As the rain begins to subside, the light skinned brunette skips over the puddles on her tiptoes. Once at the door at Starbucks, she twists her umbrella at the handle to shake off the excess water before sliding it into the rack. Before entering the coffee shop, she catches her reflection on the window and her eyes widen, startling herself with the state of her hair. She hastily enters, not forgetting to give the security guard a light nod before dashing to the bathroom. A few customers turn their heads at the girl with the small frame who sped through the coffee tables.
Addie locks herself in the single bathroom and dumps her messenger bag over the counter. She quickly steps in front of the mirror and begins freshening up. As she smoothens out her hair, she feels her phone vibrate several times inside her jean’s pocket. She smiles unknowingly at the thought that she knows exactly who it is. She takes one last look in the mirror; a light skinned brunette stares back at her, with hair cut short in a boy cut and styled up in an edgy look but somehow still ends up looking dainty on her features. She guesses it’s because of her small frame and wide, almost innocent eyes.
She snickers to herself at this thought before repacking her cosmetics kit into her bag. She swings her bag over her shoulder and fishes out her phone from her pocket. She makes her way out of the bathroom. As she had guessed earlier, four messages came in sent by Asia.
Somehow a splash of yellow paints over the weather’s gray atmosphere at the sight of Asia’s name. It puts a smile on Addie’s face as she reads through them.
Her friend apologizes to Addie through four different variations of texts. She is relentless in her apologies for letting Addie commute from Taft all the way to Greenbelt under the drizzle of the rain. It causes Addie to lightly giggle to herself as she found a table to sit at.
“Really Passy it’s okay nga lang!” She answers through text with a warm smile on her lips.
To which Asia immediately sent with another series of texts.
“It’s not okay ngaaa!”
“Dearest I already told you I’ll pick you up kaya!!”
“You didn’t have to go through that rain!!!”
Addie can’t help but laugh loudly. The few customers next to her table shoots her a look. She suddenly remembers that she hasn’t bought a beverage yet and she guiltily quiets down with a snicker. Addie clearly didn’t want to draw any more attention.
She presses her lips to hold in her laugh and begins typing again. Just as she is about to hit send, the glass door swings open and hot air quickly sucks into the chilly coffee shop. The phenomenon catches everyone’s attention.
It is almost like how it is in the movies:
A breathtaking, prestigious-looking lady graces the customers with her presence as she enters a humble coffee shop. She stands tall in her three-inch-heels, clicking them as she walks in, wearing her black pencil skirt at her waist. An arm bends at the elbow where a Kate Spade bag hangs, a blazer is swung around her shoulders hanging loosely, sharp edged sunglasses hide her eyes but fails to hide her red blonde of a crown that was twisted into one neat and clean bun.
Such a presence this woman is and Addie just sits there, dazed, as if she has never seen this woman before.
The pause from the woman’s entrance extends while everyone stares in awe. Addie blinks once. Twice.
The tall woman suddenly swings her head to Addie’s direction—
“Ad-deeeearest !!” She exclaims, walking up towards Addie’s direction with open and longing arms.
Addie almost forgets that this regal woman is who she actually braved the flooding Taft Avenue for.
Asia pulls the brunette into a tight hug and Addie could only melt into the taller woman’s warm and familiar hug.
The spell is broken: the other customers does a double take before going back to their business and Addie has bridged pass the “regal, untouchable friend”.
While Addie tries to slide back into the couch, Asia continues to coo at her exaggeratedly without letting her pull away from the embrace.
“See look at you dearest, your hair got wet na, and dami mong dala, and you haven’t bought coffee yet!”
The shorter girl continues to just laugh and wave Asia’s offers.
“Passy, okay nga laaang— ”
Asia suddenly pulls away, “Did you have lunch na ba?”
“No, not yet, but—”
“Let’s go na, lunch is on me!” Asia finally lets go of a giggling Addie and begins to gather herself before standing up. She still somehow manages to get up so gracefully.
Needless to say, Addie was astounded. Despite the haste and goofiness of how Asia acted just seconds ago, she still managed to move so gracefully while she, herself, knocks her elbow on the chair. And before Addie could even properly swing her bag over her shoulder, Asia was already pulling her through the door.
Lunch passes and both Addie and Asia find themselves skimming through the shoe section in Forever 21, or more accurately, it’s Asia eyeing pair after pair while Addie stands back, leaning on a rack as she watches her.
“Ad-dearest, should I get this yellow one or this green one?”
Addie shrugs, she wasn’t as into heels as Asia was.
“Uhmm kahit ano, pero… I guess the yellow one,” She rests her chin on the back of her hand.
Asia looks up at her with an easy smile. “Why the yellow one, though?”
“Uhmm… it’s… bright. Yellow…” Addie tilts her head to find the right words, “Parang ikaw I guess...”
Asia places graceful fingers over her lips when she laughs.
“You’re so cute Addie,”
“...I try to be.” she snickers sheepishly.
It brings Asia to laugh louder as she gets up from the seat and swings her arm around Addie.
“Well I guess I’m getting the yellow one!” Asia announces.
The taller of the two pops her foot and giddily guides Addie to the counter in front of her. Addie’s hair shakes as she giggles.
Just when Asia is about to swipe her card at the cashier, a low “hello” startles the two women.
They both swing their heads back to see a tall, lanky, easily dead inside but still alive man with half of his face covered in a medical face mask and square glasses sitting at the bridge of his nose.
Both Asia and Addie pull away from the counter in an instant and throw their arms around the man in a tackling hug. Arem groans, stepping back and carrying the weight of the two ladies.
“Aray. Aray. Help.”
Arem deadpans and it only causes the two to hug him tighter. The ladies’ squeals ring in his ears and finally Arem finds it in himself to giggle and attempt to wrap his arms around them.
“Mam… ‘yung card niyo po.”
Their hug breaks off as the cashier speaks up and pulls away to rush back to the counter.
“Areeem, I missed you!”
The man pulls Addie into a side hug and steps across, dragging her weight to get closer to Asia. He pats on the top of Addie’s head.
“Missed you rin Ads,” he smiles behind the facemask and despite Addie not seeing it, she knows it was there. “Sorry nga pala, late ako. May class pa ‘ko kanina eh.”
“That’s okay, nag-commute ka ba?”
“Pumayag si Passy?”
Addie and Arem throws their head back in a cackle as Asia makes her way back.
“I heard that.” says the taller woman with her eyes on her bag as she slips her wallet back in. “And because of that,” she snaps her head up. “My driver will hatid you both mamaya.”
“Aw, you don’t have to—”
“Sabay naman kami ni Arem mamaya eh.”
“Hep-pep!” Asia puts up two open palms at them. “You’ll make sabay in the car when my driver hatids you guys.”
The two of them giggles in defeat. They figured they would let Asia have this.
Asia steps in front of Arem. For a split second he was overwhelmed, “Arem, sweetie did you eat na?”
“Ah yes. Sa ano...”
“Sa mini stop daw,” Addie finishes for him.
The taller woman leans in and squishes both of Arem’s cheeks. “Areeem!! Just because I gave you a lifetime of mini stop chicken, doesn’t mean that’s the only thing you’ll eat!!”
Addie’s laughter rings across the store and Arem whines under Asia’s fingers.
“Yes po Miss Passy.” Arem grumbles.
“You better, I’ll revoke your lifetime chicken,”
The two ladies share another fit of laughter. Addie’s eyes begin to water and her stomach begins to ache from laughing too much. Arem reaches over to try and calm her down and Addie simply vibrates in another involuntary wave.
People in the store start to shoot them looks, but Addie couldn’t careless. She hasn’t laughed this much in such a long time. It warms her heart to know that it is still possible.
“Alright!” Asia clasps her hands together in front of them. “So seeing as I’ll only be here for 2 weeks, I wanted to take this time to treat you guys.”
The other two groans in front of her. Addie side eyes Arem and she catches his eyes. They both know how this was going to turn out. It was going to be another battle between two parties; of one consisting of the majority who do not want money to be splurged on them, and the other party of one, having too much money on her hands and wanting to redistribute the wealth.
A series of “But you already treated me lunch”, “you already funded my fried chicken for a lifetime” is thrown into the pile of arguments that all fell on deaf ears.
“Anyway! ” She exclaims again, silencing the two of all their protests. “Here’s what we’re going to do,”
The two could only sigh in defeat.
“To make you both feel less guilty about me treating you, even when you shouldn’t be, I’m going to give you two a challenge.”
“Passyyyy, ” they both groan, their shoulders slouching.
“I saw this on buzzfeed, it’s really fun.” She giggles at the strained, pouty faces of her best friends. “So what you guys have to do,” She places her fingers on each their shoulders. “You both need to pick out full outfits, for let’s say, a night out,”
Arem and Addie hangs on to each word.
“For each other.” Asia’s eyes twinkle as she spoke.
The two snaps their head to face each other. Addie looks back to Asia.
“But we’re not stylists!”
Arem eagerly nods with wide eyes.
“Exactly!” Asia’s face brightens even more, it’s like she’s seeing stars twinkle.
“Bakit kami lang?!” says Arem.
“Sweetie, I’m paying for everything na nga kasi diba ngaaa.”
“C’moooon!! This will be fun.”
After a long sigh, the two finally lets out a deadpanned chorus of “fine” and Asia basically jumps on them in a hug.
As soon as Asia pulls away, Addie shoots Arem a sharp look and begins enumerating her limits.
“No skirts, no crops, no heels, no revealing clothes!”
And Arem answers with:
“No loud colors, no ridiculous patterns, no skinny jeans, no button ups,”
Asia’s eyes bounces from one to another as she watches her two friends prattle at each other. She finally raises her fist between them and hooks her elbows on each of theirs.
“Let the Tripple A shopping spree commence!”
Asia drags them through deeper into the store as the two continually groans.
The clothing sponsor gives her two inexperienced and mildy stylish friends 20 minutes to prepare an outfit. They give each other their sizes and Asia notes that the outfits should be complete with accessories and shoes.
Asia counts down to zero and as soon as she says go, the two sprints into the other opposite sex’ clothing.
They each explore rack after rack of clothing and Asia checks up on them one by one with her phone in her hand.
“And now,” She says into her phone, “We have a tall Arem raking through the racks of women’s clothing. Let’s find out what he has in mind.”
Asia steps closer to Arem whose eyes are trained to each item of clothing.
“Arem,” Asia whispers, raising the phone to him.
“Ano ‘yan?” Arem asks, with knitted eyebrows. “Instagram live!?”
Asia giggles. “I’m trying to make my friends internet famous.”
Arem scoffs, pulling out a hanger from the rack.
“So what’s the plan of action, doc?”
Arem turns to look at Asia then at the camera.
“Sabi ni Addie,” Arem starts, “No heels, crops and skirts daw.” He leans closer to the camera, “Kaya lahat nung ayaw niya, ‘yun yung kukunin ko.”
Asia catches a fit of laughter and the camera shakes.
“Arem you’re so mean!” she exclaims. “At least give her something she would actually wear!”
Arem looks at the camera again. “She will wear it!”
“Oo, magiguilty siya kasi ako pumili, ikaw magbabayad. Wala siyang choice.”
Asia breaks into laughter as Arem playfully arches his eyebrows.
“Quiet lang kayo ha. Ssshhh.” Arem puts a finger on his lips.
Asia is basically dying behind the camera. She nods and pulls the camera away.
“Sige Arem, good luck! I’ll check in on you later!”
Her red blonde hair shakes as she walks away and finds the men’s section.
“Arem is so mean!” She giggles into the camera, “Ad-dearest, I’m so sorry in advance.” Her eyes disappear in her laughter.
Asia scans the store for her shorter friend. She spots a mop of light brown hair and nearly skips to her.
The shorter woman startles and looks back.
“Ano— ah” she notices the camera, “Hello.”
Asia giggles, “So your internet fans wanted to know,”
“Fans?” Addie giggles.
“What is your plan of action Ad-dearest.”
Addie’s eyes light up at the question.
“I’ll show you.”
Addie leads both Asia and the camera to a rack attached to the wall. Addie pulls out a hanger. Addie arches an eyebrow smugly. Asia gasps, her mouth dropping to an O.
“Addie oh my god!”
Addie laughs with the hanger in her hand.
“He’s absolutely going to hate this!”
The shorter woman claps back laughing. “Bahala siya, he needs to wear it. ‘Cause you’re buying it for him.”
Asia slaps her knee in laughter.
“Oh my god you two!”
Addie hides the item back into the rack. “I’ll get that later para he won’t see.”
She places her finger on her lips and shushes their viewers. Asia cackles behind the camera.
“Sige I’ll check in on you again in a few.”
Addie waves before they step away from each other. Asia walks a few feet from the both of them and looks back at the camera.
“My god these two!” She laughs again, “I swear, if they become frienship over, it’s all my fault.” She cackles again.
The timer counts down to 10 minutes and Asia takes this time to check in on them once more. This time, she tells them the catch to the challenge. Both Arem and Addie groans when she tells them separately.
The catch was that they each needed to get an item from the opposite sex’ clothing. So since Addie was shopping in the Men’s section, she had to take an item from the women’s section for Arem’s outfit, and vice versa for Arem.
“Ugh, bakit ako pumayag dito,” groans Arem.
“What the hell is Arem going to wear in the women’s section!?” says a frazzled Addie.
On both occasions, Asia simply laughs and says she’ll see them in 10 minutes.
10 minutes is up and in the nick of time the two of them find plant themselves on either side of their clothing sponsor. They move to the fitting room and after another 5 minutes of bickering from the two on who was going to fit first, and a coin toss determining the answer, Addie finally steps in first.
“Arem I hate you!” Addie almost yells from behind the door.
The tall and lanky man claps back on the couch laughing. Asia holds on to Arem’s arm as she, too, laughs.
A few more minutes of shuffling and huffing sounded from behind the door.
“Oh ready ka na?!” Arem aks.
“Yes I’m ready I hate you.”
“Our dearest Asia Pacifica, I present to you, Addie’s night out, styled by me,”
Arem pushes the door open.
Both of them stare in awe as a petite woman stands in a pose in black, open toed heels; black, high waisted skirt; a black stringy bralette; finished with a yellow, oversized, cushioned men’s jacket that she wore in a way that reveals her shoulders.
“She is stunniiiiiin!” Asia hypes her girl.
Arem is clapping and Asia starts taking photos of Addie. Clearly this was the only time she’s seen her wearing something that exposed so much skin apart from her swimsuit. And Asia was here for it!
Addie relaxes from her pose and steps out of the cubicle.
“Okay naman eh!” Arem tells her.
“Neknek mo! Lahat ng ayaw ko nilagay mo.”
“Try new things kasi!”
Asia cackles between them, but claps anyway.
“Good job Arem!”
Addie shoves the bag of Arem’s outfit to his chest.
“Now it’s your time to get dragged,” Addie sticks out a tongue at him.
Addie takes a seat next to Asia and pulls her jacket over her shoulders as Arem steps in. She zips it up, making herself look small in an oversized jacket. She tries to make herself look calm and collected, but really it took everything in her to even unlock the door. She wasn’t one to stand so boldly, showing so much skin and drawing in so much attention. It overwhelmed her to the brink, and she hated Arem for picking out the outfit.
The taller woman swings her arm around her and leans on her. “You okay Ad-dearest?”
Addie pouts, “Yeah.”
Asia pulls her in closer and looks at her gingerly, “We don’t have to buy that outfit, okay? I just wanted you guys to have some fun and pick on each other.”
She says it so sweetly.
“But for the record though, you do look great. Like an Addie we never knew, but in a good way.”
The shorter girl hides her blushing cheeks at Asia’s neck, feeling her skin heat up. Addie feels cozy under the jacket and wrapped in Asia’s arm. A smile tugs on the corner of her lips. Asia was right though, it was fun picking out clothes for Arem. And she really do wishes he would like it. Addie realizes that it’s just fair that Arem picked out everything she didn’t want, because… well she did the same.
“Ano ‘to!?” Arem exclaims from behind the door. “What the fuck?”
Both ladies giggle on the couch.
“What the fuck!?” He says louder.
“Kailangan mo bang help, you might wear it wrong!”
“Addie what the fuck ka talaga!”
Addie laughs harder and lightly knocks on the door. Asia snickers at her two best friends bickering behind the closed door.
“Serves you right with the outfit you picked out for me!”
“Kailangan talaga nakaganito?!”
“Diba ako ‘yung stylist!? Model ka lang ‘wag kang makulit!”
“Jusko ka talaga, Adrienne! Sasabunutan kita!”
“Guuuys! Don’t fight enebe!” Asia chokes on her laughter from outside.
“Leave it like that! That’s how you wear it!!” Addie’s voice rings with sharpness.
There was a shuffling of clothes with more grunting and finally Addie steps out and quickly shuts the door. Her jacket is once more zipped down and worn at her shoulders.
“And now,” Addie announces. “From the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center, and styled by me, here he is, Arem!!”
Addie pushes the door open.
Arem comes into Asia’s view. Addie could physically feel the twinkle in her eyes. There the tall and lanky man stands, dressed in a pink, floral patterned Romper, where its buttons are unclasped, exposing a pastel blue bralette that Arem wore across his chest. His look finishes with a blue tinted, slim framed, round sunglasses and light brown loafers made of leather.
Asia almost drops her jaw to the floor. She immediately feels like she was attacked, offended by Arem’s presence in the clothes pieced together by her friend. Who would have thought?!
Arem poses once with his hands in his pockets, then switches to put his hands at the back of his neck. Addie is cheering on the side, Asia is entranced, concentrated in taking the photos in all of Arem’s right angles.
The taller woman exaggerates as she takes in a breath with closed eyes. She waves her fingers dramatically before opening her eyes.
“My children,” she eyes them, “you both look ridiculously wonderful.”
Her two friends pose together and looks in a far away distance, radiating PAWER in their stances.
“And because of that,” Asia shoots up and props her phone on the couch. “Tripple A Pawer Pics!”
The three gets into poses, minding their different leveling, using the walls of the cubicle, the mirror, the light behind the mirror to accompany their low-cost shoot. They strike pose after pose, switching places and sides, squatting and kneeling on one knee.
And finally they break into laughter. Asia almost literally finds herself wheezing on the floor. It won’t be long until security comes to scold them.
Though the pair served a lot of looks, both decide to not buy everything the other picked out especially the ones they know they wouldn’t use at all. It isn’t a surprise that Arem puts the pastel blue bralette back on the rack, though the two ladies do insist. What a surprise is, is the fact that Addie holds on to her bralette. And even though she puts back the heels in red, she picks up the same design, in the color black. Asia and Arem figures that maybe the skirt was too much, but even so, they are proud of how much Addie was giving other types of clothing a chance. Of course she also keeps the jacket. That was the one item that would fit her style.
Asia throws in some pants that went well with Addie’s outfit just so she has a complete set. Of course Addie protested, but that all fell into deaf ears once again.
As the orange hues that painted the skies begin to fade and the serenity of the night arrives, the three of them walk side by side along the open hallway of Greenbelt. Addie begins to feel the strain in her legs from walking long hours. She looks over to Arem and Asia who are passing giggles between each other going on about how they just raided F21. The song being performed by the live band beside the path of the hallway fills Addie’s head. The rest of the world is muted and as she stares at her friends, she realizes how thankful she is to have these two people in her life. She realizes that her feeling of contentment completely outweighs any possible discomfort and she really didn’t want the day to end yet.
The slightest smile tugs on her lips as she turns her head back to the path she’s walking on. Just as Addie begins to dread the end of their fruitful day, her thoughts are interrupted by a crown of red blonde hair crossing her vision too quickly.
“Guuuuys!! You’re here!!”
She hears Asia calling out. Both she and Arem come to a halt and turn their heads to where their other friend had walked over to. She spots the two people who Asia was greeting.
And Addie is frozen in place, eyes stunned, palms in cold sweat.
A man with his jet black, slicked back hair, wearing that dark green bomber jacket which had his university as a fashion statement was sitting on a large, plush dining couch. And next to him, was his lover.
Arem flicks his head to look at Addie. They catch eyes other’s eyes knowing full well what is going through each other’s heads. Their eyes slowly widen at each other just as their muted conversation is interrupted by Asia calling them over.
Arem is forced to look away and make his way to the taller woman while Addie takes a few more seconds before taking a step.
As she moves closer, she and Asia lock eyes. In Addie’s; a complete look of regret and the obvious need to run very far away, in Asia’s; a sly look as she smugly raises an eyebrow at her knowingly. Addie rolls her eyes before she curls her tensed fingers over the back of the chair next to Asia. She sat at the very end of one side, scooting as close as to her friend as possible hoping that she could probably just hide behind her for the rest of the night.
“Hope you guys don’t mind us interrupting your date,” Asia tells them, cautiously toning down the brightness in her voice.
The man with black hair chuckles as he casually runs his fingers through his hair (god why does he have to do that), waving off Asia’s apologies.
“Oh it’s fine,” says the other brunette with light skin who some people say, almost looked exactly like Addie. “I was just about getting sick and tired of Salle’s face anyway,”
Their table erupts in laughter.
“Besides, we’re very interested in that IG Live challenge you guys had kanina,” Salle chimes in with wide eyes.
Asia immediately grows ecstatic, starting to pull out her phone and scrolling through photos. The couple glances at each other before going through the photos, easily put in awe.
“Grabeeee Ads!!” Salle beams. “Look at her go!!”
Addie feels her cheeks quickly reddens and turns her eyes to the table. She glances up and realizes they weren’t looking at her. It calms her a bit. She looks from Salle to Neo who had their heads together. She then looks at her two other friends. Surprisingly, she finds herself smiling. She always kind of knew there wasn’t a point in moping around about her feelings anymore. In a way she knows she’s already over it. It’s just that, he still leaves the same ridiculous effect on her whenever he’s around. Addie guesses that it’s just how it is when you have ridiculous crushes, even when you’re over them. And just like that, she decides to throw her anxiety aside.
Salle puts his hand up to call for a waiter. The couple and Asia all volunteer to pitch in and wave off Addie and Arem’s offers. Knowing that Asia has already spent a lot of money on them, they decide to discreetly slip at least two-hundred each when the bill is called later on.
It isn’t the hardcore, drunk dead, dancing on tables kind of walwalan . No grinding and strangers making out. It was just three friends crashing a couple’s date and passing conversation over humble drinks.
Time passes among them, catching up and cracking jokes here and there, until the other brunette quietly excuses himself and signals to smoke. Asia nods mid sentence as she continues with her antic. Arem immediately perks up. He nods at Neo and drags his chair back to join him.
“Mm, ‘yan ka na naman.” Salle mutters under his breath.
Addie’s eyes flick to couple who sat across her.
“What?” Neo asks in a hushed, but sharp voice.
Addie guesses no one else apart from the two were supposed to see it, but Salle’s eyes roll in the slightest bit of annoyance. They lock eyes again as Neo stands.
“Isa lang ha.” Salle warns him.
Neo only shrugs before gesturing to Arem. Asia’s anecdote ends and Addie understood none of it. The taller woman laughs to herself and Addie lets out an awkward breath of laughter.
Asia’s eyes open and notices only two pair of eyes are on her. She looks from Salle to Addie. A wicked smile spreads on her lips. And Addie knows that smile too well. Addie opens her mouth to speak, but her friend was faster.
“I’ll go to the restroom lang!” She chimes.
Addie internally groans and squints at her friend who was already stepping away from the table. Salle casually nods and waves.
Asia basically skips out of sight. And only the two of them remains at the table.
Panic begins to close in on Addie. She reaches at the neck of the wine glass before her and turns it between her fingers. She trains her eyes at the small amount left, avoiding the other person’s eyes.
Is she supposed to say something? She can’t even look at him. What is she supposed to say? Why is everyone taking so long. Fucking shit puta—
Addie feels the chair next to her shift.
She blinks when she snaps her head to the side. Green eyes casually greet her with an easy smile. How could you not at least be caught off guard?
Salle holds up the wine bottle, ready to pour. Addie feels heat rise to her cheeks, she sets her mind into thinking it was from all the wine she’s consumed and not because her ex crush is sitting so close to her and looking into her eyes.
She couldn’t handle it. She peels her eyes away. She looks down at her glass before letting a small smile spread on her lips and sliding the glass between her and Salle.
Salle pours wine into it. The soft clink of the bottle’s rim meeting the wine glass fills in their awkward silence. (Addie guesses it might just be awkward from her end.) Salle raises his glass.
Addie can’t help but giggle. She clinks her glass to his before downing her own without looking at him. She quickly places the empty glass back on the table and swallows hard. The man beside him stares at her with wide eyes.
“Damn. Straight up?” he says in a low voice.
She looks back at him and giggles sheepishly. Now she was sure the red in her cheeks is from the wine. She doesn’t look away as he tips the edge of the glass back on his lips. He slowly finishes its contents in one drink. He pulls the glass away and his tongue slides across his lips. He presses them together before releasing them and letting out an “ahh” of satisfaction.
“Ako rin.” He squares his shoulders with a smug smile.
They share a light laugh.
This was fine. This wasn’t awkward. Right?
Salle runs his fingers through his hair again before pouring them another glass.
“Madalas ka ba uminom?”
“Uhmm...” she hesitates, mildly surprised that this man is actually trying to make conversation with her. “Hindi naman, minsan lang...”
“Yeah sure Ads, pero you down this like it’s water.” He taps Addie’s glass with a finger. “You can’t fool me.”
She breathes out another laugh.
“Sure naman ako I don’t drink as much as you.”
“Yeah that’s right,” he nods. “Don’t drink as much as me.”
The two of them snicker, and is followed by a pause. Addie’s eyes fall on the empty ashtray on the middle of the table.
“Do you smoke?” Addie asks, without so much of a thought. Maybe the wine was getting to her.
“Well, I used to.” Salle nods.
“You stopped na?”
Salle nods at her with a smile.
Addie’s lips crawl into the same smile. Obviously she never really got the chance to actually talk to Salle and get close to him personally, but it she feels warmth spread across her chest to know that the guy she used to like has decided to stop smoking, even if she didn’t know if he did it casually or more frequently than not.
“That’s good.” she confirms. Out of curiosity, she asks, “what made you stop?”
Salle’s smile softens. His eyes turn down to his glass before he speaks. “Si Neo.” He said it in the same way he lets out a breath. (As if he breathes through his name.)
Of course . “Ahh...” Is all Addie could let out.
“His lolo uhmm recently recently passed kasi,” Addie hears the softness in his voice. “‘Cause of Lung Cancer.” He nods. “So yeah, I kinda just...” He shrugs.
“Oh… Condolence to him,” a small frown replaces Addie’s smile. She nods once before speaking, “Love mo talaga siya 'no?”
Salle’s eyes land on Addie whose eyes were somewhere else far off. She lazily drew patterns on her lap as her last statement hung. The corner of Salle’s lip quirks up and he nods. Another pause waves over them. Addie feels that it’s more comfortable than the last.
“Tapos ngayon, he’s the one smoking ‘no?” Salle jokingly says. “The irony.”
Addie smiles hesitantly. Salle chuckles and Addie lets herself do the same. She nods and they fall into silence once again.
Her eyes suddenly fall to her hands on her lap, oblivious of the fact that Salle’s eyes was on her once more; studying her. He hesitates, opening his mouth and closing it again.
She feels weight of his stare. In her panic, she looks up at him.
“What?” she asks too quickly.
He again opens his mouth. Then closes it. Addie raises an eyebrow at him.
“Uhmm...” Addie’s palms are beginning to sweat. Her eyes couldn’t find something to look at to find answers. Is it something she said? Is it because she laughed too? Maybe she shouldn’t have. Did she cross the line? Oh shit maybe it was a serious matter.
Salle sees the panic in Addie’s eyes. He sits up straight and speaks up.
“Oh it was nothing!” he waves a hand. “It was just....” he trails off.
Addie blinks quickly. Salle could feel Addie’s anxiety, but he just couldn’t really put it into words without sounding like an asshat. He resorts to hesitantly laughing. His hand reaches to cup the back of his neck. He pauses before looking at her in the eye. He lets each word out carefully.
“... You’re... okay right?”
The noise in Addie’s head mutes. Her eyebrows knit together.
“... What?” she asks.
Salle casually laughs, trying to lift some of the tension.
“I was asking if you were okay...” Salle stares into her eyes, trying to see if she’ll get it. Addie is more lost than ever. “Like… with me and,”
“Oh that!” She blurts out.
And just like that she feels the weight on her shoulders lift. Keeping her feelings to herself, she always knew that at some point, she just wanted to let Salle know just so she can get over it. But she just always chose not to, because she was a wimp and he already got together with someone else. She really didn’t find the point in doing it anymore, but she just always wanted him to know.
She never expected that this night was going to be the night when everything gets verbalized, much less expectation that it was Salle to prompt it.
Addie finds herself laughing. At some point she just deemed herself free from all of it of course, but suddenly now, just like that, everything felt lighter. Like truly, there wasn’t anything else for her to hold on to.
Salle only stares at her and smiles warmly.
“‘Yun lang pala...” She giggles quietly. “Akala ko kung ano.”
The man chuckles.
“Uhmm… How did you know?” She finally looks back at him. A smile easily sounded from her voice.
“I mean...” He shrugs. “Cess is my sister.”
Addie laughs again and this time Salle joins her.
“Cess talaga,” she mutters.
“Uy! pero like, she didn’t like explicitly tell me naman.”
Addie cocks her head. “So you just assumed?” She gives him a smug smile.
For the first time in Addie’s life, she didn’t actually think Salle could ever be flustered, especially not with her, until now. A hint of red tints his darker cheeks.
“Hala!” He leans back on his chair and Addie covers her lips with her hand as she giggles. “Sabihin mo makapal ‘yung mukha ko!”
They widen their eyes at each other, taken aback. Addie; surprising herself. Salle gives her a look and straightens himself on his chair. He points at her.
“Oh! Tell me I’m wrong!” He teases.
It only sends Addie into another fit of laughter.
“Tell me I’m wrong Ads,”
Addie shakes her head as her chest vibrates. She crosses her arms to form an X.
“Awat na po ako. Tapat na po.”
Salle giggles and nods at her. Silence waves over them again, and Addie finds herself smiling. So this is how it feels to be “friends” with Salle, if he even considered her that. Never in her life did she think this day would come. And she is more than grateful that it has.
“You didn’t answer my question though,” Salle says in a more serious tone.
Addie genuinely smiles at him. She admires the charming boy’s features that would once upon a time made her cave in every time she saw it. Not anymore. Of course he’s still charming. There will never be a time when he won’t be. But now, she can look at him and see him as he is.
“Okay lang ako.”
There was a beat before their eyes find each other. Usually, if this had happened before, she would internally combust and run very far away. But her eyes bore into his. She finds comfort. Seconds pass before Addie nods.
“You sure?” Salle asks again.
“Yes po ser. Sure na sure.”
Salle lets out a contented sigh of relief and relaxes back down to his chair. He nods.
“Alright.” He smiles cutely, “I just wanted to make sure, kasi I don’t know, I’m not manhid, and...” Addie’s smile softens at him. “I don’t want you to feel awkward.”
He catches her eyes again. The corner of his lips quirk up in a somewhat apologetic smile.
Of the many times that this man has made Addie kilig , this was the her favorite. She knew she was over him, but it warms her heart to know that even if he never would have liked her in that way, he still cared enough to want her to feel okay around him. For a split second she was envious of Neo, not because she wanted to be with Salle, but because he held the heart of a good man.
He was always painted as a player, but maybe it was just because he was good to everyone and everyone fell for him because of the scarcity of good looking men who were actually good hearted.
Addie nods once.
Everything was okay.
“Well,” He starts again. He raises his glass at her.
Addie picks up her glass and clinks it against his. They sip from their glasses and as Salle places his back on the table, he says:
“Nandiyan naman si Asia.”
Addie claps back in laughter.
“Or si Arem,” he shrugs. “Kapatid ko, si Cess, single din ‘yon.”
Her eyes fills with tears from laughing and finally the other three return to the table after what seemed like hours .
“Aaaaw you guys are so cute!” Asia coos at them as she sits on the couch, on the spot that Salle was sitting on before they left.
Arem takes the seat next to Salle. Neo slides next to Asia on the couch and sets the paper bags down next to him. He fondly looks at his boyfriend and the girl who was said to look exactly like him. The two were still giggling in their own world.
“Tawang-tawa, Ads?” Arem asks teasingly.
Addie just sticks a tongue at him.
“So what’s the joke?!” Asia chimes, “fill us in!!”
“Walaaaaa,” Salle and Addie says together.
Addie looks at the charming boy she used to slip head over heels for. Maybe, just maybe, they could be better friends now.
The last few drops of the spirits are consumed and their group gets up to leave. The Tripple As walk together, Addie’s arm loops around Asia’s and behind them, the lovebirds walk hand in hand.
“Mm, ilan?” Salle squeezes on Neo’s fingers.
Neo only stares into his eyes as they continue to walk.
“Neo.” He says his name with a warning.
The man chuckles and holds up one finger over Salle’s lips.
“Promise?” says his boyfriend under his finger. “One stick ha, hindi one pack.”
“I promise babe.” He nods. “Arem was there to police me.”
Salle finally looks away and nods. Neo stares back at the path they are walking on, but stops in his tracks when Salle steals a kiss on his cheek. He still catches him off guard despite being together for nearly 2 years.
His lover chuckles and tugs on his fingers to keep moving. Salle lets go of Neo’s hand and slides an arm around his waist. He pulls him close and Neo leans his head on his boyfriend’s shoulder.
“Okay na kayo ni Addie?” Neo asks.
The question puts a smile on Salle’s face. He stares at Addie ahead of him who was slapping Arem’s arm in laughter.
“Yeah,” he nods. “She cool.”
Salle twists his neck and plants a kiss on Neo’s forehead.
Their group of five continue to walk up to where the driveway curved. As they all reach the edge, Asia turns to the lovebirds.
“Heeey, pano kayo uuwi? I can have my driver drop you guys off,” She pulls out her phone and begins to search for her driver’s number.
“Ah, no need, Asia.” Neo politely declines her offer. “I have a driver na, ito oh.” he pats Salle’s stomach.
They all laugh and Asia cackles at Neo.
“Okay fine, you lovebirds take care!!”
They all greet each other goodbye and speaks out promises of how they should see each other soon again. Cheeks are pressed against each other’s cheeks and brief hugs are exchanged. Asia’s driver arrives and Arem slides into the car first. Asia waves at them before sliding in next.
Addie sets a foot in the car but before she could duck in, she hears her name called out. She plants her feet back on the gravel and turn around to look at who called for her.
Salle jogs up in front of her. He smiles at her before letting his arms fall open.
For the last time, Addie feels her heart flutter in her chest. She steps into Salle’s space and lets him wraps his arms around her. For the first and last time, she lets herself melt into his arms.
God damn Neo was a lucky man. He does feel like home.
Addie giggles to herself, trapped in his arms and Salle rubs her arms in comfort.
It is Salle who takes a step back. Addie stands in place and beams up at him.
“Thank you Salle,” she looks into his eyes. The last time she’ll ever see them as the boy she hopelessly fell in love with. “You’re a great friend.”
Salle smiles back at her and she finally ducks into the car.
The three of them wave at the couple and the car speeds off. Addie stares ahead with a ridiculous smile on her face.
“Tanga, ‘wag ka na umasa dun.” Says Arem teasingly.
Addie could only laugh. “Bes, ‘di na ‘ko tanga. Tanggap ko na.”
Asia finds the need to clap her hands then wrap her arms around Addie’s light frame.
Addie once again finds herself melting in the comfort of her friend’s hug. She nuzzles her face at Asia’s neck.
“Thanks for being there for me.” She whispers at her skin.
A smile creeps on Asia’s lips and she pecks Addie’s forehead.
“Of course,” the taller woman pulls her arm around Arem’s shoulder too. She pulls them in together. “Anything for the best people in my life.”
They all smile contently basking in each other’s touch. Until Addie speaks up again.
“Isa na lang tanga sa’tin, at hindi ako ‘yon.” Addie peeks at the man at the other end. “Ikaw, musta ka? Graduate na ‘ko eh.”
The two ladies burst into laughter and Arem resorts to sarcasm.
“OKAY ADDIE, OKAY! Sorry ha! Balak ko pa kasi magmasters eh!”
“Mag PhD ka na rin, Arem!” Addie adds in. “‘Wag na sa UERM, sa University of Sto. Tom—”
“OKAY ADRIENNE MAG LA SALLE KA NA LANG. MAG CSB KA. WALA AKONG PAKE SA’YO.”
The sound of their high pitched laughter and non-stop bickering fills the car.