by Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla
“I need a date,” says Denver over the phone.
“And you’re calling me because…?” I ask, checking my screen to see if it’s really Denver who called me and not Matthew. Or Tristan.
“Because you owe me.”
“I rescued you from ‘temptation island,’ remember?”
“I was cashing in on a favor,” I reply. “I saved your ass that time with the blond model at Matthew’s launch remember?”
Silence. That’s a lie. I didn’t save his ass during Matthew’s magazine launch. I can imagine Denver on the other end of the line, wrestling with points he can throw at me and, at the same time, wondering—probably for the first time in his adult life—how hard it is to get a date outside of his modeling circles.
“Okay, think of it as doing me a huge favor,” he explains. “My family’s insisting I bring a date to this bamboo event thing on Saturday and if I bring another model, my parents will cut off my financial aid for law school, okay?
“So if you don’t go with me, you will officially be responsible for me not realizing my life-long dream of suing everyone.”
“Wow, if you put it that way, wait, Bamboo? The singer?”
“Sadly, no. Bamboo, as in the plant. It’s the bamboo organ event and my family’s one of the sponsors.
“Please you have to go with me,” he begs when I didn’t answer right away. “I have to show my family that I’m turning over a new leaf.”
“Fine,”I said. “But you owe me.”
“Fine,”says Denver. “And just so we’re clear, this is not a date-date.”
“Denver, you’re not my type.”
A bit harsh, maybe. But honestly, at this point, I can’t deal with any more grey areas. The last thing I want is to date anyone in Matthew’s circles and end up with more things to explain.
It has been a week since the escape from Bellaroca and honestly, with each day that passes, I’ve started feeling more and more depressed. I need to go out. See things. Attend events. I haven’t heard from Matthew, and Tristan still has not stopped trying to reach me.
Saturday night arrives and I wait for Denver to pick me up at the lobby of my building. I decide to keep it classic, after all, the annual bamboo organ concert in Las Piñas City is a pretty formal event. Also, I will be meeting Denver’s family and I don’t want to give them the wrong idea.
I am wearing classic, black and gray ombre gown. My hair is down and styled with soft, classic curls and my feet are clad in a pair of strappy black stilettoes that look like heaven but feel like hell. I figure, when you’re going through something, you might as well look good.
Denver picks me up in a Ford Mustang. As usual, he is impeccably dressed in a black slim fit tuxedo and looks as if he just finished shooting a new line of fragrance for men.
“You look nice,” he says, opening the door on the passenger side. “Thanks again for doing this.”
“When you become a lawyer, I expect free services.”
“Planning to sue the guy who broke your heart, huh?”
“Point taken,” says Denver as we continue to drive south. “Still no word from Matthew?”
“Well, maybe things will work out on its own.”
We are quiet the rest of the way. I concentrate on the sights outside the car window. I’ve always loved driving towards the south of Metro Manila. The air is quite different here. As a North girl, I didn’t get what my colleagues from the South find so soothing here. I mean, the traffic is just as horrible and roads are just as congested. It was only when I started driving these roads with Matthew that I understand the fascination. Then again, it could have been a biased interpretation.
We finally arrive at the church where the annual bamboo festival concert is playing. The streets are lined with cars on each side. It would be a miracle getting a parking space. But Denver drives straight into the church’s entrance and we park at the reserved spaces for sponsors. My friend is pulling all the stops at being the perfect “friend” date tonight. He opens the door for me and guides me to the event area like a true gentleman.
After everything I have read and seen about Denver—in tabloids, magazines and on TV—it’s often easy to forget that he comes from one of the wealthiest families in Metro Manila. The old world charm is like his second skin and when he’s not on showbiz mode, it’s so easy to forget that he has dated models from every modeling camp there is in the Philippines.
The interior of the church is so beautiful. The walls are made of stone and they bathed in golden light coming from the modest chandeliers above. The church is home to a 19th-century organ made almost entirely of bamboo. Every year, people get to watch internationally acclaimed musicians play the much revered bamboo organ.
Denver’s family has been one of the event’s most dedicated and long-time sponsors. He has been attending the annual concerts for years. After a quick introduction to Denver’s family, we take our seat and immerse ourselves in the beautiful, unique sounds of the bamboo organ in the hands of true masters.
After the concert, Denver leads me to the small plaza beside the church where a “fiesta-style” dinner has been setup. There are banderitas above and several stalls selling classic Filipino treats like my favorite bibingka with salted egg. A group of teenagers, probably students from the local high school, go around the tables serenading the patrons with beautiful renditions of Filipino folk songs like “Paruparong Bukid” and “Bahay Kubo.” They are also dressed in beautiful ternos and Barong Tagalog.
“I hope you’re having fun,” Denver says, who’s already on his second serving of bibingka.
“I am. Thank you for inviting me.”
The high school students finish their song number. We give them a generous round of applause for the entertainment. It is only when they move away from our table that I see the face that broke my happy spell. And for the first time tonight, I feel like everything is happening in slow motion.
He is wearing an elegant Barong Tagalog that fits his frame perfectly. His hair is trimmed and set and he is carrying himself in such a way that people can sense confidence. And there she is, on his right, wearing a beautiful red terno that, even with her slender frame, shows off just the right curves in silhouette. Her hair is tied neatly in a formal bun. She is wearing a modest string of pearls around her neck and her makeup is just the right kind of sophistication. After all these years, I still surprise myself just how much of her features resemble some of mine.
And in several occasions, I often wondered how much of her does he see in me. Or is it the other way around?
In a sea of beautiful people, they are easily one of the most beautiful couples in the plaza. The kind that people notice. The kind that people admire. The kind that strangers want to talk to. And the kind that I have observed from a distance almost all my life.
Of all the details I notice, only one kills me. His eyes. He looks at her as if she’s the most intoxicating, most beautiful and most amazing person who ever lived. He looks at her as though he can’t believe his good fortune. He looks at her as though he is scared that she might disappear in an instant. He looks at her in a way that he had never looked at me.
Just then, his eyes find their way into mine. And in a heartbeat, I could feel his energy change. I see him touch her elbow and gently guides her towards the exit. She quickly wraps up the small talk with some of the media people at the event and from where I stand frozen, I could see her asking Matthew what the rush is about. I see them make quick goodbyes and walk towards the parking lot.
“Kit, I’m really sorry,” I hear Denver say beside me. “I swear, I didn’t know he’ll be here. I’m really sorry. Kit? Are you okay?”
As if breaking out of a trance, some of the sounds from the event come back to me in batches. I turn to Denver, who has started tapping me on the shoulders.
“I’m really sorry,” he says again. “Are you okay? Do you want to go home?”
“I need to see this through,” I hear myself speak. I hand Denver the plate of bibingka I’ve been holding for what seems like hours. I hear Denver call out my name but I am already halfway to the parking lot, walking as fast as my stilettoed feet could take me.
I need to see this through.
To be continued…
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