11. In time

BEATRIZ had texted him the address at walang inaksayang panahon si Marco.

At an hour or so ay narating ng binata ang mansiyon ng mga Salvosa. The sunset cast shadows on the Mediterranean inspired mansion that made it looked even more majestic. The mansion itself speak of old money, wealth and power; mga bagay na hindi na napagtuunan pa ng pansin ni Marco dahil iisa lang ang nasa isip niya ng mga oras na iyon. Inihimpil niya ang dalang Trailblazer sa harap niyon at agad na lumabas. Agad siyang umakyat sa hagdang bato at mabilis na kinalampag ang napakalaking molave na pinto. Ilang segundo pa at isang butler ang humarap sa kanya.

“Buenas Noches. Ano’ng maipaglilingkod ko sa’yo, Senor?”

“Si Cielo...I mean si Consuelo Sta. Maria. Is she there?” The anticipation is slowly draining his force. He felt agitated by the minute. “I need to see her. I need to talk to her.”

“I’m afraid you have to come back some other time, Senor. Kanina pa umalis si Senorita kasama si Senorito Stefano at Don Lorenzo,” Umiling siya. It can’t be. Was it too late?

Nahuli na ba siya ng dating?

His judgement was clouded by jealousy, of fear, and of any emotions associated with it pero mas lamang ang pangungulila niya sa dalaga. The more he tried to calm himself, the more he realized it was damn impossible not till he see her. Talk to her.

He’s being desperate.

“I know she’s in there. Let me see her. I beg of you,” Pinigilan siya nito nang magtangka siyang pumasok sa loob. “Cielo! Cielo! I need to talk to you, Please!” he yelled out, hoping that she’ll hear him out.

Si Max ay humingi na nang tulong sa dumaang katulong. Malakas ang lalaki at alam niyang di niya kakayaning pigilan ito kung sakaling magpursige pa. “Calm down, Senor! What I said is the truth. She already left the mansion minutes ago.”

“You’re hiding her on purpose. Please just let me talk to her,” a little perseverance and force he finally enters the mansion. Madali siyang tumakbo sa sala at nagsisigaw. “Cielo! Cielo! Please...”

Sumunod naman agad si Max na hinihingal pa. “This is trespassing, Senor! Please leave the mansion this instant or I will call the authorities to pick you up.”

“Wala kang tatawagan, Max,” mula sa hardin ay pumasok si Arman sa sala. Nagpapahangin siya doon para malinawan ang kaisipan. Wala pa sana siyang balak pumasok sa loob kung hindi lang nabulabog ang kanyang katahimikan dahil sa komosyon. “He’s a guest of this house. Maigi pa ay dalhan mo kami ng tsaa.”

“But Senor---“

“Go, Max. Ako na ang bahala,” walang nagawang tumango si max at iniwan siya at ang binatang ang mukha at pamilyar sa kanya. Kakatwa dahil unang beses pa lang ni Armani to nakita. “Ako na ang humihingi ng tawad sa ikinilos ni Max, hijo. For all it’s worth ay pinoprotektahan niya lamang ang mga nakatira dito sa mansion.” Palagay agad ang loob niya sa binata. Walang pangambang inabot niya ang kamay dito at nagpakilala. “I believe we weren’t properly introduce. Ako si Arman Salvosa.”

Tinaggap nito ang kanyang pakikipag-kamay. “Marco Antonio Fuentebella, Sir.”

“Fuentebella, you say?” Inaya niya itong umupo sa sofa. “Tell me young lad, are you somehow connected with Gerardo Fuentebella?”

Marco’s forehead creased. “He’s the grandfather I never met.” Sukat sa sinabi nito ay napangiti siya.

Still the Fate will always draw them closer.

“The resemblance is uncanny I almost thought na ikaw si Gerardo. Kamukhang-kamukha mo ang yumao kong kaibigan less the mischievousness. You’re way tamer than he is I wonder why...” He put his hand together and stared fondly at the young lad. “Gerardo is a free spirit. He’s always up for adventure. He never wanted to settle. Sayang lang at maaga siyang kinuha ng itaas.”

“With all due respect, Sir, hindi ako pumunta dito para malaman ang naging buhay ng lolo ko. I came here with one purpose,” his eyes flared with unceasing determination. “I came for Cielo. I need to see her, to talk to her.”

“I believe Max had informed you that she already left with her fiancé, Stefano. I supposed it’s a family dinner with the Hernandez?” sa dami nang nangyari sa buong mag-hapon ay ngayon lang siya natuwa. Lorenzo and his relentless pursuit to the union of the families took a toll on him. Para bang naubos ang lakas niya sa pakikinig sa mga plano nito para sa dalawa nilang apo. But this lad just magically brighten his day. Apo nga talaga ni Gerardo. “You can come back by tomorrow.”

“Ibigay niyo na lang sa akin ang address kung saan sila nag-dinner,” pamimilit nito. His mannerism shows his anxious. Dama ni Arman ang pagnanais nito na makaalis at mahanap ang apo. The more he’s eager to uncover the truth. “I’m so sorry but whatever I say can’t wait for another day.”

“Ganoon ba?” tumayo si Arman sa settee saktong dating ni Max dala ang isang tray na may tsaa. “Max, ready the car. Naisip ko na tama si Cielo. It’s a family dinner after all at dapat naroroon ako. And I’m bringing this lad with me.”

“Right away, Senor,” ibinaba muna ni Max ang dalang tray sa lamesa bago sinunod ang utos niya. Bumaling siya sa binata na tila natigilan sa ikinilos niya.

Ngumiti siya dito ng tipid. “You’re coming with me. I’m bringing you to her.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I have my personal reasons. Come now, child, before the dinner is over.” At niyakag na niya ito palabas ng mansion.

~*~

                “GLAD to finally see this day come,” Lorenzo proposed a toast. Cielo and Stefano hold their champagne glass into the air. “Cheers to long lasting unison of our families.”

                “Cheers.” What seems to be a congratulatory toast for the upcoming marriage felt otherwise to the both involved. Sa kanilang tatlo ay si Lorenzo lang ang halata sa mukha ang kasiyahan. That finally, ang pinaka-iintay niya ay malapit nang mangyari.

                “I hope you don’t mind I order the food,” the waiters placed all the best courses their menu can offer on their table, from pastas to white meat specialty. “I assure that you’ll enjoy them. They are the best!” Kinuha niya ang table napkin at nilagay sa hita. Parang robot ang dalawa na sumunod at ginaya ang Don. Kung napansin man iyon ni Lorenzo ay wala na itong sinabi.

                He decided to talk about the wedding plans over dinner. Kilala niya ang may-ari ng isang sikat Restaurant sa BGC at doon na nagpa-reserve ng table for four. Supposedly kasama dapat nila si Arman but he refused. He never disclosed his reason at hindi ito mag-iintay para sa kaibigan.

                L’Opera Ristorante Italiano sets the mood as you could feel the old-world elegance from their faded brick walls, high ceiling, sophisticated upholstery and fine furniture. Classy, this is the kind of ambiance fit for the occasion for most of the wealthy families. Normal people could find this dramatic, over-spending but to the well-off families, this is perfectly normal. Almost a routine.

                They eat in silence. Lorenzo almost monopolize the conversation. Sasagot lang ang dalawa kung kinakailangan.

                “Excuse me for a second,” Lorenzo wiped off the smudge of sauce in his mouth before answering the unexpected phone call. “I have to take this.” Dala ang tungkod ay tumayo ito at naglakad papalayo sa kanila.

                “Are you okay?” Tanong ni Stef sa dalaga. His eyes moved down from her blank face to the unmoved food. Nilalaro lang ng tinidor nito ang mga gulay. “Halos hindi mo nabawasan ang pagkain mo. May gusto ka bang kainan? We can order anything you want.” He almost call the waiter nearby nang pigilan niya ito.

                Huminga ng malalim si Cielo, “Honestly, I dont’ have appetite right now,” binaba niya ang kubyertos sa pinggan. Alam niyang masasarap ang pagkain nakahain sa harapan pero ng mga sandaing iyon ay hindi katakam-takam iyon sa panlasa ng dalaga. “Ngayon lang nagsink-in sa akin ang mga bagay-bagay. We are really getting married. For real.” The more she thinks about it, the more she felt nauseous. Parang naging hindi makatotohanan para sa kanya ang mga nangyayari. “It just felt surreal. Parang napakabilis.”

                “Now you’re having second thoughts,” Stef sounded amused but his eyes gave him away. Cielo could see the lack of enthusiasm just the way she did. “Should I get worried about you ditching me at our wedding day? Kapag nagkataon, I’ll be the talk of town being the jilted husband.”

                “No,” she said with indignation. “I’m not having second thoughts. Tuloy ang kasal. Walang rason para itigil natin ang matagal ng plano, Stef. This was already agreed.”

                “Think rationale, Cielo,” ginagap ng binata ang palad niya. He held it with utmost gentleness, like he truly cares for her just like what he usually says. “There’s a hundred reasons for you to leave...”

                “But I choose that one reason to stay, Stef. I choose this.” She stared right into his eyes.

                “I choose you.”

                “Am I interrupting something?” Arman walked in looking at the two na mukhang seryoso ang pinag-uusapan. Parang napaso na kinabig ni Cielo ang mga kamay kay Stef at lumingon sa bagong dating.

                “Lolo?” Hindi nga siya dinadaya ng kanyang pandinig. Nakatayo sa kanyang harapan ang kanyang Lolo na nagpahayag na hindi sasama sa dinner sa kung ano’ng rason. “I...I thought hindi kayo susunod.” Tumayo ang dalaga at agad na niyakap ang matanda.

                “I changed my mind,” kinumpas ng Don and daliri sa ere. “Just like that and here I am.”

                “Good to have you, Don Arman,” tumayo na din si Stef at sinalubong ang Don. “Don Lorenzo was monopolizing the whole conversation. Please, talk some sense to him.”

                “That’s too harsh, mijo. Have some fate to your old man.” Tinapik nito ang balikat ni Stef. “He never looks so happy since---“

                “I’m glad you made it, Arman,” tatlong pares ng mga mata ang bumaling sa papalapit na si Lorenzo. “I knew you’d come to your senses. This dinner will never be complete without you.”

                “I doubt that,” Arman eyed them all and said. “Hindi naman talaga ako pupunta dito but someone needs to be recognize. Someone closed to our dearest friend Gerardo, Lorenzo.” Lumingon ito sa entrada ng restaurant. They did the same and all three had different emotions crossed on their faces.

                Lorenzo looked stunned seeing the younger version of his old friend, Gerardo. The resemblance is undeniable. The charisma only the Fuentebella has. At kilala ni Lorenzo ang nasirang kaibigan. Gerardo charms his way towards women. Sweet talker. Smooth and fast. And this young man means trouble kung namana nito ang ganoong pag-uugali ni Gerardo Fuentebella.

                Stefano looked stern. Hindi niya inakalang makikita ang kaibigan ngayong gabi at malamang may connection ito sa kanilang pamilya. What a small world. Now what role has he had to do with this?

                And Cielo. Kung noong unang kita pa lang niya sa binata ay tumigil ang pag-inog ng kanyang mundo at sumentro dito ang kanyang atensyon ay ngayon ay gusto na niyang tumalilis paalis ng lugar. He wasn’t supposed to be here. He will just complicate things that are already complicated. Di ba kaya nga siya lumayo to settle things right? And having him here is unnecessary at all.

                Their eyes met. And just like that her heart beats crazy like the first time. Na parang kilala ng puso niya kahit nakapikit ang lalaking nagpapatibok nito.

                Calm down, will you? Don’t act like you’re affected, Cielo’, pag-renda sa kanya ng kanyang isipan. ‘Matatapos din ito. Just bear with his presence and promise me never, never break your word. This is for your own good.’

                Arman introduce the new comer with the smile. Never felt good till this moment. Tumabi sa kanya ang binata. “I’d like you to meet Marco Antonio Fuentebella. Gerardo’s grandson.”

At alam niya simula ng mga sandaling iyon na mababago ang takbo ng sitwasyon.

~*~

“NEVER met him personally,” Marco started. Naka-upo na silang lahat sa lamesa at nagsimula na ulit kumain. Halatang interesado si Don Arman sa kanyang background. He keeps asking questions that he answered politely. Don Lorenzo was listening intently. He looks uninterested though while paying attention to his food. Stef, well his being himself again. And Cielo. He never take away his eyes on her. He made sure of that, “I just learned everything from his trusted lawyer na matagal na niyang hinahanap ang anak ni Ronan. It turns out my good-for-nothing father was his bastard son. And that’s how I became the Fuentebella heir in instant.”

“Ah yes, I heard he got trouble with a woman claiming she’s pregnant with his child. So totoo pala talaga...” Arman sliced his stake with finesse. “So basically ano ang buhay mo bago ka natagpuan ni Renee?” Renee was Gerardos’s trusted lawyer.

“Mahirap kami, Don Arman. We live in some sub-standard apartment in Manila. For a single mother raising her children sobrang hirap pagkasyahin ang kita ng isang Cashier sa supermarket sa dami ng gastusin. So I give up my education and work alongside with her,” Parang kahapon lang nang inabutan niya ang kanyang ina na si Helen na inihit ng sunod-sunod na ubo. She’s coughing blood and still she denied she’s sick and have to work that day. Kapansin-pansin na ang biglang pagbagsak ng katawan nito. She looks tired than ever. Mas lalong tumanda ito sa tunay nitong edad na 33. 5 Days after that incident, they lost her forever. Terminal na pala ang sakit nito. “She died when I was in my late teens. So that leaves me to feed for myself and my sister, Beatriz. Ronan has nothing to with us. He just left us like a coward he is.” Hindi niya alam kung mapapatawad pa niya si Ronan matapos ang ginawa nitong pagtataboy sa kanya ng humingi siya ng tulog para sa pagpapagamot sa kanyang ina na nasa hospital. Isa itong walang kwentang tao na walang ibang inisip kundi ang sarili.

“I still think you shoud be grateful to your father. Without his blood, without his surname you were nothing,” Lorenzo looked at him. Tumigas ang mukha ni Marco.

“Ronan deserves nothing from me than hatred, Don Lorenzo. He has nothing to do with my success. Kung nasaan ako ngayon ay dahil sa sarili kong sikap at determinasyon. Hindi dahil sa pangalan niya at lalong hindi dahil siya ang aking ama. You can always ask Renee for validation and he’ll glady send you the reports.” Sanay na si Marco sa mga taong walang tiwala sa kanyang kakayahan. Since he manage the empire ay gusto niyang patunayan ang sarili sa mata ng mga taong walang ibang nakita kung di isang binatang sa hirap nagmula. But what Lorenzo said made his blood boil in anger. And he’s ready to prove his point.

“We get it, Marco,” Stefano but in. “And hindi ko lang maintindihan ay ano ang ginagawa mo sa family dinner na ito? You were never part of this.”

“I am invited, my friend,”nagkasukatan sila ng titig ni Stefano. Kaibigan ni Marco ang binata pero hindi niya gusto ang ilan sa mga ugali nito. Sa kanilang tatlo ay mas malapit ang huli kay Vlad. He was just an addition to the circle. “Of course I never meant sa dinner.” Humarap siya kay Cielo na ang mga mata ay nakatuon sa plato. “I was invited to meet you, Cielo. I needed to talk to you.”

Biglang tumayo si Cielo. “Excuse me. I need to use the restroom.” And off she left the table without a glance.

Determined, tumayo din si Marco para sundan ang dalaga. “Excuse me.”

“Excuse us.” Tumayo rin si Stefano at mabilis na sinundan and dalawa. That leave the two Don on the table.

Tatayo din sana si Don Lorenzo para alamin ang mga nagaganap nang pigilan ito ni Arman. “Enjoy the food, mi amigo. Let them settle their own dispute.”

“You were never here for the dinner,” umupo ulit si Lorenzo sa upuan at masamang pinakatitigan ang kaibigan. “Andito ka para siraan ito by bringing that young lad to this. Alam mong mangyayari ito.”

“Oo,” Arman throw him a warning look. “At gusto kong dumito ka lang Lorenzo. Huwag mong pakialaman ang mga bata dahil ako ang makakalaban mo.”

“Why are you doing this?” Lorenzo looked confused. But nonetheless furious as the situation goes out of his hand. It was perfect till this Marco happened. “We already agreed...”

“Yes, we are so let’s see what happens, Lorenzo.” Arman wiped of the sides of his mouth and get his champagne glass. Itinaas niya iyon sa tapat ng kaibigan na ma ngiti sa mga labi. “Cheers to them. Cheers to us, my friend.”

Lorenzo did the same. “Whatever you’re thinking, I won’t let that ruin this.” His voice sounded so sure. But Arman doubt it.

“Sure.” And Arman drink from his glass.  “But remember that I won’t stay silent, Lorenzo. Kilala kita. Do anything to those kids and you’ll face me and you won’t like it.”

Isa iyong babala na pinakatandaan ni Lorenzo.

At hindi na nga niya pinakialaman ang mga bata.

Sa ngayon.

~*~

SHE knew it.

Cielo immediately excuse herself as the attention of everyone on the table focuses on her, curious as how Marco was so eager to talk to her. She can’t bear the gravity of it same as the sin she committed. It suffocates her and she just wanted to breathe. If truth be told, wala siyang maihaharap na mukha sa mga ito. Paano niya ipapaliwang lalo na sa kanyang Lolo na nagawa niyang lokohin si Stef sa pamamagitan ng Marco. Well, not practically, pero...

Marahas na hinaklit ni Marco ang kanyang kanang braso, dahilan para mapalingon siya dito. She was so sure he was Marco dahil alam niyang susundan siya ng binata. He looked livid the way he stared at her. “Hanggang kalian mo ako pagtataguan, Cielo? Gusto kitang makausap---“

“Para saan pa?” she tried to find answers to what Marco was trying to put up.  Pero wala siyang makuhang sagot sa sarili. And it frustrates her how this encounter gave hope to her ever hopeless heart. “Look. Do me a favour and leave this instant. As you can see, we are supposed to be discussing about my marriage, Marco. My marriage with Stefano kung hindi mo pa nahahalata. At yung nangyari sa atin, let’s forget it. Let’s treat it like it never happen.”

“Treat it like it never happen?” manghang sagot nito. Hinila siya nito sa mas tagong parte ng restaurant dahil nakaka-agaw na sila ng attention. “Okay, I know you’re confused right now. Think again, Cielo. Hindi mo mahal si Stefano.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Dahil ako ang mahal mo,” Marco caress her face longingly. “Your eyes mirrors what your heart desire, Cielo. And it want me.” It sure did but she will never admit it.

“Natuturuang magmahal ang puso, Marco” tinaggal ni Cielo ang kamay nito sa kanyang braso at pisngi at tumitig ng diretso sa mga mata nito. “It doesn’t mean na ikaw ang gusto nito, ikaw na ang pipiliin ko. Yes, I desire you but that’s it. Hanggang doon lang at di na mas lalalim pa doon ang pag tingin ko sa’yo.”

“I have wronged you. Okay, I understood. galit ka. I’ve been an ass for manipulating you to something against your will pero hindi ko hahayaang ikasal ka sa iba, Cielo,...” Marco held both her shoulders. Emphasizing the next words that draws out his mouth. “Hindi si Stefano ang lalaking para sa’yo.”

“At sino ang nararapat, Marco, ikaw?” she almost laughed at how pathetic this conversation goes. “Come on, ni hindi mo nga ako mahal and you have a beautiful girlfriend. Please...hayaan mo na ako. I did you any myself a favour kaya ako lumayo. So please...leave...”

Natigilan ito. So it was her chance to slip off from him and meet Stefano not far from them. Nasa mukha nito ang pagaalala ng pumailalim siya sa yakap nito. It comforts her but not the pain in her heart that seem to tripled.

Sted kissed her temple as he caress her hair. “ Everything alright? Did he hurt you?”

“No,” tumingala siya sa binata. “We talked a little bit pero aalis na din siya.”

Pinahid nito gamit ang hinlalaki ang mga luhang pumatak sa kanyang mga mata. Mga luhang kanina pa pala niya pinipigilan. “Tell me everything when you’re ready.”

Napangiti siya. “Ayoko. Masyado ka nang maraming nalalaman sa akin, Stef, and I’m still clueless sa buhay mo. That would be unfair.”

“In time, Ciel. In time.” At hinila na siya ni Stefano pabalik sa kanilang lamesa.

Nakamasid lang si Marco sa dalawa hanggang sa tuluyang mawala sa kanyang paningin. Aalis siya ngayon din pero hindi ibig sabihin na sinusukuan na niya si Cielo. He got something important to do after this.

He needed to find Poleen.

Comments (8)
goodnovel comment avatar
Ruthchloe Tornito
wla na next
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Rohancarl4
wala pang update
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Pinky Villorente Asiong
next please
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