Irene can still remember the first time she saw Win—that adorable, puppy-faced kid that applied for their club. Iilan lang ang sumasali sa club nila dahil hindi naman ito ang pinakamasayang club sa school. Sobra rin ang trabaho nila bilang sila lang naman ang gumagawa ng mga school newspapers, newsletters and magazines.
“Uhm, hi. Is the position for Illustrator still open?”
Irene raised her brow a bit. May accent ang babae. Sasagot pa lang sana ang isang member nila nang bigla siyang nagsalita. “Hi. I’m Irene, the president of media club. Senior,” masigla niyang sambit. “Ako na rito, Mina,” bulong niya sa ka-member niya.
“Hello,” tipid na ngiti ng applicant. “I’m Winter. Winter Kim. IT, freshman,” paglahad nito ng kamay. Tinanggap naman ito ni Irene.
“You want to apply for the illustrator job?” Tanong ni Irene nang magbitaw sila ng kamay.
“Yeah. Uhm...I’ve only filled up the form for now, but I can show you some of my digital works,” diretsong sambit ni Winter.
“You have it with you?”
“Yeah,” sagot ni Winter at itinuro ang laptop na dala-dala nito.
Irene nodded and let Winter at her table. Umpisa pa lang magaan na ang loob niya kay Winter. Winter somewhat looked like a lost puppy who was trying hard to find the way on her own and was shy like that.
Winter opened her laptop and looked for the files. When she opened one of her works, napanganga lang si Irene. Mukhang professional na kasi ang gawa nito at parang may ilang taon na experience sa graphics design na field. Sigurado na agad siya na makukuha ng club nila ang atensyon ng mga estudyante sa mga magiging illustrations ni Winter.
“So... I only have these files with me right now. I can still find the others and maybe send them to you?” Winter looked unsure. Parang kinakabahan pa nga ito.
“You don’t need to show any more of your work. You know what you’re doing and you will be a really big help in this club,” Irene paused. “But I’d like to know how much you're interested in this club.”
“Interested enough to actually apply here?” Winter said with a slight frown na parang nalilito sa tanong ni Irene. Irene blinked. That made sense, and though it was straightforward and something she did not expect to hear, Irene loved Winter’s answer. “Uh...did I say something wrong?” Kagat ni Winter ang labi niya na parang pinagsisisihan ang sagot.
Irene softly laughed, “no, you did great. Welcome to the club, Winter.” Irene extended her hand to the other girl for a shake.
Winter stared at her for a few seconds like she couldn’t believe what just happened. Si Irene na ang kumuha ng kamay ni Winter para makipag-shake hands dito.
“Salamat?” Sambit ni Winter na ikinatawa ni Irene.
“Hindi ka sigurado?” Irene asked, slightly tilting her head to the side.
Nakakunot pa rin ang noo ni Winter. Hindi alam ni Irene kung naintindihan ba siya ni Winter. “Is that a trick question?” Takang-tanong ng babae. Napangiti si Irene. Mukhang marami siyang kailangan ituro kay Winter.
“No, don’t mind that. Anyway, you can go to Mina to fill up other forms needed so you can be part of this club officially,” Irene smiled.
“Thanks, uhm...Ate? Ate Irene?” Mahinang natawa si Irene sa narinig. “Sorry, you're my senior and I’m supposed to be calling you Ate, right? I’m not sure how to call you, but I can drop the Ate if you don’t like it,” mabilis na bawi ni Winter.
The truth was, Irene never wanted the younger members to call her Ate. Hindi naman kailangan, but she liked hearing it from Winter. Ang cute lang ng pagbigkas nito. “No, Ate is okay.”
Winter looked relieved and then nodded before going to Mina. Gusto pa sana kausapin ni Irene si Winter pero alam niyang naghihintay na sa parking lot ang kapatid niya. Nagmamadaling nag-ayos ng gamit si Irene at nagpaalam sa mga members niya.
Pagdating niya sa parking lot ng school, natagpuan niya si Rina na nakatayo malapit sa kotse nila habang nakakunot ang noo nito.
“Rina,” tawag ni Irene sa kapatid nang makalapit dito.
“Ate ang tagal mo,” Rina rolled her eyes. “I thought mas maaga ka today?”
Irene unlocked the car and they went in. “May nag-apply kasi for the illustrator position. It was sudden and I had to do some interview,” Irene explained. Inisip niya nga kung interview ba talaga ang nangyari dahil aaminin niya na pagkakita pa lang niya sa mga gawa ni Winter, alam niya na gusto na niya itong tanggapin as a member. “Do you know someone named Winter?” Irene asked as she started driving.
Irene couldn’t see her sister properly but she felt the latter’s eyes on her. “IT siya,” dagdag ni Irene.
“Yeah. She’s my seatmate in one of our shared classes,” Rina answered.
“So, marami kayong shared classes?” Irene asked while Rina only hummed in response. “Winter called me Ate Irene,” she chuckled as she remembered the way Winter looked so shy and unsure.
Rina laughed, “I didn’t know nagpapatawag ka ng Ate sa iba, lalo na sa mga members mo ng club.”
“Well, she’s cute and looks like a lost kid. Might as well adopt her as my new sister.” Kita ni Irene ang pag-iling ni Rina sa peripherals niya.
“Ate, baka kung ano-ano ituro mo sa kanya na kalokohan.”
“Seriously, ano ba tingin mo sa’kin, Rina?” Irene asked.
Rina chuckled, “a very bad influence.”
If Irene wasn’t driving, nahampas na niya ang kapatid niya. She just rolled her eyes at Rina, but she smiled fondly as she remembered how Winter looked so unsure, but also seemed so confident at the same time.
Maybe Winter was unsure because she was in a new environment, and she looked confident dahil alam nito na magaganda ang gawa niya. Winter also never avoided her eyes—one thing that Irene mostly found younger people do when she’s talking to them. Mina mentioned once that the reason why students didn’t want to apply to their club was that she looked intimidating.
Hindi na bago iyon kay Irene. Napapakita niya lang ang pagiging makulit niya sa mga taong sobrang ka-close niya.
“So, my sister is dating someone sa school n’yo,” panimula ni Irene. Win and Rina were in their third year of college. Irene was already working at that time and decided to catch up with Win nang umuwi siya sa probinsya.
Napagpasyahan nilang magkita na lang sa isang coffee shop.
“I know,” sagot ni Win. Irene nodded, knowing she will never get any other answer from Win except for those two words.
“What do you think of the guy?”
Win shrugged. “He’s okay, I think.”
Irene threw a crumpled paper napkin at Win. “That’s it? Win, what if saktan lang pala niya si Rina? I asked you to look after my sister kapag wala ako.”
“Ate Irene, malaki na si Rina. She knows what’s good for her and what’s not. If the guy hurts her, all we can do is be there for her. So far, mukhang okay naman ‘yung boyfriend ni Rina. Close siya kina RJ.”
“How about you? Close ba sa’yo si Juno?”
Irene laughed as Win crinkled her nose after calling the guy Juno. Naikuwento na ni Win kay Irene na tinawag niyang Juno si Jeno sa harap ni Rina. Irene can still remember the number of messages she woke up to that day. Win had been complaining.
“No,” Win answered, her tone flat.
“Yiee, selos ka?”
Win scowled at Irene. “Why would I be?”
Irene did not answer. She did not want to mention how she often saw Win staring at her sister dati; how Win would listen to her stories when she was talking about Rina and how Win had been quietly taking care of her sister.
Irene knew all of it that was why besides RJ, Giselle, and Lia, Win was the one she trusted the most when it comes to her sister. Irene often got worried about Rina. Masyado kasing mabait ang kapatid niya and she knew that anyone could take advantage of her sister’s kindness anytime.
And if that happens, Rina would only smile, and tell people around her that it was okay.
Irene did not want that for her sister. Alam niyang kaya naman n