THIS IS LOVE
“Opo, sir. Kita na lang po tayo bukas. Bye.”
“Sino yun beh?” Sarah inquired groggily.
She was awakened by the hushed voice of her husband talking on the phone. Sitting up sleepily, she helped him climb back to bed, opening the blanket and steadily assisting him lean back and lay down back on his pillow. Pulling up the blanket around him, she went into his arms curling one arm around him and laying her head gently on his chest. She glanced at the clock on his night stand. Eleven o’clock.
“Ano daw sabi?” she asked tiredly, her eyes closed, one hand gently rubbing his injured side. She found out the other night that it relieves him a great deal when she does that.
“Don’t worry. Go back to sleep,” John Lloyd said, kissing her head.
That made her open one eye. He was being elusive. Whatever it is, she knew she wouldn’t like it. Pushing herself up on one arm, she looked down at him inquiringly but he met her gaze, his expression evasive.
“Ano na? Sabihin mo na sa’kin,” she prompted him impatiently, both eyes filmy from her interrupted sleep.
“Wala yun,” he pacified her, sweeping back the hair off her face, trying to pull her back in his arms.
Resisting, she pushed herself up and sat up rigidly in front of him, not saying anything, waiting for him to speak.
“Ok,” he finally sighed in surrender. “Si Mr. M yun. Pinapa-attend ako ng promo ng movie namin ni Angel bukas sa ASAP,” he finally confessed.
“So pinaalam mo na na hindi ka pwede dahil hindi ka pa magaling?” she pressed, her face serious.
“Uhm, hindi,” he pushed himself up carefully and slid his legs down the side of the bed, facing away from her.
“Anong ibig mong sabihin?” she asked, perplexed.
“Pumayag ako,” he stated. “Kailangan talaga eh dahil this week na yung premier night. At saka bored na ko dito sa bahay,” he added exasperatedly.
“Hindi ka pa magaling di ba,” she insisted. “Last week, pagod na pagod ka nung may dumalaw sa’yo sa birthday mo, iilan lang ang kaharap mo, paano pa kaya kung isang malaking audience na?”
“I can handle it,” he stated confidently.
“Yan ka na naman eh. Ipipilit mo na naman na kaya mo,” she said getting angry, remembering why he was in this kind of predicament in the first place.
“Kaysa naman walang ginagawa. Palibahasa nakaka-alis-alis ka kung gusto mo. Hindi mo kasi alam yung feeling ng iniiwan,” he mumbled dejectedly.
“Hindi ko alam ang feeling ng iniiwan?” she repeated incredulously.
Frustrated with him, she got out of bed and walked across the room. She cannot understand why he was pushing this.
“Pero sabi ng doctor eh six weeks. Three weeks ka pa lang nagpapahinga,” she reiterated.
“Masyado ka namang nag-aalala,” he said, pushing his hair back in frustration.
“So anong gagawin mo ngayon?” she asked challengingly.
“Hindi mo naman kasi naiintindihan eh. Importante ‘to…atsaka hindi naman ako maglalaro…”
“Wala naman nagsasabing naglalaro ka,” she said, cutting-off what he wanted to say. “Valid naman ang reason mo kung bakit hindi ka pwede pumunta at saka marami naman ang paraan para less stressful para sayo,” she insisted. Last week, there had been some camera crew coming over led by Mr. M to record invitations from John Lloyd for their movie.
“Well, I already agreed. Hindi ko na pwede bawiin,” he said stubbornly. “And besides, they heard from Luis na binisita nila ako last week.”
“So ano nga ang gagawin mo?” she asked quietly, suddenly tired of the subject.
“Pupunta ako bukas. Sandali lang naman ako, hindi ako magpapakapagod,” he decided, standing up and facing her.
“Kahit hindi ako pumapayag?” she asked, her gaze unwavering.
“Sabi ko nga, hindi ko na pwede bawiin,” he said, looking away from her.
She didn’t answer, swallowing her tears.
“Bakit kailangan bang humingi pa ako ng permission sa iyo?” he said belligerently, defensive all of a sudden.
The room suddenly became quiet, both shocked by the words that fell from John Lloyd’s mouth.
“Oo nga naman, bakit ba kailangan kang humingi ng permission sa akin eh sino ba naman ako,” she said sarcastically, turning away from him, obviously hurt. “Since nakapag-decide ka na,” she said, walking back to her side of the bed, “I guess wala na tayo dapat pag-usapan.” She pulled open the blanket and lay down on her side facing away from him.
Taking a deep breath, he sat down carefully and lay down beside her again, but this time painfully. He didn’t know what to do. He misses seeing her on stage; misses seeing her all charged-up in her performances. He’s thinking that this time, watching her would be different since they are already living together. He’s expecting that watching her would be more intimate in his sight because he would know her completely—like, for want of a better description, watching a movie in 3D.
He regrets saying that last statement about asking permission though. It’s because he feels so silly for being so besotted with her that he became defensive. He didn’t want her to think of him as weak. He even feels ridiculous for wanting to be there when she goes to ASAP, or for wanting to let everybody know, in not so many words, that she is his. The past weeks he wasn’t there in the studio, not knowing what goes on after her performances, he gets so jealous of those people who were actually there see her perform.
Looking now at her turned back, he knew she was crying, but his pride kept him on his side of the bed. He rubbed his chest, wondering why it was suddenly feeling painful.
The next day, when he woke up, she was gone. Her side was already cold when he touched it. He carefully sat up, trying his best not to put any more stress on his throbbing side. It’s still a long day ahead but he can’t help but recall what happened last night, feeling only regret for the words he wasn’t able to say. He should have told her why he wanted to be there.
About to stand up, he suddenly noticed something on his nightstand—two sets of packed medicines and a covered glass of water. He almost cried with self-hatred. An intense longing for her to be there surged within him. If she was here he would kneel down in front of her and beg for forgiveness. He doesn’t care anymore if she sees it as a weakness, but he would lavish her with all the love he can give and even allow her to step on his heart if it pleases her. Now he feels so stupid for holding on to his pride instead of holding on to her. Now she is somewhere out there thinking he didn’t care about her.
She feels so distracted. She cannot concentrate on the song she was trying to familiarize as her stylist continues to prepare her for her first performance.
How is he doing? Did he remember to take his medicine? Is he in a lot of pain?
Sarah got startled when somebody tapped her on her shoulder—it’s her mom, her face inquiring. She probably has been studying her face on the mirror and figured out that something’s bothering her.
Sarah only shook her head at her and glanced at the busy stylist fixing her hair.
When Jessa left and they were finally alone, her mother sat beside her ready to talk.
“Darating po ngayon si John Lloyd para mag-promote,” she confided worriedly to her mother.
“Bakit daw? Hindi pa siya pwede di ba?” her mother said, just as worried.
“Naiinip na raw sya sa bahay. Pinag-awayan na nga namin yun kagabi eh,” she said, feeling miserable.
“Eh paano? Pumayag ka rin?” she inquired, bothered.
Sarah just shook her bowed head, tears collecting on her eyelids.
“Oh, oh, tama na yan. Mas mabuti nyan pag-usapan na lang ninyo mamya,” she advised.
“Ayaw ko po muna makipag-usap sa kanya,” Sarah objected. She still feels hurt for his complete disregard of her feelings.
“Haay, naku. Kailan kayo mag-uusap nyan?” she chastised.
Sarah just shook her head again, wanting to forget for now what her husband said last night.
Sam, Iya and Yeng gathered around her after her second performance, congratulating her for her routine. All of them had been taught to give full support on everyone who performs on stage. They have seen the wisdom in doing that for it built camaraderie and friendship in the studio, strengthened their ties as a family and kept the artists’ blood in them pumping—for all of them know that every artist needs validation.
Her mom met her at the door of her dressing room.
“Nanggaling dito si John Lloyd ah, hinahanap ka. Nakita mo na ba sya?” her mom informed her.
Worried, she quickly opened the door, looking left and right.
“Wala po, hindi ko pa po sya nakita,” she said anxiously closing the door, not yet prepared to talk to him. “Nasaan na kaya si Jessa,” she said distractedly, pulling her hairpins off. Her mom just continued to observe her.
“Sana po, kung hahanapin nya po ako ulit sa inyo, pakisabi na lang po na saka na lang kami mag-usap,” she implored, turning to her mom, her eyes pleading.
“Ok, anak. Sasabihin ko sa kanya,” she assured her distraught daughter.
Turning back to the mirror, Sarah tried to remove her excess make-up, preparing for Jessa’s retouch later.
“Kamusta po siya?” she asked quietly, embarrassed to show her concern.
“Ok naman. Medyo dahan-dahan lang sya kung gumalaw,” her mom informed her.
Sarah nodded, still worrying about her stubborn husband.
That day had been rough. She had four production numbers and all were major parts. Adding to that, everybody has not been remiss in informing her of John Lloyd’s arrival, although, thankfully, she hadn’t been able to see him anywhere near her. She only saw him one time on the monitor in her dressing room when he came out on stage with Angel, but that was just it. She had been trying her best to lock herself inside her dressing room right after every performance, not allowing anybody to see her.
ASAP has not yet ended but she opted to leave early. She knew he will be there at closing so she planned to leave early. It will be better this way, better to have no witnesses in the bloodshed that will happen when they finally talked, she was thinking grimly.
Tired, she picked up her bag and followed her mother outside. Thankfully, she didn’t meet anyone in the hallway. She guesses everyone’s already on stage. Meeting up with her father outside, she followed him towards their waiting van.
“Saan tayo?” her father asked. She looked at her dad, understanding that her mother had told him everything.
“Sunduin po muna natin sila ate at si Gab tapos labas po muna tayo,” she said softly, sighing in resignation. She wanted to forget for a while and somehow pretend as if everything’s the same as before. She plans to go home and talk to John Lloyd tomorrow but tonight she will stay with her parents and think things through.
They were home by ten o’clock. Exhausted, Sarah entered the house ready to excuse herself from their presence but their helper met them at the door.
“Ma’am, dumating po si John Lloyd kaninang eight. Nasa loob po sya ng library,” she informed them.
Confused, Sarah looked at her mom and dad.
“Tinext ko po siya kanina,” she said, worried. Its ten o’clock, he should be in bed by now.
The door of their library suddenly opened and out came John Lloyd Cruz carrying three dozens of red roses. Walking towards her, he offered them to her, his eyes imploring her to take them. Shocked and embarrassed, unable to look at her gawking family, she wasn’t able to reach out immediately for them. When she didn’t take the flowers, he bent down and placed them by her feet.
Bending down, he knelt slowly before her.
That moved her into action, putting her arms around him gently, trying to pull him up from his position. She knew very well that he has deep cuts in his knees, a particular one even needing stitches. She is now convinced that this man is crazy.
“Ano ka ba? Tumayo ka nga diyan. Para kang… Please,” she begged him. He was clearly in pain but he kept pushing her hands away.
“No, no, Sarah” he pled,”pakinggan mo muna ako.”
“Please John Lloyd, huwag dito,” she whispered emphatically, not wanting him to embarrass himself in front of her family. She knew that he’s a proud man. In normal situations, he wouldn’t be caught dead doing this. “Nakatingin ang family ko.”
“I don’t care,” he said earnestly. He’s sweating profusely, whether from pain or embarrassment—or both, she doesn’t know, but she couldn’t allow him to throw his self-respect away even for her.
Unable to convince her husband to stand up, she turned to her still shocked parents and siblings and requested them to leave them for a moment, her face distressed. Quietly, they all turned towards the still open library and entered, closing the door behind them.
Swallowing her emotions, she turned back to her husband.
“Stop. Hindi ako makikipagusap sayo hangga’t hindi ka tumatayo diyan,” she demanded, her voice shaking.
Clumsily trying to stand up, John Lloyd bent down to push himself up. Seeing his frustration, she placed her arms around him and pulled him up, trying to take all the weight she could carry. Her heart twisted when she saw stains of blood seeping from his knees through his pants. He’s such a stupid, stupid man.
“Tignan mo na. Sabi ko na sa’yo, eh,” she rebuked him gently, leading him to sit on a sofa. Escaping to compose herself for a while, she left him to get the first aid kit.
She knelt in front of him, pushing his pant legs up, trying not to gasp at the sight of his knees. She then took some cotton balls doused with iodine and gingerly applied it on his wounds, flinching along with him in pain. She could feel his gaze on her, moving all over her—her hands, her face, and her neck. It has always been like that. She never fails to feel it when his eyes are on her, as if it was his hands not his eyes touching her.
“Itigil mo ‘yan,” she warned him.
“Alin?” he asked, feeling embarrassed for being caught ogling her again.
“Sorry,” he said quietly, after watching her for some time.
She didn’t answer, concentrating on cleaning his wounds. She tried to look indifferent but her hands were shaking in betrayal.
“Sarah, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean what I said last night. You have every right na sabihan ako. You are my other half at hindi ako gagawa ng isang bagay na hindi natin mapagkakasunduan.”
Finished with her ministrations on his wounds she pulled his pant legs down but was still unable to look at his face. Taking her chin, he raised her gaze towards him.
Her tears finally fell when she saw his sad eyes looking at her. He gently took her arms and pulled her up, making her sit on his lap. She refused, at first, afraid that she might hurt him but when he put his arms around her, she finally stopped struggling knowing it would hurt him more. She leant willingly on him, allowing his arms to surround her.
“Bakit ka nagpumilit pumunta kanina? Alam mo naman na hindi ako pumayag eh,” she asked resentfully, her voice still carrying the pain that she bore in their fight.
He suddenly looked embarrassed making her wonder what his answer will be.
“Kasi gusto kong makita kang mag-perform ulit,” he confessed, flustered. “Na-mi-miss ko na yung mga performances mo.”
“Nakikita mo naman ako araw-araw ah,” she said in confusion.
“Oo, pero hindi sa stage. You really look beautiful before and after every performance,” he explained dreamily, “and gusto ko nandoon ako everytime you take a bow.”
She was quiet, causing him to sweat a little bit, afraid that she wouldn’t believe him.
“Sana sinabi mo,” she said in regret, putting her arms around him and kissing his neck. She understood what he was saying. She was the same way with him. She loved seeing him perform, accepting the fact that she was a fan first before becoming his wife.
“Alam ko, that’s why I’m sorry,” he said softly, luxuriating in her love.
“Alam mo ba kung bakit ako nagalit?” she asked, pushing herself up from his chest making him look at her. She is ready now to confess her fears to him.
“Hindi,” he answered.
“Sabi mo kasi hindi ko alam kung anong pakiramdam ng naiiwan,” she said brokenly, her eyes suddenly filling with tears. “Iniwan mo na ako noon, and I almost lost you in Tagaytay,” she reminded him. “Nasaktan ako kagabi dahil parang binabalewala mo ang concern ko sa’yo at sa health mo. Parang hindi importante sa ‘yo na pag-nawala ka,” she said crying bitter tears, “mawawala na rin ang lahat sa akin.”
“I’m so sorry,” he sobbed repentantly, trying to kiss all of her tears away. “I won’t do that again. I promise.”
Free now from the hurt she had been keeping from him, she hugged him tightly around the neck, not caring anymore if it was hurting him, staying like that for a while, savoring the moment.
“Aray,” he finally squeaked, trying to release himself from her stranglehold. “Akala ko ba concern ka sa health ko?” he teased, exaggeratedly gagging.
Smiling wryly, she caressed his cheeks lovingly.
“You’re crazy,” she said tenderly.
“Crazy in love with you,” he added lamely.
“Luma na yan,” she chided but she hid her face in his chest in embarrassment.
“Hindi, hindi, I’m serious,” he said, making her face him again. “Nag-decide ako na from now on, wala na akong pride, when it comes to you.”
“Hmmn, ninenerbyos ako dyan ah,” she said, her eyes squinting at him.
“Dapat ka ngang nerbyosin,” he warned, smiling broadly.
Shaking her head, she started to leave his lap.
“Huwag muna,” he stopped her, holding her hips in place.
“Kanina pa nandun sila Mommy sa library,” she reminded him, panicking. She doesn’t like that look in his eyes. “Baka abutan tayo dito.”
“Wala na ngang pride ‘di ba,” he grinned daringly, his brows moving up and down.
“Uwi na tayo,” she pleads, pushing at his chest as he pulls her nearer. “Doon na lang,” she added, blushing.
When he looked as if he would release her, she relaxed her guard and it was then that he swooped in. He started kissing her, making her forget all her fears of being caught. She answered him back, kiss for kiss, remembering only how much she loves this crazy man.
It was while he was kissing her neck that he suddenly stopped, groaning in protest.
“Sorry,” she apologized, standing up, thinking she elbowed his ribs.
“Nag-iingay na sila,” he said, pointing to the noise coming from behind the door. “Mukhang alam nila ang ginagawa natin,” he said smirking, embarrassed.
Blushing, she started to fix herself and went to the library to call them.
Later that night, they were finally on their way home, both of them looking exhausted. They were in John Lloyd’s van sitting quietly, each left in their own thoughts, both looking outside the passing scenery. Feeling his hand slide in hers, she slid closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder.
This is home.
This is love.