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Chapter Eight

I was so bothered by John’s presence. I just glued my eyes on the road trying to ignore that he is sitting beside me. Para akong  nakakahon dahil nasisikipan ako sa kotse at kahit hindi nakapatay ang aircon ay ramdam ko pa rin ang pawis ko sa likod ng aking leeg. Hindi ko kailanman sinulyapan si John na prenteng nakaupo sa shotgun seat. I was still wondering if why did he come with me? And where is Blythe? Don’t tell me na iniwan niya ang fiancé niya sa La Alquera. Bakit niya naman ‘yon gagawin? 

There are a lot of questions that is raining into my mind but I chose to disregard it. Mahigit fifteen minutes lang ang naging biyahe mula L.A papunta sa bahay. Bumusina muna ako nag tatlong beses para mapagbuksan ako ng gate. Hindi nagtagal ay lumabas si Aling Soling ang isa sa mga matagal na naming katulong. Ipinasok ko at maayos na inihimpil ang aking sasakyan. Lumabas ako ng aking sasakyan at ganoon din naman si John. He looked at me with a straight face. Sinimangutan ko lamang siya at inirapan. Dumiritso ako papasok ng bahay. 

“Ma’am ipaghahanda ko po kayo ng makakain.” Anang Aling Soling habang naglalakad ako papasok ng mansyon. Alam kong nakasunod sa amin si John. Panaka-nakang tumitingin si Aling Soling kay John. Kilala nila kung sino at ano ang naging partipasyon ni John sa buhay ko. 

“Sige Manang. Pakihanda na rin ng maiinom si, John.” Magalang na utos ko sa kanya nang tuluyan akong makaupo sa couch. Tumalima naman ang matandang katulong. Tinanggal ko muna ang sapatos ko para makahinga naman ang mga paa ko nang maitabi ko na ang aking sapatos ay napaangat ako nang tingin at bumungad sa akin ang titig ni John sa paa ko. 

Kumunot ang noo ko. “May problema ba?” Tanong ko sa kanya 

He shook his head at put his hands inside his pocket. “Nothing…” anito na parang may malalim na iniisip. 

“You can have a seat.” Iniuma ko ang kamay ko sa couch na nasa harapan ko. 

Umupo si John pero tahimik pa rin siya parang nagmamasid siya sa kabuoan ng bahay. I leaned my back on the couch while my eyes are on him. I was trying to intimidate him but when he met my gaze, I immediately looked to my left. Kinakabahan pa rin ako kapag nagkakasalubong ang mga tingin namin John. He still gives me the same effect that I used to experience before. 

“What’s with you and Ram Aguirre?” he asked. 

Napilitan akong tignan siya. My forehead creased because of his question. I was about to answer his question but Aling Soling arrived, bringing the food for us. ALing Soling quietly put the food on the coffee table. Sinunod naman nito ang dalawang baso na may lamang orange juice. 

Tinanguan ko lang ang matandang katulong nang matapos niyang ilapag ang mga pagkain. I grabbed my orange juice and drink it. Nanunuyo ang lalamunan ko dahil ramdam ko ang lagkit ng pagtitig ni John sa akin. 

Jeez… What is he doing? This isn’t the way of how a committed man should act. Hindi ba nito iniisip ang mararamdaman ni Blythe. Inilapag ko ang baso sa mesa nang matapos akong uminom. I silently wished na hindi niya nahalata na nanginginig ang kamay ko. 

“What are you up to?” I asked. 

He shrugged his shoulder. Maingat niyang kinuha ang juice para sa sarili at itinungga iyon. Napadako ang mga mata ko sa leeg niya na pataas-baba habang umiinom ng juice. Nag-iwas ako nang tingin. 

“I have a proposal for you.” Kalmadong pahayag nito. 

Mas lalong lumalim ang gatla sa noo ko. “What?” 

“But make sure you ditch Ram Aguirre for this proposal.” He said. 

I don’t understand him. Anong kinalaman ni Ram Aguirre sa sinasabi niyang proposal? He was eating the clubhouse sandwich that Aling Soling provided to us. Mataman lamang siyang nakatingin sa 

akin habang kumakain. 

“Ano bang pinagsasabi mo? Ram is just my business partner. I can’t just ditch him without any valid reason. Papa, won’t accept it.” 

“Okay… but this proposal is about the Hacienda Mayora.” Kalmante niyang wika. 

My breathing hitched when he brought up about Hacienda Mayora. Gumapang ang takot sa aking puso. I don’t know why maybe because Hacienda Mayora is the place that I really want to own. I really want it to be under my possession. I want to start a new life in Hacienda Mayora. Gusto kong makapagsimula muli. I am aware that I can no longer revive the place that I had in John’s life before, that’s why I planned to run away again… this time I want Hacienda Mayora to be my escape. 

“You know that I am willing to fight for Hacienda Mayora. I am willing to do anything just to have that property.” I tried to meet his eyes. I was trembling finside. 

Sinalubong ni John ang aking mga mata. "I am in for the battle with you, Venice." 

“Please let go John… H—hacienda is my starting point.” I said. I swallowed the lump in my throat. 

He breathed heavily as he looked at me with confusions in his eyes. 

“Starting point for what?! Bakit ka magsisimula ulit Venice?” he hissed at me. 

I lowered down my head and closed my eyes, I was trying to suppressed my tears. How could he asked me that question when after all he was the reason why I kept on running away. 

Tumayo ako at balak sanang iwan siya. I can’t take it anymore. I think his torturing me by his presence and with that interrogating questions that I am not ready to answer. I was about to walked out but I was stop by his proposal. 

“Be with me in Hacienda Mayora after that you are free to own the property.” Sabi niya sa akin na parang nag-offer lang siya ng cotton candy sa isang bata. 

Ngayon, ako naman ang nainis. Muli ay hinarap ko siya. I tried to calm my senses but this is too much. Is he playing on me? Ang ayaw ko sa lahat ay iyong pinaglalaruan ako at ang nararamdaman ko. I don’t get his point. 

“What you are really up to John?” inis na tanong ko sa kanya. Nag-init ang mga sulok ng mata niya. Sa tingin niya ay parang nasa riot siya at bugbog sarado na ang puso niya. 

John just looked at her. Alam niyang ramdam nito na malapit na siyang umiyak. John’s eyes was filled with concern, disappointment and sadness. I blinked a couple of times baka kasi namamalik mata ako pero agad na nag-iwas agad ito ng tingin sa akin. 

“I have my reasons. Nasa sa’yo pa rin ang desisyon.” He looked at his side. Pinakatitigan nito ang picture frame na nasa piano ni Papa. Graduation picture ko ‘yon. Kasama ko sa picture ang buong pamilya ko pati na rin si John. That was one of the happiest days of my life. 

I sighed heavily as I looked at the picture warily. “I don’t know… I need to have a rest.” Wika ko. 

Dumiritso na ako sa taas kung nasaan ang kwarto ko. I hurriedly turned the knob. Sumalubong naman sa akin ang lamig na galing sa kwarto ko. Napabuga ako nang hangin nang maisara ko na ang pinto. I felt so tired and weary. Walanaman akong masyadong ginawa ngayong araw na ‘to, I just had a meeting with Ram and accidentally met John. SIguro napagod ako sa naging pag-uusap namin ni John. Hindi ko pa rin maintindihan kung anong gusto niyang mangyari. Why does he want me to be in Hacienda Mayora with him? Ano bang gusto niyang ipagawa sa akin, balak niya ba akong ihain sa mga kabayo na nasa Hacienda. 

Pagod na pagod ako kaya agad akong sumampa sa aking higaan. John’s offer won’t leave my mind. 

I was not able to sleep that night. I drowned myself in digesting about John’s offer. I tried my best to be in slumber but John’s voice was too persistent in assaulting my system. 

Puyat akong pumasok ng trabaho, as much as I wanted to skip from work I just can’t. Marami pa akong dapat tapusin sa opisina at hindi ko iyon matatapos on time kung aabsent pa ako. 

“Miss Isha already called the RED advertisement. She is very much ready to do the photoshoot.” Masayang balita ni Jade sa akin. 

Natuwa ako dahil sa hatid na balita ni Jade sa akin. I am so excited for the upcoming show for our new product. Matagal din namin ‘tong pinaghandaan and I know Ivy will much more happy to know this. Si Isha nalang kasi ang hinihintay namin para matuloy ang pag-showcase ng mga sapatos na gawa namin. 

“Jade mag-order ka ng makakain. Let’s have a celebration for this.” Utos ko kay Jade. 

“But miss, Mr. Gantuangco informed us that he made a reservation in The J’s bar. Invited lahat ng empleyado and you as well miss. I guess Red Heglon was too happy that Isha finally grabbed the proposal.” Aniya. 

Tumango ako. I guess going out is the better thing to do for me. I need to unwind. 

“Sige just inform everyone that we’ll be out by seven.” 

Jade stormed out of my office. Naging abala ulit ako sa pagtratrabaho. Marami akong inaasikaso lalo na at nalalapit na ang araw na hinihintay ko. Pansamantalang nakalimutan ko si John. Hindi ko namalayan ang naging takbo ng oras. I looked at my wristwatch and noticed that it’s already six-thirty in the evening. Iniligpit ko na ang mga gamit ko ara makapag-ayos ako. Mabuti na lang at may mga damit ako sa loob ng opisina ko. I chose the black fitted off-shoulder at pinaresan iyon ng pulang stiletto shoes na suot ko ngayon. I just applied a slight make up and after that, I am good to go. 

Paglabas ko ng opisina ay wala ng masyadong tao. May ibang hindi sumama sa party lalo na iyng mga may edad na at mga may anak na maliliit. I understand them, I will just put in mind that I will still hold a party in the office. 

Nang makababa ako ay agad akong sinalubong ng aking driver. Hindi naman kalayuan ang naturang bar. It only took us ten minutes to reach the bar. I was greeted by my employees when I went out of my car. I just plastered a smile to them. 

"Mabuti naman at nandito kayo ma'am." sabi ni Janna isa sa mga tauhan ko sa finance department. 

"I have to. I was not aware of this party not until Jade informed me." I told them. Hindi na ako nagtagal sa kanilang pwesto. I went directly to the seat that is assigned for me. Ramdam ko ang pagsunod ng titig ng mga tao sa akin. 

"Venice... O my! I am so glad that you came." Sinalubong ako ng asawa ni Red Heglon na si Girlie. Girlie was one of the known personality in this country. She was known as the goddess of the modelling industry. I met her during my college days. Isa siya sa mga naging kaklase ko sa isang subject. 

“I won’t miss this Girlie. Thank you for throwing this party to us.” 

Girlie waved her hand dismissively. “No biggies.” Lumapit si Girlie sa akin at bumulong. “Ram Aguirre is here. I heard from our staff that you two are dating. He is a good man.” Wika nito na tila kinikilig. Napailing na lang ako habang natatawa dahil sa tinuran nito. 

Nagpaalam muna saglit si Girlie dahil tinawag daw ito ng asawa na si Red. I was just looking around. Pinareserve ni Red ang buong hotel para sa party. Pilit kong hinahagilap si Jade but I was bothered by someone. Napadako ang tingin sa taong tumabi sa akin. I smiled when I saw it was Ram. 

“I never thought that you’d be here.” Anito 

“I am the owner of the company. My presence is needed.” Sagot ko. 

Natawa si Ram. “Want me to grab a drink for you?” he asked. 

I nod. “Tequila please.” Wika ko. 

“Whoa! So balak mong maglasing?” 

“A sort of.” 

We both laughed. 

“Okay I’ll get your tequila. Just hang on there!” 

Umalis saglit si Ram para kumuha ng maiinom. I was just waiting and watching the people on the dance floor. Nasa second floor kasi ako ng bar. People were in hype because of the music. Boys and girls are grinding and some were starting to explore each others body. Napailing na lang ako. 

“You don’t listen to me.” A man with a husky voice whispered in my ears. 

Naramdaman kong pumalupot ang kanyang braso sa bewang ko. His familiar scent lingers to my nose. My skin was burned by his touch. I inhaled deeply, trying to calm myself. 

I closed my eyes. “You stop this Guanzalo… Stop!” I said almost whispering but he didn’t listen. 

“Unless you come with me Delallana…” he proposed again. 

I shook my head pero mas lalong idiniin nito ang sarili sa katawan ko. I can feel his warmth breath in my neck. Nanghihina ako dahil hindi ako handa na ganito kami kalapit sa isa’t-isa. I am about lost my senses pero bigla na lang ako nitong hinila papalayo sa lugar na iyon. His hands was clasping mind. Natulala ako habang pinagmamasdan ang magkahugpong naming mga kamay. When we reached the parking area, agad niya akong dineposito sa sasakyan. 

“Where are we going?” tanong ko ng makahuma ako sa nangyari. Nasa harap na si John ng manibela. 

Nagtiim-bagang siya. “Away from Aguirre!” 

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