Back in Santa Barbara - Four


We were glad about the deal we got on the pine tree. We went ahead and paid it right away. The second supplier was kind enough that they also agreed to include delivery with the price we paid. I guess, no one wants a Christmas tree that they can also use for Valentine’s Day. Anyhow, that’s mission accomplished! 

“Richard, are you sure you don’t want to join us for this picnic lunch? We got plenty of food for just the two of us,” I asked when he dropped us in front of the town hall where the 4D words “ALAMINOS CITY” was standing proudly. 
Richard thought for a while but then replied, “Nah, maybe next time." 
I didn’t press further. Perhaps he also needed somewhere else to go to. “Alright, see you then!” We bid him goodbye, and we started walking to a small park to the left side area. We found a spot under the tree next to a family of four. Their tiny Shih Tzu came bouncing towards me until it bumped into my leg. It stood back up and ran around me repeatedly. 
“It wants to be carried!” Chris’ smile was all ears while he planted the table cloth from the basket on the bench table. I picked the puppy up and put it in my arms like a baby. Its tantalizing eyes stared at me while it rested its head in my arms. An old woman wearing spectacles drew near and picked the puppy from my arms. 
“I’m so sorry about Rain bothering you. As you know, dogs are attracted to nice people.” What she said made me blushed. She spoke gracefully, continuously fondling the yawning dog. “Are you from here? I am here with my daughter and two granddaughters." She pointed at two toddlers wearing lacy dresses and were being fed by their Mom. The two toddlers look alike. They are probably twins. 
“We are from Santa Barbara.” I introduced ourselves, told her about the pine tree hunting for our plaza and our plan to explore the Hundred Islands this afternoon. I kept on babbling that I later realized how Josephine, that’s her name, was staring at Chris in a very strange way especially with her brows furrowed. 
“I-Is there something wrong, Lola?” Chris was startled too. 
“You look familiar. You look a lot like my classmate when I was in college. What is your last name? Maybe he is related to you?” 
“The last name is Cruz." 
She chuckled, “It’s not the same, his must be something else. Oh please, ignore my dog and me.” She waved her hand and started walking away. 
“That’s not weird at all,” he whispered as we sat down opposite to each other. There was a lot of food that were leftovers from yesterday's forgotten dinner. There were adobo and sinigang, and mango for dessert. It looked appetizing that I realized that I was starving. 
“What do you mean it is not weird at all?” I asked as I swallowed a spoonful of adobo. 
“If I calculate it right, I am just about her age.” I tried not choke on what he said. He passed me a bottle of water which I immediately drank. “But hey, I am a real human now, so I will start getting old too just like her. We will all grow old just the same.” 
“So long time ago, did you use Cruz as a last name?" 
“I used several names with this last name." 
“Gosh, you’re a vampire. Please tell me more about it.” Chris cleared out his throat and said that it was a long story and he will tell me more about it when we reach the resort. “I have not actually met you as an engkanto. I only knew the engkanto side of yours while reading that diary. And you know what, I am fascinated to meet Gordo, Crux and Fuego." 
“I am sure they miss you already, especially Crux who was really fond of you. You lived in his tree and that I couldn’t accept. Sometimes, I wish I was not too hard on him, you know?" 
“Is Crux handsome?" 
“Please don’t ask me that question, Faye.” He drank his bottled water and looked away. 
“You’re jealous, aren’t you?” I teased. "I wonder if there will be a chance again." 
“We will need to wait until the 31st of October. We can go to Building 325 because this is the closest passage. However, it will be very dangerous. As I have been out as a human, I will not be able to know the updates. Maybe things have changed. There is no way for me to contact them." 
“I totally understood, we can decide on that later closer to the date." 
When we finished our lunch, we took a jeepney to the beach side of Alaminos. We checked in at the Inn, and the male receptionist handed us one key. “I thought we booked two rooms?" I clarified with the receptionist named Adam. 
“I’m sorry ma’am. The booking is only for one queen size bedroom.” He put his right hand to his mouth as if to say ‘Eureka.' "Oh, are you not together? I can check the availability of a separate room here.” 
“You know what, I don’t mind. We can stay in one room.” I told him. “It will just be for a night. I'll live." 
“That’s true. I can sleep on the floor and maybe you can put a rollaway bed?” Chris proposed. 
“We can arrange that at no additional cost. No problem.” 

We placed our things in the room and excitedly went out for our boat trip that was arranged through the Inn too. The blue catamaran is four meters long and could accommodate quite a number of people. However, this time, there were no other sign ups, so it was just me, Chris, Captain Herera and his 13-year old assistant named Boy. The boat roared as it moved forward, bouncing up and down with the waves. The teal coloured sea beneath us was unrealistically a blanket of beauty. The wind blew against our faces almost hurting our eyes. 

There was a medium sized island that was as big as the Plaza in Santa Barbara, and there were those as small as our house. We were amazed at one island covered with thousands of bats, just hanging peacefully wherever they wanted to be. Our first stop was Marcos Island where its white sands greeted us. Captain Herera handed us our life vest, and we started to walk up the stairs. I wondered where we would use it when we were supposed to go to a cave. Entering the cave itself answered my question. There was a lagoon five meters below the entrance where one can jump. Oh, that’s what the vest is for, huh? I was not afraid of getting into the water, but I was never a fan of heights. “We can jump together if you want,” Chris offered as he held my left hand. I stared at him and nodded. 
“I am putting my life into your hands, now,” I whispered. 
“Let me remind you again that I have already lost my powers,” he whispered back. I gave him the evil look and counted three. I held my breath as we leaped into the water that swallowed us for a while. The cold water enveloped our bodies. Before we knew it, we floated back where oxygen sufficed. Chris, however, had let go of my hand and now, he was nowhere in sight. I shouted his name. 
“Chris! Where are you?” I searched for the captain, but he was nowhere where we left him. I almost panicked until I felt a hand pulling my hips. I turned around to find Chris who grabbed my neck gently. He cupped my chin and pulled it towards his face, and the next thing I knew, his lips were touching mine. It moved gently, biting my lower lip that caused myself to be aroused. The kiss went deeply, which I allowed him to do so, doing the same momentum. I let it drown my soul and me, and it felt good. I went deaf with the loud pounding of my heart. 

When we pulled apart, it was to catch our breath. “Don’t you think that’s enough for the day?" 
“Maybe,” he replied as he went near me again. He was about to kiss me again, but the captain turned up from the passageway to the beach. “Why do captains show up when you don’t need them at all?” 
“This way Ma’am, Sir! This is the way to the beach. Just keep swimming.” Captain Cruz was enthusiastic. 

We went back to the boat and we continued our journey, this time to do kayaking. We jumped into our blue kayak excitedly. I went front, and Chris was at the back. We paddled to nearby islands for an hour, until our arms gave up. It also started raining, so we decided to go back to the catamaran. It was five past in the afternoon, and we were pretty tired. If it was not raining, we probably could watch the sun as it set. It was still fine, though. We were quiet the whole journey, perhaps contemplating what happened in the cave. 

That evening, we had a delicious seafood dinner, followed with a few glasses of alcohol that the inn manager offered to us complimentarily. At ten, we retired back to our room. We were exhausted (and drunk) that we fell asleep in our queen size bed. 
When I woke up the next day, I was alone in the bed. Chris was missing. I promised myself that I am going to lecture him not to disappear without me knowing. He wouldn’t do that, right? He turned into a human just to be with me for Pete’s sake, Felicia! I remembered the kiss and surprisingly I wanted to do it again. But shouldn’t he be the one to initiate it? Maybe he didn’t like it? Maybe he didn’t want it so badly as much as I did. I brushed out my thoughts and started preparing for the day. I went to shower wishing to forget what happened yesterday. It was just a kiss. Why do I have to be so silly? It was not like the first time it happened, right? When I finished, I wrapped myself with the bathrobe. I opened the door and found Chris standing by the window, his back turned. “Hey, I was looking for you. Where did you go?" 
“I have been thinking about yesterday, and you know what?" 
“All I can think of is the kiss." 
“Was it an awful kiss?" 
“That was amazing." 
“I'm falling in love all over again with you, Felicia." 
“Oh, what?" 
“Nothing.” I was not sure what to answer. Love is such a big word, and it is not something you drop when you feel the need to. It must be felt. Otherwise, it will lose its meaning. 
“What do you mean?" 
“I don’t know, Chris. I am not sure if I am ready for love." 

We never talked again that day after that conversation. I remembered we both turned our backs on each other. We packed our bags and took the bus back to Santa Barbara. I wanted to say something but I could not think of anything to say. When we reached home, he went directly to his room. I asked Ising to knock on his room and ask him to eat dinner, but he only requested her to prepare a separate dinner and that he would eat in his room. 

“What happened between the two of you, Felicia?” Ising asked in a concerned voice. We finished dinner, and we were currently sitting in the garden, looking at the starless sky, until I couldn’t hold it any longer that I started to cry. 
“I am so confused with a lot of things happening, Ising,” was all I could muster. 

“My poor child, why don’t you take one step at a time?” She held me in her arms without any more questions while I continuously sobbed on her shoulder.

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