by Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla
by Scott Baraquel Jr.

It’s been a week since the Tagaytay escape. I’m not even sure if I should call it an escape. It seems, at least to me, that I walked right back into a trap.

I am back at the office. Today, I’m wearing tasteful work dress on a Friday night. For someone who wears black jeans and leather boots on a daily basis, my boss Joey finds me making ginger tea at the office pantry and immediately panics.

He places his coffee mug on the counter, makes a face and asks the one question he fears the most.

“Where is your interview? Do you want an increase? Name your price.”

I laugh. Then I immediately regret my first reaction. I could really use a raise now to afford my own apartment in the city. Joey and I share the same passion for writing and creative arts. I interned for him back in college when he was still an assistant creative editor at a news daily based in Makati. When he found out I wanted to focus on design rather than journalism, he immediately offered me a junior level position at the new creative company he transferred to.

We are good buddies. So over ginger tea, I tell my boss that I have a date tonight with Matthew.

“Ex editor-in-chief cum asshole Mathew?” he clarifies.

I nod and I immediately see his face bear the recognition I have feared. He probably knows more about the ‘editor who got fired’ more than I do. He probably wants to give me a play-by-play of how the ‘ex editor-in-chief cum asshole Mathew’ put the entire project at risk when he, one day just decided not to get to work nor call, at the very least. Maybe, Joey wants to give me a lecture on irresponsible guys like that, how assholes ruin strong women.

But when he realizes that I am drinking ginger tea instead of my usual black coffee from the local java joint downstairs, he backs off. He knows that I have gone completely cuckoo and that no type of intervention can ruin my sex high.

He gives me a knowing look before leaving the pantry. “Practice safe sex,” he says and leaves me alone.

I sip my tea slowly, allowing the hot steam to make me flush as I recall what had happened in Tagaytay last week.

Matthew calmed down long enough to drive us to this Santorini-inspired hotel. I remember the receptionist’s face when she saw Matthew’s bleeding face but did not inquire further other than informing us that they would be sending a first aid kit to our room. The first aid kit remained unopened for the next two hours.

As soon as we got inside, Matthew grabbed my arms and pushed me against the door. His first few kisses were so barbaric that I tasted blood on our lips. His hands continued to do their cut-short choreography as mine successfully got him out of his pants—just in time for him to pull me away from the door and push me down on the bed.

There were no foreplay, no romantic gestures and no words exchanged that could somehow make sense of what we were about to do. There were no white noise, no labels and no questions.

There was just him looking straight into my eyes and despite the proximity, he still saw through me—as though his eyes were too hazy to see who was right beneath him for the first and nth time.

There was just me, opening up for him as I did years ago and feeling the same unwelcome pain that I knew I would have to endure long after the sex. There was just us. I had gone down rabbit hole and met the snake I’ve always known.

***

“Hey, Kit. I’ll meet you at your building lobby, okay?” Matthew’s text message reads. “I’m near your building already.”

It’s just dinner, I tell myself as I check my reflection inside the elevator. Just dinner. In a restaurant. And not on bed.

I squint and try to drown the images of us naked and tangled on the bed last week to keep myself from screaming. I bit my lip to suppress the near rolling fire at the pit of my stomach, ready to consume me again.

It’s just dinner, I remind myself. After all, Matthew said he has something to show me.

I reach the building lobby and wait for him. It is Friday night once more and almost every group of young professionals at my building is itching to down a week’s worth of stress at the nearest watering hole. A group of animated and rowdy guys passes by me. And then my phone rings.

“Dear, can we meet at Starbucks Standard Chartered instead?” Matthew asks over the phone.

I stare at the phone for a while and try to calm my inner bitch who certainly feels like she is being dragged around the city and asked to wait, yet again, at another place other than the agreed rendezvous. I lock her up immediately, sigh, fix my face and make my way out into the cold Makati night.

The truth is, Starbucks Standard Chartered isn’t really that far. I can easily hop, scoot and cartwheel my way to the coffee shop without breaking into a sweat. And after all, I enjoy walking along the streets of my chosen urban jungle, especially at night when you don’t really get to see or smell the hideous pollution that envelopes you.

After spending over two years and counting in this mammoth city, I have come to realize that the best way to enjoy the sights and smells of the city is to see it very early in the morning when it’s slowly coming to life, and late into the night, when it’s just about to wind down.

I take my time walking my way to our new meeting place. Let him wait, I tell myself. My inner bitch, the one I’ve named Veronica after the heroine of Archie Comics and the TV series “Veronica Mars,” is shaking her head furiously while yelling at me, calling me an underdog and a pushover for allowing Matthew to drag me all around the city in my sky high heels.

It takes me fifteen carefree minutes to get there. And when I arrive, Matthew or his car is nowhere in sight.

To be continued…

***

Edits: Jacquie Bamba S. Zamora
What Am I To You is the prequel to Before I Do by Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla. Before I Do is available at National Bookstore, Powerbooks and Uniqube.
What Am I To You
Philippine Copyright © 2016 by Katherine C. Eustaquio-Derla
Disclaimer: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any written, electronic, recording, or photocopying without written permission of the publisher or author. The exception would be in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles or reviews and pages where permission is specifically granted by the publisher or author.
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