Balik-tanaw: Sugat.

Muni-muni
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Ning: Hi Rina 😊 

Ning: Okay ka for dinner tonight?  

Rina: Hi Ning! 

Rina: Sure. Tayo lang ba? 

Ning: Yay! Kasama natin si Yuna. Sunduin ka namin sa building mo. Okay ka ba ng 6 PM? 

Rina: Yup. See you, Ning! 

Ning: See you 😘 

 

Weird—that was what Rina thought at first soon as she received that message from Ning. She would have expected to receive that message sa group chat nila, but then out of all sa group ni Win, Ning was the most unpredictable one. Rina didn’t mind hanging out with them without RJ, Lia, Giselle, or even Win but she was sure the sudden invite has something to do with what’s been happening sa kanila ni Win these days. 

 

All of their friends knew. Nagulat lang sila, but they were very supportive and she was so relieved to have them sa side nila ni Win especially during those times na magkalayo sila sa isa’t isa.  

 

It had been a week since umalis si Win para bumalik sa US at bumisita sa parents niya at isang linggo rin siya na hindi mapakali. Kung siya kasi ang tatanungin at papipiliin, gusto niyang mag-stay si Win dito.  

 

At sobra ang takot na nararamdaman niya dahil alam niyang masasaktan siya sakali man na piliin ni Win na manatili sa US.  

 

But the thing was, she was aware of what she was getting into. Rina has thought about their situation a thousand times and yet, she knew that if she could just see how this would end, if she was capable of knowing what Win’s decision will be, she would still do the same thing over and over again—which was to wait for her.  

 

Pursuing the uncertain was easy every time she would hear Win’s voice on the other end—soft and reassuring.  

 

Rina would think about how Win smiles at her and suddenly, parang kaya niya ang lahat.  

 

Napapailing na lang siya minsan sa mga iniisip.  

 

“Kumusta si Win?” 

 

Rina blinked. Magkakasama sila nina Yuna at Ning at kararating lang ng mga pagkain nila. Nasa tabi niya si Yuna habang katapat nilang dalawa si Ning.  

 

“Hindi pa ulit kayo nag-uusap?” Nagtataka niyang tanong kay Ning.  

 

Ning laughed, and Yuna did the same. “Nag-seseen lang siya sa gc namin.” 

 

Rina smiled. Maybe that’s why they arranged this dinner. Gusto nila kamustahin si Win dahil hindi ito sumasagot sa kanila. “She’s doing okay, although mahirap ‘yung communication namin these days because of the time zone.” 

 

“Rina?” It was Yuna. 

 

“Yes?” 

 

“Okay ka lang ba sa current set-up n’yo ni Win?” Asked Yuna. Rina couldn’t mask her surprise at Yuna’s question. Win’s friends had always been straightforward and they never beat around the bush, but she never thought they would be this blunt.  

 

“Rina, we’re not asking on her behalf ha. We’re just worried kasi kaibigan ka rin namin. Nakausap naman namin si Win,” agad na sambit ni Ning. Rina smiled at their thoughtfulness.  

 

Hindi lang sila Ning ang nag-voice out ng concern nila about their set-up. Her Ate Irene, Giselle, Lia and even RJ asked her if she was sure. Iisa lang naman ang sagot niya sa kanila. “I just know na I’m sure with Win—kahit na hindi ko pa alam where this would take us.” Silence enveloped them after that. 

 

Hind niya alam kung dapat ba siyang kabahan, pero maya-maya lang, Ning smiled at her. “Thank you, Rina. Hindi ka namin tinanong para makialam sa inyo pero...sabi ko nga, friend mo rin kami. If anything goes south, walang kampihan between the group.” 

 

Rina laughed at what Ning said. She appreciated the assurance and grateful they’re also looking after her. Hindi na rin naman iba ang tingin niya kina Ning ever since they started hanging out noong college sila.  

 

Yuna cleared . “Win has always been unpredictable, but one thing she won’t do is hurt someone intentionally. We want to assure you lang din.” 

 

At that moment, Rina felt a bit emotional. To have Win’s friends’ support was like something she didn’t think she needed. Lahat ng sinabi nina Ning at Yuna tungkol kay Win alam na niya, but it just gave her strength to continue what she has with Win.  

 

“Also, nabanggit ni Win na madalas daw sabay kayo magdinner?” Ning asked. 

 

Rina nodded and smiled fondly at the memory of them eating dinner together. She was missing having dinner with her.  

 

“Kami na muna ang kasama mo magdinner para hindi mo masyado mamiss si Win,” biro ni Ning.  

 

Rina laughed and felt light. Somehow, kahit iba ang personality ni Win sa mga kaibigan, parang kasama na rin niya ito. She went to dinner with Ning and Yuna two more times the following week. None of them mentioned it to Win, not even sa group chat nila and suddenly, parang it became a silent truce between the three of them.  

 

She enjoyed their company at kahit papaano, parang naiibsan naman ang pagka-miss niya kay Win. It almost seemed like they were even distracting her from thinking too much. 

 

During those weeks, she busied herself with work just to get her mind off things. Usually, effective ito pero when it came to Win, nahihirapan siya. Rina couldn’t even remember the last time she thought about someone this much and she would wonder sometimes if Win thinks about her just as much.  

 

At sa mga ganitong panahon na napapaisip siya, Win would randomly send her a message. Just like that one-time Rina was getting into bed. 

 

Win sent a photo. 

 

Rina smiled soon as she opened the message. It’s a photo of a mountain lake. Win didn’t even put a caption or any other message after the photo but Rina knew that Win was thinking of her at that very moment.  

 

Rina: That’s so pretty. 

Rina: How’s the hike? 

 

Nasabi ni Win na may hiking sila ng mga kaibigan niya. Rina didn’t ask further and just told Win to enjoy her time with them. Matagal din kasi nitong hindi nakasama ang mga kaibigan sa US.  

 

Win: Tiring, but fun.  

Rina: Well, if you have a view like that, worth it naman ang pagod, right? 

Win: I just wish you were here. 

 

Rina closed her eyes to calm herself. Masyadong mabilis ang tibok ng puso niya and she felt like her heart would jump out of her chest if she didn’t take a deep breath. Win rarely says stuff like this. Rina knew how hard it was for the other girl to tell what the latter feels most of the time and she appreciates the fact that Win tries very hard.  

 

Now, tell me, how am I supposed to stop? 

 

It’s like every day, Win gives her a reason to continue the uncertainty.  

 

Rina kept on telling herself na hindi lang naman siya ang nahihirapan; Win was probably having a hard time contemplating on what to do and what to choose. She’s sure Win was trying to weigh her options—kung saan hindi siya makakasakit kahit na si Win sa huli ang masaktan. 

 

Win was that selfless. Natatakot siya na hindi nito piliin ang sarili and Rina’s frustrated because she couldn’t think of a way to make things easier for her. If anything, Rina was concerned na baka isa pa siya sa mga tao na nagpapahirap kay Win.  

 

RJ: Rina haha. 

RJ: happy birthday!!! 🥳 

RJ: Wish ko na mas sumaya ka pa ngayong birthday mo. 

RJ: And...malalate pala ako tonight, may pinapagawa si boss. Sorry!!! Babawi ako hehe. 

 

4 AM ang message ni RJ. When she woke up, kay RJ na message ang pinakahuling nabasa niya dahil natabunan na ito ng iba pang mga birthday greetings. Rina will be having a party with her friends sa apartment nila ng ate niya and RJ promised that she will help arranging stuff sa unit niya.  

 

RJ rarely backs out from things that she has promised—specifically, something that her friend promised on her birthday. Naiintindihan naman niya because the reason was work, but something felt weird that day.  

 

Rina couldn’t contact Win. She was expecting the girl to at least call her that day, but all she received was a generic greeting from Win.  

 

Habang nasa trabaho siya, paulit-ulit niya na iniisip ang bati sa kaniya ni Win and while she’s on a break, she kept on reading her message.  

 

Win: Happy Birthday, Rina!  

Win: I wish you nothing, but good things for you this year. Go and enjoy your day! 

 

Rina wouldn’t deny that she expected something...more. Mas sweet pa nga minsan ang mga random messages ni Win sa kaniya and she’s feeling bad that she wanted more. Nonetheless, she still replied and put a smile on her face the whole day.  

 

Wala siyang karapatan na magdemand, magreklamo or be disappointed considering their current set-up because kahit pa their feelings were mutual, walang sila. 

 

“Problema ‘yan ng mga walang label.”  

 

Rina turned her head to Ning who was talking to Beomgyu. Si RJ at Win lang ang wala ngayong gabi at kahit pa maingay ang mga kaibigan, ramdam nila ‘yung pagkawala ng presence ng dalawa. Nasa living room lang sila at tapos na magdinner. They were just drinking nang marinig niya ang usapan nina Ning at Beomgyu sa kabilang side. 

 

“Look, ayoko pa ulit matali. Okay lang din naman sa kan’ya,” sambit ni Beomgyu.  

 

“Bukod sa wala kayong label, hindi rin kayo exclusive sa isa’t isa tapos ngayon iniisip mo if she’s flirting sa iba kapag hindi kayo magkasama. Tanga ka ba?” 

 

Rina almost laughed at what she has heard.  

 

“O ayan tanungin mo si Rina kung tama ba ginagawa mo sa buhay,” Ning added. Umayos ng upo si Beomgyu sa couch at humarap sa kaniya. Silang dalawa kasi ang magkatabi habang nasa kabilang side naman ni Beomgyu si Ning. 

 

“Exclusive ba kayo ni Win—aray!” Ning slapped Beomgyu sa braso.  

 

“As far as I know, yes,” Rina answered. “I don’t have anyone else and si Win din naman siguro?” Natatawa niyang tanong. Rina knew na wala naman, but they never really talked about it before.  

 

Beomgyu smiled at her. “Wala kang dapat i-worry kay Win sa mga ganyang bagay.” Ning agreed with Beomgyu. 

 

“Thanks, Gyu,” Rina smiled. She couldn’t count now just how many times she has been assured by Win’s friends.  

 

Rina thought her night would be just hanging out with her friends. Wala naman siyang problema doon, she just wished she could talk to Win before her birthday ends, and just when she’s about to stop herself from thinking about it, saka naman dumating si RJ. 

 

RJ had this mischievous smile as she instructed Rina to go down sa parking lot at samahan si RJ na kuhanin ang ‘gift’ daw nito.  

 

“I swear if this is one of your pranks, lalo kitang hindi papatawarin,” kunwaring galit niyang sambit kay RJ. Nasa lobby na sila at papunta na sa parking lot nang sabihin ni RJ na umuna na siya sa kotse dahil nakalimutan daw nito ang susi sa bag niya na iniwan niya sa couch ni Rina.  

 

Rina insisted to wait for her sa lobby pero pilit na pilit pa rin si RJ sa gustong mangyari nito. She was getting tired arguing with RJ so she just let her win. Naiinis na siya kay RJ at sa mga pakulo nito, but when she saw Win sitting on the hood of their car, parang gusto niyang bumalik sa unit niya at tawagin si RJ. 

 

She wanted to make sure that she was not seeing things.  

 

“Win?” Rina quietly called her.  

 

Win went out of the car and smiled at her. “Hi.” 

 

“Win?” She asked once more. Ang alam ni Rina, next week pa uuwi si Win and she couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that the person she’s been missing for these past weeks was in front of her now. Win smiled and nodded at her.  

 

Rina didn’t waste any more time and moved closer to Win to hug her. “Hi,” Win whispered in her hair.  

 

“You’re really here...” Rina closed her eyes. She moved away a bit para makita ang mukha ni Win. Rina kept on talking, still couldn’t believe na umuwi na si Win. 

 

Win closed her eyes and moved her head closer to her. Rina held her breath, thinking that she would kiss her, but then she felt Win’s forehead on hers. She closed her eyes, too. “Dito lang ako,” Win whispered. “Happy Birthday, Rina.”  

 

Rina didn’t need anything more. The watch that Win gave her was just a bonus although she still appreciated it so much. Rina thought that day was the best birthday she has ever had. Win was there. Win told her everything she did sa US, told her stories about her friends there, and confided with her.  

 

They even kissed twice.  

 

That night, all of Win's insecurities and fears—she told all of it to Rina while they were lying down beside each other and the most important part: Win will stay. Rina almost didn’t sleep that night and was satisfied just watching Win as the girl slept soundly beside her.  

 

Rina reached out to her face at marahan na hinaplos ito. “I love you, Win,” she whispered. Rina knew she will be uttering those words like a secret until she was no longer afraid.

 

The last time she said those words, nasaktan lang siya at natatakot na siya so, she decided that night na itatago niya muna. They weren’t even officially together yet at masyado pang maaga para kay Win. 

 

Kaya naman niya na magtago kahit ilang beses na siya na muntik madulas especially nang maging sila na talaga. There were times Win would do the sweetest things for Rina like giving her a painting of the former’s house sa US. Win was talking about how she wanted to share Rina a part of her.  

 

Rina wanted to say to Win that time na mahal na niya ito, but she held herself back.  

 

When they made it official sa car after their first date and Win kissed her, she almost slipped. A lot of times she almost said it to her pero pinangungunahan siya ng takot. Rina blamed herself dati with her fallout with Jeno.  

 

Hindi niya pala kayang hintayin ang lalaki. Hindi niya pala kaya na they’re both not in the same page. Rina still broke it off with him kahit na ilang beses na pinilit ni Jeno na ayusin ang relasyon nila. And now, she’s afraid the same thing will happen with Win if ever she wasn’t feeling the same as Rina. 

 

So, Rina thought of a way to protect herself and that was to keep her true feelings for as long as she can.  

 

However, she never stopped herself from showing it to Win and even telling those words during times when her girlfriend wasn’t aware. Rina actually lost count kung ilang beses na niya sinabi ito kay Win; kapag nakakatulog ito habang magka-video call sila, Rina would whisper it. Every time they ended their call, Rina would say those words. 

 

Sapat na sa kaniya ang ganoon muna if that meant that she could keep Win.  

 

Rina remembered that time when Win went to her at dinalhan siya ng pagkain for dinner. Rason nito na hindi na raw healthy ang kinakain niya, but she also felt how much Win wanted to see her that night because she was the same. Rina had been missing her girlfriend way too much kahit nagkikita naman sila saglit sa umaga o kapag lunch.  

 

That was when she battled within herself on whether to tell those words to Win. She remembered they were walking to her apartment, Win assuring her na okay lang kung mawalan siya ng time sa kaniya because she can wait.  

 

“I know how important work is to you. I just don’t want you to feel guilty when you can’t give your time to me. Hindi naman ako aalis, Rina,” Win said.  

 

“You always say that,” pagpuna niya sa sinambit ng girlfriend. 

 

“Hm?” 

 

“Na hindi ka aalis.”  

 

“It’s because I’m not kaya do your own thing, and I’ll just be here kapag kailangan mo ako.” Win’s voice was soft when she said those words. Rina couldn’t help it. Tumigil sila sa paglalakad and pulled Win to hug her.   

 

They stayed like that for a while and they kept on bickering with each other. It was a long day, and a tiring week overall for Rina, but ending the day in Win’s arms, as cheesy as it may sound, just made her feel like she could go on for days without having proper rest.  

 

Sobra-sobra lang ang mga ipinaparamdam ni Win kay Rina. Sa mga ginagawa nito; sa mga salita nito at kahit sa kung paano lang ito tumingin sa kaniya na parang wala na itong nakikita kung hindi siya lang. 

 

When Rina sunk into Win's embrace again, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “I...” I love you. “I really like you.”  

 

It was getting too much—lahat ng nararamdaman ni Rina. Pakiramdam niya, sasabog siya kung papatagalin pa niya ang lahat and every time she would try to get a little bit braver each day, her past will then remind her of everything. 

 

Lahat ng sakit, lahat ng takot at lahat ng kalungkutan na naranasan niya, ipapaalala sa kaniya nito. The worst part was: Rina has always blamed herself from everything that happened.  

 

When she finally talked to Jeno properly after she tried to call it off and the two weeks that the former chased her, asking for another chance, that’s when she told everything Jeno. Rina couldn’t settle for what Jeno can give her at that time. She felt terrible and thought that it would be better for the both of them to end it.  

 

Wala na rin namang patutunguhan. 

 

After everything, Rina thought there would be nothing more painful than ending it with him, but Jeno just had to tell her his parting words.  

 

“I get that you couldn’t wait for me. But you know what? This is the reason why you’re so hard to love. You never gave me the chance to. You just shut me off completely. Even now that you’re breaking up with me, it feels like you’re just throwing me away because you couldn’t get what you want from me.” 

 

Those were Jeno’s exact words when Rina decided to break up with him. And after all these years, it was still very fresh to her. Parang paulit-ulit niyang naririnig tuwing susubukan niya na maging matapang. 

 

And whenever Rina got scared, Win would assure her—maybe not always with words but more with actions.  

 

“...hopefully, ako pa rin ‘yung patuloy mo na gugustuhin,” Rina said, albeit shy. It was that time when she first went into Win’s room sa bahay nila sa province. It was one of their firsts—she never had the chance to see Win’s room when they were in college. Rina has always imagined that Win has a neat and organized room and she wasn’t wrong.  

 

Marami pa siyang hindi alam tungkol sa girlfriend niya. Rina stepping into Win’s personal space was a big thing for her kahit pa gaano kababaw ito sa paningin ng iba and every time Win would open up to her, Rina it would always stir hundreds of different emotions in her because out of all people who tried to get through Win, she chose Rina.  

 

Win could have anyone she wanted; hindi naman kasi mahirap na magustuhan ang babae and Rina felt lucky to be part of her life and she has no plans on getting out of it and it seemed like Win was the same. 

 

Rina was nervous and excited at the same time—ito ‘yung araw na ipapakilala siya ni Win sa mga kaibigan niya. It was different for Rina compared sa group na nabuo nila noong college. These people were outside of their circle and she didn’t know how Win interacts with them. 

 

Si Yeji pa lang naman ang nakikilala niya. Rina found Yeji welcoming and kind the first time she met her. Alam na niya agad kung bakit ito ang naka-close ni Win sa trabaho. Win liked to stick with people who wasn’t invasive.  

 

That night with Win’s friends, everything was getting smooth. Ramdam ni Rina kung gaano na natutuwa sa kanilang dalawa ni Win ang mga kaibigan nito. Marami silang tanong pero maiingat pa rin ang mga ito. 

 

Rina thought it was funny that Win gets teased everywhere she went to. Madalas kasi tuksuhin ang girlfriend niya nina Ning at ngayon, si Win pa rin ang madalas na pinupuna ng lahat. It was harmless though, and Rina would put her hand in Win’s thigh to calm the latter. 

 

Win then would start pouting, brows furrowed that Rina has always found adorable.  

 

“You’re pouting,” Rina whispered and then laughed Win quickly went back to poker face. Minsan kasi, hindi aware si Win sa mga ginagawa niya, mga reactions niya and Rina knew her girlfriend didn’t like it.  

 

“Was I?” Win asked. 

 

Rina laughed again then nodded. Maya-maya lang, Yeji tapped her to whisper something into her. Lumayo siya saglit kay Win.  

 

“I’ve never seen Win like that,” Yeji said. Saglit siyang tumingin sa girlfriend at busy na ito makipag-usap kay Yeonjun.  

 

“The first time I met Winter, akala ko hindi niya ako gusto kasama,” singit ni Chaeryeong sa usapan nila. “But then I saw her taking care of everyone else while they were drunk. I realized na tahimik lang talaga s’ya, but she cared.” 

 

Rina smiled at what she has heard. She felt proud to be the one dating Win lalo na sa mga ganitong pagkakataon. Hindi lahat gusto si Win lalo na noong college sila. Some of their schoolmates thought Win was a snob or thinks too highly of herself to even talk to other people, but Rina has always thought of the opposite. 

 

“Oh no, you look in too deep,” Yeji said in a hush, careful enough not others to hear what they were talking about. 

 

Rina felt heat creeping up to her cheeks. She bit her lip and with a shy tone, she asked, “am I too obvious?”   

 

“It doesn’t matter. Looks like you guys are on the same page,” Mark said and then shrugged when the three of them girls looked at the guy who has been quiet the whole night. 

 

Natawa na si Rina. Nakikinig pala ito. 

 

When she went back to Win, narinig niya si Yeonjun at ang girlfriend niya, boosting each other with ‘kakayanin natin ‘to’ mantra. Rina shook her head, then drank from her glass. Naramdaman na niya si Win na inilapit ang katawan sa kaniya. Rina sunk to Win’s body. “Baby, anong kaya natin ‘to?” She teased.  

 

“Narinig mo?” Win asked.  

 

“The kaya natin ‘to and cheers part lang.” 

 

Win shook her head and smiled. Rina decided not to ask further, but she adored her girlfriend’s friendship with Yeonjun. Akala pa niya dati, interesado ang lalaki kay Win. She can’t believe she got jealous of him before. 

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witherfork
Hello haha.

Last na 'to. Good bye na talaga :D

Thank you again!

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