11/23 Chapter 4
“A past cannot be forgotten if it wants to be remembered.”
Jhing promised herself to lessen her cursing spree.
She will only curse when it's necessary… when Jhing has no words to say but cursing. This became her mindset because, for some reason, her readers love to post bad words in her comments box.
'Fuck you (insert protagonist name),' or 'You stupid bitch/bastard I hope you die,' and all sorts of cursing. It's okay if it was once in awhile but really, does every comment needs to have a curse as if it was a normal thing?
Who would be sane to gladly receive the curses with open arms?
She knew that to change others, one must change her own self. She's trying to renew her life…. but this time, a curse was trying to escape out of Jhing’s lips.
If she's having hallucinations after writing the novella about that man, to hell with her mind! Fuck her imagination and this situation and this man…
For being too real.
The shock was an understatement. The two stood in front each other, entering their personal space for being physically close.
The man pursed his lips and questioned her, “Do you believe in destiny?”
That question made Jhing’s heartbeat stop.
Of all the days, of all places, and of all people.
Why now? Why here? Why her?
Out of all days when Jhing put on make-up, dressed up prettily, and even curled her hair because she was in the mood…. Why did she have to meet this guy today when she looked more like a zombie than a human?
The day when her face looks like it exploded, the day where she can even replace a beggar on the streets… he appeared and bumped into her. He appeared in her life once again and is so close that she can feel his breath against her skin.
Out of all the da—wait. Why does she need to care, anyway?
‘This can’t be.’
Because of the rush, Jhing was able to step her feet back.
Jhing moved her whole body to turn and increase their distance from each other. She started walking away from the fear she's feeling, from the shock, from her heart that seems to broke into tiny pieces and…
Away from that man.
'What the hell is he doing here!?' She couldn't count how many times she slapped her forehead, trying to get the man out of her mind.
Jhing almost had a heart attack as the image of him stuck in her mind. That man was wearing white polo which sleeves were folded up to his elbow. Black slacks. Worn out converse. Even his hair is cut clean!
What the fuck.
How can that man's aura shout 'professional' with a hint of playfulness?
Jhing only woke up from her daze when she felt a bump on her shoulders. She finally realized where she's standing right now: Buildings, busy people, and her walking… outside.
'Ay tangina,' the innocent Jhing only wanted to go the pantry to get a coffee okay! But the presence of that man made her walked all the way outside the building.
It wasn't easy for Jhing to work the next few days. Before, she was only paranoid towards the elevators but now? She’s observing each and every corner of the building.
For a week, she didn’t see him again but that didn’t mean that was seeing things.
Every time she saw white long sleeves, Jhing gets nervous. Every time she saw a converse, even if it's not worn out, Jhing flinches in shock. Every time she saw black slacks….. Gods, countless of corporate in their building wear black slacks!
Fortunately, the men working in Jhing's floor were not a fan of black slacks.
Except for the Security Guard. Sigh.
“I don't know,” Jhing answered when Vams asked about her Novella’s ending.
“Your ending is okay,” Vams said. “But Stels also stated that it's better for the couple to end up together.”
“Sorry, I just can't imagine them being happy together.”
Vams smiled. “Are we pressuring you?”
Jhing didn’t answer.
“Do you want to know a secret?”
Unsure, Jhing nodded.
Vams pulled a rolling chair and sat next to Jhing. “Out of all the novellas we received, yours have the greatest potential to get the adaptation,” Vams said that made Jhing heart… flutter, her ears red and eyes sparkle a bit.
“Online chat between stranger? So authentic! It's not a recycled plot of childhood friends or mystery admirer… It's an actual stranger turning into something! I also like the idea of the protagonist writing her own love story at the end to consider moving on. It was so real! It almost felt like we were reading your own diary because the protagonist is also an author like you."
Jhing heart jumped in joy but at the same time, she also felt fear. By writing that novella, and after seeing the man face-to-face a few days before, Jhing felt like the wound inside her reopened and kept worsening every second.
Instead of just an open stitch and some bleeding, the wound got bigger, longer- and the bleeding had no plan of stopping yet.
“But you’ve read the comments, right? It just didn’t do justice ah. They separated ways to get things done, cool. But the buildup of their life, feelings, and friendship? It's such a waste.”
“Uh you know,” Jhing wanted to support her story, her character, her decision- but no words came out. “I'll think about it,” she finally said.
In that instant, she once again saw the image of that man's face. Jhing remembered how he smiled at her and said the words 'Leche.'
"Uhm, Miss Vams?”
Vams was just walking away when she called her, "Yes?"
“Can I change the story?”
This earned her a frown from Vams. “How?”
“From scratch. I'll change the premise, plot, characters, everything- to get a justifiable end—”
“What?” Vams' eyes widened. “It's a waste throw your novella away! We can just fix the story and not change the whole thing. It's good as it is, we’ll just make it better. Maybe add a chapter or two.”
'But… it can’t be fixed,' Jhing wanted to say but ended up with, “Okay. Thank you.”
Jhing felt a bit of regret.
Why did she even write the novel version of their stupid chat box? She also felt regret for opening that box, scanning that white book…… and discovering that last page. She should've rejected the present in the first place!
Jhing also regrets—shit. She regrets a lot of things… but all she could do was get everything out of the way. Get over it.
No one knew about her, him, and their twenty-three elevens.
'We’ll edit this, make it better.' Miss Vams has no idea how difficult it will be for Jhing to do that.
Sorry but, nope.
Jhing couldn’t make it better.
That's why she regrets it ah.
A wrongdoing from reality can be fixed in a fiction? It’s a curse and a gift at the same time. A gift to make everything right and a curse for knowing that the only way to set things right was to write fiction.
And when Jhing searched the definition of fiction, Google answered ‘Invention or fabrication as opposed to fact.’
Far from reality.
A slap in the face.
Every time Jhing went home early, she often rereads the comments of Ms. Vams about her novella just to get her mind on set. Jhing also repeatedly reads some of the scenes. Sometimes she will find herself smiling because of his pick-up lines while other times she will frown, get gloomy, and finally would not be able to stop the tears from coming.
Editing the novella manuscript sucks, big time.
It's making Jhing feel all kinds of different emotions.
The next days and weeks were a bore.
Jhing was sleepwalking her whole life, without direction, and her goal in the long run? She couldn’t see it. There's not a glint of light, not even a tad bit.
When she was a kid, she couldn’t wait to grow up.
Now that she’s grown up already, she wanted to go back.
Yes, there were perks. Midnight strolling which her parents are not able to do anything because they live far away from her apartment. And yes, receiving hard earned money and buy own leisure. Who would not want freedom?
Also, party-all-night! Yeah!
But nah, Jhing doesn't really like parties.
Thinking back, the last party she attended was back from when she was at first-year of college. She still remembers it clearly because she did not attend her class for that party. The next day, the Professor made Jhing wrote 10 pages of research about IT companies in the Philippines.
Oh did she ever mention what the party was all about? Well, it wasn't a grownup party. It was a simple 7th birthday celebration for her cousin. Jhing doesn't even have a close relationship with that cousin.
She didn't enjoy the party, especially when she went back to class just to be greeted by a 10 pages research.
Another thing that comes with grown-up perks is the costs: bills. It seems like countless of bills exists in this world. Electric bill. Water bill. Tax bill. Cab bill. Paper bill. Food bill. Drink bill. O shit, maybe one day there will be a breathing and blinking bill.
And the saddest thing about growing up? Knowing that fairytales don’t exist, imaginations are pure fiction, and the world is not that really… great.
During this month, the only excitement in Jhing's life was when she had lunch together with her co-editors. And the rants.
“She's so stubborn,” said Stels. “She couldn't wait. I'm so busy because the lineup this year is packed, but she still keeps adding to my stress for sending millions of emails to me. She even told me that her readers can’t wait for this to be published. They're so hype and might get angry if her novel will take longer to release.”
“She acts as if she's so important,” a co-editor chimed in.
“True!” another one added. “What's the title of her story? Is she on the list of most reads?”
Stels shook her head. “Nope. She just finished her novel recently. I researched it. The reads are huge, almost worth a six-digit contract, but I also feel uncertain because it's an epistolary novel a, eh.”
“Epistolary?” Jhing asked.
July answered, “As much as I know, epistolary novels are novels told via by letters, diaries, or emails.”
“Just like .”
“Trainman?” asked another. “The movie? It has a TV series too, right?”
Stels nodded. “Japanese novel that got adapted to manga, TV series, and movie film. It's an international bestseller. The novel is written like a forum with emoticons and grand symbols.”
“Wow,” Jhing commented.
How did he come up with the idea of a forum-like novel?
Jhing felt gloomy even though the idea made her happy. A novel that’s not really a novel. Okay, epistolary- whatever that is. International Bestseller? With manga, TV series, at movie adaptation too?
“Why did it not get publish?” Jhing asked. “The market and the credibility of the author are high. I think we can sell it well.”
“We’re not sure about that,” Stels said. “We're curious about where the story will be going but epistolary? In the Philippines? There are emoticons in the novel so we might get drowned by comments from 'professionals' on Facebook. They will definitely bash that we're failing the literature of our country if we publish a chat-like story."
"This novel is only for the lazy readers! For the ones who don’t have any brain!" she continued with a slight change of voice as if mimicking someone. "I can already imagine the angry mobs exploding.”
July laughed. “Sir Franz will start ranting again for sure."
“I’ll talk to Zue,” Stels said. “We need to plan what the next move is if we're going to push for epistolary novels.”
They finished their lunch after talking about the manuscripts on hand, the topic of every editor who got together.
“The plot is okay, but the character development sucks.”
“Mine's filled with external conflict: the bitch ex and the family who disagrees with the relationship. If both were gone, the plot will definitely go to the path of nowhere."
Thankfully, July lighten up the mood by “I recommend the manuscript I'm editing. It's so clean that I barely have anything to work on. I only read and I’m having a great time doing so.”
“Really? Let me read it! I need to rest my eyes on all the torture!"
Then they continued working again… not, because July sent her manuscript to everyone. Even Facio who was busy with illustrations stopped working to read at leisure.
But not Jhing.
Jhing was too busy editing another manuscript. She's almost done. She only needs the last 20 pages. That's why Jhing was out of place when most of them laughed, chatted, and started asking, "What page are you?"
"The page 90 made me cry!"
And of course, "Spoilers!"
Jhing puts her earphones and turned up the volume to stop the distraction. Because she was so focused on her music and the manuscript which is a horror story, Jhing almost jumped in shock when someone tapped her shoulder.
She quickly removed her earphones, her hands going out of control which resulted in her accidentally hitting the keyboard…..
A 'Shit' escaped her lips when the Word closed.
Jhing almost roared in anger but stopped herself when she saw Miss Vams' jaw dropping. “You saved it, right?” she asked.
Jhing smiled and nodded.
Fifty pages worth of editing, wasted!
Trying to calm her nerves down, Jhing followed Miss Vams to the pantry.
“Miss Zue has something today,” she said.
Jhing hasn't entered the room yet when her feet stopped moving.
At the long table, her co-workers sat with a familiar face.
Jhing turned away from his gaze to look at Miss Zue who was calling her. “Guys, the higher ups thought that we need another in-house illustrator so…. Melkris—uh, sorry, what was it again?”
Jhing’s cause of death?
“Melchizedek po,” he said. “Just call me Miko. Less nosebleed and less holiness."
The people around him laughed at the new guy’s sense of humor while the latter was simply smiling.
On the other hand, Jhing stared as if she saw a ghost. She was editing a horror novel but…. Why does she feel even more fear right at this moment? Maybe she was seeing things again? While thinking this…
Miko raised a hand to get her attention and asked, “It's you?”
“Fancy seeing you here, Miss Blanco.”
Everybody, from Miss Zue to the people from the other department, looked at Jhing with confused eyes.
This is not a joke.
This is not a dream.
It's not a ghost either.
This is the reality.
“You two know each other?”
“We met somewhere,” Miko answered with an amused smile.
“I just don't know if…..” he paused, looking at Jhing meaningfully as his smile slowly disappears. “…she still remembers me?”
Of course, Jhing wanted to have the floor swallow her whole instead of answering that question.