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.
By the time the ferry arrived, the pier was already packed. Phil and his friends had formed a line early on, but when the gates opened to start boarding passengers, some people ignored the line completely and ran ahead.
Brenda looked ready to pick a fight with any one of the people who had cut the line, but Girlie held on to her arm, shaking her head.
“What?” Brenda said loudly. “Don’t stop me, Girl. This is what’s wrong with our entire freaking country. It’s because of people who lack discipline, like that old hag—”
“Not so loud, Bren!” Girlie hissed. “And that ‘old hag’ is a senior citizen, we shouldn’t—”
“I don’t care how old she is!” Brenda retorted. “She cut the line. Age does not equate to respect—”
Girlie burst out laughing. Brenda crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow at her, which only made Girlie laugh harder.
“You’re still the same, Bren.” Girlie took a deep breath to make herself stop laughing but she could not stop smiling and a giggle would escape from her every now and then. Brenda, on the other hand, fanned her face with her hands as if to cool herself down.
Phil was waving at them from the row of seats he had saved for the group. The other two men were deep in discussion over the latest match on the DOTA 2 International Andrew played attended that they barely noticed the ladies’ arrival. Having watched the game herself, Girlie wanted to weigh in on this discussion but decided against it. Instead, she continued reminiscing with Brenda.
“I remember that time you threw an entire bowl of punch all over Al’s white tux during prom,” Girlie said as she sat down on one of the chairs. “Crazy times! I will never forget the look on his face.”
“Served him right,” Brenda said, taking the seat beside Girlie. “You were his prom date! So why in the world was he making out with Abby outside the gym? Did he really think I would let him get away with hurting you like that?” She balled her hands into fists, apparently still worked up from earlier.
“Thanks, Bren,” Girlie smiled at the memory, but her words had a note of wistfulness in them. “I’ve really missed you, you know? I’ve had to fight my own battles after you decided to go on and save more people’s lives!”
“Aww, that’s sweet, but you never really needed me,” Brenda said, her expression softening. “You’ve always had it in you. You just needed a push in the right direction, that’s all. And now look, from balancing sheet whiz in high school to head accountant in STY & Co.! I’m so proud of you!”
Girlie couldn’t help but laugh at ‘balancing sheet whiz,’ remembering the ruckus that year in high school brought to the barkada. “Choosing that elective was worthwhile, after all! But look at you, Bren. You’re a freakin’ doctor! How cool is that??”
“And you haven’t changed either, Girl,” Brenda snorted. “Come on, don’t belittle yourself so much. While you’re already earning big bucks in your company, I’m still not earning anything. And even when I get into residency, I’ll barely be making minimum wage.”
“But you’re saving lives” Girlie countered. “That counts for a lot more—and I should know, I work with numbers!”
“Well, that, you certainly do,” Brenda amended. “But still. You ought to be proud of yourself, Girl. You deserve it.” Her expression clouded. “And you deserve to be happy, more than any other person I know.”
Girlie pretended to rummage the inside of her tote to avoid her friend’s eyes. Brenda had always been the doctor in the group, even back in high school, with the way she kept taking care of everybody she cared about. Brenda had been the first to talk to Phil, even though everyone wanted to ask him about the incident, just as she had also been the first to ask Girlie about the entire messy affair with her ex.
Girlie plastered a grin on her face, for her friend’s benefit and her own. “That’s why we’re checking out hot guys in Galera, remember?”
Brenda returned the grin. “That’s the spirit! No going back to evil exes who will bring you nothing but misery! And if you so much as send him a single text, I am going to throw your phone out into the sea. I mean it!”
“Depends on the assets available, boss,” Girlie joked, even though her heart wasn’t in it, which Brenda did not seem to notice. Her eyes was following Phil who was going down to the lower deck by himself.
Brenda sighed, realizing Girlie had followed her line of vision. “He still refuses to talk to me about it,” she said. “He says he’s fine, but I know—we all know—he’s not. He watched him die, Girl. How can anybody move on from that?”
“Let’s just give him more time,” Girlie replied.
“I want to but I’m not sure if that’s a good idea.” Brenda had that determined look in her eyes once again.
“Bren,” Girlie warned her. “You can’t simply fix everyone.”
Their conversation was cut off by a loud thud from the other side of the deck, and upon seeing what caused that, Girlie gave an ear-splitting sound which made the rest of them stand.
The ‘old hag’ who had cut the line earlier was already sprawled lying on the floor, after having tumbled down the stairs from the upper deck. A few people had already rushed to her rescue, which included Phil, who was nearest to the stairs. But he was rooted to the spot, with a dazed look on his face, as if he was also ready to pass out any second.
Always in charge, ever-capable Brenda got to the old hag instead. By this time, a larger crowd had gathered around the lady.
“Please stand back, everyone! I’m a doctor!” she barked. Brenda spread out her arms, motioning the crowd to move back. All her medical training kicked into high gear as she knelt down and started checking for vital signs. She was relieved to find out that the lady was still breathing.
At this point, a man, about their age, parted through the crowd. “Lola! Lola Pie! Let me through! That’s my grandma!” Brenda looked up, her hand still on the old lady’s wrist. “Sir, please calm down and call the paramedics. I’m a doctor, I’ll take care of her in the meantime. Go. Now!” The grandson turned to rush to do as he was told while she called over her friends for help.
Even while assisting, Girlie couldn’t help but admire Brenda’s calm demeanor. And notice how cute the apo was, even with a panicked look on his face. Yes, even amidst an emergency, she noticed that. Noticing details even in crisis—that was what made her a really good accountant.
But what Girlie failed to notice instead was Phil’s own panic attack. Unlike Andrew and Dimitri who bolted towards the direction of the old lady, he walked over to the railing and slid down to the ground, trying to calm himself with deep breathing. A wave of helplessness was threatening to overwhelm him. He was suppressing a memory that was still fresh, a tragedy he so wanted to forget but the sight of the unconscious old lady brought everything back.