by Lucille de Mesa, Baz Grimm-Pitch, Celestine Trinidad, Ibyang Riot, Sarah Bulalacao, Mikki Shiu, Maria Criselda Santos and BJ Medina
Click here to read the previous episode.
Phil drove, occasionally throwing glances at everyone through his rearview mirror. Even if they all have grown up, they were still pretty much the same. Phil smiled to himself, their high school memories flooding his mind.
In the back seat, Brenda and Girlie were catching up. Despite the lost time, the conversation flowed naturally and both of them felt at ease, as if they never left high school and saw each other regularly in the past years.
“Bren,” Girlie began. “I tried to contact you countless times over the years, but every time I called your number, it always screamed ‘The subscriber cannot be reached, please try again later.’ I sometimes wondered if you didn’t want to talk to me.” She then gave a fake pout for effect.
Brenda laughed. “As I’ve already told you, Girl, that stalker had me constantly changing my number throughout the years,” she explained, making air quotes on the word ‘stalker’ as she spoke. “And you know how it is at the hospital, with the sched and the patients.”
“Sige na, sige na… You might think I don’t care about people’s lives if I argue,” Girlie replied. “I can’t blame your ‘stalker,’ though. Who can get over you—beauty, body and brains?”
“I’m telling you, Girl, he was a pain,” Brenda said, rolling her eyes. “Even if he did look a little bit like Chris Evans, he was not my Captain America… although, I must say, he did make me feel like the only most beautiful girl in the world.”
Girlie snickered.”Admit it, Bren, you’re into him!” In reply, Brenda playfully swatted her on the shoulder and both of them ended up giggling.
Andrew and Dimitri, on the other hand, were talking about video games, just like the old times.
“Pare, remember that link I sent you on Facebook months ago? I actually joined and played at the convention!” Andrew said. “Lia and the twins were even there for support, can you believe that?”
Dimitri laughed.”Swerte mo! I was busy with work that time. Walang katapusang pag-dedesign.”
Andrew turned to Dimitri, who was sitting with the girls in the back seat. “Yes, but that was worth it! Imagine, your design got international recognition! Who would have thought?!”
Brenda and Girlie dissolved into laughter hearing Andrew’s quip. “I’m just curious, though. All the articles say that was an unusual design. And of course, being that we’re only commonpeople in the world of architecture, ‘di namin gets,” Brenda interjected.
“Excuse me, I got the reference, noh!”
“Oh, thank you, Girl, you’ve always been soooo smart and soooo awesome!” Dimitri exclaimed, feigning exaggerated appreciation towards Girlie by attempting to hug her. All of them, even Phil, hooted at that.
“Tell us more about it when we get there… Who knows, we might meet an investor,” Andrew, always the peacemaker, said after the laughter died down.
An hour and a half later, they reached their first stopover. While the others took toilet breaks, Phil and Brenda hung out outside 8Teen to smoke—he with cigarettes, Brenda with vape.
“I thought you quit?”
Phil laughed. “I though you quit.”
“I have. If it wasn’t obvious yet!” Brenda help up her vape, a metallic gold with a sticker of red roses slapped on its front.
“And that’s how doctors promote healthy living…”
“Che. Vaping is my most reliable escape from stress. You would understand.” The words were out of her mouth before Brenda thought any better.
Phil took a long drag of his Marlboro Light in response.
“Look, Phil, I heard the news. About your… ”
Phil deliberately shushed her. “It’s all in the past. I don’t want to talk about it.” He then dropped his unfinished cigarette on the ground and stepped on it. “Come on, everybody’s back already.” Brenda nodded and follow suit.
While the others settled themselves in the car, Phil couldn’t help but regret how he turned away Brenda’s concern. But he wasn’t ready just yet.
* * *
After snacking and further bantering, sleep was the only choice left. Andrew offered to switch with Phil, but he refused. “Sige lang. I know this road trip is already a luxurious vacation from your twins. Enjoy it,” he said. Soon after, Andrew and Dimitri were snoozing as well. Just a few moments after the girls fell asleep, the guys also snoozed. Phil was left alone with his thoughts.
The drive took two more hours and Phil was left alone with his thoughts. His mind was swimming in memories of a recent tragedy and he was so far deep that he didn’t hear Dimitri ask him if he was okay, and if he wanted to switch.
“Hey, PhilPhilPhil!” Dimitri barked from the back seat.
“Sorry, I was concentrating on the road.”
“How far away are we, still?”
“We’re almost there. Don’t worry, I got this.”
Andrew was awake, too. “You okay, Phil? You sure you don’t want to rest?”
“I’m okay.” Phil gave him a small smile for assurance.
The rest of the ride was silent, and a few moments later, the sight of the pier came into view.