CHAPTER 1: SORRY!
It was the first Saturday of summer vacation. Incidentally, the first summer before I started college. It was also the start of my first day as Charlie’s baby sitter. Charlie was the seven-year-old son of Brad and Natasha Wakefield, our neighbors who just moved to our neighborhood, Alabang Hills, a couple of months ago. They were in their mid-30s. Brad, an American, was a pediatrician, while Natasha, a Filipino, was quite a well-known freelance painter. The two met when Brad was doing a medical mission in Tacloban, right after the dreadful disaster came to an end, leaving the city dilapidated, almost ghostly. It so happened that Natasha was a volunteer, while at the same time doing research for her Tacloban charity exhibit. They hit it off instantly and the rest was history.
While I think their story is amazing, I personally feel that none of that lovey-dovey stuff would actually happen to me. My parents were annulled when I was 9, and I barely have any memory of them together. Now, I live with my Mom, Cecille, and my stepfather, George, who make a living as an interior-designing tandem. They’ve been together with 9 years. While I adore and love Tito George very much, there are times when I can’t help but wonder what my life could have been if my parents had stayed together. My Dad, Lito, who I have now named in my phone as MIA, is an architect now based in New York. Although he was kind enough to pay for my tuition and extra-curricular lessons, he was primarily an absentee father who wrote the mandatory birthday, Christmas, and graduation cards or texts. Thanks to my parents, I was now a self-professed love skeptic at age 18.
“Hello Janella,” greeted Natasha as she opened their amazingly high, French-inspired, green gate. “Thanks again for doing this. I know baby-sitting isn’t a typical thing for Filipino teenagers to do, but thanks for being cool about it.”
“No problem!” I said promptly, with a little bit too much enthusiasm. “I didn’t sound fake, did I?” I wondered. Not that I was in anyway insincere in doing the babysitting job, but as it turned out, I also needed money for a new Iphone 7, just in time for college.
“Charlie! Tita Jan is here!” Natasha called.
Cute and energetic Charlie with fair skin, round blue eyes, and dark brown hair in a bob cut, popped out and shyly mumbled hello with a little dimple showing on his right cheek as he smiled.
“Are you excited to go the Grand Bonanza?” I asked in high-pitched pre-school teacher-ish voice.
“Yes!” he exclaimed, clapping excitedly.
Since it was two weeks before Christmas, there was Bazaar-Carnival, The Grand Bonanza, set-up at the big, vacant lot in near Alabang Hills. It was the Grand Bonanza’s fifth year, so I actually spent a lot of my teenage years here with my family, friends, suitors and now…Charlie. Not that I was complaining, Charlie was a good kid. He rarely had tantrums and was cheerful and friendly most of the time. I imagine that if ever I’d ever gotten to having my own kid, I’d want someone like Charlie.
“Welcome to the Grand Bonanza!” the ticket lady greeted. “One regular and one junior,” I replied politely.
I looked around, and it was just as I remembered- colorful, cheery, and energetic, with loud pop music playing in the background and multi-colored banderitas everywhere. It wasn’t Disneyland, but they did have crowd favorites like the carousel, the bump cars, and the roller-coaster. Lots of children were there with their parents. Other faces in the crowd included barkadas, lovers, and people doing their Christmas shopping.
“Just a minute!” the girl replied as she imputed our payment. “Here you go!”
“I wanna shoot the monsters!’ Charlie exclaimed as he pulled my hand into the Shootout Booth right after the carousel. We had just bought our grape juices from the Mr. Muscle stand and I was afraid one of them might fall.
“Slow down,” I said, panting, but Charlie paid no attention, and instead, started to run until he bumped into a guy standing by the carousel, spilling grape juice all over him.
“How embarrassing!” I thought, feeling my skin starting to turn crimson. “Next time, no running, okay?” I told Charlie pointedly.
“Okay,” Charlie agreed, who looked as embarrassed as I was.
“I’m so sorry!” I called out apologetically. “Sorry. I’m Sorry.”
“Gosh, how many times can a person say sorry in one breathing?” I wondered.
A guy in white, of around 6 feet, dripping wet from head to toe, turned around and smiled. “It’s no problem. Really.” he replied calmly.
That smile. That face.
I had never been this physically taken on a guy.
At once. At first glance.
My breath was literally taken away.