Saturday, December 11, 2010

JaeVon FanFic Chapters 11 thru 14

JaeVon FanFic Chapters 11-14

Chapter 11

“Devon! Devon!” James grabbed her shoulders, trying to subdue her, to comfort her. He wanted so much to just hold her in his arms and take her fears away. But instead, he was rather helpless in her screaming and thrashing around, her IV drip was ripped off her arm. James tried to help her, but even he didn't really understand what was going on. This might be a punishment as far as he was concerned. He just couldn't seem to get any peaceful alone time with her. There was always some kind of drama. Some kind of disaster. “What's wrong? Devon, are you alright?” he asked in vain.
The door opened and Ivan walked in carrying a duffel bag.
“Call the nurse!” James yelled, trying to keep Devon from injuring herself by accident. She already had a cut at the back of her hand from the IV drip that got ripped out violently.
Ivan dropped the bag and bolted for the nurse' station. He was back in no time with a nurse in tow, and she injected some calming drug into Devon's arm.
“Was that a sedative?” Ivan asked the nurse.
“No, it's just a downer. Don't worry Ivan. I think she'll be fine.” she reassured him, as she bandaged up her hand. “Devon, ok ka lang?”
“I'm ok ate, sorry ha. Naabala pa kayo.” Devon answered, surprised at how weak her voice sounded. “What happened ba? What am I doing here?”
“You collapsed from fatigue. I told you to rest up. Matigas kasi ulo mo eh.” Ivan offered. “Why didn't you come home?”
“I was gonna, po – Lolo.” Devon said with her usual sass, if not her usual energy. “But I waited for Shey's mom to come, and I planned on heading to your pad then, kaso by then wala na. I don't remember.” Ivan gave her a slight hug as the nurse quietly walked herself out the door.
“Well i'm glad ok ka na.”
“Pwede na ba ako umuwi?”
“I can check?” Ivan offered.
James, who simply stood at the foot of the bed just watching Devon, watching some color return to her face, brightened. The sign of health, that she was already feeling better. He watched and felt glad. “You don't have to stay. You just have to sign some papers, and you can go. You have to call Dhemy too, by the way.”
Devon hasn't noticed him there, and she remembered a dream she had... Lights... His clenched jaw... Darkness... The profile of his face... Her calling his name, but failing... “James...?”

Ivan said nothing as he watched the two awkwardly avoid each other's gaze. Neither spoke, though their body language spoke volumes. Determined to help Devon, he offered to get the documents for Devon as a pretence for leaving.
Devon's eyes darted between Ivan and the door, then it was pleading, don't leave me here. Kung wala sa James, pihadong mahihiya ang dalaga sa pagka delirious niya dahil sa bangungot, pero dahil nandun si James, naisang-tabi na lamang ito at napunan instead ng frustration at anxiety.

Ivan would have stayed all week if she asked him to. But not like this. Not this way.

He knew they needed to talk.

Ivan quickly walked out and closed the door behind him. He shut his eyes tight. It took all he had to keep himself from meddling. He just wanted it all to get over and done with. And he knew this was one of those things where he would do more harm than good if he got caught in the middle. He wanted to do harm. He wanted things to never get better between James and Devon. He wanted things not to go back to the way they were. But Devon glows when she's with him, and so does he. As much as he cares for her, he can never be sure that she will be as happy, or glow in that same way in his company.

“Um, Ivan brought your things.” James said, shattering the silence, to which Devon responded with the slightest pseudo nod. She was ignoring him blatantly, but manners kept her from disregarding him completely. She offered the best she could, and thast was all he was gonna get.
He expected it, but it didn't hurt him any less. On the one hand he deserved it, on the other, well, circumstances didn't really help either of them any. He braced himself. “Okay, you can be like that. You're sick. I'll let it go.”
Devon glared. Seething. The thing she hated most was being treated like she had done wrong when she hadn't.
“What did you expect anyways? It's not like I can expect you to apologize properly in your condition.” James asked, feigning innocence. “I understand you're not yourself. I forgive you.” He avoided looking Devon in the eye, because she will break him, and he will cower instead. Something that she will easily accept and move on from. If he asked for forgiveness, she will say everything was alright, and James knew that was gonna be it. “I guess you're alright.” he shrugged. “I'll take your things to my car.” James cringed at his own behaviour. He knew he was being needlessly crass, but he also knew Devon too well. Things might have changed, but Devon at the core, is still Devon. She was too principled, and most definitely won't take his bullshit. Strapped on to an IV drip and all, she will rip him out a new one if she had to. And he was pushing all the buttons to make her. It was the only way to break her catatonic interaction with him, and he wanted her back. So badly, that he was willing to take any abuse she had for him.

He has prepared to accept his atonement.

It wasn't such a funny thought.
But it was true, he was more than willing to be petty for an indeterminate length of time. He even got to the point where he felt his behaviour was completely rational. Something as natural as breathing. As for Devon, well, it took the better part of most of a year for James to sufficiently convince himself she did not matter. The rest of the year he spent being miserable at everyone's expense.

Last night, he wanted to talk to her. But he didn't really know why. It just felt right, it felt needed. After hearing the heartache in her voice, he couldn't help but want to be with her. By her. He needed to be where she was, and that was that. Any other details did not matter. Semantics? Who needs them? He didn't. He just shrugged them off to the wind and drove to her house with out so much as an idea, much less a plan.

He wasted a year being a pessimist, convinced that whatever he decided was ultimately the better course, and he spent a lot of energy convincing himself that whatever misery he felt was normal. Natural. After all, everybody experiences the blues at one point in their lives. Why was he exempt? Why was she? What he did, what he said, he thought they were the smarter things to do at the time. He knew better now. He was jaded then, so naive, so immature. There was no getting caught between a rock and a hard place, he just decided which was right, and logically stuck to his guns. His flawed sense of right, his immature sense of understanding.

But death changes things. Even the mere idea of it was so incredibly strong. Thinking he's lost her once and for all, erased in one instant, everything he's toiled for a year to build. All the lies, they melted away and revealed in their core, the truth.

That Devon mattered.
That Devon was, Devon. His Devon.
And his Devon was gone, but he wants her back.
He wants her. He needs her.
He needs to be with her.

And the resolve that he was gonna do whatever it took to get her back, the old Devon, the real Devon that was his before any of this past year happened, grew overnight. There was not much toiling, nor fighting. It truly was so much easier to let something grow, he learned. So much easier than trying to stifle something that wants to explode.

He had to admit, he dreamt of her most nights. He dreamt of her song. That night at the beach in Bora, the way her white off shoulder tee reflected the moonlight as she reached for the stars...
He dreamt of her trying to cook, and making a frustrated face...
He dreamt of her hair... Her smile... The way her fingers trailed across his skin.

He fought so hard to erase her. He convinced himself he did not want her. And in her own way, she stayed away too. But that made James miserable. Devon, he avoided knowing much of whatever went on with her. He hated that she was friends with with the same people he was friends with. He hated seeing his friends because it meant seeing her. He hated that he couldn't hate her. He hated that he was miserable and she didn't seem to care. He never thought to wonder why. He never thought to question his logic. He never thought to ask himself what was missing, and so he never thought something was wrong.

He carried the bag and walked out before Devon could say anything. She was fuming, and James just smiled to himself. Enjoying the warm tingles that ran up and down his spine. This is what she does to him. This was her power over him. And even if it may take years, he was decided to win her back.

He was no fool. He realizes fully that he successfully pushed her away, though not completely. And he understood the effort reeling her back in would take. But his mind was made up, and his heart was many things but unhappy for once. He was all sorts of eager, and his gut was screaming full speed ahead.

Chapter 12

It's been weeks since Shey's accident and she was well enough to go back to work. Her closest friends all put up a fight to get a weekend off as a group, and the management, seeing potential in a Reunion special, decided to grant them all a week break provided they allow filming on the last two days of their weekend trip for a TV special. Everyone was basking in the excitement, waiting for Shey to finish her The Buzz interview, and they were all off to Matabungkay for a 3-day weekend which will be followed by 4 days off! What a rarity!

For their trip up to the beach, the Network hired a coach for them, and another for staff, RMs, and PAs. James was looking for Bret to ask about details tungkol sa lakad ng grupo, when he saw him talking to Devon. Devon was smiling brightly, covering her mouth as if to conceal a squeal. James hurried to join them, but Devon went elsewhere before he reached them.
“Oh hey.” Bret said. “Are you driving?”
“What?” James asked as his head was turning here and there to find Devon.
“I said, are you driving?” Bret repeated with a lopsided smile on his face. “And if you're looking for a certain someone, she ran off looking for Ivan. She got a little excited about this new song my band is releasing.”
“There's a new song?” James said, irritated. “She's like a groupie around you.”
“Another one by the MSW.” Bret said ignoring the groupie comment with a sly grin. “This little secret weapon of mine, my little MSW, is getting some notoriety, even. There's threads on PEx for her.” Bret caught himself. But the 'her' already came out. Good thing James was too out of it to notice the major slip of the tongue.
“Who the hell is this Mysterious Song Writer anyway?” James asked. “Credited in both of your albums, and now you're telling me, he'll be creditted in the upcoming one too. Just tell me who it is. What's the big deal? I don't care anyway.”
“I was sworn to secrecy.” Bret answered. “So, are you driving?” he asked after a pause, effectively changing the subject.
“Can I hitch a ride? Ivan was gonna drive, and I was gonna hitch a ride with him, but he decided to take the coach at the last minute.”
“Sure. Whatever.” to say that James was displeased would be a huge understatement. Atleast he was glad about not having to drive up alone. He intended on asking Devon, but she was off gallivanting with Ivan somewhere and gushing about this new Bret song, while here he was frustrated and being pathetic after her.
“Awesome! Thanks man. I had to give up my spot on the coach for Louise, and the rest of the band are driving up on the van.”
“Why?” James asked, slightly returned to the real world.
“Oh, since the network is sending a film crew anyway, I took advantage and asked them to come a night early to film a concept MV for the new song.”
“And Louise is coming because?” James asked about their mutual friend.
“She sang for me on this one.”
“So the record is done?”
“It's been done for months now, but I've been too busy to plan the promotion. I needed a female vocalist for this particular song, and it had to be her. MSW's strict orders. Demanded I BEG Lou to sing it even.” Bret shared. “Granted that was almost a year ago now. This song is so epic. So poignant. Specially if you knew the back story. It's like a universal heartbreak song.” Bret all but gushed like a lovesick schoolkid.
“What the eff is it with this friggin' MSW?” James said, frustrated at the secret. “And since when do you listen to somebody else when it came to your music? And I hate your stupid heartbreak songs.”
“Since when did you care how I produced my music anyway, man?” Bret responded dismissively. “This works for me. I think it's become a lucky charm of mine.”
“Do you have a secret identity?” James asked sarcastically.
“No, why do you ask?”
“I think this whole MSW thing is just a gimmick.” James accused. “You're scared to take the fall for your stupid songs.”
“Feel free to think that, my friend.” Bret said. “I encourage that kind of thinking.” Bret was beyond reacting to James' calling his art stupid. James appreciated Bret's music and supported it. But they were friends and Jamestook it upon himself to keep Bret on his toes with his craft by being overly critical about it. “I should spread that rumour...”
“Rumour my ass.” James scoffed.

The drive up on the various vehicles were several levels of fun depending on which vehicle was subject. Everyone but the driver slept on the staff coach on the first hour. It was only a couple hour drive, if traffic was forgiving anyway. The coach that carried Louise, Ryan, Jenny, Ivan, Devon, Ann, Kyra and Fretzie was the opposite. The girls and Ryan were singing loudly, asking Ms. Krissy, who was sitting front seat passenger to skip songs on the ipod till the next song they liked came on. Ivan tried sleeping, which prompted Devon to draw silly things on his face without anyone else noticing. The benefits of sitting on the farthest end of the coach.

When he woke up to ask where they were, or if they were close, or something along those lines, everyone turned to pay attention to him and saw the facial art he was sporting. They all burst into laughter, and Ivan, though admittedly surprised, took it all in good humor.
“Oh geez!” he laughed. “I suspected! I should have known!”
“Sorry kuya.” Devon said, laughing. “Hindi ko maresist.”
“I'm gonna get you. Abangan mo yan.” he vowed with a glimmer in his eye.
“Hala ka, bessy. Patay!” Fretzie teased, as she hi-fived with Ann, who was laughing too hard. Ann took a picture of Ivan and sent it to Bret who was in James' car, to Shey who was in April's car driving up with Joe and Eslove, and to Yong who was in a van with Kazel, Yen, Tricia and Patrick.
“I'm sorry! You were sleeping like a baby kasi! Super cute!” Devon said defensively. Ivan noticed Ann was busily tinkering away on her BlackBerry.
“Hoy! Ann! What happens in the van stays in the van!” Ivan yelled as he tried to grab the phone from Ann. Ann squealed, weaselled, and dodged in probably the most unglamorous of ways, but she did not give a damn.
“No! No! Wait lang!” she shrieked as Ivan fought to grab it. Ann stuck her arm out ahead of her so that Ivan wouldn't reach, and Kyra took the BlackBerry a la tagteam effort. “YES!” she screamed as the bar successfully finished scrolling. “Too late na! Sent na. All the vehicles have it na.” she victoriously announced. Ivan poked her on the side mercilessly, while she tried to tell Kyra in urgent breaths of laughter to lock the phone so Ivan couldn't delete the photo. And the whole coach burst in unanimous laughter. Busily pointing and laughing heartily. Ivan pouted, but was also stifling a smile.

Bret sent back an awkward picture of him and James as James drove, Kazel sent back an awkward group picture of everyone in their van making silly faces, at ang mga bading sa staff van ay sumali narin by sending back their own photo of supermodel poses. Normal group shot lang ang kina Joe, and the game went on for a while, each picture was an effort to trump the last, hanggang sa nakarating na sila sa destination nila, nagtatawanan parin ang lahat. When everyone got off their respective vehicles, tuloy parin ang photoshoot mood.

Their weekends were whenever it was most feasible. This weekend specifically was a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday one, which was great because a; the resort will be practically empty being it'll be weekdays, and b; because the weather reports for those three days were promising sans the cloudy Sunday. After that, three or so days left till the Ball.

By the time the cars were completely unloaded, and everyone's been unpacked, it was too late for much else. The girls, the boys, and the staff shared rooms in groups in the same hall. Bret and Louise practiced a little in the foyer before bed, while everyone else got ready for a restful night.

Everybody but Devon, who went hiding somewhere again, woke up late and had brunch in scattered groups. Bret with his band plus Fretzie and Louise ate together, talking animatedly about how they will set up the outdoor stage for the MV. The other housemates trickled in and out of the dining hall and proceeded to chill by the beach. It was a relatively small group of housemates yet. Everyone else will either drive up that night, or tomorrow morning for the Reunion special. And everyone was in good spirits with the exception of one.

People went swimming, and some of the girls chilled at the spa. The day was primarily about relaxing and everyone did their own thing for the most part. Bret spent a lot of his time finding Louise, because she went off straight after breakfast. James though, was spending majority of his time being needlessly frustrated and miserable.

First he was irritated at Bret, because Devon kept hanging out with the band and crew.
Then he was irritated at Shey, because Devon was checking up on her constantly and bringing her food and drinks.
Then he was irritated at Kyra and Ann because they dragged Devon shopping for pasalubong at the giftshop.
During merienda, he was irritated at the waiter because Devon smiled and thanked him sweetly. Then at the busboy, because she greeted him and asked him how he was. Then at the receptionist because Devon asked her if she had any messages, and then said thank you with another one of those stupid for-everyone-else-only smiles of hers.
To top it all off, he was frustrated with Devon because while she went on her merry way being friendly to everybody, she would not even give him a single glance.

At one point, Devon was by herself, sitting by the pool, reading some book called “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” But before James even had the chance (more like, the courage?) to approach her, she was off again. Gallivanting with stupid Ivan at the stupid beach with his other stupid friends, and stupid Bret's stupid band. It was as if he was under a storm cloud, while everyone else basked in the sun.

To James, being so busy being annoyed at everything that happened around him made it feel like no time has passed. But the stage was already being set for the MV shoot, and there was cameras everywhere. Various crew members, floodlights, and wires. The sun was beginning to set. There were several resort staff helping the girls light a fire, and some lighting citronella candles all over the place to keep the mosquitoes in check. It was busy, but not hectic everybody worked happily. There was something fresh and lively in the air. This is what being away from it all was like, granted there was still work to be done, but deadlined be damned. Everything became a work of leisure.

While everyone set up; on a bench nearby, James could hear Bret practicing the new song. It sounded simple, clean with just the strains of his guitar, and very unlike his usual style. James could not help but be curious about the new song. He was usually the first to hear new songs, but this one was special somehow. It was gonna be debuted live for all their closest friends. Granted it was all a matter of happenstance. Everyone was here, the crew was already available, and everything else just lined up perfectly for an on location shoot-slash-live performance.

“Lou!” Bret called and James looked over in interest. “Lou, where have you been all day? We gotta do soundcheck, and we didn't even get to practice much at all!”
“I was just, ano.” she said, twirling her hair, shifting her weight from foot to foot.
“What.” Bret demanded, not a question.
“I was just gonna tell you,”
“Tell me what? We don't really have time for this. LouLou.”
“I can't sing it.”
“What?” Bret yelled. Everybody paused, and listened.
“I can't do it!”
“Why not?”
“Alam mo naman I had a recent ano, and last night pa lang, ang hirap, Bret!” she gushed. She might cry yet, but James waited. “I don't want him to watch or hear about me breaking down in the middle of a song. And this is gonna be on a music video. Si Fretz nalang ang girl sa video... Please don't make me. Hindi ko kaya.” and there went the water works. “Wala nang matitira sa akin. My pride is all I have left.”
Bret wanted to force her, but he understood too well. It was times like these when he hated being too much of a nice guy. He gave her a slight hug of support, which she greatly appreciated as she cried quietly. Everyone averted their gaze in respect. It was rude to stare, much worse still was to stare at somebody else' misery.
While Bret hugged her, his eyes were already wildly scanning the scene, picking a new probable visual target, compositing a new concept. He sent Louise to the girls room, and Shey and April went with her after giving Bret's hand a gentle squeeze. The ladies definitely gave Bret props for this one. Everyone understood the pain of Lou's break-up, and saw Bret's sacrifice for his friend. Everyone saw him as a real life Superman, while he berated himself internally, and his eyes frantically searching for a new course of action, his dilemma due to his concern for his friend was not lost on anyone.

Devon from one of her solo walks walked towards Fretzie. She missed the entire thing, but Fretzie's expression, and upon looking around, everyone else' faces, prompted her to ask.

“What happened?”
“Ang super bait ni Bret, bessy.” Fretzie said, eyes twinkling with love and admiration. “But now he has a dilemma.”
“Ba't ba?” Devon asked, concerned. “Tatay Blet!” she called out, but Bret was busy discussing the new plan with the crew and did not hear her.
“Louie can't sing.”
“Aw.” Devon said. “Why daw?”
“Fresh ba ang heart break, kaya yun. Bret was understanding, pero now, ayan.” Fretz explained.

“Devon!” Bret yelled. “Devon! Come here!” Bret was motioning for her to come over.
“Yap?” she asked innocently when she reached him, suddenly surrounded by camera men. Devon felt trapped as she looked around her and saw the wall of people. “Wha--?” she did a quick 360 “What the heck?”
“Pasensiya na, pero ipapasubo kita.”
“Ha?!” Devon screeched.

James spaced out after Lou's exit but snapped right back to reality when he heard Devon's voice arguing with Bret.
“Please! Please!”
“Ayoko talaga. Promise! Bret don't make me!”
What the hell? James thought.
“Hindi ko mafifeel na i-pursue kita on video! You and Fretz lang ang options, and you know.”
“I know! Pero, ayoko talagaaaaaa.” Devon wailed, but she knew it was fruitless, but she had to try. She needed to kahit resistance was futile, she wasn't just gonna lay down and die. Fight kung fight.
“Consider this a job nalang.”
“I decline.” she said, crossing her arms with sass.
“Consider this a favour to a friend, then.”
No answer.
He's totally playing her. James thought.
“Sige na, Devs. We'll film first yung singing. I'll ask the crew to film nalang simultaneously from different angles para one take lang.”
Devon stared off into space.
“Please, please, please Devon. You're my only hope! Madami nang locals ang naggather. We have to deliver something. Kahit na pina-turn off namin ang phones nila, kung walang mangyayari, afterwards, kakalat agad ang balita.”
Devon said nothing. Alam naman niyang mabilis kumalat ang balita. Sa text palang ay pwedeng madurog ang potentially bigger future ng banda ni Bret, what more kung lumabas sa media ang balitang basag ang MV shoot at may mga taong naka-abang?
“Devs, please naman.” Bret begged.
Devon didn't even look at him anymore, but started walking towards the microphone. She was stiff as a board, and bug eyed with nerves and anxiety. She held her stomach, as she does when she's nervous.
“Thanks Devs. I owe you.” Bret said with a thumbs up as he strapped on his guitar.
“You owe me talaga! I hate you!” she hissed at him.

There was a huge kerfuffle about this and that, and Bret was directing the crew with only the final fine tuning because he already talked it out with everyone. This was gonna be a smooth shoot. He's like that. Smooth. Devon stood still, eyes darting where ever Bret pointed, and the lights were getting to her. She was hyperventilating. She was feeling nauseous. Her head spun in a heady whirl.
“Devs, you need to loosen up.” Bret urged from his place behind Devon. “I can't call action if you're like this.”
“I'm trying. I'm trying.” Devon replied, her palms sweating.stomach lurching, leaving a bitter taste in her mouth. “I-- I swear. I'm trying.”
Everybody quieted down in surprise. Devon worried that people were getting impatient with her. She imagined she was melting slowly into the ground, and ardently wished this became reality. She was panicking. This was too improptu even for her. She gave up singing for a reason, and she remembered all those times she's been booed off, and her anxiety heightened. James used to talk her through her anxiety. He used to tell her to focus, and she would. But there was no James to do that for her this time.
Then she heard it.

“Slow down. Breathe.” he said, like a wind that blew past just behind her.

She looked ahead and just missed it. The pairs of confused eyes ahead of her trailing over to her right as they watched somebody walk through.
She took a deep breath, smiled, clenched her fists, and said, “I'm ready.”

James watched as Devon's panicked eyes grew wider and wider. She quit singing for reasons he did not understand at the time, but he slowly understood as he watched her. Her eyes darted here and there at the audience, and James watched as Ivan gave Devon a double thumbs-up to which Devon responded by smiling nervously and fidgeting with the mic stand. He knew she was in trouble.

Holding up a finger to his lips, James walked over from the left side of the stage. Everybody quieted down, probably from a combination of interest and curiosity, as he continued on and walked through the stage. From everyone's perspective, it looked like he was just walking through to be his contrary self.

But just when he was about to pass by behind her without missing a stride, he whispered low enough so no one else would hear, but loud enough to reach her ears, “Slow down. Breathe.” and walked on.

Bret cued Action.
Devon was looking at the ground with her bangs covering the side of her face. Bret started playing the lone guitar. There were other accompaniments, but the song started with the lone guitar. Alone. This was the new song that supposedly, no one but the band has heard of before. But none of the viewers knew that. They thought, Devon has spent all day learning it.

Devon started singing cued by a cymbal.

Pack up all your things and box up unspoken dreams.
With nothing lost, and nothing gained,
I'll get back on my feet again

Leave the kitchen light on, please.
I won't cry, won't make a scene
Just do this quick, your needle stings

Wake me when you're gone
Cause I don't need to sleep tonight - I don't even care

Will you miss my face?
And how long till I'm replaced?
Your cryptic smile makes me aware
You were really never there.

What a tragic waste of time.
Don't act if you really tried.
Erase the blackboard in your mind.

And wake me when you're gone
Cause I don't need to sleep tonight - I don't even care.
It's not like you would even recognize if I'm not even there.
Wake me when you're gone.

But all the things that we were supposed to be
Are all the things that we will never.........say.
Yeah, yeah, yeahhh
And wake me when you're gone
Cause I don't need to sleep tonight - I don't even care
Its not like you would recognize if I'm not even there
Oh, wake me when you're gone

James leaned behind a nearby tree as Devon's voice flooded the night air. He hated it. The lovely sound berating him, it was torture. The words beating him up with invisible punches to the gut was a cruel and unusual punishment. He knew then. He figured it out. It was so brutally obvious.

This was hers.
This was her song. Brush aside the logical facts that this was the NEW song that no one's even heard yet, and yet she knew it word for word, with every single nuance of it down to a tee. He knew it was hers because the song was her, and him perfectly. Respectively. She sang it with brevity and emotion. It was hers, and it was undeniable to anyone who knew her.

He knew that this song was made for him.
And he relished the pain as he fought back tears.

Will you miss my face?
And how long till I'm replaced?
Your cryptic smile makes me aware
You were really never there.

Cruel, yes. But not so unusual a punishment after all.

Chapter 13

Devon finished singing and she was eerily calm as everyone else noticed there was a lull in the air. Everyone was hushed silent as she sang and it spilled on till after she was done. Probably because of the no talking on the set rule. Probably because they were all in awe. Sure, there was a burst of cheers after the shock has set. Many of the bystanders were pleasantly surprised by her performance. Because the truth of the matter was, in the world of showbiz, one year spelled eons and everyone forgot that once upon a time, she used to love singing. Everyone was happy for her. Cheering wildly as some cried happy tears. It really was a universal heartbreak song. Everyone present appreciated the expression of heartbreak that everyone else was too chicken to reveal. But Devon didn't notice. She was too busy revelling at how great the mic felt in her hands. Her adrenaline was pumping. She loved this. She missed this. But the mic was back on the stand, and the moment was over.
Her eyes were closed as she put the mic back on the stand, her heart ached. Her movements were deliberately slow in an effort to pace herself. Everything she tried to forget came rushing back, and she was unexpectedly hurting again. She thought she was alright. She thought she was over him. But this song was his then, and his still. Her only consolation was the fact that it was her secret to keep. He didn't know, he can't know. Only Bret, Fretzie, and Ivan knew who she was. Only they knew how she managed to let go of her passion. Song writing became her new thing, secret though it may have been. But even that was partly his too. He shared it with her in however minute way. Wasn't it him who pointed out for the first time that she had written a song? Wasn't it him who made her realize there was something? He sparked it. She worked on it. She learned guitar on her own, and started writing songs for herself.
Fretzie found her at the school quad writing secretly one day, and worked for weeks to steal a song. A song she then gave to Bret, who liked and produced it independently, then showed Devon the first master. Devon cried that day. Tears of happiness. It was the first day she felt herself again since James decided, out of the blue, that she was not worth it. Any of it.
Devon smiled an empty smile at everyone, bowed awkwardly before stepping quietly aside. She knew this was not the time for her emotions to go haywire, but she really had to go. Bret understood. Fretzie and Ivan shared a knowing look.
“I gotta go.” Devon said, leaning in towards Bret's ear.
“I know.” Bret nodded sadly. “Sorry. Desperado eh.”
“It's alright, really. Actually nga, thank you.” she answered. “Nakakamiss.” she added, motioning towards the mic.
“Basta, bebe, I owe you.” he promised. “Sorry parin.”
“Forget about it. Basta alam mo, I lilly love my Tatay Blet.” she chided. Bret smiled and gave her a one armed hug. “You can never say otherwise.”
“I know.” anang binata.
Devon glanced at Fretzie and Ivan, and they both nodded at her. She was glad to have these people as her closest friends, and in a way she felt bad for being such a bother. Without saying a word, they knew what she was going through, and supported her. It felt like that was all she was to them. Someone they needed to look out for. Someone they needed to be supportive of. Devon grabbed her towel from her recliner and waved at their other friends who cheered and hollered at her.
“Di ko na kaya! Kapagod pala! My gosh!” sambit ng dalaga sa mga kaibigan. Nagtawanan ang mga ito. Hindi naman kasi nila alam ang dinadala niya sa loob. As far as they were concerned, Devon was just being her usual self.
“You rocked my world!” sigaw ni Eslove, na sinundan din ni Joe.
“You rocked my world, Devon!”
“Sige na, rest muna ako.” paalam nalang ng dalaga. Nakangiti. Masayang nagkakantyawan ang magkakaibigan habang si Devon ay naglalakad nang palayo. Her heart breaking into a million pieces.
“You were great.”
Devon froze. “Huh.”
“You were great out there.” he was sitting on a patio swing at the far end of the porch, and she did not see him there. Had she, she would have gone elsewhere, both of them knew this. Maybe he purposefully kept silent and stayed hidden, but the bottom line was, there they were. Having that alone moment he's been waiting for. He wanted to say something clever. Something spectacular and awe inspiring, something she would have to think over a little, something that will encourage her to stick around and spend more time with him. Except, “That was something else.” was all he managed to say. Of all the things running through his head, nothing significant came forward. He couldn't even come through for himself.
Devon gasped for air before she answered. “Wasn't it?” she said with a slight laugh. “I suppose it must have been.” She didn't mean to be crass. As far as she knew, he didn't know she wrote the song. But her feelings were raw and still newly reminisced, and he was right there. Lurking in the shadows. The fact that James was there before her, the reason for the song, couldn't be helped, but she didn't need him there. Once upon a time, she might have willingly done something quite the opposite of how she was behaving. She might have told him she missed him. She might have told him, she was gonna be alright. It might have been a lie, but it would have been a wonderful lie. Something beautiful for them to share. She might have embraced him as she listened to her heart shatter over the words he might have said, and she might have been able to spare a smile for him. A sweet one, a sad one, but a smile none the less.
“Trust me, it was.” pasinghot na sagot ng binata.
“Hm.” was all Devon said. Looking absently for stars that were clearly not visible from where they were. “Sure.” she said flatly while her heart was wailing at her to take off. She could not take much more of this. She promised she wasn't gonna break down and cry before him. Not back then, not ever. Atleast Louise had the benefit of being the once-upon-a-time girlfriend. And what of Devon? What was she? She was not even a summer fling. She was not even a love interest. At the end of the day, it wasn't his fault she fell for him. But it still hurt.
“Harsh.” James said, more to himself than to anyone else. He meant to say something more, but Devon quickly muttered an 'I gotta go,' then ran off. Back towards the beach, away from the crowd of people busily orchestrating the tale of her song. His song.
James did not think twice. He ran after her. He needed to talk to her. Sure, he didn't really know what he wanted to say yet, but he'll get there.
Nineteen years old and quite lovesick in ways he's never been before, he was sure Devon was the cure. But Devon was being elusive. He never realized professing love could be so hard! Part of him was worried he has missed his chance. He has just realized that something started once upon a time, but he cut that something short for reasons that seemed smart then, but now entirely trivial. Devon might still understand if only he could explain properly. He can't lose hope yet. Except Devon seemed to run off whenever he tried to get even remotely near her.
“Run!” she encouraged herself. She ran for her life. Ran as if hell's minions were nipping at her heels. Her tears trailed behind her in a ribbon of pain as she ran. “Ayoko na. Akala ko ba tapos na? Tapos na...” she nagged at herself as she collapsed at the shore. There was nowhere else to go. There were fences keeping her in, and then there was the ocean. “Akala ko ba tapos na? Akala ko ba ok na? Bakit ganito parin?” she spoke freely. She was emotional and flighty so she took solace in whatever she could.
“Huy. Okay ka lang?” a female voice said. Devon looked up and saw Tricia.
“Ha? Eh, I'm fine.” Devon said, wiping off her tears with the back of her left hand.
“Ows? Parang hinde.” the other goaded, and Devon stared off into the horizon. “Alam ko hindi tayo close, pero pwede ba samahan muna kita? Parang sinasamahan mo lang din ako.”
“Ikaw bahala.” Devon said tentatively. “Wala din naman akong choice. I can't go back there. Atleast not yet.”
“Tama!” Tricia said with a hair flip and a flamboyant flair. “Are you sure you're ok?”
“Wala to.” Devon dismissed. “Eh ikaw? Kailan pa kayo dito?”
“Mga one or so hours ago. Sorry I didn't see your thing. Wala talaga. Kanina pa 'ko nagtatago dito eh.” Tricia slumped down on the sand by Devon. She took out a pack of smokes.
“Oh. Kelan ka pa nagsimulang magyosi?” usisa ni Devon.
“Pasensiya na. Kailangan lang.” Tricia answered as she lit one up.
“One lang. I hate the smell, pero kung kailangan mo... Go.”
“One lang. I promised I was quitting... 3 months na akong clean. Today lang.”
“Sayang.” Devon said, and noticed that the pack was a fresh one.
“Remember si chorvaloo?” Tricia said abruptly. Walang prelude what-so-ever.
“Well, he's back. At balita ko, he's looking me up.”
“Isn't that ano, good news? Diba inaantay mo siya? Diba it's nice na hinahanap ka niya?”
“Nakabuntis siya ng 14 year-old.”
“Owver! Ano yan? KATORSE?” Devon joked. She knew the boy was atleast 24 by then.
Tricia scoffed. “Diba?” she said. “Alam mo, I could have been that girl. Pregnant at 14, walang alam sa mundo... Akala ko noon, alam ko na lahat ng kailangan kong malaman. I was prepared to ano.”
“Anung ano?”
“I was prepared. Ready na akong maging ganap na babae.”
“Ano, like mens? Hindi ka pa ba nag mens nung time na yon?”
“ANO KA BA? Sex.”
“Oh.” sagot ni Devon, tila naulirat. “Uh, Trish, I'm glad you're opening up to me and all, pero ikaw narin ang nagsabi, hindi naman tayo close. Bakit sakin mo sinasabi to?”
“Kasi kailangan ko ng makikinig, pero parang walang may interest. Walang may time. Saka, pwede tong ikasira ng future ng career ko.”
Hindi na umimik si Devon. She can understand how it feels to need someone just to be there. She can be there for Tricia.
“Ikaw, nandito ka. Pareho tayong trapped. Pasensiya nalang at wala kang choice.” tawa ni Tricia. For the first time, Devon was surprised na makita ang similarity sa kanilang dalawa. Tumatawa kapag mabigat ang nararamdaman, ginugustong mapag-isa. Maka-ilang minuto ring natahimik ang dalawa, may sariling pinag mumuni-minuhan. ”I'm glad that things didn't turn out that way. Pero minahal ko lang talaga yung gagong yun, eh.” Tricia mustered as she defiantly wiped off rogue tears.
“I'm so sorry...” Devon offered sympathetically.
“Nakakatakot, diba?” Tricia said, “Yung, akala mo, tama ka. Akala mo lahat ng facets ng isang bagay napag-aralan at napag-isipan mo na. Gets mo na. Yung akala mo mga ibang tao ang walang alam.” Umiling ang dalaga. “Yung, halos buong buhay mo handa mo nang ialay sa isang tao, yung tipong buong buong faith mo, nasasakanya. As in hinamak mo na ang lahat masunod lamang?”
“Trish, madrama.” Devon said, trying to ease the tension.
“I know, pero totoo eh.” she said, blowing out rings of smoke with a sad laugh. “Nag-away kami ni mommy... I wanted to get into showbiz para makapag-ipon para makapagsama na kami... I was prepared to be his wife.”
“Wow. Trish, I'm all for romance, pero fourteen ka palang nung nag-meet tayo. And Si Chorvaloo, from the previous year. So, thirteen ka palang nun!” said Devon.
“Diba? I had my life ahead of me, and I was willing to give it all to him.” the tears came back. “Tapos dakilang pedo lang pala ang hayup na yon.”
Devon hugged Tricia. She was just confused, and young, and beautiful. She had no idea who she was and what she wanted in life. She was scared, and hurt and betrayed... Devon couldn't judge her. They were in the same boat under different circumstances.
“I could have been that girl. Muntik na. Alam mo ba, kaya pala siya umalis two years ago kasi meron siyang thirteen years old na nabuntis? I mean, grabeng katangahan ba ang meron ako? Ang tanga-tanga ko talaga. Nagpaloko ako. Muntik na muntik na.” she cried.
“Alam mo, bata pa naman tayo eh.”
“Tanga and bata. Bad combination, diba?” Tricia laughed through her tears.
“It's not your fault. It's his. Hindi ikaw ang tanga. Siya.” Devon offered with conviction.
Tricia sobbed on in Devon's arms. “Pero ako ang naloko, Devon.”
“Hindi katangahan ang maloko. Katangahan yung nagpapaloko. He manipulated you. You were played like a deck of cards when you were too young to know better. Hindi katangahan ang pagiging bata.”
“Nahihiya ako sa pamilya ko. I don't know kung anong mukha ang ipapakita ko sa mga tao. Nagpaloko ako sa isang monster!”
“Una sa lahat, hindi ka nagpaloko. Naloko ka.” Devon corrected. “Malaki ang pinagkaibahan. Ikaw ang biktima, pero hindi ibig sabihin papabiktima ka.”
“Pero Devon,”
“Just take it one step at a time, Trish. You're seventeen. You've got your life ahead of you and you can make whatever of it you want!” Devon reassured. “Just take this as a blessing. Nalaman mo ang totoo before it was too late. Before you signed off the rest of your life to him, natanggalan ka ng blindfold, and nabawasan pa ang emotional baggage mo.”
Tricia wiped off her tears.
“Now, you're free to grow into your own person. You can find your true self. This is a learning experience. Masakit, pero tapos na, diba? Pwede ka nang mag-move on.” sambit ng dalaga.
“Alam mo, ikaw palang ang kauna-unahang nakapag pagaan ng loob ko.”
Devon smiled to herself. “Naaalala mo pa ba yung sinabi sayo ni Ate Shey sa bahay ni Kuya?”
“Yung, matututo ka rin sa mga nangyari?”
“Oo naman.”
“Sabi mo diba, matututo ka naman sa usapan? Pero eto ang mature example sayo.”
“What do you mean?”
“Diba hinamak mo ang lahat masunod ka lamang, tapos mali ka pala? Diba inaway mo pa mommy mo who tried to talk you out of your delusion?”
Hindi sumagot si Tricia, at tumingin lamang sa kawalan.
“Tricia, pareho tayong babae. Naiintindihan ko naman kung gaano kahirap yung mga love-love na yan. Ang malas mo nga lang, tinamaan ka too soon, at yung tumama sayo eh, alam mo na.”
They both laughed a little, basking in a new camaraderie.
“I'm not trying to be insensitive. Gusto ko lang marealize mo na there are lessons na hindi nadadaan sa santong dasalan. Minsan talaga kailangan ng santong paspasan, or even santong sagasaan.”
“Ganto na nga tayo, nagbibiro ka pa ng ganyan!” Tricia laughed.
“Atleast tumatawa ka na. Now, you know better. Mas madali ang buhay kung gagawin mong positive ang mga negative. Heartbreaks into lessons. Ganun.”
Tahimik lang na nakikinig si Tricia.
“Yung mga mahihirap nagiging madali. Yung mga heartaches, nagiging works of art. Yung mga drama sa buhay, pwedeng ipadala kay Ma'am Charo. Pang MMK.” biro muli ni Devon.
“Ano ka ba!” tawa ni Tricia.
“Atleast tumatawa ka na talaga, diba?”
“Oo nga.”
“Kaya mo yan Trish. Matalino ka. Maabilidad. Talented. You're better off without him naman. So, move on. Makakahanap ka naman ng katapat mo eh. Yung kasabayan mo, partner in life. Siguro later pa, pero for now just love what you do. Enjoy life.”
“Devon, bakit ba tayo hindi naging friends?” Tricia asked after a bit of silence. She began to see the lady before her in a new, unexpected light.
“Ewan ko. Kasi maarte ka,” Devon said, and Tricia laughed. “simple ako. Mayaman ka, mahirap ako. Kasi nahirapan akong makisama sayo... So many reasons.”
Tricia laughed again. Surprising herself at how much she appreciated the candid honesty.
“Pero ngayon ko lang nakita, hindi lang naman pala tayo magkaiba... May similarities din. Common ground.” Devon said quietly.
“Sana friends na lang tayo.” Tricia mustered. “Diba?”
“Pwede pa namang gawan ng paraan yan.”
“Friends.” tawa ni Devon.

Chapter 14

James lost Devon through the brush between the cottage and the shore, and has been running and searching for a while in vain. It was dark, it was muggy, and the mosquitoes would've been having a field day over his flesh if he hadn't been running. This was a lot harder than he thought. He forgot that he and Devon used to run together, at his urging even. He forgot how stubborn she was. Forgot a lot of the little things – maybe not so much forgotten, really. More like, pushed back at the far, far, far, far corners of his mind.
He remembered them then. The fact that Devon ran as if she had the power legs of a steed, that she had the fastest draw in probably the whole of Asia with her slap attacks, and that she can inflict the fiercest, most minutely abusive, and indiscriminate pinches known to man. Devon was most definitely a force to be reckoned with and he was gonna have to step up his game big time if he expects to win her heart. His charm and wit seem to be failing him.
As he hunched over to catch his breath, he realized that what might have worked before was no longer gonna work. He knew he had to come up with a plan. Something to get her attention. But because the direct approach was not working, he knew he needed some round-about way to get to her. Something so circuitous she'd get so tangled in it before she even realizes she had no way out. Something clever. Something so conniving, so deviously detailed. A plan that only a woman could concoct!
There in lay the crux of the matter. He was lacking an essential spare X chromosome for his brain to work sufficiently and play well in Devon's home turf. He was clever, but when Devon was concerned, he was not nearly clever enough. With her, he was a fool. And in Devon's game, James was quite the loser.
“Alam mo, magpakita ka muna sa kanila.” Devon urged Tricia.
“Wapakels naman mga yun. Saka magpapakita ako doon, sa camera and all, ganto face ko? Mukha akong sambakol. Yuck! Tapos ang dami pang madlang people dun.” angal ni Tricia. “Sa room nalang siguro ako. Nangangawit na din kasi paa ko eh.” she readied to get up and leave. “Sama ka na. Na-discover na tayo ng mga lamok.”
Devon laughed. “Well, ang bilis mong maging okay. I'll give you that.” anito sa dalagang kaharap niya.
“I have to. Life is full of trials. Sayang lang beauty ko kung mag mumukmok.” Tricia sassed. “At ikaw, bago kong BFF. Go ka na rin sa loob.” she chided, then paused. “I guess time alone?”
Devon sighed in response and hugged her knees close to her.
“K, do you need to talk? Cause I can stay.” Tricia offered sincerely. “Matters of the heart?”
Devon sighed and ignored the addendum. “Wag na. May AM shoot ka tomorrow, PM pa kami eh.” Devon reasoned.
“Oo nga pala.” Tricia agreed. “Basta, don't go wandering off, ha?”
“Opo.” sagot ni Devon bago tuluyan nang umalis si Tricia. She watched Tricia's form disappear towards the gardens then heaved a sigh.
'What happened there?' she wondered, appreciative of the reprieve her new friend offered her by chance. But even that was already spent, and she was left to her own thoughts again. Her own little storm cloud was back and she did not have the energy to swat it aside or send it away. So it stayed, and she wallowed a little. Dimple just flew out the other day for a seminar, which meant she'll be gone for a week, which meant Devon only had less than a month to be with her sister. Three weeks and then another painful goodbye. She had three free days that she could spend with her sister, but she was away. And when she gets back, Devon had to get back to work. Those three weeks and some will be done in no time, so really, there was not much time left at all. The clock was ticking.
She was also worried about the Ball coming up. Her and her friends all had a week off of work. Seven days, four of which were part of a working holiday, three were real free time, though really the last day was the day of the Ball, which meant it was a day of getting ready, then a night of gorgeous faces and fabulous clothing. And dancing. The endless dancing. It was too sad to reminisce for she knew she had no choice but to miss it altogether. She loved the first time she went. James and her went together...

Devon closed her eyes as she lounged luxuriously on the huge soaker jet-tub of her hotel room. She sighed a silent prayer of thanks. She could hear people laughing in the other room. People who loved her for who she was, loved her unconditionally, and they kindly provided her with a wonderful custom gown, her own make-up artist, and a professional photographer to boot. She wondered what she did to deserve such adoration from perfect strangers... Strangers who treated and doted on her as they would their own child. She wondered if she was deserving... But her mind drifted back to thoughts about the Ball. James asked her to be his date, and they were gonna go to the venue together in style. He was gonna pick her up, and she was gonna be gorgeous. Like a princess. And he, well, he was gonna be her prince... Her date...

She got all dolled up and dressed to the nines, while James was running late. She didn't really mind too much. She looked at herself in the mirror and was too amazed to care about much else. She looked like a princess. She felt like a princess – surrounded by friends who gushed and awed at her. They took pictures, gushed some more. They were like doting FairyGodmothers. She was sure the night was gonna be amazing if not for the fact that not very many girls could say their first date was at a fancy Ball. That kind of thing was the stuff of fairytales.
But this was real.
She gets to be Cinderella for a night.
Looking and feeling like royalty. Like a Princess.
And her Prince was coming to get her...

Devon smiled sadly to herself. That was the day she realized she was falling for him. She remembered laughing nervously as she tried to get on the massive Hummer James had waiting.

“Ano ba, um, Pano to?” she laughed awkwardly as she eyed the massive vehicle. It was quite high, and she was not properly attired, what with the heavy designer gown and the strappy-not-to-mention heeled and sparkly sandals, it was a near impossibility. “I mean, how do I--” she started. James interrupted her by smiling knowingly and offering a hand. She clasped it tightly, trusting his grip. He helped her up with a smile that could melt any woman's heart. More so the heart of the woman he was offering it to. “Don-- Don't drop me!” she joked flatly as her heart raced for some reason. Nerves, perhaps?
The venue was really just a stone's throw away, but the car was a necessity with how they were dressed. Devon caught James throwing side glances at her, and it made her cheeks burn. She wondered what was wrong with her, and briefly worried if she was running a fever.
“Are you nervous?” James asked.
Devon laughed. “Ano ka ba? They already asked you that kanina!”
“Wala kang originality.” she joked. “Fail!”
“You were being fussy, so I thought you were nervous.” he defensively offered.
“Oh,” she muttered, feeling caught. “No, no. I'm not nervous.”
“Yes you are.” he said smugly as the car turned the single corner. They were almost there. “I don't really see why you should feel that way. You look great. The dress suits you.” he said with that abnoxious smirk of his.
“Ha?” Devon's mouth gaped. 'Am I hearing what I think I'm hearing?' She thought to herself. 'Did he just say what I think he said? Nabubuang na ba ako?'
“I told you it would.” he said with a confident grin, as he opened the door the get out of the vehicle.
Devon sat dumbfounded, mouth still slightly agape as James opened her door in a gentlemanly gesture. She smiled absently upon seeing his face, a smile that grew wider as he helped her down. Photographers were going nuts with their speedlights going off a mile a minute. Her mind in quite a loop, she forgot her clutch in the car, which James noticed. He grabbed and held on to it for her as she smiled and grinned like a complete idiot at the wonders of her surroundings, the boy with her, and the words that were coming out of his sweet lips. She should wonder what it meant, but she did not care. The blinding flashes looked like twinkle lights. It was a dream. A dream.

“Are you nervous?” Devon asked James, much returned to her normal self, and very much aware of her bristling nerves. Being inside the hall felt worlds away from the real world. It was wonderful and overwhelming. The lights, the people, the big wigs of their Network...
“Wala kang originality?” James asked in awkward Tagalog as they walked past and mingled with other Star Magic talents. Devon's mouth, for the nth time so far that night, gaped in a half laugh.
“Did you just speak Tagalog?” she asked, eyes sparkling in excitement. As if that was the most wonderful thing to have happened that night. Not the fancy dresses, the hunky actors, the Ball, even.
“No, I didn't.” James dismissed, but Devon's lips quickly formed a grin.
“You did! You said 'Wala kang originality?' You did!” Devon gushed, imitating James' awkward delivery and quite off Tagalog accent. “Narinig ko. I heard you!”
“You heard nothing.” James lied, a small laugh starting to form on his lips.
“No! I heard. I heard it!” Devon giggled like a little school girl.
“I didn't say it!” James lied, laughing a little. “I didn't say anything.”
“Ah, ganon?” she said, grabbed her clutch from his hands and walked off with a smug grin on her face. “Oh! Papa Bear!” she called excitedly – lying. She did not see Joe, but acted as though she had.
“No! Don't go! Geez.”
Devon stopped and quietly counted. “One, two, th--”
“I don't want to say it again.“ James admitted, looking at the floor like a four year-old caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar. He looked up and saw Devon smiling at him. His breath caught in his throat as the smiling lady walked back towards him.
“Two seconds.” she announced proudly.
“What?” James blinked, and asked.
“Wala.” she said, with a tight-lipped smile.
James cocked a brow, but said nothing.
Devon leaned over and whispered in his ear. “I'm not nervous anymore. Thank you.”
James took a breath and was washed by the sweet heady scent of Devon's perfume. “Oh,” he dumbly said. He wondered if he was running a fever, or if he was going out of his mind. “That's-- That's good.”
“Let's go?” she offered her hand, and James took it with a smile. Feeling her pulse fall into a rhythm with his.

The night was young, but the Ball was wonderful and tiring. The cotillion was gloriously glamorous and just sent Devon's heart racing again. Not with the physical exertion, but because James bent low, looked up to her and took her hand. It was scripted, all a part of the choreography. But for Devon, her knees would've buckled right then had James not been holding on to her. Afterwards, struggling to maintain composure, Devon found her stride. She spotted a free couch and they sat down together. They were joined by Bret and Fretzie as Devon carried on looking around at everybody, perfectly content just playing the role of a child at a candy store.
James stood, and Devon looked up at him. James gestured with a flick of the wrist, and Devon just nodded. She thought he needed a breather, but James came back holding a wine glass filled with punch.
“Oh, Thank you.” Devon said, surprised. Pleasantly so, but still surprised.
James nodded cooly as he took a sip of his drink.
“Thanks.” she said again as she took a sip herself. She noticed that James kept rubbing his palms against his knees. “Are you okay?” she leaned and spoke in his ear.
“Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine.”
“Are you sure?” she pressed softly, with a slight nod.
“Nerves.” he answered. “I'm nervous.” he said, leaning towards her in a vain attempt to have a private conversation in such a crowded space.
“Why?” she asked her tone changing from concerned, to coyly teasing. “Akala ko ba excited ka?”
“Well, this is our first date, you know. It's kind of customary.” he said in that dry way of his. “So, yeah, I'm nervous.”
Devon said nothing, but hid a smile by taking a sip from her glass. He was being incredibly adorable and she was endeared by his minor qualms. “Don't be.” she reassured. “I've got a feeling that tonights gonna be a good night.” she said.
“What?” James asked, realizing she had just spewed song lyrics at him.
“I got a feeling-- that tonight's gonna be a good night-- That tonight's gonna be a good night~” she sang, and James smiled with a frustrated sigh. He knew the joke well; but somehow it hasn't gotten old yet and he was castigating himself for laughing at corny jokes. It wasn't his style. It wasn't cool.
“Come on.” he announced, and grabbed her arm. He readied to drag Devon somewhere.
“What?” Devon stammered. “Wait—Wait lang.” she barely had time to quickly put her drink on one hand and reach for her clutch till James had already gone two strides and she was forced to follow suit.
“Where are we going?” Devon asked, eyes wild with confusion, looking every which way.
“Over there.” James replied looking ahead without turning towards her.
James said nothing but continued to gently drag Devon past faces and dresses that went unnoticed. Devon followed meekly, awkwardly trying to gain composure by sipping her cocktail and failing miserably. She was anxious, slightly embarrassed, but also excited. There was no room for nerves. She spotted a server with an empty tray and she wordlessly handed her glass to him, then responded by mouthing a thank you to the confused man as she trailed away behind James.Then James stopped, which surprised Devon.
“Will you dance with me, Devon?” he asked politely. Devon didn't realize the direction they were going in the whirl of action, and so she was surprised to find that after some serious walking and maneuvering, there they were. Smack at the center of the dance floor. The strobe lights died down as if on cue, and dull lights reflecting on the floor replaced them. Devon's breath hitched at her throat as she looked up at James for the first serious time for the night. The final throb of the bass faded.
“Yes.” she answered, as the slow strains of the new song permeated the air.

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