

Filed under: Solace,Stories by episodes — Kesh @ 11:55 am
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Faye: I could almost hear Frank Sinatra singing in my head: Right through the very heart of it, New York, New York.

I have found the folder where Gabe had kept the tickets and itinerary to our trip while he was in the bathroom to take a shower. He was going to take me out, to another restaurant for dinner. When I saw the tickets, there was our destination, Gabe’s home for nearly two decades: New York. I have heard a bunch of things about New York—they have a mean baseball team, for one, and they have those yellow cabs. The Empire State Building’s there, and the Statue of Liberty, too. The World Trade Center that was one of the focal points of the September 11, 2001 attack used to be there, too. Plus, I’ve watched the series CSI: New York before, so I feel like the city has grown on me somehow.

Ah, New York. I wonder how New York is during this time of the year. Will I be seeing the autumn now? I got excited at the thought of flying out of the country with Gabe. I fumbled inside the envelope, trying to find where the itinerary is. The plane tickets were there, sure, but where is the—

“Ah. Sneaking through my things, huh?”

I jumped at the sound of Gabe’s voice. I stashed the papers back into the envelope and faced him, giving him a sly smile. “What if I was?” I asked, and he walked over to me. It was only now that it occurred to me that the only thing he was wearing is a towel tightly wrapped around his waist—and nothing else. He looked like an absolute demigod. Tiny beads of water slid down his amazingly well-sculpted abs. I wonder if he still was clocking some hours in the gym. I gulped, the scent of Gabe’s Safeguard Menthol entering my system.

“I think there’s a price that you have to pay for doing that,” he whispered, his voice husky in my ear. He leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. I felt his arms go around me, some of the water he hadn’t wiped transferring to my skin and to my clothes. “Ah,” was all that went out of my mouth.

“New York,” he whispered. “We’re heading to New York.”

I swallowed the big lump in my throat. Gabe being this near and his being near naked is sending an intense heat wave all throughout my body. I held my breath. “We’re going to go to the Empire State Building—all the way to the top. I’ll make you ride the Subway and a yellow cab. We’ll eat bagels and pretzels and buy hotdogs from the vendors on the street while walking to the Times Square. We’ll watch a basketball game in Madison Square Garden, but I’ll spare you the baseball game because it’s off-season. We’ll watch a Broadway show and visit the museums there, and then we’ll cap everything off with a trip to the very beautiful Martha’s Vineyard,” he said in the same husky tone, and I just wanted to melt on the spot.

I mean seriously. It should be illegal to be forty-two and still look hot and feel like you’re most the desirable man on earth.

Well, he is. For me.

“Gabe…” I whispered, and he nodded. “I am stepping away. We can save this for Martha’s,” he said, winking at me, and he took three steps back. I could feel all my blood rushing to my face and to other parts I should not mention, and when he was a few steps away I finally breathed. Gabe had this naughty grin on his face that I would love to wipe off, but I would have to wait for another day.

Martha’s Vineyard, I promised myself.


Solace Ep. 45 December 2, 2009

Filed under: Solace,Stories by episodes — Kesh @ 5:18 pm
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Nyah: I wonder why people needed closure. Is it some psychological thing? Or is giving and getting closure some social norm that we need to conform to? Why do we need to tie up all the loose ends just to get a move on? Can’t we get over the hump just by jumping over it?

I was in this state as I waited for Dave to come down from his room. His mom was too surprised to see me—giving me the tightest hug of all—and she was actually skipping on her way up the stairs to call Dave. I sincerely hope she’d forgive me if I break his son’s heart again.


I looked up and saw Dave, looking less rugged and stressed. From what his mom had told me before calling Dave, he had taken a leave of absence—his company gave him a month off (Amazing, isn’t? I want to try that with my company and see if they can even give me three days off.)—to reconcile things and to un-distract himself. I was a bit thankful for this—I went out late from office and I had hoped that Dave was home when I drove here. Good thing his brand of getting his groove back doesn’t involve out of towners.

Dave had a wide smile on his face, and I knew he was only so happy to see me. I met his warm smile with a forced one, and that somehow lessened his enthusiasm. “I’m thinking this is not the visit that I had expected, huh?” Dave said when he reached me. I nodded, and he cocked his head towards the garden. “Come on, let’s walk,” he said, and I nodded. I followed him to the garden, blooming with roses and a bunch of orchids. It was a rose overkill, to tell you the truth. All colors of the roses are present in this garden. His mom had made gardening a hobby, even before Dave and I were together.

“You remember the guy I was with at the restaurant?” I said, leaving the part when you attacked me from the sentence, and he grunted his yes. “Why, are you marrying him?” he asked, and I touched him on the arm. He looked at my hand on his arm but turned away quickly—but not quick enough to see the pain in them. “No,” I said, and I realized right away that it wasn’t a good decision to begin the conversation by bringing up Thaddeus.

“He has a brother, and his name is Allan. This Allan broke up with his girlfriend, Patricia. She was so in love with him that she couldn’t get over the fact that Allan just broke it off like that, just because he wasn’t happy,” I continued, and Dave shook his head. “Sounds vaguely familiar,” he mumbled, and I gave him a sharp look.

“I didn’t know that after we broke up, you got that nasty habit of mine,” I snapped, and he frowned.

“Which habit?” he asked, almost too innocently.

“Cutting me off when I’m speaking,” I said, and I saw a ghost of a smile on his face. “Okay, I won’t cut you off for the meantime,” Dave said, and I thanked him quietly. We had reached the divan in the garden, and we sat next to each other. He looked up the night sky which was dotted with so many stars while I continued what was supposed to be my monologue.

“At first Patricia was okay not being in Allan’s life, but she suddenly decided to become a stalker ex. She followed him around, called and texted him nonstop, even when Allan and Thaddeus had filed a restraining order against her. And then one day, she snapped. Patricia kidnapped Allan. She ended up hurting him during the hostage drama.”

Dave looked at me. “Is he okay?”

I nodded. “He’s recovering,” I replied. I breathed deeply before continuing. “I told Thaddeus a couple of times already that you won’t be that person. You won’t be my Patricia. You won’t hurt me again—ever. And I promised myself I have to stop hurting you, too.”

Dave turned to me and reached out to hold my hand. “It was a choice, Nyah, to continue loving you even though it was evident you’ve gone on without me.”

I shook my head and held onto his hands, covering them with mine. “I came here for three reasons. One, because Thaddeus requested me to talk to you and give you what was in his terms your ‘bullshit closure.’ Two, because I saw how closure—no matter how bullshit it may be—can actually help people get a move on. And third, even though you know I’d rather skip this part of my life, I owe it to you. I was with you for five years, Dave. We’ve shared a lot of things—dreams, plans, love, friendship, ideas—all that. I loved you enough in the five years we’ve shared to want you to be okay.”

“Of all those reasons, the one I can understand the most was the third,” Dave said, and I looked up to his face and saw tears glistening at the corners of his eyes. “I loved you, Dave. You will always be a part of me, and no one is ever gonna change that,” I whispered, and he smiled. “I know that,” he said smartly. He and I fell into a long spell of silence, punctuated by car honks and crickets making their presence known. He flipped my right hand palm up and was drawing circles on it, making me feel ticklish a bit. I counted twenty circles before he spoke.

“Is it just me or are you saying goodbye?”

I looked up at Dave at his question. “It’s not goodbye, Dave. It’s just bullshit closure,” I said, and he shook his head. “You’re saying goodbye to me as your lover. You can’t have me as that anymore, right?” he said, and I nodded.


Dave smirked, wiping the tear that escaped the confines of his eyes. “This is the part where you tell me you want us to remain friends,” he cued when I didn’t expound on that, and I grinned. “I am not about to say that. You are always an avid fan of clean breaks, from what I recall?” I replied, having known that Dave wasn’t friends with any of his exes, for he had this belief in Friends can be lovers but lovers can’t be friends. I used to think that believing in that has an advantage—no exes to worry about, for one—but then he’s faced with me. I am the ex he doesn’t want to have a clean break with.

“Nyah…” his voice trailed.

“Do you want to be my friend? Can you be just that?” I asked, and he hesitated before nodding. “Yes, I can be just that,” he said, and I exhaled loudly. “Dave, you don’t have to go back on your words just to be in my life somehow, someway. I want you to move on. Don’t get stuck with me. Don’t dwell on me because right now I am just a part of your past,” I said lightly, and he nodded.

“I know, but it doesn’t mean I have to forget you, do I?”

“I wouldn’t like that,” I said honestly. “I can be your friend, too, Dave, but that’s it.”

Dave nodded, and then after a long while he thanked me. “Can I have a crack at your suitors? See which one is better for you?” he asked, and I laughed. “No, you can’t. They’re both off limits,” I said, and he eyed me warily. “Ah. You’ve chosen, have you?” he asked me, and I just rolled my eyes and hoped silence, this time, wouldn’t mean yes.

“Thank you for giving me my bullshit closure, Nyah,” he said, turning serious-er, and I can see the sincerity in his eyes.

“Watch out for the hot girls that now know you’re so available,” I said, and he laughed. I stood up and kissed him on the forehead. “See you around,” I said, and I sauntered my way back to the house to exit to the driveway where I left Dad’s car. I was already near the door when I heard him call out, “Be safe!”

I smiled. That was his usual goodbye message to me. Not “I love you,” “not take care,” not even the cheesy Edward Cullen take-care-because-you-are-my-life-now line.

But then again, he borrowed that be-safe line from Edward Cullen.


Dave’s old habits die hard.


Solace Ep. 44

Filed under: Solace,Stories by episodes — Kesh @ 10:28 am
Tags: ,

Justin: I am hungry—the heavy lunch I had didn’t do me justice with all the work I did at the office. My head is reeling with all of the work I’ve done. And I am tired—emotionally and physically—and all I need is my twin to lift that huge emotional feeling off my chest.

Unfortunately, the first person I see when I arrive at the house isn’t the one who’s going to lift that emotional baggage away.

“Oh. You,” I said, as the young boy stood up to greet me. Give props to the guy for thinking that I was deserving of respect. I smirked. “What are you doing here?” I asked him, putting my things on one of the couches in the living room.

“I am waiting for Nyah. She didn’t go to office today, right? She went to my school earlier this afternoon. She’s not answering my texts and calls,” Joshua replied, and I was about to issue a nasty retort when Mom came down the stairs. “Justin, I didn’t know you’re home,” Mom said, and I welcomed her kiss on the cheek and warm embrace. Mom always distinctly smells of peppermint, and whenever I encounter that scent in locations other than home, I remember Mom.

“Just got here,” I told her. “What’s he doing here?” I asked Mom in a hushed tone, and she released me from the hug. “He’s here to wait for Nyah, who’s incommunicado as of now,” she replied, rubbing my back. I knew she was trying to calm me down, and it could work, since I am too tired to have a flare up. I just shook my head. “Where is my twin?” I asked, and Mom shrugged. “Come on, she’s 22. I don’t look for you when you don’t come home for dinner, do I?” Mom said, a wide smile on her face.

“Mom, when Nyah arrives, can we have a sleepover?” I asked, still in a whisper, and Mom nodded. “Of course, kiddo,” she said, kissing me on the forehead. “I’ll leave you two here while I prepare dinner,” Mom said, giving me a pointed look that told me wordlessly to behave, a look that I knew so well having been given that stare almost always when I was a kid. She turned to Joshua and said genially, “Stay for dinner. Nyah will probably be home around that time. I had Miguel call her up.” Joshua nodded, thanking Mom, and then Mom disappeared into the kitchen.

I turned to Joshua. “Having a meet-the-family?” I asked, and Joshua gave me a grim smile. “No. I half-expected Nyah to be here when I went here, but she wasn’t. Your mom was welcoming enough to invite me in and to show me your photo albums. Cute two tiny front teeth when you were a baby,” Joshua said, and I felt my temper shoot up.


Joshua lifted his hands up in the air to stop me. “Hey, I’m kidding. She just invited me in and we talked about basketball for the most part. That’s it,” Joshua said, and I backed off.

“Are you serious with my sister?” I asked him, and he nodded, and I saw the intensity in Joshua’s eyes. This guy is determined—really determined—to be with my sister. I am amused to see this kind of seriousness in a boy his age.

“As serious as hell.”

“More serious than you were with Chloe?”

Joshua scowled at me. “You still can’t get over that, huh?” he said, and I stayed silent. “Yes, more serious than I was with Chloe,” Joshua continued, and I nodded, stepping closer to him. He was tall for his age, but I was taller than he was. He looked up at me, trying to hold my gaze.

“Don’t hurt my sister,” I warned, and Joshua stared at me, his gaze still so intense.

“I wouldn’t dream of it, Justin.”

I stepped back, content at what I had heard. I motioned for him to sit down.

“Hey, Justin—Whoa, you’re here.”

Joshua and I turned in time to see a breathless Nyah as she removed her sneakers. “Josh,” she said, and she rushed to the guy and kissed him on the cheek. Joshua flushed, maybe out of embarrassment that I had to see Nyah give him a piece of affection (but seriously, he should know what I saw Nyah give Thaddeus the other day, which I bet deserves more blush than this), and Nyah turned to me, giving me a hug. “Torturing Josh and harassing him?” she teased upon releasing me.

“Wouldn’t have stopped if you didn’t arrive,” I replied smugly, and she pinched me on the nose. “What’s up?” she asked Joshua, and he shrugged. “I promised you I’d see you. Thought I’d ask you to dinner,” Joshua replied, his eyes momentarily fleeting towards me.

“But he’s staying here for dinner with me, your mother, and your brothers.”

All three of us looked up and Dad was slowly descending the stairs like he was king, and I smiled. Nyah pranced towards Dad, barefoot and all, and hugged him. “I was with Uncle Gabe,” she said when Dad opened his mouth to maybe ask her where she’s been.

Nyah had said the magic words, for Dad just smiled. “How’s my brother?” he asked, and Nyah shrugged. “Doing real good,” she said.

“Sleepover,” Dad told her, and she nodded. “Justin?” she asked, to which Dad responded with a nod. She reached to me and gave my bicep a squeeze. Her eyes told me she understood what the sleepover was for, and then she turned to Joshua. “You’ll love Momma’s cooking,” she told him, and then I turned away, telling Dad I’d freshen up before dinner.

If I would have to grade Joshua for his “performance” at the family dinner, I’d say he’s got nine out ten. He wasn’t being pretentious, nor was he trying to impress my parents and brothers too much either. He couldn’t impress me, so he didn’t try to work on that. He was, amazingly so, just being himself.

“He did good.”

Nyah looked at me as she tossed her pillows onto the bed. The same setup was employed: Mom and Dad’s bed plus the sofa bed. Derek and Alex occupied the sofa bed while Nyah and I were squeezed between Mom and Dad. “Joshua?” she asked, and I nodded. “I thought he was gonna bolt when Mom said he’s staying for dinner,” I told her, and she grinned.

“I wish I could say that I did perfectly well when I met Josh’s parents. His mom is worse than Lazaro,” she said, mentioning her terror professor in Ethics back in college which caused her to have breakdowns every time a graded recitation loomed near. “She made me feel like I was a gum stuck to the bottom of her shoes,” she said, and I laughed.

“Okay,” Dad said, calling order to the sleepover. He settled next to Nyah and Mom entered the room, wiping her face with a towel. She walked over to Dad and sat next to him, and Dad kissed her on the hair. Nyah moved over closer to me to give space for Mom. “What is this sleepover for again?” Dad asked.

“I think Justin had already talked to Alisa?” Nyah said, and I nodded. I draped my arm over Nyah and leaned my chin on her shoulder. “She said she was the one who spread all those rumors about me—not that it wouldn’t spread without her help, but she helped start them. That and the fact that I was the main reason as to why she decided to be a manhater all those years after we broke up,” I said, and then I went on to narrate what happened during my and Alisa’s talk.

“I conclude that it didn’t go well?” Derek said, and I turned to my brother. “How so?” I asked, and he gave me a grin that exposed the dimple on his cheek. I think it was part of our genetics to have at least one dimple, for I haven’t seen anyone in this family—discounting Mom—who doesn’t have one. Alex was the one who answered for his twin.

“Well, for one, you walk like a zombie,” he said, holding up a finger to indicate that he is going to state more reasons than one, “and then two, when I talk to you, you just nod or shake your head. You don’t give me a sensible answer. Three, you’re making me or Derek answer all the phone calls from the girls you have dated—and don’t you dare think I didn’t know that you have diverted some of their calls to a fastfood resto. They scream at my ears as to why every frigging time they call you on your cell, they get a fastfood delivery hotline.”

I laughed as Nyah elbowed me in the ribs. “Harsh. Imagine calling someone and getting a ‘Thank you for calling McDonald’s delivery.’ Whatever, Justin,” she said, with a roll of her eyes.

“I routed them to KFC.”

“Still the same.”

Dad cleared his throat to stop my and Nyah’s bickering. “Justin, it’s not really a good idea to run away from those girls.”

I sighed. “I know, Dad. But I need space. Really need that as of now. Maybe I am stopping from being present in the dating scene. Maybe I want to enjoy singlehood. Maybe—”

“Maybe the talk with Alisa knocked sense into you,” Nyah filled in, and I groaned. My sister, being my ever reliable half, knew how I feel most of the time. “Yes, it did put some sense into me,” I admitted, and I could feel my face flushing.

“Maybe you’re thinking that it still isn’t too late to start all over again,” she continued, and I nodded. I felt her arm snake around my waist as she pulled me closer.

“Did Justin hire you as his spokesperson?” Derek asked Nyah, and Nyah threw a pillow at him that hit him square in the face. “She just vocalizes Justin’s thoughts better, that’s it,” Alex said. “Will you be able to say those things yourself?” he asked, looking at Derek who was still recovering from Nyah’s pillow assault.

“No,” he said, rolling his eyes. I smiled at how Derek, who is like a male version of Nyah, is as similar to me in most ways, and how Alex, who almost looks like me, is like Nyah. Alex and Nyah’s personalities are like carbon copies of each other—both have a passion for reading (they actually are guilty of filling up the house library), like music from Mom and Dad’s time more than they do the music now, and have the same favorite food, drink, color, and chocolate. Derek, on the other hand, is giving me a run for the money as the Santillan bad ass—but I bet he’ll temper down, for from what I heard, he’s found this girl with whom he plans to have a serious relationship (Nyah told me the story to this one—apparently Derek’s been crushing on her bad but was too torpe to ask her out. Derek’s another story.).

“There you go,” Alex said, and Nyah gave him a warm smile. Nyah turned to me. “So now that you’ve talked with Alisa, are you gunning to talk to Alexi?” she asked.

I shook my head. “No.”

“Why?” Mom asked, who is now in Dad’s arms. Dad was stroking Mom’s hair, while she was tracing circles around Dad’s tummy. And believe it or not, they’re doing it unconsciously. I don’t think they’re aware that they’re doing what they’re doing.

“Because I still have to fix my life. I don’t want to go to her just because I think everything’s okay—no, check that,” I said, breathing deeply, “I don’t want to go to her just because I think I’ve righted all my wrongs just by apologizing to Alisa. She’s not the only woman I’ve hurt. I’ve also hurt guys along the way because I’ve stolen their girlfriends or I’ve made them fight endlessly because I was flirting with the girl. I don’t want to be with her because I’m still broken—I wasn’t ever whole after Alisa and I have broken up. I was just acting like I was.”

Mom stood up and pulled me to her, enclosing me in a hug. “You’ll heal in time, Justin. The first step is always acceptance of your faults,” she whispered, and I nodded. I didn’t know when I had started to cry. And then I felt another pair of arms wrap around me and I knew it was Nyah based on the lavender and mint scent. “And then forgiveness. You have to let everything go,” Mom continued, and I just sobbed in the arms of the two most important women in my life.

“We’re here for you, Justin,” whispered Nyah, and I stayed silent. I felt other arms wrap around me, Mom, and Nyah, and I knew the other men in this Santillan family are behind me all the way.

“All the way. Always,” Mom said, echoing my thoughts.


Solace Ep. 43 December 1, 2009

Filed under: Solace,Stories by episodes — Kesh @ 3:29 pm
Tags: ,

Gabe: I had filed and gotten all the necessary papers for my trip and Faye’s trip abroad. I accompanied her in renewing her passport, reminded Faye to file for a vacation leave, ensured that her visa is still active, and booked the tickets and hotel rooms as necessary—for the second leg of our trip, that is. The itinerary I have prepared is still sealed so that she wouldn’t see it, for I hoped it would surprise her. I wouldn’t even give her a clue as to where we’re heading—but she had always tried to guess which state in the USA we’re going to have the vacation.

I smiled as I remembered how she cuddled to me and tried to seduce her way into getting the destination out of me. We came up with the agreement that she has to kiss me for every guess that she was going to make. She tried California and Arizona for reasons I still don’t know and have yet to find out. She had already kissed me five times—having guessed Michigan, Illinois (for Chicago, maybe), and Washington—and I had told her that she’s wrong on all counts. I had wondered why she didn’t choose the more popular states. I laughed when she pouted, saying that maybe she had guessed it already but I just didn’t say she was correct because I wanted to be kissed.

“No, I’m serious. You are wrong. You haven’t guessed the proper state,” I said, pulling her into a hug that time.

My reminiscing was interrupted by knocks on the door, and I put away the envelope where I had placed all our documents aside for next week’s trip before getting the door.

“Hey Unc. Missed me?”

I grinned widely when I saw Nyah, standing at my doorstep, carrying a box of pizza, a big smile on her face. I pulled my favorite niece—she is my only niece—into a half-hug and let her enter my unit, and I followed her to makeshift living room-slash-art studio.

“Wow, Unc. It’s nice to see you’ve got your art back,” she said as she looked on some of the clay sculptures I had worked on last week displayed around the small table, as inspired by the reconciliation that Faye and I had. “I guess Faye’s inspiring you in more ways than one, huh?” Nyah teased, and I just smiled at her. I opened the box—she ordered double cheeseburger pizza, which is my favorite and hers—and then moved towards the ref to grab a couple of sodas (not beer, because I am pretty sure Nyah’s driving home after this, and I don’t want my brother to kill me for two reasons: endangering the life of his only daughter and probably damaging his car if worst comes to worst). I handed her one can and she popped open the tab, and she sat down on one of the two beanbags—my only pieces of furniture for the living room—and then looked up at me, waiting for a verbal answer.

“It’s a long story, Nyah,” I told her, and she shrugged. “I have what’s rest of the day to spend with you, so you better start telling because I have a long story to tell too,” she replied, and I took a slice of pizza and bit on it before speaking. I sat down across her, and then told her of the fight Faye and I had courtesy of her mystery suitor, and that made her frown.

“Why in the world would you guys fight about MS?” she asked, almost surprised. “He stopped sending letters and gifts, from what I heard last.”

“You knew about MS?” I asked back, and she nodded, taking her own slice. “Whenever I dropped by Ripped before, I usually see some of MS’s notes around Faye’s desk. One time I saw an iPhone on her desk, with the familiar scrawl of MS on the card. We used to tease her a lot about it,” she explained. “So did he send letters again? Did he make a comeback?”

I shook my head slowly, at the same time contemplating on whether or not I should reveal to her MS’s identity. After all, it wasn’t my secret to tell—it was Brandon’s and Faye’s. “Nyah, you’re a mature lady, a mature person for your age,” I said, and she wrinkled her nose. “Uncle, that’s a bad thing to say. Would I not like the next thing that would come up?” she said, and I shrugged noncommittally.

“Just promise me you wouldn’t judge any of the persons in this situation—which I unfortunately did, causing that rift between Faye and me,” I said, and then she rolled her eyes. “I’ll keep an open mind, sure,” she said, equally noncommittal. I glared at her, and then said, “MS revealed himself to her.”

Nyah gasped, nearly choking on her soda, and I handed her a tissue to wipe the soda that dripped from her mouth. “What the—” she stopped, trying to gather her thoughts. “So who was it?”

I breathed deeply, hoping dearly that Nyah wouldn’t react violently. “Faye’s mystery suitor was Brandon.”

The lack of reaction from Nyah surprised me. She was… calm (for lack of a better way to put it), and she even bit her pizza, chewed it slowly, and then repeated the process before speaking, making me feel a bit agitated as to why she was taking this a bit too calmly than usual. “There were times when I thought Uncle B was looking at Faye real weird. Apparently there was a reason to it,” she replied. She took a swig at her soda, and I was just there, silent, waiting for whatever else she’s got to say. “So he fell in love with her, couldn’t be with her because he’s hitched, so decided that the easiest way out was to send her letters and gifts. Didn’t know Uncle B has a romantic bone in his body.” She smiled a bit, and then she looked up at me, her eyes expectant.

“And how did that make you feel?” she asked, and I heaved a sigh. “Well, Faye and I didn’t talk for almost two weeks, so does that tell you how I feel?” I replied and Nyah nodded.

“That you couldn’t accept the fact that your brother fell in love with the woman you wanted to start your life with?” she said, sitting up straight on the bean bag. “Plus the fact that Faye admitted to having fallen in love with MS,” I added, and she gaped.

“Uh huh. That definitely changes things,” Nyah said when she recovered. “But then I am pretty sure that after the shock wore off that her mystery suitor is Uncle B, she came running back to you, huh?”

I nodded. “She did.”

“And you talked to Uncle B?”

Another nod. “He said he just wanted Faye to solve one of the mysteries in her life, that this business won’t stay unfinished,” I replied. “He said he just wanted to close this chapter so that he and Faye can both move on.”

“All’s well that ends well,” she concluded. She reached out and touched my arm. “Uncle, I see the way Faye looks at you, the way her face brightens up whenever she hears your name or whenever you’ll arrive. She’s in love with you, and she loves you. At least you don’t have to worry about MS anymore.”

I nodded, knowing she was right. Somehow, the assurance that she’s giving me makes Faye’s love real to me, that I don’t have to doubt her or her love in any way anymore. “What about you? What’s your long story?”

Nyah breathed deeply before narrating her long story, and I was able to finish a couple of slices of pizza when she finished. She told me of Thaddeus and the incident with his brother, Joshua and missing his game, and the apology she had to do to appease Joshua.

“Do you know how… embarrassing it was to be there in Joshua’s school? I felt so old, Uncle. I felt like I was some weird version of a cradle-snatcher. Imagine, when Joshua was finishing grade school, I was already smooching with Dave and planning a life with that guy. That kind of thing,” she said, and I just laughed.

“Nyah, if you really like Joshua, you’d look past that,” I told her, and she shrugged. “In the event that I do like the guy that much, Uncle, it’s not Joshua and me against the world, Unc. It’s not the type of drama I would want to carry on. It’s him and me with the world. We’ve got a lot of issues. His mom doesn’t like me at all, and even though I think Dad’s trying to give Josh a chance, he still doesn’t like the idea of me dating a guy who’s tad younger than I am and who has hurt my brother in the past,” she retorted.

“And what about the other guy? You counting him out?” I asked, and she laughed. “I wouldn’t stay in that hospital if I was counting him out. I like him—”

“Yeah, yeah. But you like Joshua more, I can see that.”

She exhaled loudly. “Is it wrong to like Joshua?” she asked, almost wearily. I walked over to her and hugged her. “Nyah, it’s never wrong to love someone. He’s single; you’re single. Plus, both of you got a whole stretch of your lives ahead of you. No need to rush things,” I whispered, and I felt her punch me playfully in the stomach.

“You, on the other hand, are a little short on that stretch of life, since you’re fortysomething and all,” she said. “Are you planning anything for Faye?” she asked, and I looked at her.

“Did she ask you to ask me?” I asked cautiously. The confused look that crossed her face told me she didn’t know anything about the trip that Faye and I are going to take. “I’m taking her to my trip back to U.S.,” I replied, releasing her from the hug.

“Oh,” she said, her eyes narrowing at me, “she’s going to watch a live Yankees game before I do, huh?”

I laughed, and then nodded. “That’s part of the itinerary. She doesn’t know we’re headed to New York,” I replied.

“Why New York?”

“You know I was stationed there ever since I left because of Angela. I had to tie up some loose ends there so that I can move back here.”

“To be with Faye.”

I smiled. “Yes, to be with Faye.”

Nyah shook her head. “You get to take her before you take me,” she said with a cute pout. I placed an arm over her shoulder and ruffled her hair. “Give this one to me, Ny. I really want this vacation to be special, and I want to spend it with her,” I said, and she gave me a Santillan smile.

“Of course, Unc. Anything for your lurv life,” she teased. I laughed and gave her a kiss on the forehead, before she pointed to one of the clay sculptures I’ve made, asking me to tell her what the art is all about.