Overcome

“Tommy, call him!”

Snatching a glance near the window, Liza saw him at nearly the same time he used to arrive, peeking silently beside the tree in front of the house. How she wished to come out to him and dragged him inside for a real talk.

Her younger brother would not leave Erika’s side since their arrival. His usual practice of hanging out to ward off any possible suitors coming was forgotten; he was quite enamored with her new friend. Each had a piece of the earphones listening to a slow beat.

“Didn’t you hear what I said?” Liza asked, asserting her authority, being older.

“Why don’t you call him?” he shot back, but a bit politely lest he could turn off Erika.

“Are you crazy? I am a girl.” Even though she wanted to, modesty won.

“So?”

“Will you invite him inside or not? I can send Erika home now.”

“Right away, sis!” He excused himself from his music partner. “Aye! Your wish is my command!”

After he left, Liza joined Erika, who seemed to enjoy Tommy’s company.

“He’s overprotective. At least now, he could experience caring for another other than me.”

Erika smiled back. She needed not ask for explanations: Liza found her as distraction for Tommy.

“It’s okay. I know boys. I mean, I have a brother so I have a fairly good idea on how to deal with them.”

“Perhaps, you can help me with this guy?” she pointed to Eric entering the door with Tommy behind, back to his suspicious nature.

“That’s Leyla’s brother,” Erika whispered to Liza, “The girl I told you I want for my brother.”

“How could that be? You said she serenaded your brother. Why is her brother too shy?”

“I do not have the faintest idea,” Erika said, shaking her head.

After the preliminary introductions, which thankfully Eric survived with Tommy’s sour presence, he bravely uttered his rehearsed lines.

“I could have brought Leyla along to meet Tommy but she is currently indisposed.”

Liza glanced at Erika who did not exhibit any reaction. It was Tommy’s turn to interrupt.

“Why bring her along?”

“I’m under the impression you like her. I saw you two together once.”

“Tell you the truth. I’m afraid of your sister. She could beat me up just for the sake of it.”

“She is a nice girl. She won’t harm you if you do not initiate anything wrong.”

“She hates my guts. I just mentioned to her to wear a dress. She went ballistic all of a sudden.”

“Some girls have their own way of expressing themselves,” Erika said. “Eric knows her more.”

Liza touched her arm, the sign of her approval, glad too that her comment cooled down Tommy in the process. Eric, on the other hand, smiled at her, thanking her with a nod.

“Ehem!”

“Oh, I almost forgot!” Liza exclaimed. “I was about to ask you earlier if I can borrow Tommy for a walk.”

“I don’t think that’s possible,” Liza replied. “He has to guard me, remember?”

Tommy clapped his hands and laughed out loud. It seemed the girls planned the whole thing all along. But that’s okay; he would have Erika alone. She made him feel good.

“You two are really great! I bet Eric is grateful, too.”

“Absolutely,” he replied, finally getting the quality moment with Liza. “Thank  you, Tommy.”

Before Erika could get Tommy away, a recurring idea involuntarily came out from her mouth.

“Tell Leyla, my brother likes her, too.”

“What’s that?” Eric asked, though he understood what the message was all about.

“Ooops!” Erika covered her mouth as Liza pinched her side for her indiscretion.

(to be continued)

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Convergence

“Outside, people!”

It was cloudy at noon with no forecast of rain. Another Monday was nearly half finished though not to everyone’s liking: a suspected long power outage was about to wreck havoc to normal educational activities.

Liza looked out the grounds to find a spot where she could be alone to write the rough draft of her report. She noticed a girl standing up from a nearby bench, leaving another with earphones on her ears.

Erika saw her coming. Though she never intended to have a chat with someone, she needed a sounding board about her dilemma whether to tell Leyla or not that his brother was in love with her. A stranger could give her an unbiased advice.

“Can I sit here?”

Erika nodded, sizing her up, trying to decide whether to tell her what’s on her mind.

“Can I ask you something?”

They laughed at the coincidence of them asking the same question at the same time.

“Go ahead,” Erika said, confident now she found a confidant of sorts.

“I like this guy, who keeps looking at my house but never introducing himself. My brother don’t like him though.”

“Maybe he’s a thief,” Erika jested.”Your brother has good reason to dislike him.”

“A thief of my heart,” Liza said. “He lives a few blocks from us. In Villa Real.”

“Oh, I live there, too!” Erika revealed, telling Liza her address.

“I often see him around the campus but he won’t approach me. I think he’s too shy.”

“Not unlike the girl I know who serenaded my brother,” Erika blurted out. The word oops slipped out of his mouth. “That’s our secret, huh? Besides, you don’t know my brother, right?”

That bit of information eased the rapport between them, girls discussing their diverse ideas about relationships in general.

“I like her for my brother.” Erika said. “They are meant for each other like bacon and eggs.”

They both laughed, the analogy was but a thought out of the blue.

“Come with me later,” Liza said. “I’ll point him to you. He always come by after school.”

- 0 -

The thief of heart nagged his sister to play along with his plan. The small favor he asked would give him the chance to evade, even for a while, Liza’s sticky guard at home.

“Just once, Leyla, please.” Eric followed her from the library to the small park outside where she usually meet her friends. “Your brother needs you.”

“You want me repeat my ‘cheap’ performance for Tommy,” she stopped walking and turned around so suddenly that he nearly bumped into her. “I don’t like him. He loves himself more than anyone else.”

Eric slightly nodded to Jean and Jane who came into the scene, escorting Leyla to their fave spot.

“I just want you to have a chat with him while I talk to Liza. It’s not too difficult, isn’t it?”

“Look, bro,” she said as a compromise. “I’ll think about it. You can bring my friends here with you if they so wish.”

Jean and Jane struck the idea with a common response, “No way!”

- 0 -

“You’re the new recruit, right?” Joey welcomed him with a pat on the back. Everyone knew how accommodating he was with incoming players in the team. Since he’s a graduating student, he deemed it important to leave his legacy of teamwork and camaraderie.

Tommy nodded, slowly flexing his muscles as part of the warm up exercises.

His reluctance to join group sports was a personal choice but his sister persuaded him to release what she called emotional anger and converted it to a positive feeling of accomplishment. In a way, she was correct: he was ready to kick the ball, visualizing it as Eric’s head.

- 0 -

Finally, power was restored, classes were about to resume. The school’s public address system aired the usual sound check music to call on everyone to get back to their respective rooms.

How appropriate, thought most of those in love.

(to be continued)

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Unmistakable

“Did you hear that?”

Eric rushed down from his room, awakened by the unusual sound from the yard. At five in the morning, who would be so insensitive to create such noise to disturb other people’s sleep.

His mother, who stood by the stairs met his query with a forefinger in front on her mouth. She might have a good reason to silence him.

“What’s the banging about?” Howard came out the bedroom, angry that his weekend sleep was cut short.

“Can’t you keep it down?” Sandra whispered like a conspirator to a cabal. “It’s Leyla. She’s fixing the flower shelves.”

“Should you be doing that?” Howard asked his son, who turned his eyes away, forgetting the chore he was assigned with.

“Never mind that,” Sandra said. “She’s nearly finished.”

“Why all of a sudden?” her husband scratched his head. “Why not later when the sun is up?”

“She’s been up earlier, at four. When I woke up, the kitchen looked like it was scrubbed all over.”

“Is she expecting someone?” Howard asked.

“None that I know of?” she replied. “Eric?”

“Beats me?” he raised both hands in surrender. “She could be pregnant.”

His last remark made him the bad guy of the day, eliciting scornful looks from his parents who didn’t find it funny at all.

“You go help her!” his father ordered, dismissing him as if shooing a pest away.

But before they could react, the banging stopped. Seconds later, the front door knob turned.

“Hurry! Hide!”

Like small children playing hide and seek, they disappeared like sprites.

Leyla surveyed the last room she needed tidying up. Some of the furniture has to be rearranged, freeing more space for going around unhampered.

She turned the radio on, needing the background music to accompany her thoughts.

The following song is requested by Grandma Faye for his departed husband, Greg. Their love which spanned for over 40 years, will live on. Remember the cherished memories, Grandma.

She sat there, contemplating what would happen if Joey would not show interest in her. It would devastate her heart.

“Thinking of him?” her mother spoke from behind.

Leyla felt she would understand. “Was I wrong, Ma? Did I blew it?”

“You did what you think was best at the time. Sometimes, you must go for it if you believe it.”

“You got father. Will I get Joey?”

Sandra sat beside her and ran her fingers through her daughter’s long black straight hair. She was no longer a child but a budding woman, complete with all the beautiful emotions of a person in love.

“Fate has a way to realize dreams. On the other hand, it can also lead you somewhere else.”

“I love him, Ma.”

“He is a lucky guy,” Sandra said. “He will have a hard time finding another girl like you.”

Leyla kissed her mother on the cheek, grateful that she had never felt alone even in her most trying time.

She saw her daughter rejuvenated from her lows. The act-like-a-man Leyla was raring to move along with her day as usual.

“Well, Ma, I have still this room left.”

“You’re a real darling!”

(to be continued)

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Turned

“Take those off!”

Erika straggled inside her brother’s room, scheming a way to make him like Leyla. It would not be an easy sell, especially due to her ultra-liberal style of expressing her desire toward him. She would have fared better if she came over in a revealing outfit; that was feminine.

“What?” she watched him motioning her to get rid of what was attached to her ears.

“If you enter this place, no earphones!” he shouted, unaware she had already removed them.

“I can’t hear you,” she joked, showing him the earpiece on her palm.

Joey continued cleaning under the bed, where mosquitoes often hid during daytime. Fortunately, too, he discovered a missing sock he had been looking for for days.

“Can I be of service to you, Miss?” he asked, noting she was quietly standing by the window.

“I heard she is a one-man woman,” Erika began the promo, creating an image of a faithful creature. “If I am the guy she approached, I’ll grab her and never let go.”

“Hmmm!” Joey sat down on the wooden floor and observed how a woman used her guile. “I am glad you’re not a guy. I could have kicked your butt right now.”

“Hey! I am serious here,” she went over and sat in front of him. “You ought to take her seriously, too.”

Not very often his sister would do something out of her nature. It would seem the absence of another girl, besides their mother, in the house compelled her to take the chance presented by Leyla’s appearance. She was poised to shower her with sisterly affection once he took her home.

“I saw her the other day,” he related, the memory enchanting. “She looked like a sore thumb walking with her friends who all wore dresses.”

“That’s her style!” Erika reasoned out. “She does not flaunt her body.”

“She’s an enigma to all!” Joey laughed. “I wonder what  she wears at home. A gown?”

“Don’t be so hard on her. Imagine if you should be her husband, you and you alone will see her …”

Joey saw his sister’s eyes rolled over: she was being naughty.

“What?”

“her charm,” she wagged a finger on him for thinking of worldly thoughts.

“What is she taking up?” Joey changed the subject in a flash, leading her away for good reason.

“Home Economics. Why?” she wondered the significance of the shift.

“You should change course, then.” he teased. “Your cooking needs a lot to be desired.”

“Why are you evading the subject?” Erika was fuming mad, besides his accurate rating of her lack of prowess in the kitchen, his brother did not treat the conversation with importance as she hoped he should.

After keeping his silence for a while, he revealed what was on his mind.

“Okay, okay! You got me!” he confessed. “I do like her. There! I said it.”

Erika wanted to scream so loud for that wonderful bit of news. Hugging him was in order but she believed her celebration should wait for a more appropriate time: when the two became a pair for real.

“You’re just saying that to stop me from bugging you.”

“No,” he said. “You have no idea what she did to me last night.”

Erika beamed. She guessed her brother experienced the magic of love.

“She would be thrilled that …,” she slipped.

“Oh, you’re telling her?” he interrupted. “Is that it? You’ll ruin what I planned.”

“No! I won’t. I promise.”

“I will go to her house unannounced, do what a suitor does, and wait for her reply, even if it takes months.”

“I think you already know what her answer will be,” she laughed.

“Oh, no. I don’t. She’s a girl. She is entitled to change her mind, even at the last minute.”

“Is that a fact?” She was surprised to hear that gem of a thought, especially from a man.

“I believe so. My objective is to convince her not to.”

(to be continued)

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Decided

“I can’t forget her!”

The residents of the entire village could have been sleeping but Joey was still awake. Only one problem existed, if he could consider it as one: Leyla.

Everywhere he turned to, her image kept appearing, even in the pages of his books.

Restless, he stood up and walked around the room. Tiring himself could do the trick of inviting sleep.

But she would not vanish from his mind.

“What’s wrong with me?” he whispered to his reflection on the mirror. It did not reply back.

He jumped back to bed and covered himself with a blanket. Still, she was there in spirit.

It was probably his curiosity about her that wove magic in him. With a downloaded track from the Net, he played the song once. That was enough to trap him.

“Goodnight, Leyla.”

He closed his eyes and smiled.

(to be continued)

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Blocked

“I can do this.”

Eric breathed hard before walking the last twenty meters toward Liza’s house. He knew she was at school but she was not her he wanted to see. His main target was also the thorn on his throat: pass him and he would not get all the snide remarks he was sure the young man could dish out if ever he succeeded in setting foot inside their house.

Damn! Bad timing! He saw Tommy standing by a tree, his knee folded with a foot pressed to the trunk, obviously listening to loud music.

Eric was not a pushover. If he had to assert his right to visit Liza without Tommy’s blessing, he would do it. However, crossing the young man at any point was self-defeating. He would not want a sore brother-in-law in the future.

What should he do?

A few feet from him, Eric watched Liza’s brother with curiosity. There had to be something they could enjoy together to create a non-confrontational relationship between them.

With closed eyes, Tommy kept nodding his head. He could not have predicted that the man he liked to pique stood near him.

“That must be good!” Eric remarked when he saw Tommy adjusted the volume of his portable music player.

“Yeah, it is!” Tommy replied automatically, even though he had not seen who spoke.

Eric walked closer and faced him, man to man.

“Liza is not here!” Tommy snarled. His handsome face frowned, making him looked ugly.

“I know,” Eric agreed, his voice more friendly. “I want to talk to you.”

“Can’t you see I am busy?”

The angry question could have finished the conversation but Eric would not leave until he could convince Tommy that he was not a bad guy, that he meant only good for his sister.

“What is it you do not like about me?”

“I don’t like any men courting my sister.”

So, it was not a personal thing, Eric concluded to which he was thankful for. It was a generalization the young man believed.

“Have you considered what your sister feels? Does she know your reasons?”

“I don’t want her hurt,” he explained. “She means a lot to me.”

A different tact, Eric, he commanded himself.

“Have you ever been in love?”

“Who needs it?” Tommy asked without thinking, his voice frigid.

“We all do. You, my sister.” Eric risked something he had no total control of. His sister was not the easiest person to deal with.

“Don’t play that trick on me! I may not be so bright but I would never fall for that.”

Eric sighed. Thank heavens! That was close! The love card was definitely a mistake.

“I am sorry. I didn’t mean it as it sounded. I was just making a point.”

He was talking to a rock, solid and immovable. His ploy had no success whatsoever. What he saw next proved to him that his love life would not start until he found a way to pass through the guard.

“Here’s a point for you!” Tommy showed him a clenched fist.

(to be continued)

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Expose

“How was the breakout?”

Except for his husband who went early for work, Sandra and his two children sat in front of the dining table, sharing a long breakfast together. She did most of the listening between their harmless bickering about love and relationships.

“We had fun,” Leyla displayed her elation while heartily eating her pancake. “Joey is the best.”

Eric was somewhat disappointed that her sister’s untried idea was a success; his plan to pair him with Liza’s younger brother seemed doomed as it stood at the moment.

“I am sure he was too kind to break your heart, especially right in their own house.”

“Aren’t you on my side?” she asked, her hurt look needed comfort rather than teasing. “My God, you’re supposed to be happy for me.”

“Should I be?” he wondered loudly, his motive biased for his sake. “You looked cheap with your stunt.”

Sandra eyed her oldest child with a silent rebuke. His comment was uncalled for.

“For your information, Eric,” she pronounced the name with a stronger stress, “you and your sister won’t be born if I waited for your father to court me.”

Both her children were in shock to hear the revelation. It was the first time she intimated details of those days past.

“You’re kidding, right?” Eric waited for the punch line to reverse the claim at some point.

“Now, I know why,” Leyla was more supportive. Her mother’s genes were passed on to her.

“Your father used to joke around, circling around me, keeping me in his sight but never going for the kill. He was like a strong and mighty predator but timid when it was time to attack.”

Sandra laughed, recalling an incident she would not relate to her children, but which should be told now to clear the air between them.

“When I saw your father the first time, I knew right there and then, he would be my long time partner. I think he felt the same. We were like Earth and the moon, I am Earth. Still is.”

Eric and Leyla stopped eating, turned their complete attention to their mother who seemed lost in a beautiful and rosy world.

“You see, your father needed the push,” she continued, her smile painted satisfaction. “One time, we joined this group celebrating a party for someone’s birthday. As always, your father flitted around, glancing toward me at any given time I wasn’t looking. Perhaps, I had a little too much to drink that night,” she erupted in a giggling fit.

“Come on!” Eric could not take the suspense. In secret, he wished to know his father’s move. In reality, he was in a similar situation that no one in the family knew.

“Ma, I have no idea,” Leyla pretended not to hear the drinking part.

“I shouted ‘coward’ out loud,” she revealed.

Leyla covered her mouth with a hand: Eric stared at his mother with disbelief.

“Well, everyone stopped whatever they were doing. Coincidentally, it was perfectly timed at the pause in between songs so the word was too clear not to be mistaken for another.”

She paused, drank water and continued.

“Your father’s face turned red: he looked like a bull, angered to gore anyone on its path. He marched straight to me.”

“Then, what? What?” Eric begged, his mother enjoying every minute of it..

Leyla sat contented, savoring the moment with a special grin. She planned in her head a similar attack when the time came.

“I said, I mean Howard,” she laughed again. “No one believed me.”

“Ma, I’ll walk out of here if you do not finish the story right now,” Eric warned.

“You father gave me big smack on the mouth.”

“He punched you?”

“Yes,” Sandra laughed longer. “With his lips.”

(to be continued)

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