11/23

 
 
 

11/23 Chapter 11


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¹Leave it up to Batman!- Filipino expression that has similar definition to "whatever will be," or "come what may."  It means one has given up, and left the outcome to fate, or hoping for some miraculous intervention, as shown by how Batman can repeatedly overcome the seemingly most impossible situations. ²Big Sister- A famous reality game show where group of contestants will live inside the same house. They follow the Big Brother's rules and every week, one of them will get evicted out.

#DoorSlightlyOpen

“A door ajar is attempting comfort not to be in control.”

-x-

Comfortability is what people want and Jhing Blanco wasn’t an exemption. Most people seek comfort to the ones who they think they’ll be with for the long run. As for Jhing, the comfort is within herself.

Once she steps out of her zone, nothing will be in her control.

As an author, she owns everything she writes; from setting to characters, and the background stories to the climax until resolution. She breaks characters, let them fall- she weave the plot, and words and feelings.

A misconception of romance writers though, a lot expect them to know everything about the feeling.

News flash! They don’t.

Especially to someone named Jhing, who’s too comfortable of her own zone, that when someone tries to break and step inside - she started panicking.

She couldn’t control Miko or anyone around her life, could she?

Especially after they went home from Caliraya that Monday, even if she was in pain, they invited the book team and a few writers to eat.

Jhing’s protest of “I can't, it's already late, sorry,” was not heard by any of them.

They casually talked while eating as if there were no body aches they could feel.

“Jhing!” Her name being called is a thing, “Miko” and to be called with his name is another.

“What is it, Miss Zue?” Miko smiled.

Their topic from Caliraya experience went to Novella Project. They ask how the project was doing which ended up with Jhing saying, “Okay po, I'll think about what kind of illustrations will be good,” trying to not look at him. But he was, of course, staring at her.

She couldn’t control his eyes, so she controls hers instead.

For comfortability's sake.

However, the taxi they rode home was the most awkward ride for Jhing. Six people were crammed into the small vehicle.  Miss Vams was sitting beside the driver, while Jhing sat on the back seat. July was beside her then Yayo and Miko. Fall was lying on their lap, this was the only way to fit them in the taxi. Good thing the taxi driver didn’t complain.

“You should just sit inside the trunk, Hulog." Miko laughed. “You're a hindrance here."

“You're the guy here, you should be the one laying down ah."

“I'm tall,” there was pride in Miko's voice.

“Cut off your legs!”

“Oh no.” Miko held Yayo's arm. Jhing wanted to ask Yayo’s son in her tummy if he’s okay with her Mom’s giggling like a teen. “Ate Yayo oh, Hulog is a bully.”

Because Fall's head is laying on Jhing's bag, she saw Fall’s grin as she said, “Jhing oh. Miko is a bully.”

Jhing narrowed her eyes which made Fall laughed.

The awkwardness didn’t lessen when only Miko and Fall was left in the taxi where the latter was sitting in between. Jhing was thankful for Fall’s stories and quirkiness which became a distraction about the fact that she's inside the same taxi with Miko.

For the last stop, Jhing thought Miko will be with Fall considering their home are both in the same direction. However, she almost had a heart attack when Miko came back inside and saw Fall’s knowing smile as she said, “Take care you two!”

Jhing's mind cursed.

“Where are we going, Ma’am, Sir?” The driver looked at them in the rear-view mirror.

Jhing didn’t talk, so Miko did.

“Uh…” He scratched his head. "Jhing?”

“I don't know,” she said, eyes looking at the road. “Why aren't you going out of the car yet?"

“You go first before I will.”

It was the rush inside that made Jhing left the taxi even though her apartment is still far away. Miko was shocked but he quickly paid the driver and ran after Jhing. His growing footsteps were the cue for Jhing to walk fast. But Miko was faster. When he reached her, Miko’s eyebrows creased.

“Where are you going?”

“You told me to go first.”

“Ha?” Miko's eyes widen. “That's not what I meant. I want to take you hom—”

“Don't.” Jhing increases their distance while Miko went closer. "I can go by myself.”

“But it's late.” He looked at his watch. “It's already 11pm ah.”

“I know. Sometimes I go home even later.”

“But you're a woman—”

That ticked Jhing off so she stopped walking and turned to Miko who also stopped. She didn’t want to look at his eyes, but she had no choice.

Pushing her anxiety back, she asked, “Just because I'm a woman, you're treating me like a weak person?”

Miko’s eyes darkened. Before Jhing could react, he pulled her closer to him followed by a wind blowing Jhing's hair.

A car almost hit Jhing.

Well, there was 2 meters distance away from her, actually. Miko was just overreacting.

“That's not what I said, but did you see that car?” Miko asked. Jhing stared at him. “I can't just leave you to travel alone by yourself."

Jhing shook her head before walking once again. "I can do it."

“I know you can,” Miko said. He tilted his head to the side when he reached her side while Jhing looked forward. “But what about me? My conscience will kill me if I leave you alone."

“That's your problem, not mine.”

Miko frowned as he stopped Jhing from walking. Jhing was trying to get away but Miko was stronger as he offered his cellphone.

With an eyebrow raised, Jhing asked, “What's that?”

“It's called a cellphone.” A smile on his face. “This is what you use to—”

“I know. What do you want me to do?”

Miko pushed the cellphone closer to her. "Yo wazzup, can I get your digits?” he laughed as he mimicked those men who hit on girls in the streets.

“Huh?” She heaved a sigh, trying to get her mind to work again.

“Let's talk until you get home. I want to assure your safety.”

Why can’t he just stop? Why the effort? Stop the effort!

“You're wasting your money.”

“Not really ah. Who do you think I am? I'm unlimited text, okay?" A pause, then a smile like he remembered a joke. “… not a human.”

He joked as if nothing happened in Caliraya, or the days before, or the months and the year. He joked as if… he was really saying the truth: Back to zero.

To break the staring session which she couldn't take any longer, Jhing dictated her new number. Miko didn't let her go until he was 100% certain that she gave her the real one.

“Answer my call,” Miko said when her phone started ringing.

Jhing struggled as she grabbed her phone from her bag before answering the call.

“There.”

How to go back to zero when hearing his voice over the phone, straight to her ears, feels like the day she first heard his voice at Cool Beans Cafe? What back to zero, if there are still feelings involved?

“Are you happy now?”

“Yeah!”

One. . .two. . . there. . .they stood in front of each other, phones near their ears like idiots, in the middle of the evening. Jhing's heart was in a chaos. She wasn’t sure if it was because of her aching body, or her mind not functioning very well when Jhing just stood in front of Miko.

For a whole minute, they just stared at each other, static, peaceful.

Just like the first time she saw him eye to eye.

Until Jhing woke up from her daze and walked away.

“Jhing….” His voice was playful, so was her heart. “I’ll tell a story so it's not boring.”

Just keep walking. Don't look back.

“I thought I won't be able to join Caliraya because I was busy in the studio these days. That's the reason why I was often absent too…”

Never look back. Keep on walking.

“Did you miss m—”

A weird sound, like something bad, happened.

Jhing felt a punch in her stomach.

“Miko?” she called, unsure.

He didn’t answer, but there’s a faint voice saying, ‘Hey, my phone!’ so she shouted, “Miko!” which made a few passerby look at her.

Jhing didn’t think twice to look for him. She was even almost sprinting, her blood rose to her brain because of the panic…… but in a matter of seconds, the panic changed to embarrassment.

She saw Miko walked towards her, unscathed as if nothing happened.

So what was that?!

“What—”

The smile on Miko’s face widened when he reached her before dropping the call. “I saw how your conscience killed you when you thought something bad happened to me,” he said and chuckled.

“Let me walk you home so we can stop worrying about each other.”

Jhing wanted to faint in embarrassment.

In the end, Jhing didn’t have any other choice but to give in because Miko was too stubborn. When the two rode the jeepney, the only thing she can do was to push Miko out of the vehicle to stop him from following……

But Jhing didn’t want to pay for his hospital bills, so she stopped herself.

They were seated in the vehicle across from each other. Miko wanted to pay for her and she was too tired to argue so she let him.

A few minutes of silence, Jhing couldn't help but take a glance at the Miko who was staring at the window in a daze. He looked exhausted. His eyes are drooping already while it seems like his body is also aching.

Jhing wanted to jump out of the moving jeep when Miko turned his head to look at her. Before she can look away, Miko smiled.

Fuck this heartbeat of hers.

The sign of 'Scream BATMAN when you want to go down!' suddenly became really interesting for Jhing that she stared at it the whole way.

When they reached the destination, the other passengers were shocked which was followed by waves of laughter when Miko screamed "Batman!"

The driver slowed down the jeepney with teary-eyes while Jhing looked at him with brows furrowed when they went down.

“If I didn't scream Batman, they won't let us out!” was his defense.

God, he’s such a… .such an… .ugh!

After the 10 minute walk in silence, they finally reached the apartment. Miko looked around while Jhing grabbed her keys.

“So this is where you stay now?” Miko asked. “Are you living by yourself?”

When Jhing didn’t respond and entered the apartment, Miko used a small high-pitched voice as he said. “Yes, Miko, this is where I live, and I live alone. Isn't obvious?”

Then he answered with his voice, “I'm sorry, Jhing, okay? Even in my own reenactment of you, you're still bullying me.”

Jhing shook her head because of his antics. She wanted to be heartless, get Miko out of the apartment ASAP, but she couldn’t. With a frowned face, she offered him a drink and let him use the washroom.

Jhing watched Miko fix his bag. He stood up from the monoblock chair, and before he smiled at her again, she quickly looked away.

“I'm going,” Miko announced. “Jhing… I'm going.”

She looked at the clock, it’s already 1 in the morning. The conscience! It was killing her. Before Miko can take another step closer to the apartment’s door, Jhing let her voice out with closed eyes.

“Where do you live?”

Gahd, asking questions make her fucking nervous.

Miko turned to look at her, still a smile on his face. “Why? Do you want to stalk me?”

Her rolling eyes made Miko realize it was a 'No.' She didn't answer his question so he started walking towards the door once again.

Jhing did another approach.

I'll leave it to Batman!¹

“Where are you going?” she asked.

Miko slowly looked at her.”Jhing, I'm on my way to the outside world but because you keep stopping me, I just want to try and feel how to open the door,” there were hints of laughter in his voice.

Seriously, whatever happens, happens!

Jhing could almost hear Batman saying, ‘Why are you always leaving it to me?!’

“Don't.” She tried to look passive, not wanting her nervous voice to be heard by Miko.

His smile widened. “What do you mean? Am I not going to get evicted anymore, Big Sister²?”

“It's already late,” Dammit! She’ll die of heart attack! “You can just go home when morning comes."

“Is this sleepover?” He laughed. “Thes es slumber partehhh.”

Jhing lightly pushed Miko away from the door to lock it. She felt awkward seeing Miko standing beside her in her apartment.

“Is it okay?” he asked.

“I told you already, don't make me repeat it.”

Jhing quickly increased their distance, she always ffeelsscared when they're really close from each other.

“Wow, you're really concern.”

She didn’t respond nor talk. After Miko put his bag down, he followed her to the kitchen.

“What—”

“Can I take a bath?” he asked.

Jhing started washing the glass Miko used a while go. She looked at it like it was the most interesting in the house at the moment.

“Go then. Are you waiting for me to rub your back?”

Miko laughed. “Can you?”

She rolled her eyes. “Go take a bath!”

Miko ran to the washroom before Jhing threw the glass on him.

It’s a good thing that they came back from the trip because Miko has clothes to use for another overnight. Although, Jhing didn’t realize her apartment was too small until she heard Miko’s awful voice singing while on the shower.

“Did you know that because of you, I can't eat? I also can't sleep ever since the day you betrayed me!" His voice even had a husky effect.

Jhing started cursing why her washroom is not sound proof. She's also cursing that only a mere divider, and not a wall, is in between the living room and the bedroom. 

“Jhing!” he called her. “Jhing!”

“What?” there was an annoyance in her voice.

Jhing was cleaning her stuff even though she already wants to sleep. She couldn’t let Miko see her messy world after all.

“Let's duet!”

“What the fuck?” was all she could muster.

“Killjoy!” The splash of water was followed by the continuation of the lyrics, “If I fall in love with someone again, I hope she won't be like you, like you who has a heart of stone!"

After Miko took a bath, Jhing smelled her shampoo on his hair and her soap on his body. She wanted to complain! But she ignored him and went to the washroom.

Her blood rushed to her face as the realization hit her. She let him inside her apartment. Miko just used her bathroom. There’s steam from his body everywhere! He even used her shampoo and soap!

There was no way she imagined this will happen.

But it did.

After cleaning the washroom, taking a bath, and dressed herself, Jhing went out and was greeted by Miko who was laying down on the blanket laid on the floor. Nothing seemed real when she hopped on her bed and closed her eyes.

“Jhing…”

She opened her eyes when she heard Miko's tired voice but wait- is she dreaming? Did he call her? Or… he’s sleep talking? Her name?!

Her question was answered when Miko talked again.

“Are you sleeping?”

She stared at her dark ceiling. “Why?”

“Don't harass me ah, I might like it… then it can't be called harassment anymore."

“Bastard.”

Even his laugh sounded tired. “Jhing…”

How to sleep when that guy kept on calling her?!

“Go to sleep.”

“You're not going to greet me good night?”

Jhing shifted on her bed, a creaking sound indicated it’s old-aged already. She showed her back to Miko… not that he can't see her either because he's on the floor.

Jhing stayed silent, her heart started to slow down.

“Good night, Riona Jayne.”

Silence.

Her heartbeat went faster.

She closed her eyes and kept her mind at peace. A few minutes after, with a small voice, she said, “Good night.”

Jhing thought she heard him say something near 'Thank you' but maybe it was just her imagination or a dream for she was drifting to dreamland already.

Everything felt surreal; she forced herself not to smile with the comfort she couldn’t control.