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i'll make this my new home

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Barry and Lino arrived at the condominium building at precisely 10:00 am. "Ba, bakit di ka nalang kasi samin tumira?"

"Ang dami nyo na, makikisiksik pa ko?"

"Oo, tabi nalang tayo." Lino grinned and gave him a teasing look.

"Ayoko, naninipa ka kaya." Barry looked at his phone before scanning the room. "Andito na daw sya."

A man wearing sun glasses approached them. "Barry Sebastian?" He asked. Lino started hitting him with the paper he was holding. "Dalawa kayo?"

"Sinamahan ko lang sya." Lino sais quickly as he stood up. "Sandali, Ken, ikaw ba yan?"

The man tilted his head slightly and Barry can tell recognition dawned on him already. "Omg, sabi na familliar mukha mo e!" The man named Ken grinned. "Lino!" He removed his sun glasses and moved forward to... Barry wasn't exactly sure but Lino wrapped his arms around the man, making his eyebrow quirk up.

When they pulled away, Lino looked at Barry. "Ba, si Ken. Kababata ko." Ken smiled at him. "Ken, si Barry, best friend ko. Ikaw ba magiging roommate nya?"

"Actually." Ken sighed. "On weekdays and some weekends siguro, QC kasi talaga house ko kaso alam mo naman yung traffic, kung hindi ako sobrang late, sobrang aga ko naman sa school."

"Nag-aaral ka pa?"

Ken nodded. "Law." Barry wasn't wrong with the impression that this man was really talkative. "So kumuha ako ng unit dito. Sinabihan na ko nila Jacky and Chari, bago naming friend, na masyado malaki pero ako naman, hindi, magagamit ko yan. Pero ito ako ngayon, masyado malaki nga." He looked at Barry. "Gusto mo makita yung unit?"

Barry was a little surprised at the sudden shift of attention but he nodded. "Yeah, sure. Anong floor to?"

"17th. Wala ka naman phobia sa heights right?" Barry shook his head. "Okay, tara." He moved towards the elevator. "So about the unit."

"Sabi mo sa ad two bedrooms sya diba? Tapos separate bathrooms?"

Ken looked at him curiously, his eyebrow quirking up. "Yes, we value our privacy, no?" Ken smirked before he looked at LED Display. "If you don't mind, sakin na yung second floor, wala ka naman ng choice kasi nandun na lahat ng gamit ko." Ken told him good naturedly.

"Ba, sobrang okay na ko na magcondo ka dito."

"Ah, okay ka na?" Barry scoffed at him. "Kanina di yan mapakali, akala mo serial killer immeet ko."

"Nako, sobrang worrier talaga yang si Lino, dati pa nung mga bata kami. Ganyan ata talaga pag special sa kanya yung tao." Ken told him.

"Special?"

"Tong si Lino, akala mo naman ibang tao kausap mo." Ken rolled his eyes before bumping his side against Lino. "Best friend? Gasgas na gasgas na yung title na yan."

"Hoy, Ken!" Lino barked out a laugh. "Tingin mo boyfriend ko to?" Ken looked at him expectantly. "Best friends lang kami talaga."

"Mhmm, narinig ko na yan, wala may gusto maging more than that?" Ken narrowed his eyes before rolling his eyes. "Joke lang, to naman. Alam ko naman si Jacky pa rin gusto mo e."

"Hoy." Lino scoffed. "Kung anu-ano sinasabi mo."

"Jacky, yung one great love nya?"

"Alam mo yung story?"

"Wala akong choice kundi makinig sa story nya. Nilasing nya ko e." Lino elbowed him. "Pero oo. Sayang nga sila."

"Pero magmemeet sila ulit." Lino groaned. Ken laughed. "Lino, nako, swear, maiinlove si Barry sa unit ko. Di ako papayag na di ka nya dadalin dito."

"Nako Ken, wag ka ngang magplay ng Cupid."

"Nako naman Lino, as if naman gagawin ko yun."

"Nako, nako. Tigilan mo ko Ken, kaya tayo napapahamak nung high school dahil sa pagiging pakialamero nyo ni Jacky."

"Ganun? Kami lang?" Ken leaned closer to Barry. "Barry, alam mo dati, muntik na kami masuspend kasi si Lino, kinuha yung wallet nung principal namin kasi akala nya sa adviser namin yun."

"Di ko naman alam na pareho lang sila ng design."

They arrived at the 17th floor. "My unit is not far from the elevators and the fire exit. Pero di rin naman sya yung una mong makikita pag lumabas kayo ng elevator."

"Pano yung terms?"

"Well, 2 months deposit, 1 month advance pero yung 1 month advance is applicable on the last month of your stay kung one year ka lang, pero pag at least 2 years, sa first month mo na yun, and then for the rest of the months, post dated checks. Split tayo sa lahat ng utilities except the association dues."

"25,000 diba?" Barry asked.

"Pwede ko rin naman babaan ng 22,000 kaso hati na tayo sa association dues. Tapos kung may car ka, may additional na 3,000 per month para may parking ka din."

Barry made silent calculations in his head for all his expenses in a month should he choose to stay there. "Madami na actually tinignan si Ba na mga condo around the area, madami magaganda."

"Pero mahal, no?"

"Sobra!" Lino scoffed. "70,000 para sa one bedroom! Tapos sobrang liit pa!"

"Baka may mga nakasingit na ginto dun, chineck nyo ba?" Ken joked. He opened the door and Barry's heart launched into his throat because Ken was right, Barry was already falling in love with it. "Your room used to be my Kuya's kaso di naman nya masyado nagamit kasi pumunta na sya ng US, kakaturnover lang sakin to one year ago.

"May cleaning service ako na dumadaan every other day dito to clean up the whole condo, my expense na yun, just make sure lang na walang valuables na nakalabas.”

“Hindi ba dapat hati tayo kung lilinisin na nila buong unit?” Barry asked.

Ken looked contemplative for a moment. “Well, actually, pero di naman kasi ako nagbabayad nun, and I don’t want to force the expense on you kaya ako nalang magsshoulder.”

“Di rin marunong maglinis yan.” Lino told Ken. “Kailan ka pa dito?”

“Like I said, a year ago lang naturn over sakin to. Pero sandali palang ako dito.” Ken pushed the key in. “Siguro mga 7 months? Nung una kasi, sabi ko kaya ko pa rin magdrive to and from QC, tapos gagamitin ko lang to na emergency place.”

“Tapos?”

“Medyo nagsuffer grades ko kasi yung time ko na dapat nag-aaral ako, eh nasasayang sa traffic, ako pa nagddrive, kaya yun, nagdecide ako na dito nalang tapos uwi uwi nalang paminsan minsan.”

Ken pushed the door open and let Barry and Lino inside. Barry was a little surprised that the unit wasn’t ostentatious or obnoxious. It didn’t look like a bachelor pad either. It looked simple, functional, elegant, and chic. Something that he thought wasn’t obvious with Ken when he first spoke to him but now, he could see how perfect the unit suited him. The pictures on Ken’s advertisements did not do it justice.

The tall windows on the far side that serves as the wall revealed a balcony deck that was a perfect place to get comfortable at nights no matter the season they were in. The high ceiling that made the unit larger, but not so much that it overwhelmed the space too much. The furniture inside was also perfect that Barry had to wonder if Ken consulted a interior designer to design the whole thing.

The flat screen looked like it was part of the wall, opposite it was an off white lounge set that had wooden frames and a glass topped coffee table. On the coffee table sat a laptop and a few gadgets with it. Closer to them was the dining room, kitchen, and the small bar that had a small collection of liquor.

Barry was a little distracted with everything that he didn’t notice Lino and Ken were still catching up. “Wala na kayong place sa Cebu?” Lino asked Ken.

“Andun pa rin pero matagal na din ako di nakakauwi dun.” Ken told him. “Sila Manang nalang yung andun.”

“Nasan na pamilya mo?”

“Na sa Netherlands na sila, except yung isa kong Kuya, na sa US sya. Umuuwi pa rin naman sila a few times a year.” Ken turned to him. “So what do you think? You liked it, no?”

Barry and Lino shared a look. “Bakit di pa nakukuha to? I mean, mura, maganda, and na sa magandang lugar. Halos palugi mo na rin binibigay.”

“Well, kakapost ko lang nung advertisement a few days ago. Swerte ko na nakita nyo agad.” Ken answered. “I’m not trying to make it a business, to be honest. Extra income and allowance nalang yung trntry ko kunin dito.”

Barry nodded and somehow understood the logic.

“Besides, nakakatakot na iwan ang isang room na walang tao, pano pagbahayan ng multo?”

“Ha?”

“That’s the superstition kasi, empty places na di madalas tinitiran, binabahayan ng multo.”

Ken showed him to his room, and save for the bed, the room was pretty bare but Barry already loved it. Another plus was the window-bed that Lino had immediately claimed ownership of. There was enough space for an armchair, a desk, and a small bookshelf in the corner. He can make this his new home for the next few years.

After the tour, they sat in the living room and Ken looked at him expectantly. "So what do you think?" Ken asked him again. "What's the verdict?"

"Ito yung pinakamagandang unit na nakita natin, Ba." Lino told him. "And sobrang mura pa."

Barry looked thoughtful for a moment. "Marami na ba nagtingin?"

Ken shook his head. "Madami naginquire pero nagrespond lang ako to two or three ata. Syempre yung mga feel ko lang na sagutin yung mga sinagot ko." Ken gave him a tight smile. "Medyo sold na ko sayo as my roommate."

"Kailan ako pwede magmove in?"