JaeVon FanFic Chapters 7-10
Nakatungong kinaladkad ni Devon ang mga paa para lumakad palabas ng ospital. Step after step, it felt as though her feet got heavier and heavier. Hindi naman talaga si Devon ang tipong nag se-self pity. Pero umaabot din siguro sa puntong napupuno ang lahat ng tao. In the past two weeks, nagpatung-patong na ang mga problema niya. She knew this was inevitable. She knew she needed a good cry. Nagkasabay sabay nga lang, and dahil hectic din ang schedule niya, mahirap nang humanap ng time. Siyempre kung nagkakaroon man siya ng time kailangan din niyang ipahinga ang katawan niya, and a good cry could be physically as well as emotionally taxing... Kaya ang ending, saka na. Saka na, saka na, next time na lang. Pero napagod na si Wonder Woman. The past events and pent up emotions caught up with her. Kaya ayan - her mind was haywire, at ang mga bagay na pilit niyang ibinabaon ay pilit nagsisilutang sa kanyang gunita.
“Anak, gusto ring mag abroad ni Dimple.” panimula ng ina.
“What?” usal ng dalaga. “Hindi pwede! Anong abroad-abroad?”
“Eh, alam mo naman yun. Marami ring plano sa buhay.” akmang paliwanag ng ama kay Devon. Nobody wanted to do this. Mahal na mahal nila si Devon at masasaktan ito kapag nalaman niya. Pero kailangan na niyang malaman. Aalis na ang ate niya in 2 months! Kaya kahit na kakaalis lang ni Darling two weeks ago papuntang Amerika, kailangan na ring malaman ni Devon,
“Wag niyo siyang payagan!” Protesta ng bunsong anak ng mga Seron. “Ma naman. Ayokong magkahiwahiwalay ang pamilya natin. Wag niyo siyang payagan! Umalis na nga si ate Darl!” baling nito sa ina.
“Anak, di basta-basta papapigil yun. Kilala mo naman yun eh. Parehong pareho kayo.” sagot ng ina. “Nag aalala lang naman ang ate mo na ikaw na ang kumakargo sa pamilya nitong nakaraang dalawang taon.”
“Ma, okay lang sakin! Hindi naman ako nagrereklamo, diba? Kaya ko naman eh.” nangingiyak na sambit ng dalaga. Mapapait na luha ang hindi na napigilan pang pumatak mula sa kanyang mga mata. “We can do anything! Diba? As long as were together, kaya natin?” Nagmamakaawa si Devon, pinipilit niya. Pero tama ang ina nito. Alam na alam niya kung paano ang utak ng ate niya. Minsan lang siya lumiko, pero pag lumiko na, hindi basta-basta mapapalitan ang direksiyon nito. Desidido na.
Tahimik na umiiyak si Devon nang dumating si Dhemy kasama si Dimple. Isang tingin palang sa slumped form ng kapatid sa may lamesa ay alam na niya. Ibinaling nito ang mga mata sa mga magulang, at malungkot na napatango na lamang ang kanilang ama. Alam naman niyang sooner or later ay hahantung din sa ganito. Malalaman at malalaman din ni Devon na pagkatapos ng graduation ay aalis na si Dimple papuntang London.
“Devon,” Dimple started. She wanted to explain. But it's too late. Devon turned to look at her, the pain she felt mirrored in her usually happy eyes as if to ask Dimple, 'How could you do this to me? To us?' and she really didn't know what to say. Devon wanted to glare, to scream and yell at her sister. But she couldn't. She loved her too much, and understood too much. She knew that sometimes, people like them had no choice, and at this point all she could do was cry. Ganto talaga ang takbo ng buhay ng mga taong kapos. What else was there for her to do? She was too smart to fight it. It was just going to lead to bad blood between her and her sister, and she knew better. She understood too much.
Still, she couldn't help but feel hurt and abandoned. Pero wala din naman siyang magagawa kundi kayanin na lang. Pero masakit eh. She felt like she failed to keep her family together, and that was what hurt the most. Kahit anong kayod kabayo ang gawin niya, hindi talaga sapat. Lalo pa't may sakit ang mama nila. Mabuti nga ngayon at maayos-ayos na ang kalagayan ng mama nila. Pero paano kung magkaroon uli't ng komplikasyon? ngayon pa nga lang, halos nasasagad na sila sa gamot at maintenance check-ups pa lang. Pag nagkataon, saan sila huhugot ng pambayad sa ospital pag nagkataon? Alangan namang hayaan na lang nilang maupos na parang kandila ang ina nila? Tough lives call for tough choices.
If the look of defeat in Devon's eyes could kill, Dimple's heart would have burst into a million pieces and she would have died on the spot. Devon will always be the baby, and sDimples was still the big sister. It's been painful to watch as Devon seemed to carry the burden of their family's troubles all in her young heart. She should be the one who gets taken care of by the family not the other way around.
“This letter was in my cubby for you, Bebe.” Ivan said habang bahagyang winawagayway ang sobre sa kanyang kanang kamay. “Did you expect it ba?”
“Huh? No.” saad ng dalaga bago inabot ang sobreng naglalaman ng sulat.
Dear Ms. Devon Seron,
Regarding the upcoming event, all the in-house designers have already been booked and many of the talents have already even chose to finance their own clothing, or find their own sponsors. We apologize for this news. We understand that this may be short notice, seeing as there are only 3 weeks left to find a suitable attire for the event, but you are now required to provide your own gown that matches the motif you were memoed about previously.
We apologize again.
Feel free to contact HR for more info, they will direct you accordingly.
Office of the Management,
“So, what is it?” Ivan asked.
“Ha? Wala, tungkol lang sa ball, some details about the gown.” pagtatakip ng dalaga. Pero sa totoo lang, walang pang rent, much less pambili ng gown si Devon. Yung naipon niya from the previous months ay nagamit na sa extra check-ups ng mama nito dahil nais ni Devon na mamonitor ng maigi ang kalusugan ng ina. Kahit na malungkot siya dahil sa pag-alis ng panganay niyang ate, at ang paparating na ring pag-alis ng isa pa niyang ate, pinasasaya na lamang niya ang sarili para hindi mag-alala ang ina. Nag desisyon ang dalagang hindi na lamang siya pupunta. Magpapanggap na may sakit, o kung ano pa mang dahilan ang uubra.
“Oh! Oh, man! That would be a fun night. What will your dress look like?” Ivan asked.
“Huh? Uh, I don't know yet.” pasimpleng sagot ng dalaga with a small smile.
Bad vibes, more bad vibes, insults, put downs, out and out harassment. Naglipana ang mga anti-Devon. Lahat na nilait sa kanya. Pati pagkatao niya, niyuyurakan ng mga taong ni hindi naman siya kilala. Pati pamilya niya. Smile and bear it na nga lang sana ang drama ng dalaga, kaso may limitasyon ang lahat ng tao. Napapagod. At gustuhin man niyang hindi na maidamay pa ang pamilya niya, meron at meron paring nakakarating, at nakaka high blood parin. At worse, kasabay nitong maapektuhan ang iniingatang kalusugan ng ina. It's a double whammy that hurt much worse than what it was ultimately worth.
Devon was tired. Emotionally and physically. Hindi nga lang niya napansin dahil preoccupied siya sa trabaho, sa pamilya, sa mga kaibigan, sa obligasyon. Ngayon, sapilitan at sabay-sabay nang nakakahabol sa kanya bawat isa sa mga iniiwasan niya.
James left his jacket on the floor by the ER and had to go back to get it. He could have used a number of doors with equal convenience, but instead he parked by the hospital-designated cab parking kaya ang particular na exit yon ang hinahanap niya as he tried to leave.
That cliched point where two hallways turned off and met at a shared exit was where they ran into each other. It was unplanned, and neither really expected it. They were both too busy feeling glad and heavy hearted over circumstances of their own. Both were exhausted by their most recent ordeal. Sa totoo lang, alone time did not help them feel much relief and their thoughts ran rampant anyway. Kaya wala ring ikinabuti ang kani-kanilang mag-isang pagmumuni-muni. Pero tila may ibang plano ang tadhana. Hindi pa ito tapos sa dalawa.
That slim chance of them deciding to use the same exit at the exact same time must have been the first sign. The fact that they could have just as easily missed each other in their intently-looking-at-the-ground manner of walking – Devon just plain out of it, James too preoccupied and too tired, they were both looking down for most of the way... In reality neither needed to look up at all. But James did; and this might have been the second sign. He just looked up once. To check for some insignificant signage, more out of habit than of need, and he spied Devon's bedraggled figure walking towards him. She was but a few steps away, and had he looked up a mere fraction of a second too late he may not have even seen her at all. But it was as if the world slowed down for them.
Something that must have been instantaneous, it was an event of mere micro-seconds, but it was as if each step Devon made took forever as he slowly turned, and saw her. Saw her soul. Her heart. Her face. Her face that looked beautiful still as she passed. Despite the haunting emptiness he saw in her eyes, the eyes that looked so foreign as they otherwise were always shining with mirth and laughter. He saw her. He saw her and wanted nothing more than to stare at those eyes that said a thousand words when her lips could not. He read years in those moments, breathed a lifetime and a half as he watched her walk past. This girl who could turn his world upside down with mere words, walking absently, in one of those rare occasions when she at all appeared vulnerable.
“Devon...” he mumbled in a voice so low it was barely audible, drowned by the busy hoolabaloo of the hospital and the rapid humdrum of his heart.
A quiet calling that could span centuries if need be.
She didn't hear it, but he did, and he needed to hear it. He needed that sensory affirmation that she was there, before him, real. Not just a visual failure to differ reality from fatigue induced hallucinations.
Abandoning all hesitations, forgetting all the restrictions he knew existed for a reason, he took one step backwards towards her, and embraced her. Suddenly, those moments that seemed to last forever ended and came crashing back into him in hyper speed and then slowed right back down. As he clutched her tightly to himself, he breathed her in. He buried his face in, and remembered the scent of her hair, and how it felt like to have it brush against his skin. He clung to her. Unafraid for once. Free and pared down to the barest of the bare James. The James that only one person knew. The James that not even his father knew. This was Devon's James, and this person was hers and hers alone. Her appeal and drawback alike, seem to be the same thing: the fact that she doesn't realize how much power she held over him. And in reality it was vice versa. Devon just had a perpetually happy demeanor that could fool the most extensive searches of who and what Devon really held in, and as for James, it was easier to hide behind a dark mood.
Devon, fatigued and over stressed herself; just let James do what he wanted, and absently let him hold her for however long it had been. She was too tired to resist or be aware of what's going on. Too tired to be the quintessential happy Devon just yet. Just this once, she was going to forget everything existed if only for her sanity. She was achy and lonely and angry and upset in various degrees, and her head was spinning in all the thoughts that swam around in her head like little thought tadpoles.
She wallowed in all her frustrations, deciding to let herself set her emotional turmoils loose for one more day and be back to normal tomorrow, instead. She was too preoccupied with unsuccessfully planning and re-planning various things for the near and far future, busy in her own head, she was also heavily considering all the harsh things she's ever had pegged at her and building defences against them over the scars they left in their wake.
Caught in this painful but necessary process rebuilding from the ground up, she seemed oblivious to the sudden change in James' expression. The panicked frustration and concern that swept his eyes as he gently caressed her cheek just went over her head, and was left unnoticed. She did not know what he was doing, or where he was taking her, nor did she care much. Not that she was aware, she just followed listlessly, a mere couple of steps away from the exit, as he slowly lead her back towards the hospital.
Devon blinked, and it seemed to take forever.
Her breathing felt loud to her ears as she opened her eyes, and above her, the unforgiving glare from white rectangles at regular intervals accosted her.
She was moving down a hall, somewhere? Her one arm resting against something, and the other draped across something. Devon blinked again, and it felt much faster this time though she now identified her current feeling as dizziness. She glanced up and saw the clenched jaw of someone familiar.
“...James?” she tried to say, but clumsily came out as Jaaaaah, before she fainted again.
“Come on Devon!” James admonished through clenched teeth. “I could shake you right now!” he all but yelled. “Nurse! Nurse!” he called to a nurse that passed by. “She fainted! Help us, please. Please! She's running a fever.” The nurse walked them over to the nurse' station and paged an orderly to bring a stretcher before she checked for an available room. James waited by the station as he carried Devon in his arms. “Come on Devon!” he said, frustrated. This was not the kind of moment he envisioned to have with her. Not like this at all.
It took about an hour for James to have all the paper work and other necessary bureaucratic steps settled. Sitting on the lone chair in Devon's room, he filled in the blanks on various forms for her as she slept hooked up to an IV drip. It was then that he realized there was a severe lack of pertinent information shared between them. They lived in the same house for practically two months and got to know each other there, they worked together and hung out on a regular basis for almost a year, and yet, he doesn't really know her very well. Maybe it was because he wasn't willing to waste time on semantics. They were friends after all.
But now he's required to answer certain questions for her.
What is her blood type?
Any allergies? Ie; pollen, bee stings, penicillin?
In-case of Emergency contacts?
Is she currently taking and/or under any medication?
He knows she has three sisters, he knows their nicknames, but not their legal names. He knows her parents, but is Lyn and Sonny their legal names? He knows where she works, who she hangs out with, but he doesn't know if she's eating well. With his train of thought overwhelmed by this Devon Seron impromptu pop quiz, he realized that the things he knew of Devon suddenly seemed so insignificant, and he couldn't help but be frustrated. He couldn't think straight. After all, he was tired too. Luckily, he and Devon were both of legal age so it was a bit easier to secure a room for her with the help of one Gem of a nurse, who allowed him to fill up the form in the room.
“Uh sir, what is your relationship with the patient?” the nurse asked, maintaining a professional air despite having recognized James as the in-demand celebrity that he was. She turned suspiciously around her, checking as most of the staff ignored him, busy with their work. Everyone else was preoccupied with their own confined loved ones to fawn over him. They had bigger things on their minds. She had him all to herself, and felt giddy about it. Sino ba naman ang hindi kikiligin? Ang pupungay ng mga pilik-mata ng binata, at hindi naman masakit sa mata ang hitsura nito.
“We're friends.” he answered.
“Uh, sir, I'm so sorry but it's hospital protocol.” she started nervously. Mauudlot pa yata ang one on one niya with the one and only James Reid. “We can only let close relations commit patients in. Sa Emergency po, pwede until ma-reach ang family. But since her case isn't really urgent, we can't move her to the ER, and she already is in a room. I'm gonna have to shuttle her out with-in the next hour.” paliwanag ng nurse.
“But the doctor said she needs rest, and she's resting!”
“Sir, sorry po talaga. Pero policy po eh.”
“Shit.” naibulong ni James, pacing a few steps.
Thinking on his toes, he quickly came up with an alternate plan.”I'm sorry, but can I talk to you in private?” he said to the nurse. Batting his lashes a little, pouting just a little, leaning ever so slowly as if to whisper sweet nothings in her ear. The nurse all but melted. She followed with a silly grin on her face as James led her to the side. But kudos to her, she maintained some composure and did not jump him on the spot. She was a nurse. Prim. Proper. Professional. Though Lord knows she so wanted to.
“Ye-yes, sir?” she breathed.
“What I'm about to tell you is a secret. It can't leak out.” James admonished kindly. Gently touching the nurse' cheek. He was flirting, and shamelessly so. The sad part of it was that it was working. She nodded vigorously at him, and he smiled. Kinikilig. Aware with work and all, pero kinikilig parin.
“Ano po yun, sir?” eager na tanong ng nurse. In her mind, pinapangarap niya, na if James asked her to quit her dream job and elope into the sunset – er, sunrise na pala, she would willingly do so with all abandon. Ang haba ng hair niya, with matching blown in the breeze effect pa.
“She and I have been engaged for the past year.” he said, with the sweetest smile he could muster. The nurse nearly shrieked with delight, but she caught herself and covered her mouth. Though well aware of reality, she was genuinely happy for her James and her baby Devon, still, there was a tinge of disappointment there. Paano na ang tanan away into the the sunrise? Goodbye na lang.
“Oh my God!” she said, errant currents running up her spine to the tips of her fingers. The things she could tell her friends. The juicy pasalubong will surely generate threads upon threads of discussion. How happy all the JaeVon shippers will be! But alas, she loves James too much to leak it out. And the truth will come out eventually no matter what. She smiled smugly to herself.
“Shh, it's supposed to be a secret!” pabulong na bumulalas si James. “I'm just telling you so you could push through with the forms without getting in trouble. Pero walang dapat maka-alam.”
“Okay. Sorry.” she said, collecting her nearly shattered composure.
“Okay. Secret.” he repeated.
“I can start it for you, but you still need to fill in forms.” she said shyly, giddy with a new kind of joy and wonder.
“Okay. Thanks so much!” he said, and hugged her. She pratically had a seizure in delight. And found resolve she never knew she had.
“Just follow my lead, don't look at anybody. Stare at the patterns on the counter and look sad. Whatever questions I ask, just nod, or mumble something, shake your head, whatever. If you don't know, act confused. Did you get that?” she asked, suddenly all business. She was gonna do whatever it took to help them, no matter what. If it meant cheating the system, so be it.
James nodded, his heart swelled at his impromptu workshop for an upcoming character. The belligerent fiancee of a sick love-lady.
“I'll take care of things.” she promised.
James smiled so brightly at her, she nearly went blind. He hugged her again, and this time, she hugged him right back. Complete with resting her head on his shoulder and slight back groping, before she berated him for smiling and reminded him that he was the worried lover.
“Ann, I need your help.” James said on the phone foregoing all pleasantries.
Minsan lang dumating ang ganitong pagkakataon at once and for all, gusto na sana niyang bigyan ng pangalan kung ano man si Devon sa kanya. Pero tadhana nga naman. Kung hindi pwede, gagawa at gagawa ito ng paraan para wag matuloy. Fate is fickle and moody, and James somehow must have irked her at some point. Pinaparusahan siya nito. And James has no choice but to bide his time and do what he had to.
“Geez, James. Did you sleep at all? It's 6AM!” she groaned. “What are you doing calling me at this ungodly hour?” she all but growled. “Don't you know me at all?”
“Alright. I'm up. What do you want?” she said, sitting up. She needed to be up early anyway for an on location photoshoot and they had to leave early.
“I need Fretzie's home number.”
“Okay.” sagot ng dalaga at nangangapang hinanap ang isa pa niyang cellphone sa bedside table nito, only to realize na wala pala ito doon. “Um, I just got a new phone the other day, and all my contacts are in another phone at my mom's. Sorry James.” aniya ng hindi niya ito nakita.
“So you don't have her number?”
“Sorry dude. What's the matter anyway?” tanong ng dalaga.
“I'm at the hospital with Devon.” he said, quietly after a pause.
“WHAT?” biglang nabuhayan ng dugo si Ann. “Is she ok? Oh my gosh. What happened?” she was panicked. Quickly dressing herself as if to rush to the hospital.
“She's fine! She's fine.” he quickly corrected, which was met by a sigh of relief. “Fatigue. And she was dehydrated, too.”
“Oh, okay. Thank God it's nothing major.” she was quiet for a few moments.
“Why'd you have to scare me like that? YOU JERK!” she yelled after she recovered.
“I'm sorry!” he said with a laugh. “It's just...”
“What.” she demanded. Not a question, but more a matter of expectation. Ann held her breath as she braced herself.
“Well, I kinda had to lie to get her a room.” he said casually.
“Oh. My. God.” her mouth gaped as it dawned on her. “Sinabi mo sa kanila na girlfriend mo si Devon!?”
“Sinabi mo 'no?”
“I had no choice!”
“James, patay ka if that leaks out! Oh my God, you're gonna be so screwed!” she shut her eyes tight. “You are gonna be so royally screwed, my friend.”
James was aware of this. He was ready for anything that may happen to him. Everything he earned has been intelligently invested, and he has enough income from his various business ventures to sustain him and then some. “I don't care.” he finally said. And why should he? He's set for life.
“James,” she added, in a more somber, quieter tone. “James, you do realize that Devon... Damay si Devon dito. You realize that, right? Pano si Devon?”
Shoot. He hadn't considered that angle. “Whatever. I'll handle it.” he scoffed.
“She better not get hurt over this. Hindi uubra ang pagka-arrogant mo.”
“Hey! I said I need your help, and instead you turn this into a passive-aggressive attack on me. Thanks Ann.”
“Whatever James. You have no idea how much she's been going through this past month. If you add more to her troubles, I'll come after you, Robert James Reid. I swear.” banta ni Ann.
“Why? What's she going through?” he asked, genuinely interested. Or is it more out of concern than of curiosity? Devon is well loved by the gang and a lot of other people. For every person who bashes on her, it seems her lovies just sends her more love.
“I don't really know everything. She's not exactly the sharing type when it comes to those kinds of things... You know what she's like.” she began.
Troubled was not exactly the first word that came to mind if he thought of Devon. She was always so happy. Always laughing and joking aroound. “So what is it, nga?” he pushed.
“Darling left about a month ago.” Anang dalaga.
“I heard of that...” he said defensively. He did know of it. He heard Bret and Fretzie talking about it. He didn't really care too much because his family flew in and out of the country, and didn't really get what it meant.
“Dimple is leaving, I think less than 2 months from now.”
“After her grad, she's leaving. Don't you get it?”
“Yeah, she's leaving. So?”
“Devon is heartbroken over it, you idiot!”
"Oh?" Ann said, cocked a brow. She knew James to well to know na hindi nito naiintindihan ang sitwasyon. "Do you even get where I'm going with this?"
"No. Not really." sagot ng binata, kunot-noo.
“James, I'm sure that's not the end of her probably long list of things, but those are the two things I know of.” she said, as she glanced at a group photo she had stuck on her vanity mirror a year ago. One of Fretzie, her, Devon and Jenny, all wearing Harry Potter attire for a halloween party, and making faces at the camera. Beneath that were more photos. Fretzie and Devon, her and Jenny, her and Devon. “And this is Devon were talking about. She's all about hardcore family bonds, and sacrifice for the family, those kinds of things. Can you imagine how much she misses Darl? Tapos now, Dimple is leaving?”
James was speechless. Everything he's been stressing over seems so simple all of a sudden. Why has it been so messed up for over a year? Now, all he could think of was being with Devon.
“Anyways, try calling Bret. I gotta get ready to leave.” she said, ending the conversation.
“I will. And thanks, Ann.” he said. “Wait!”
“Shey's here too. She had an accident last night. Don't worry, she's okay now, but you might want to drop by later.”
“Oh no! Well, what happened?”
“I'm not sure either, but she was in the ER for a while last night. I think she had a bit of whip lash, and something about her lungs. The doctors said she's stable, and should only be in here for a week, maybe less depending on how fast she recovers.”
“K.” she sighed with relief. “I'm glad she's alright. I'll drop by later. Bye”
That conversation took an unexpected turn that left James wondering. James didn't think of Devon in that way once in the entire time they've known each other. She has always been a kind of comic, always laughing, smiling. Her personality just made whoever was around her feel better. Happier. He realized there was so much more to Devon than he knew, and in a bewildering way, mas lalo pa yatang lumakas ang feelings niya para dito. Ano nga ba ang feelings niya para sa dalaga? Mahirap intindihin para sa kanya, because after all, it was he who decided to avoid Devon outside of work 13 months ago. They were getting closer and closer and he could not deny his happiness, but she suddenly stopped texting back, stopped calling back, and stopped joining the gang whenever they had trips and get togethers planned. And he got tired of waiting on her, waiting for her...
“Wooooooooo!” Devon yelled at the horizon.
“What the hell are you doing?” James asked, with an amused glint in his eye.
“Wala. Having fun.” she answered with a shrug as she tilted her head back to enjoy the orange glow of the setting sun. “How do you like it here?”
“It's alright.” he shrugged. He's used to beaches.
“Alright?” she asked, rather disappointed.
“What's another coast? It's all the same ocean.” he said, as he took a sip of Coke. “they all go to the same place.”
“Hmm.” came her non reply. It was dismissive and trite. “Ako... I love it here.” she whispered to the breeze. James watched her profile, sitting from opposite corners of their blanket, all he could really see of her was her profile. He watched the slack way her shoulders rose and fell with every deep breath she took.
“You're acting like you've never been to a beach before.” he joked, moving towards her so they sat parallel to each other. Side by side. He wasn't sure, but he thought he saw something in her eyes that went away as quickly as it came when he turned to look at her. It was gone so quickly that he wondered if he had seen it at all. She had a serious expression, as if in deep concentration. It made James feel guilt somehow, like he somehow walked in on a private moment. “It really is beautiful here, though.” he said in reparation.
“It's wonderful, it's gorgeous...” she sighed contently. “I have really good friends with me, the air is fresh, the water is perfect.” she breathed. “If this was my last vacation, I'd be happy for the rest of my life.”
“Haha. You plan on never goin' on any vacations in the future?” he joked again.
Devon looked at him then, the smile on her lips was not reflected in her eyes, and James was caught off guard. “Maybe.” Devon said with a shrug.
And again, James felt inexplicable guilt. As though all his jokes were miserably falling through and he shouldn't try to be funny anymore. He looked away from Devon. Something about the way she was behaving sent invisible needles through his heart. Why was his heart aching so much for her? “Hey, is something wrong?” he asked.
“Ha? Wala no.” She laughed. Her solemn demeanour, gone without a trace. Like the sand castles children built on the shore, all of them washed into the ocean. Like Devon's probable bad mood under-rug swept, without a trace.
He really would rather believe she was all right than hurting, and so he swept his worries away, and took Devon for her word. She was alright. Happy.
Ann, Jenny and Fretzie were having too much fun jumping at the waves that came lapping at the beach. Ivan, Bret, and Eslove were lighting a bonfire, some of the other former housemates were busily chatting and picking at the food laid out on a massive table beneath a nipa shed, some went hiking up to the rocks. Everyone laughing happily, teasing each other. James, not exactly the perky sociable type most of the time, sat nearby, watching everybody. Devon was nowhere to be found. She didn't go up to the rocks with Joe, Patrick, Jack and the rest. Everybody else assumed that whoever was missing was with another group. Only James realized she wasn't with the rest.
“Bret!” he yelled, cupping a hand around his mouth. “BRET!”
Bret turned towards him. “What?”
“I'm gonna go for a walk.” James answered, “I'll be back in 15.”
“Okay.” Bret answered, already busily piling logs over some twigs.
James heard Ivan ask Bret what he said, then ask if anyone's seen Devon. James continued walking away and staring straight ahead.
Over the distance, he saw somebody sprawled on a beach towel. Alone, in a relatively dark area – yards away from any artificial light. He was worried for a moment. He wondered if someone was hurt, and he walked a bit faster. After walking several meters more, he noticed that the person was a woman. A woman reaching for the stars. Smiling. She wasn't in hiding, but she was secluded. Bathing in the moonlight. James smiled to himself. Amused at the simple joys of some people.
James kept walking, slightly changing his course to give her some space. It was obvious she wanted it, otherwise why would she be alone? He paused, and turned back to the lights where his friends were. He saw the fire already starting to burn brightly, silhouettes of people dancing around it. He could still hear the faint sounds of laughter, and playful yelling from them. He decided to turn back and join them. Having new found appreciation for his joyful company from the contrast of the girl quietly having fun alone. But then he heard her humming. “Devon?”
He walked up to her, slowly, tentatively. He didn't want to disturb her peace. When he was a few steps away from her, he stood quietly and watched as she toyed with the sea breeze, stirring the stars, singing softly to herself. In her own little world, unaware of her audience.
“Hey.” he said softly.
She turned towards him and smiled despite her surprise. “Hey.”
He walked the remaining steps as she sat up, and he sat by her. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh, I was waiting for everyone to come out, but I guess, I spaced out. Nawala nanaman sa sarili. Nabuang na.” she said jokingly. “Ikaw? What are you doing here? Hinanap mo 'ko 'no?”
James scoffed a bit. “Nah, I just went for a walk. They were starting the fire, and I kinda got overwhelmed by everyone. You know how they get.”
“Ah.” she nodded. “Well, it looks like the fire's ready. Wanna head back?” she offered after glancing towards the direction he motioned at.
“Nah.” he said, twiddling with a twig and drawing spirals on the sand. “Let's stay here a bit.” Devon took a deep breath. “What was that song you were singing?”
“That song you were humming earlier.”
“You heard that?” she said, shocked, embarrassed. “Oh my God. You heard that? Oh nooo.”
“Yeah?” he said, amused at her reaction. “So, what song was it.” he was prodding her with his eyes.
“Ano ba! Wala yun.” she was smiling her embarrassed smile. "Nakakahiya!" she gushed. She covered the smile she wore, the kind of smile she had on when she was caught being silly, or guilty of something. She was a terrible liar. “Ano. Um, wala. Wala lang yun.”
“Seriously. What was it?” he pushed.
“Don't say wala. You're over acting too much for it to be wala.”
“Wala, promise.” she swore, suddenly serious. Suddenly severe. Too severe. And James laughed.
“You're lying! Just tell me what it was!” James pressed.
Devon hugged her legs and pressed her face to her knees. Laughing nervously. Saying Aw over and over, like she was being forced to confess to something she didn't do. That way Devon does. In James' mind, there was a whole plethora of things that were strictly Devon. Trademarks if you will. Trademark slap, laugh, shocked gasp... So many little things.
“Come on, what is it? I just wanna know what song it was.”
“Really. Come on.”
“Wala nga eh!”
“I heard it! Don't say wala.”
“You imagined it lang.”
“No I didn't. Just tell me what it was.”
“Um, it was ano. Hangin! It was the wind.” she offered, a flimsy lie that did not work.
“Come on. Devon.” he prodded, literally poking her shin with the twig he was drawing in the sand with. “Devon. Seriously.” he gave her the stern eyes that he knew she could not resist.
“I made it up.”
He raised a brow, visible in the silver blue glow of the moonlight against the white sands of Bora. It sounded familiar, like he knew it from somewhere. He didn't believe Devon made it up.,
“When we were at the house.” she finally said, referring to the PBB house.
“You wrote it?” James asked, surprised.
“I only know it in my head, so no.” she shyly admitted.
“But the point is it's your song!” he announced. “Sing it.”
“Sing it for me.”
“What? No. Why?”
“Why not? Sing it for me.” he said, staring her down.
“I don't care. Ayaw mo all you like. Sing it.”
But Devon stood up, picked up the towel and started walking towards their friends. James shook his head, he knew he failed round one. But it's not over yet. He smiled to himself, in good spirits despite his defeat against the feminine wiles of one named Devon.
“Sir, Sir!” the nurse said. She gently shook James awake. “Sir, nakatulog po kayo.”
“Oh.” wika nito, pupungas pungas. “Oh, shit! The forms! Oh no, I'm sorry.”
“Don't worry sir. I already took care of all of it. That was just formality. My super was watching us kasi.” she said.
The nurse smiled kindly.
“Wait, how did you know the info to fill the forms?” taas kilay na tanong ng binata. Natawa lamang ang nurse. “Don't I need to sign it? Or Devon?”
“She can sign it when she wakes up, and I already made you sign the intake form.” she answered.
“Oh,” ang wala sa sariling sagot ni James. “I did?”
The nurse nodded as she adjusted the IV drip for Devon. “Does she have work today?” she asked James as she gazed at Devon's sleeping figure.
“Uh, I don't know.”
“I'll call Ivan and--”
“Call Ivan?” he asked, “No, don't call him. I'll call Devon's manager.”
“You can't call the manager, because if you do Devon will get in trouble.”
James understood, and paused. “How-- How do you know so much about these things?”
“Certified Gem.” she said simply as she straightened Devon's bedding. "JaeVon gem."
“How come I've never seen you before?” he asked suspiciously.
She laughed a little. “DD, there are lots of us. You only really ever see a few of us on a regular basis, plus you've been out of the loop for some time now.”
James laughed at the name she called him. “Okay... Don't worry, I'll call Ivan.” he told her. “But why Ivan?”
“Devon trusts him the most.”
“Like the big brother she never had.” not to mention, he was extremely sweet on Devon, but she left that part out.
“Okay.” James said, already thinking of how to call Ivan.
Ivan woke a little before noon with a start. She didn't call, which meant she had been out the entire time he had been sleeping. Worried, he called her phone and it was left unanswered. He got ready in a hurry.
James listened at the ringing a few times before he hung up. Ivan wouldn't answer for some reason. “What the hell?”
After picking up his phone off the bed, he buttoned up his shirt and as he prepared to walk out, grabbed his keys and Devon's things to carry with him. He had the idea that Devon stayed with Shey and so he planned on just seeing her at the hospital. He was well on his way before he thought of checking what time it was on his phone and noticed the calls he missed while he was in the shower.
3 missed calls from a blocked number.
He cocked a brow in wonder over it, just when the phone rang again from an unknown caller.
A gasp was heard, but no reply.
“Hello?” Ivan asked again. “Devon?”
“N- no. It's James.” awkwardly answered. Why would he think it's Devon right away?
“James?” Ivan asked, double checking the number, which was blocked. “Since when did you get your number blocked? I was hoping it was Devon. She didn't call back last night. It's so unlike her.” he said as he drove out.
“My number?” James asked, dumbfounded. “Oh, I'm calling from the hospital.”
“Huh. ” Ivan responded dismissively.
“Devon was supposed to call you?” James asked jealously.
“Yeah. She never did though. Wait, you're at the hospital?” Ivan asked. “Did you stay there all morning?”
“Yeah, I kinda fell asleep on the couch in Devon's room.”
“Devon collapsed this morning, the nurses said fatigue and dehydration. The doctor said she's fine and just needed to rest some.”
“What?!” Ivan all but screamed as he inadvertently pushed on the gas. “How is she?” he breathed in a panic, weaseling in and out of traffic.
“She's alright. I'm calling cause the nurse was wondering if Devon had any work commitments today.”
“No, no. She's free today and tomorrow. Are you sure she's alright?”
“Good. She can rest some more then.” James sat back on the couch and watched Devon's chest rise and fall with every breath she took. Inadvertently ignoring Ivan's last question.
"James, is she alright?"
"Oh, yeah. Yeah she is."
“Is she awake?”
“No,” James said, glancing at his watch, then back at the girl on the bed. “She's sleeping still. She's hooked up to an IV cause she hasn't eaten yet.”
“Okay, well I gotta go, I'm driving. I'll be there in 10.” Ivan said before he hung up.
“What the hell? He lives, like, 25 minutes from here.” James muttered to himself. “How the hell could he make that in 10?”
“Ate!” Devon yelled as she tried to flail her arms as if to flag somebody down. In a room that seemed to be built of smoke and mirrors, she felt anxious and trapped. She just heard her sister call out to her, but there was nobody there. Her movements were painfully slow, and her voice lagged behind in faint echoes. She felt like she was trying to get through thick molasses just to take a single step. The smoke. It was the smoke that was misleading. It wasn't smoke despite having smoke-like appearance. It was much too dense, to viscous, and dangerous like quicksand. Filling in the spaces where air should be, it was suffocating. Slowly trapping whomever was in it.
“DARLING!” sinigaw niya muli, lumuluha, natatakot. There was a lady that turned towards Devon some hazy steps ahead, but said nothing. It was as if she did not see Devon at all. Devon tried to chase her down, but no matter how hard she tried, the lady just kept moving further and further away. “Ate Darl! Hinatayin mo 'ko! Please!” she wailed like a little girl, but the lady kept moving away, until the smoke ate her figure and Devon can no longer see her. “ATE DARLING!” she cried, but nothing.
Nakarining ng bungisngis si Devon and she turned towards that direction. “Dimple?” pamilyar ang naging sagot na tawa. Malamya at malambing na tila hinihikayat si Devon na makisali. “Dimple!” tawag ng dalaga habang tumatakbo sa dirction ng boses. But the feminine laugh that she had been following slowly grew fainter and fainter. “Ate!” she called in a panic. Nobody answered her calls. “Ate! Ate Darl! Ate Dimple!” she yelled, slowly walking, paying close attention to any sound.
And then she was falling.
The smoke concealed a hole on the ground, and she fell through.
It all happened so fast, she didn't know how to react. She wasn't even able bring herself to scream. All she could do was stare at where she just was with bug eyed fear as her heartbeat hammered through her chest and her breathing grew rapid and short. The hole she fell through quickly became but a pinhole of light and it was growing smaller still. Farther and farther away.
The darkness was all around her. She was scared, but she didn't know of what.
She was scared of the nothingness. Anything could come out of it, but anything was so vague and there was no preparation for the unknown. She clenched her fists and held her breath.
“Sir, her heart is okay for now.” said a voice she recognized.
“Doctor, ano po ba ang kailangan gawin?” came Devon's dad's voice.
Devon's ears pinged.
Conversation ito sa ospital nung huling check-up ng mama ni Devon. Binaha ng luha ang mga mata ni Devon na naglalakihan na dahil sa takot. Pilit niyang hinahanap ang pinanggagalingan ng boses, pero wala siyang makita sa dilim. Tinatawag niya ang kanyang ama, pero walang lumalabas na boses.
And then the voices started to repeat and overlap. Like several tape recorders playing at once in different intervals. Some changing in pitch, playing over and over and over. In the background, she could hear her mother laughing heartily.
“Mama?” she managed to say, as if whatever was granting audible speech decided she was allowed to atleast hear herself. Such a small victory.
But a small victory that was just as quickly given as it was taken away, because the laugh somehow sounded wrong. As if it had been corrupted, and sure enough, the kind laughter of her mother quickly turned into an antagonistic maniacle cackle. That was all she could take.
Devon shut her eyes, covered her ears, and screamed.