Disclaimer: All fiction. Any similarities are mere coincidences. This was written for entertainment and not for financial profit.
“Oo, alam ko, pero hindi ba ako yung unang nagsabi sa’yo niyan?” she frowned, distractedly swatting at the mosquito flying around her exposed legs. It’s hard to concentrate on the topic they are debating on when the bugs seem to be on a binge tonight–choosing her as their main course. How can she ever hope to win this battle when the pesky insects seem to be on ‘his’ side.
This has become the usual sight in the set ever since they resumed filming their third movie together, which sometimes ends up in a senseless bickering, earnestly persuading the other on their side even though neither one could even remember what the fight was all about.
At the moment, their director is busy reviewing the rushes they shot awhile ago, sitting a few meters away from them, her gaze fixed on a small monitor, tirelessly scanning the images she captured and checking for any error in the continuity. She could never be accused of being sloppy in her job–if anything, she’s very meticulous and methodical in her work, treating every project like her own babies waiting to be born.
So John Lloyd decided to start a conversation, commenting that the stars in the night sky seemed so much brighter away from the city, in which Sarah reminded him that she was the one who actually mentioned that to him a few years back, shaking her head in jest, pointing out the fact that his memory seems to be failing him already. “Alam mo naman ang sabi nila,” she quipped, “kapag tumatanda, eh nagiging makakalimutin talaga,” smirking in delight.
“Hindi kaya. Ako yung unang nagsabi sa’yo niyan,” he maintained, sticking to his story, “nandun pa nga tayo sa baba ng hagdan nag-usap. Naka suot ka pa nga ng mahabang skirt and white shirt tapos may towel ka sa balikat mo,” he added thoughtfully, not batting an eyelash, his face serious, and his voice, steady.
She trained her gaze at his face, suddenly doubting her own account of a memory that happened more than four years ago. Was he right? Was he actually the one who first said it? She almost confessed that maybe, just maybe, she was mistaken and maybe even admit that she couldn’t seem to remember what actually happened back then, but suddenly, she caught the twinkle in his eyes.
Aha! She couldn’t believe it, he’s lying to her face. The liar!
“You’re lying!” she accused the suddenly grinning co-actor sitting right in front of her. “Ikaw talaga,” she chastised, hitting him—hard—on his arm, her voice rising in incredulity at his audacity for lying to her. “Imbento ka! Muntik na akong maniwala sa’yo,” she protested, her head shaking in disbelief, hitting him two more times for satisfaction.
He grabbed both her hands, preventing her from planting any more new bruises on the ones he’s already wearing that he also got from her. “Ano?” he asked, laughing. “Teka, ano ba pinag-uusapan natin?”
She clamped her lips together, trying her best not to make any more noise, a dimple momentarily appearing on one cheek, unknowingly looking more endearing in his sight. They’ve been catching a lot of attention already. She couldn’t help it, she just loves these conversations they have in the set. She’s learning a lot from their sometimes serious, other times hilarious, but never boring talks. Both of them could really be passionate about what they believe in and the discussions that ensue could really get ugly sometimes.
But she feels this is better, way better than what they had before. The unbearable silence they used to have a few months back, right before the “big dialogue” they had with Direk Cathy were dark times she hopes she never gets to visit again. She’s thankful to God everyday for the relationship she has now with John Lloyd. For her, this is a gift, an answer to her prayers. Now she looks at him and couldn’t even remember the pain the mere sight of him usually brings.
“Sa-rah,” he singsonged, calling back her attention,” ano nga pinag-uusapan natin?”
“Hindi ko na maalala,” she mumbled, still concerned about the audience they were getting from the people around them, her hands still caught in his.
His sudden silence should’ve warned her but her attention was elsewhere when he suddenly spoke again.
“E, di, I need to say it again, then you have to agree na it was me who first said it,” he softly whispered, looking at her intently.
Her head swiveled back to his face when his tone changed and felt her heart flutter nervously when she sensed where the conversation was about to go.
“Uhm, ah-eh,” she stuttered apprehensively, shaking her head at him, her eyes begging for him not to continue, trying to pull her hands from his grasp.
But his face was resolute, unwilling to back down.
Although inside she was starting to hyperventilate–distress and anxiety simultaneously roiling within her, outside she’s trying her best to look as calm as possible.
Freeing one of her hands, he suddenly pulled his chair in front of her own, effectively securing their privacy from every pair of curious eyes that the sudden lull in their conversation might have attracted, hiding themselves effectively in the shadows. You see, with them, their silence can be as blaring as their noise.
“Sarah,” he began, his gaze fixed on her, “I-I,” he stammered, wiping his free hand on his pant leg before taking back her other hand, “I love you.” There, he’s finally said it.
She was left speechless, unable to believe what she was hearing. She could only stare at him, quite unprepared by his sudden admission.
He waited for her response and when none came he continued with the monologue he’s planned to tell her more than five months ago. “It may sound impossible but, I-I want you to know na I never stopped loving you.”
Tears suddenly appeared in his eyes and it took all of his strength to keep them at bay not wanting to look emotional nor, God forbid, irrational in front of her.
“I tried,” he whispered intensely,” I really tried to let you go and protect you from me kasi, I know I’ve gained such a bad reputation na alam kong makakasira sa’yo but–but, I knew I had to tell you and let you know that there is someone here who still loves you–loves you, n-not because of your popularity or how everybody sees you, kasi alam ko how temporary it is and how fickle fame could be, but because of who you really are, the Sarah in front and behind the camera, lalo na the beautiful girl behind the make-up,” he smiled tenderly, pushing a strand of hair behind an ear with his fingers, tears welling up in his eyes. “I admire your love for your family and your devotion to your faith–even if that faith tells you to push me away forever.”
She wanted to speak and erase the sadness she sees in his eyes but he raised a hand to stop her.
“You don’t have to say anything. Hindi mo kailangang sagutin ako. That’s not why I said it. Gusto ko lang malaman mo na mahal kita kasi I finally understand what it really means.”
“What does it mean?” she asked, her voice trembling.
“That it is enough that the one you love knew that you love her and that you are willing to give it without expectation,” he paused, swallowing back the sorrow gathering in his throat, “walang kapalit. It’s accepting the possibility na she may not love you back–but you are still willing to give it. Na handa kang masaktan–kahit paulit-ulit.”
She couldn’t help it, and even though she struggled to keep her composure together knowing she needed calm and logic to make the right decision, tears started seeping out from her eyes.
There, just outside the burning heat of the spotlights, behind the cameras, in the shadows, away from microphones, someone said he loved her. She couldn’t have chosen the best place this could’ve happened—a declaration of love with only her as the audience. No one would be able to miss the irony of the situation but nothing could be more perfect and incredible at the same time—and she wouldn’t want to change a single detail.
He caught her face between his hands, trying to wipe her tears away with his fingers. “Please, don’t,” he whispered, frowning. “It’s ok. I understand. Hindi mo kailangan maawa sa akin kasi, just loving you settles me. I will forever be your friend–your best friend, and I will always be here for you. You don’t have to feel you need to give me time to get over loving you because, the truth is, I don’t want to. I am yours,” he said, smiling tearfully, “even if you don’t want me. I just want you to be happy,” he reiterated,” even if it’s with somebody else. Just remember I will always be here for you.” He smiled at her lovingly, feeling peace settle in his heart for the first time.
“Kung kailangan mo ng tulong kumilatis ng manliligaw…,” he began, trying to be flippant, but he was not allowed to finish. Her palm was suddenly pressed over his mouth.
“Shut up,” she whispered exasperatedly, before lunging into his arms.
She decided she was left without a choice since words have become impossible to her and he obviously didn’t want her to talk. Having difficulty articulating what she was feeling, she did the only thing she could do to finally end his monologue. Circling her arms around his waist past the soft love-handles hanging slightly from his sides, she embraced him tightly, pressing her face into his chest, mumbling tearfully, almost incoherently, “I love you, too.”
His embrace was just as tight, unconcerned if he was hurting her or not, just wanting to absorb every bit of her, wanting to erase the wounds that time apart gave them, as he sent a heartfelt prayer to God, thanking Him for this woman’s generosity and forgiving nature.
So this is how it feels to really love freely, unfettered by doubts and fears, and be loved back, generously and unselfishly. He knows that they still need to talk about the years apart but, for now, this should be enough. Everything will be alright as long as they have each other and nobody let’s go.