11/23

 
 

11/23 Chapter 17


¹Yakapsul - "Yakap" means hug while the "-sul" came from "Capsule" ²Kisspirin - Kiss + Aspirin. ³Paracetamolove - Paracetamol + Love. The above are famous "medicines" for those who are love sick. Wiggle - Mentioned on 23:11's Chapter 70, 83, and 85 as Miko's "very emotional" song. Woman - According to research, the woman Jhing met in the restaurant before and the woman she met in the washroom today are two different people; they're twins. Remember when Miko asked back then, "Are you Raf? Or Sef?" The twins and Ulysses are both characters from the author's another novel. Paper Dance - Each pair dances around a newspaper/manila paper/etc. Once the music stops, the pair needs to be inside the paper's area. If they stumbled out, they lose. The paper gets folded in half every round and is repeated until one pair is left standing.

#DepthOfUncertainty

“Facing uncertainties in life is an exciting story to be told.”

-x-

Jhing was trapped inside her own cage with a key of a lock that didn’t exist. After all, since the beginning, the door was open for her. As she stepped near the exit, her grip tightened at the cage’s bars. The uncertainty was more frightening than the last time she checked.

“Yakapsul¹?”

July may or may not know Jhing could hear her…. or them.

“Kisspirin²,” Yayo who was sitting beside July laughed mischievously.

July followed. “Paracetamolove³!”

They are currently in their year-end party for the company. Even with the music banging their ears and the cheers from the people dancing on the floor were loud, Jhing can clearly hear Yayo's and July's voices. Obviously, their topic was her and how she managed to get better after being ill for a week.

They were seated next to each other, for Pete’s sake!

She should’ve just stayed at home.

Jhing was forced to see the Executive Director. July gossiped that he was hot, and she was right. Mr. Uriah Flynn Valentine was one hell of a handsome man with authority aura screaming. He and his companies looked elegant at the table except for one: a woman standing beside Mr. Valentine who looked uncomfortable with this higher entity.

Jhing wanted to pull the girl away from the higher crowd and tap the woman’s shoulder and say, I feel you because she can understand the awkward feeling when you're with someone filthy rich.

She got lost in her thoughts when the MC announced, “Please welcome, our own Pork, Chop, and Ketchup!”

A lot of people got excited thinking that the famous celebrities Vhong, Billy, and Vice Ganda came but everyone, including Jhing, stared dumbfoundedly at the men who appeared on the stage.

Ulysses, a guy she’s not familiar with…. and Miko.

Yayo almost made everyone on her table deaf when she screamed "Oh God, I feel like my baby's coming out!! That's Miko! Our team! Go book team! And the two hotties whose name I don't know!”

Oh, that pregnant woman.

They all wore casual clothes; the unfamiliar guy in simple long sleeves and jeans, Ulysses in tight long sleeve polo with suspenders and skinny jeans looked like a sexy star of some sort, and Miko was like walking in the park with his shirt, skinny shorts, and loafers.

And heck, girls were screaming!

Except for Jhing, of course.

She didn't want to watch whatever they will be doing but when the familiar music started to play, Jhing's world stopped for a second.

You know what to do with that big fat butt

The three guys placed their hands on their hips and started circling their hips.

Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle¹

No matter how Jhing tried to look away, she couldn’t take her eyes off of Miko. She watched as he moved his body, swayed, and circled like a professional.

He looked… manly.

Was that even possible!?

So the reason why this man is tone-deaf was that…

He was one hell of a dancer.

Until the end of their dance number, Miko was all smiles and his eyes were on her. Her cheeks felt hot. Jhing was panicking so much that she accidentally drank wine. After talking with his friends, Miko walked towards the book team table. He sat down on the empty chair beside Jhing.

“How was my dance?” he asked as sweat drips on his face.

Yayo was fangirling when Miko nudged Jhing at the side.

“What?” Jhing frowned.

“Did you like it?” Miko grabbed her wine glass and drank from it before Jhing could stop him. After breathing deeply, he said, “Let me drink ah?”

“What's the use of asking?” she rolled her eyes. “I wasn't paying attention.”

“Oh? I think you were staring at me during the whole performance?"

Why were her cheeks burning?! “Wow.” She felt like slapping him. “I wasn't staring at you.”

Miko laughed. “Just staring at my body ah?”

Jhing was out of words! How could he? And why is he always making her speechless?

“Uyy, what's this? You created your own bubble again," July teased which made the others look in their direction.

That was the cue for Jhing to excuse herself and go to the washroom to escape the spotlight.

Jhing saw Ulysses in the hallway. He smiled at her so she smiled back before entering the washroom. She stood in front of the mirror when a familiar woman went out of a cubicle and washed her hands beside her; the woman with Ulysses last time.

She wanted to smile at her, just for the sake of being friendly, but was weirded out when the latter didn’t even look at Jhing like they hadn’t smiled at each other before. As if they never met.

Ugh. So much for trying to be friendly. That's why she doesn't like smiling at other people ah, she felt dumb.

Jhing could hear the MC talking when she entered the function room. While walking towards their table, her co-workers started pushing each other to join the game which the host organized. Before Jhing can sit down, July pulled to raise her hand.

“Miss Zue!” July screamed. “Jhing! Jhing wants to join!”

Before Jhing can react, she was already pulled to the center to join a game. Her heart was beating so freaking fast. It almost died on her when she realized everything: They're doing paper dance game and her partner? Who else?

“Win this game Miko and Jhing! The Book Team is counting on you two!” Miss Zue cheered. “The book team needs the honor we can get from this game!”

Jhing was an awkward person with dancing, crowd, and everything. That's why she felt anxious when the music started. If only she can pretend as if no one was looking at her and that only Miko is in the room with her, Jhing can calm down. But of course, it wouldn’t. Who can calm down when you're in the presence of Miko? Not Jhing.

But Miko knew she was uncomfortable, so he held both of her hands and started wiggling it with his as if dancing.  They looked ridiculous! But at least, they both look ridiculous.

When the music stopped, Miko pulled Jhing inside the Manila paper. His grip on her hand tightened while Jhing’s heart was killing her. She couldn’t look at him and was lowering her head.

After the first round, Jhing removed Miko's hold from her before swaying her body just to look like she was dancing. When the music stopped, they both stepped on the folded paper. After three rounds, Jhing was sure the paper was too small for both of them to fit.

This is the moment where they will flirt as Miko would need to carry her just to win the prize of this silly game.

The music started again. Her eyes stared at Miko’s shoulder. The music played for a long time before Jhing's heart dropped. Miko was anticipating he would carry Jhing, but Jhing didn’t move. Even an inch.

They stared into each other’s eyes.

Miko’s eyes begged jump in, while Jhing replied with I’m sorry.

They lost the game.

The Book Team didn't get the pride and honor they wanted but at least they won 1st place for the Successful Innovation award.

Jhing felt horrible, gods, what has she done?

When Miko went out of the function room, Jhing followed him on impulse. Maybe she can apologize? Miko went to the washroom so she waited for him. The man was really surprised to see Jhing standing in the hallway but still smiled.

“O, what are you doing here?” He asked while walking downstairs. “Are you finally admitting that you're stalking me?”

Jhing didn't reply so Miko waved his hand goodbye. However, when he went down, so did Jhing.

“You're going in this direction too?” he asked.

“I'm not following you.”

Miko’s smile was far from playful when he said, “That's not what I was asking but okay.”

Jhing was freaking out inside. Her lips couldn’t utter a single sorry, so she just started talking about Christmas to break the awkward silence.

“Where are you going for Christmas this year?"

And gods, she wanted to smack her head with the question. She suddenly felt embarrassed! Who knows what this idiot will think of her? But she couldn't take it back anymore.

“It depends,” Miko smirked. “Where are we going?”

She rolled her eyes. “Seriously. Where?”

“Just like last year, in my studio.” Miko was waiting for Jhing to ask again, but of course, what can you expect from Jhing? So he asked, “You? What about your Christmas?”

“My apartment.”

“You're not going back to your hometown? To your family? Quezon, right?”

He remembered.

“I was going to do a surprise-visit but because of my deadlines, I can't go."

The two went out of the building. They started walking without knowing their destination.

“Awtsu. So we're both forever alone on Christmas," Miko laughed. "You know, right? When you're cold on Christmas…"  

Jhing's forehead creased. “What?”

“Make it hot.” Miko laughed at Jhing’s arched brow. “The coffee I mean, to warm your body. What were you thinking?”

“Whatever.”

They went inside the Family Mart. Jhing bought bottled water and Maltesers chocolate while Miko bought green tea ice cream.

“Your favorite?” Miko asked before pointing at the chocolate.

“No. After buying, I usually throw it out." in my stomach.

“Seriously!” Miko laughed. “My soul is broken into pieces because of your sassiness.”

Jhing rolled her eyes. “How was your Christmas last year?” she asked to change the subject. The staffs are staring at them because of their noise ah. Or Miko's noise.  

“Mama and Neph visited me in the studio.”

“Neph?”

“My sister who's as cold as you.”

Jhing shrugged her shoulders. She wanted to ask about the Dad but she couldn’t even say the word. It felt like poison on her tongue, and he didn’t mention anything about the Dad so… nevermind.

“How was yours?”

And that was the question she didn’t want to answer. Why the hell did she ask him that question, anyway? Stupid. Christmas should be a day of presents, smiles, and family ties, but all she could remember was his anger, her Nanay’s pleads, and her sibling’s cries and questions. Jhing doesn't even remember what she did; did she fought back, did she kept quiet and tolerate like she always did, or did she cry with her siblings?

“None,” she answered as they went out of the store. “Same boring day.”

Miko shook his head and smiled. “Want some?” He offered his ice cream. He even lifted it closer to his lips which made her grimace. “Come on, try it. It's delicious.”

“The what? Your saliva or the ice cream?” Jhing asked with disgust before eating her own chocolate.

Miko laughed. “Both?”

“Yuck, you're gross.”

“What a hater ah.”

Jhing rolled her eyes; it was her substitute of her laughter for him.

They walked in silence, but both felt peaceful. Sometimes, Miko will comment about things they were passing by as he licked his ice cream with gusto. Jhing can't understand what's so good about green tea ice cream… ugh.

“You really did follow me, no?” Miko suddenly asked. Jhing was about to rebut but was stopped. “Don't deny it. Because if not, we both won't be walking towards nowhere right now.”

“Whatever,” she said. But her mind kept panicking. He was fucking attentive. Why?! “The year-end party was boring.”

“That's why you followed me because I'm not boring? Is it like that?" Ahh, he was feeding his big ego as he finished feeding on his ice cream. “Let me drink.”

“I don't want to.”

“Come on.”

Miko forcefully took the bottle from Jhing. Before he could drink, Jhing stole it back which made few drops spill on her.

“Don't drink mine!” she scolded. But because she felt pity, Jhing used the cap of the bottle as his glass. “Drink here.”

Miko took the cap while feeling gloomy. "Wow. This will really quench my thirst." Even though he was complaining, he still drank for that very small and tiny glass. “Ah! The heck, the water only reached my tongue!"

“Who told you to eat ice cream?"

“Just let me drink ah.”

It was then that Jhing had an idea. She told him that she'll just pour the water in his mouth.

“What if I get drowned?!”

“Then it's fun.”

“Wow. Number sign bad girl.”

Jhing rolled her eyes. Miko continued to bother her but Jhing didn't bend. “Do you want me to pour this to your nose instead?”

“How cold.”

In the end, Miko bent his knees while Jhing tiptoed. She aimed the water at Miko's opened mouth…. He almost choked when a stranger passerby spoke: “Young people these days…”

They both looked at the woman, then to each other, and then to the woman again.

Miko shook his head. “Bitterness really don't choose any age. It seems like someone's forever alone for Christmas.”

Jhing pushed Miko for that comment. They walked for a distance before she noticed that Miko went silent. She glanced at him and saw his strange actions. Miko was wincing… as if in pain.

“Are you okay?”

“Ha? Ah, yeah.”

He wasn’t.

“Are you sick?”

Miko smiled before pointing at his chest. “This here is sick.”

“Bastard,” she deadpanned. “Seriously though?”

“It's just uh… my stom—” Miko retched! “Uh… I'm okay.”

Jhing studied. He started retching again which made him groan. Miko was hurting yet he wasn’t saying anything.

“Do you want any medicine or anything?”

Miko couldn't reply. He couldn’t even stand properly. A few minutes later, he ran towards the nearest trash can to vomit.

“Hey—what happened to you?!” Jhing finally offered her bottled water to let him drink.

Miko laughed. “I think I'm pregnant.”

Gods, Miko was hopeless.

“You still have the time to fool around like this… Do you want to go home?"

“Where? Your house or mine?”

She sighed. “In the middle of the road if you don't shut up."

Miko can still laugh while Jhing called a cab. She helped Miko inside, and when she was going to close the door… the man pulled her in. Jhing wanted to escape but the other cars behind them started honking.

And so, she didn't have a choice but to stay with him.

“How dare you?” Jhing cursed.

Miko chuckled. “You're gonna have to help me until I get home."

Miko slept the whole drive after giving his address to the driver. She only woke him up when they reached their destination. Jhing looked up to see a café: Coffee ArtStudio. She's not even surprised why he named it like that.

The smell of coffee welcomed Jhing inside the dark and closed café. She didn't have time to admire his displayed artworks because Miko leads her directly upstairs. They went to a lobby where a room lies; on the door, MJ Crux | Artist was printed on it.

Miko opened the door and laughed as he said, “Welcome to ma crib. This is the first time I brought a wom—”

Jhing cut him off. “Save the crap.”

“Awts. What about my bad boy line?”

Miko let her in the room first before closing the door behind them. He turned on the lights to reveal his sofa, magazine stand, and his working station. And there, was an Asus Computer just like what Miko described in the email. Jhing's cheeks burned. She distracted herself by looking at the artworks while Miko went inside another room.

You can feel the happiness from the artworks hanged on his wall but the whole place screamed silence. Not exactly the happiest place, eh?

After a while, Miko came back with BLUE FLUFFY SLIPPERS! Jhing was even more shocked when he offered her the same slippers but instead of blue, it was pink.

“It's my Mom's but you can use it for now," he said while his face was still wincing in pain.

The fluffy slippers were soft on Jhing’s feet. It felt weird. She sat down on the sofa. Seconds later, Miko started retching again. He rushed to the washroom to vomit, Jhing followed behind him.

Shit. Miko looked hell.

“What happened?” She wanted to soothe him but she was stuck near the door. “That ice cream… who actually eats green tea flavored ice cream?”

Miko didn’t respond. He already vomited all he ate until only water was coming out of his mouth so Jhing started panicking. “Should I call the hospital?”

She didn’t know how to take care of a sick person! She also can't carry the heavy Miko by herself. Maybe he can drag him forcefully? But that would damage his skin! She doesn't want to pay for his injuries so that thought shouldn’t be entertained. Jhing doesn't have money.

She helped Miko walked to the sofa to lay down. In the room, there was no bed and no food even though he has a fridge. It still has a kitchen, a washroom, and a closet but the house he’s staying was just like that; a building, not a home.

For a moment, she realized they’re the same.

The oldest child, working, living far from family and… alone.

“Do you want to eat?” Jhing asked. She's not good at cooking so she felt relieved when Miko said no. “What do you want to do? Why are you like this? Stay like this?"

“Talk to me,” Miko said with his eyes closed.

Jhing sighed before sitting in front of the sofa. Her gaze followed Miko’s hand reaching for his phone, only to drop it on the floor.

“What's happening to you?” she asked again while looking at Miko’s phone.

“They said it's probably UTI,” Miko said and sighed. “I was having all-nighters at work, likes salty food, and always forcing myself not to pee."

“It's your fault in the end ah.”

Miko chuckled but winced as he looked at her. “I guess so. Did I blame anyone else?”

Jhing shrugged. “You can. Blame it on our President. People love to do it every time something is happening in this world anyway."

“Crazy,” Miko muttered.

It didn't take too long for Jhing to see the pain on Miko's face once again. He quickly sat up and ran to the washroom to do his vomit. Jhing was scared. What should she do in this situation!?

So she got Miko's phone and tried to get his code.

She tried the numbers:

1017

1234

1111

0000

She got embarrassed when she even tried her birthday: 0123

It was then when a date clicked to Jhing's mind:

1123

It opened.

She went to the clock to set up an alarm to remind Miko. Before she could call for help, a hand stole the phone from behind her.

"What are you doing with my phone?" Miko asked before sitting down on the sofa. His face clearly showed exhaustion.

“Calling your parents?”

“For?”

“For them to know about your condition?” Jhing said, unsure. “They need to know about your pregnancy."

Miko laughed. “Are you the Father?” He put his phone back to his pocket before continuing, “Don't touch my phone. I'm scared you'll find my porn collection."

“What the fuck?”

Miko laughed again. He decided to take a bath after a while and Jhing let him. He reeked of vomit! She almost wanted to puke because of the smell. While Miko showered, Jhing stared at the computer across her.

Again, he’s like her: he doesn't want his parents to worry. They both want to be independent; to stand on their own feet, battle their own problems without dragging anyone.

“Jhing?”

Jhing almost had a heart attack when Miko opened the washroom's door. She can still hear the shower running.

“What?”

“Topic! Let's talk,” he almost shouted from the room/

His words made Jhing frown. “Why is the door open?”

“Just in case you want to peek.” He laughed again, but she could also hear him scream Ouch “So we can hear each other clearly. I have something to ask.”

They’re the same - yet different.

“What?” Jhing asked.

“Why did you follow me?” There was a glint of joy in his voice. Jhing didn’t respond, her hands were cold. “Joke. Let me just ask, if I want to be a writer- what are the things I should know?”

“A writer?”

It was quiet for a moment before he continued. “Yeah. Any pieces of advice?”

“Why are you asking?”

The shower continued running once again. “To have some topic you are interested to talk about.”

Jhing who was sitting on the floor wanted to cry. He was too kind for his own sake. Too good. She doesn’t deserve him. She’s broken, beyond fixing. She knew no one can fix her. And that realization hurt.

Miko doesn’t deserve this mess called Jhing.

Because of the long silence, Miko called her and asked the again the question.

“Know your main plot and I guess, the ending too,” Jhing answered as she closed her eyes and listened to the sound of water and Miko's noises in the washroom, "And also know your characters. How they think and reason, how they react to certain things, how they say what they want to say and what they don’t want to say. They need to have their own identities. Their own minds."

“Then?” he simply asked as if Miko wanted to tell her that he's still listening.

“Then that's where you start. Just avoid the scripted feels.”

"Scripted?” The shower stopped. It seems like Miko is putting on his clothes now. "What do you mean?”

Jhing thought for a moment. She remembered the books she read at dramas she watched before answering “You know those scene in dramas where the two characters were arguing and then one of them will walk out? But when she does, she won't walk really far?"

“O?” Miko finally went out of his bath with his shirt and shorts, and wet hair. He looked better. Less sick. “It looks scripted?”

“Yeah. In real life, if one walks out- they walk out straight. But in dramas, the scene looks forced because the director said 'You should stop around here so you can throw each other more dramatic lines.'"

Miko laughed. He sat down on the sofa and leaned his head on the back seat to rest. “Now that you mentioned it, that is indeed true.”

“You can have lines but not too much. You can't show the fact that the writer wrote this to make viewers blush, or cry, or just for quotes. Everything should make sense where the character should be the one talking according to his or her personality and not the author's nor viewers' pleasure."

“Even though it shoots a hole to the plot and characters, they still add dramatic lines just to make the show number sign viral?” Miko asked. “Am I correct? I think I'm a genius.”

Jhing rolled her eyes and continued. “If I punch you and you ask why, I'll answer: 'Just because' because I don't really have any reason. It's only because the writer wrote it."

Miko nodded with understanding. “You know what?”

Jhing frowned. Because she was sitting on the floor, she needs to look up to meet Miko's eyes.

“What?”

“I like you.”

Everything stopped with the exception of Jhing’s heart. Did she hear him right? Or did she turn deaf because of the silence!?

Miko smiled at her and poked her forehead. “Err- I like your passion. Your passion for writing, I can really feel it."

“Whatever,” Jhing said. “Did you know…”

“No, I don't. What is it?”

She ignored it and continued. “The scars we had will make us what we are right now.”

“Why?”

“When I was in grade school, my Teacher called my crush in class—”

“Crush? Who? Let me write his name on my Death Note."

Jhing shook her head. “They made me and the muse, the prettiest girl in class, stand in front. The Teacher asked him to choose- me or the muse. It’s like she was trying to ask if he wanted beauty or brain. I was on top of my class after all."

“Then?”

“Guess who he picked?” The words were bitter on Jhings lips.

Even though that happened a long time ago already, she still felt the pang of pain. The way his crush smiled and chose the muse was still etched on her mind. “I cried in the washroom and even at home. That day onwards, I abhorred that guy. I pushed myself so hard in class to slap my teacher with how smart I am; that I don't need beauty."

“That’s the spirit,” Miko commented. “I want to say that those people are blind for not being able to see your beauty but,” he grimaced. “I think that line has said too many times on romance fiction already?”

For the first time, Jhing cracked and smiled.

And Miko saw it.

He abruptly stood up, sat down in front of her, and looked at her as if she was one of the endangered species.

“You smiled…” Miko said, clearly, bewildered.

Jhing forced herself not to smile again but she failed. "No."

“Oh sure, deny it… Agh, you smiled!” Miko’s smile was wide and bright.

“You fucking smiled. Shit! I made you smile!”

“And so?!”

“I need a selfie of this!” Miko turned around and raised his phone. He tried to take a picture of him and her in the background but Jhing blocked her face with her hands. “Come on, just one picture.”

“Don't want to! Leave me alone!”

Miko returned his gaze to Jhing. "How will I be able to remember your smile that rarely appears?"

Jhing wanted to cry in front of him. “How do you do it?”

“Do what?” Miko asked. “Make you smile? Dammit, I don't know either!”

Jhing smiled with lips closed. “How can you be so positive?” Her voice was small, almost a whisper, while her heart was trying to kill her. She felt sick. She even felt dizzy because of the nervousness.

Why in the world did she smile!?

Miko smirked. “That seems to be difficult to answer.”

“Then don't." The second Jhing stood up, Miko held her arm.

They both stared into each other's eyes. Jhing thought he’ll pull her down, but he didn’t. Of course, Miko was different.

“Help me stand!” He raised both his arms like a baby who wanted to be lifted by his Mother.

Jhing rolled her eyes but she still helped Miko up. He swayed in place so she led him to the sofa. "You're still sick?"

“No. I'm fine now."

Miko’s smile widened when Jhing smiled again. But it was then that they jumped in fear because of a loud sound. A bomb exploded. It was Miko’s phone.

“What's this?” He looked at the screen.

His phone kept ringing exploding sounds. Miko clicked to stop it. “You added a reminder on my phone?” He looked up at her.

“Uh…”

A heart-shaking laugh burst out from Miko's lips. "Tangina," he cursed. “Shit, my stomach hurts… Why did you write this in my reminder?”

“What? What's your problem?”

Jhing doesn't understand why she suddenly felt scared when Miko showed her his phone. She panicked when she remembered a second later! Jhing was innocent. She only didn't want Miko's UTI to get worse, but as she read the reminder over and over again – she asked herself what the fuck was she thinking!

Reminder: Miko needs to pee-pee.

Tangina.

Miko was still laughing as if it was the end of the world. “Peepee whatthefuck.”

Jhing bit her lower lip to stop herself from laughing while the man in front of her already went red. He was even screaming 'Enough, my stomach hurts from laughing too much! I feel like I'm gonna puke' but he couldn’t stop.

Jhing smiled again.

Pee-pee. Gods Jhing, what was she thinking?!

She laughed at her stupidity.

And then they both laughed. Like idiots with laughing tears formed in their eyes, Miko and Jhing's lips stretched as their stomach aches. Like kids where time was out of their concerns. Like two consenting adults having fun for a long time, they forgot the reason for their outburst. They just laughed. They were happy.

Happy with the uncertainty.


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