Its the end of the world.
But theres no apocalypse.
People are still sipping their coffee from their usual cafes. A cute girl flirts with her stunning boyfriend and probably doesnt know hes cheating on her; flirting with another girl behind her or knew but pretended not to know. Because hes gorgeous. Exotic.
While herd of human being goes by like they always do every single day.
It was a beautiful day which is an irony to Caseys shattered mediocre life. These people should be on freeze, like on a pause. They should be all looking up at her and saying, We cant continue if you cant!” which is ridiculous on second thought. And weird.
With this commercial like image of her neighbourhood, realization seeps through her its the end of her world alone. Not the people outside her television-like-window. Because its how it always worked. Were on the same planet but on different worlds.
She touched the cold glass of her window. Its thrilling for her, considering how her hands had always been so warm, her grandma used to say she couldnt grow any plant because it will die.
She liked this room because of this window, she remembered. It was the first thing she noticed when she got a look of this apartment. The glass window was right in the center of the room, facing the streets of Baguio, big as a door.
The apartment was on the second floor. The window has this alluring aura that draws you slowly to come and take a look outside.
She was a living proof it's possessed by some energy.
Casey felt this window will give her multiple of inspiration.
She laughed. Because it really did, so many she couldnt finish anything. Theres always a missing element. Until one day... a story came along.
She held a sob which created a weird sound that would have probably made her laugh if all of this never happened. She wanted to cry but her tears went right back up when the landlord appeared asking if shes going or not, because he needs to go somewhere and since she's not renting anymore, he couldnt let her stay.
God, hes saying Im a stranger. All this time, I was a stranger. Of my own world. God, talk to me.
She asked for a moment, and held the urge of telling him, she deserves it because she has been a good payer, and he took the hint, maybe from how big her eye bags were, and granted her of being alone again.
She sat one last time on the sofa. While savouring every corner of her place, she saw the telephone. Unknowingly, she fidgeted on her fingers. Finally, she grabbed the phone and dialled her mothers cell.
“Why did you lose the job? What a pity... baby...””
“What? Lose her job? Its the only job that would like to hire her!”
Oh no! Not him!
Her father doesn't sound like he's talking from the background (and why would he, anyway?) because his voice is way louder than her mother. She suddenly wonders if he is holding the cellphone. Waiting for her call? Nah, wouldnt bet. Hes not the type to wait.
“Shut up, Danny. Id like to know what happened with Caseys job! her mom rarely raises her voice. But not today.
Casey put her right palm to her temples and closed her eyes, trying to imagine her parents in the kitchen on the cell with her. How clear the image is.
She realized her father is in the background, he just sounded loud. But far. She wanted that. Not because her Pa is scary. Yes, admittedly hes grumpy but not scary. Her father is intuitive, like he knows all her dark secrets. Basically, she couldnt hide anything from him. He sees through her, not even her ex-Aaron sees through her. Just her Pa. She flinches when he talk, especially now, all his predictions are coming true.
“How did she lose it anyway? Shes a librarian!””
“Im not a librarian, Im an assistant librarian. How many times do I have to tell you guys?”
Well, I guess I dont have to now.
It might have been easy to accept having no job for being caught drank in a library you work for or having no apartment (almost) because Aaron could give that comfort for her.
But losing the comfort itself is a different story. And he took her life with him. And now shes empty.
She felt betrayed. And pissed off for being deceived without even having to fight back. Which is unfair. People get to shout, He stole my purse!” when they were robbed. And she was deprived of that. If only she could put Aaron at the back of her memory she would, to fully recover. Thats how she name it anyway, recovering. She couldnt bear the words, moving on. Its like being dead or something. Or something. If there's even worse than being dead.
Aaron is like the version of Yolanda--only a guy this time. He went passed her, blew her mind and left her with casualties. Hes gone from her life for at least four months now. Probably having a cool date with a sexy lad in high heels wearing doctorate in her ass--okay, stop, this is pathetic and you know that.
Yes, I know but I couldnt stop thinking about it.
Nobody would even believe Aaron had a girlfriend like Casey with baby fats (is it?) on her belly wearing flats and a shirt that says, GEEK-thats me. Shes thinking, Loser, Unemployed, Fat, Insecure-thats-me suits best but thought better theres no space enough for these words to fit on her shirt.
“Does that mean youre going back home? her mother asked, too gently. Like Caseys pointing a gun on a hostages forehead and somebody has to control the situation. She could just hear Cardo Dalisay saying, Drop the gun, Casey girl.”
She always wants Casey to be home. Never in any place but home. Casey loves that part, how her mother is so crazy almost everything about her but sometimes, its suffocating. But she tries not to show it. After all, there is no other son or daughter to check on except her, their Casey.
She loves her parents and all, the nice and annoying part of them, because theyre her parents whove done nothing wrong. They did well, actually. They tried not to act like crazy parents her whole life, being her role model. But as she got older it felt like shes in a family telenovela where her parents seem surreal.
Her Ma hugged or kissed her or beamed at her like a mother would do to her child but as far as her memory could get her, she was like a fantasy to a four year old kid.
Aside from the fact that she's successful, her mother is very attractive and kind as well. And she looked like a single-ready-to-mingle career woman. She used to be in Marketing but when she met Danny and got mesmerized by his talk on a seminar workshop, she never wanted to let him go.
She became an educator herself. And then, she got promoted, studied hard just to be able to sit next to Danny. While her Pa is a renowned professor in a prestigious university; which she purposely didnt choose to go to even when her father insisted on how worthwhile her college life would be if she get to enter his university.
Hes also a kick ass author of (booksellers) college textbooks, child and development and education books. When it comes to his brain, hes awesome.
She used to see her dad as a young handsome guy (because thats what people are telling her) that sometimes some school mate would randomly asked, when her father would come just to see her before or after work, (hes the serious type but the missy type as well) what are you doing with a college guy? Or how did you get such a cute BF? Casey shuddered because, duh, its her freaking father.
Her parents had that awesome description. And shes the exclusion.
Maybe I was an orphan and they adopted me, out of pity. Or they arent real, like they are just actors playing parents for the sake of a pictorial.
She's got her mother’s wavy black hair. Although hers makes a fuss during hot sunny days and windy days. It is fine during rainy season though and when it's wet. But since Philippines is a tropical country, you couldn't just predict what the weather is going to be. Global warming and all. So most of the time, she restrains her hair using a ponytail. Shes not pretty like her mom or as confident as her dad, just... Casey.
Aside from the wavy black hair, she looks neither of the two, not even a resemblance. Her cute nose and round eyes isn't helping either. Nobody in their family got round eyes except either expressive or drowsy type of eyes. And her parents got the perfect noses.
It might be true that when both parents are almost perfect the offspring is not as beautiful or as cool as the parents. Or maybe Casey's life has always been an act and everybody from the outside world is watching her like the Truman Show. Maybe her life since childhood was directed and its genre is melodramatic, and she has no real friends because they are all actors.
But her life wasnt dramatic. Nothing spectacular happened either, notable for it to have a high rating. Except back in high school when she was drinking a chocolate drink and a guy put a prank on her by startling her and it came out of her nose. And when she tried to laugh, something other than the chocolate drink came out. You get the picture.
And the rest of her life has always been home to school, school to home.
And besides not everyone around her says the same thing every day so she concluded its not a show.
“Thats why I told her not to aspire in becoming a writer, its a dead end. No money in that field and--she doesnt know what kind of writer she is. I know that finding who you are is just an excuse to run away.”
She winced at his words. She didnt know her father is still part of the conversation. She held a sigh.
Excuse me, Cassandra honey, Casey knew her full name was a warning, for her Pa. She heard muffled transfer of words which sounded like an argument. Oh no. Her parents are fighting because of her. Again. And again. Somehow, she regretted seeking... what was she seeking from them anyway? Oh, hope? No. Comfort? Yeah. Comfort. Something warm. And understanding, if thats not asking for too much.
She wants to spread her wings and fly beautifully like her parents did but she sucked at the flying part and dropped head first. Its even a miracle shes alive right now. Some people when they got robbed of their most treasured things, they faint. Casey wanted to do that too, but she never faints. Even when she wanted to. Talk about human deprivation of grievances. Or she's too awake now for being drowsy of her love to a guy who stole her life.
She couldn't believe herself standing in front of a bookstore and by the front shelves her book was there, standing proudly saying "read me."
She was proud of it, too. Right in front of her are her words compiled inside a cover that describes exactly how she imagined the cover would be, how it shall convey the emotion the story inside is trying to tell--her exact words to her boyfriend. But this book was published. Under a different name.
Aaron Augustine. Aaron. Her Aaron.
As she read every word, it became not her own. Just as Aaron became a total stranger whom she had never shared dinners with. He wasn't the guy she kissed passionately behind the shelves of the library. (Another violation the librarian doesn't know about.) He's not the man she planned to share her future with.
After all this time, she never knew the guy at all. She just thought she did.
Was he planning to hide this from me? No. He doesn't.
Not a single word, not even my own characters, was changed. He didn't even try to rephrase. The story itself is no different from mine! Evil bastard.
The whole time she was reading, every page was wet from her tears. Her own actions violated the very purpose of her book.
Ma, Pa, Im back at score zero.
Alarmed, she waited for a reaction especially from her father and felt relieved she wasnt thinking out loud. She does that, sometimes.
And its embarrassing to tell her parents that. Especially when for the first time in their quite simple life, their obedient and timid daughter drop the I want to be a writer bomb out of the blue when she was graduating... from college. Her mom smiled affectionately at her while her father choked before he could actually swallow the rice. It was dinner time and Casey spoiled it. She just thought it was the best time to tell because both of them made it a rule to be present on dinner time. In other words, ease of explaining.
“Youre going to waste precious time on writing? her father growled. She shook her head.
Its not wasting time pa, its what I really want.””
“You never know what you wanted, Cecey. Thats why we helped you with that. Didnt you say you were grateful that we encouraged you to take up Education course?””
“I did,” she admitted. She likes the company of kids. Not just because of typical innocence or cuteness of kids. She feels in control with them. Children are probably the only human creature whod look up to you and say, Id like to grow up and be like you. And they say the most ridiculous things and they couldnt hurt her in any way because she has ample of patience and understanding for them. Because all she could think of is, Theyre just kids.””
“So whats with this Iwanttobeawriter thing?”
I dont know. I dont know how to explain it. But, oh, I have to. Need to.
“Its my secret dream. I couldnt tell you about this because I know this will happen. Youll say its impractical, a waste of time--which you already said, her parents are all eyes and ears on her she realized and felt some confidence building up inside her which made her wanted to continue.
It's not every day her parents listen to something they both feel absurd about. Her mothers smiling because thats her. Always smiling and supportive of Casey. But she doesnt know if her mother likes the idea of a writer-daughter. After all they are a generation of educators, principals, superintendents, and even university presidents.
“But nothing ever made me felt more alive, felt more like myself and... and... happy except when Im writing-- shes trying not to show her excitement on this voiced introspection of hers but her whole system failed her, like the volume of her voice for example.
And although shes facing the jury at this moment, she wanted to laugh because no one in this family has ever shown excitement like she did.
--there is this... unique feeling that only writing gives me. Peace. A peace of mind. Contentment. And its not like Im not going to teach, I still will. I will do both. I promise.””
“But teaching, honey, will give you unimaginable contentment. her mom tried to reason out. (Translation: You dont have to write to get contentment or peace of mind. Theres the ocean. And the Principals office or my office for comfort.)
Her mother thought shes just having contentment issues! Caseys sure about this, because her ma is nodding, definitely thinking about something and shouting, Eureka!
But Casey felt sure--gut-feeling-sure--her secret dream is more than that.
She wants to tell stories people would like to read or a story that will compel people to read. To create an escape from reality--a break from our bitter world. To inspire people while making them laugh.
And to be an author of a story shes proud of--will be proud of. Because shes still working on a good story. But she knew, other than those reasons, this is her calling. And also the fact that shes asking for too much.
“Yes, ma but... I dont want to lie to myself that I dont want this.””
“I doubt that, Casey. I mean, about doing both writing and teaching. I dont think you could write while you teach, its difficult.” her dad whispered (or tried to soften his voice? She can't tell) but it felt like he was yelling at her with all this silence enveloping the entire dinner table. The entire house. The entire world. Or worse, the universe. But of course the universe wouldnt stop for her pain and be silent. The universe is mocking me, thats for sure.
“You know thats not true Pa, lots of people do this and some of them are also teachers...or had another profession other than being a writer.””
“But not you. You will be so absorbed by your writing you wouldnt get your nose out of your story. Hypothetically, youll disappear and enter your story. I reckon that would be the type of writer you will be. In other words, youll be in a situation where you have to choose between the two. And end up not choosing what we know is best for you.” her father said almost casually like this isnt serious business and started eating, feeling triumphant for making a point. And suddenly, the sound of the utensils made her annoyed.
“You might be right, Pa, but thats not what Im asking from you. This isnt the reason why Im telling you this,”
At least not for advices, I mean, I had that, my whole life!
She paused to get some buelo, just like right before you jump, and started talking fast,
“I’m an adult and somehow, can now choose for myself and I did. What Im asking from you is to respect my decision. I didnt waste my four years playing around but instead I did what you wanted and that is to go to college and get a degree. And Im about to get that. When you told me not to fool around with kids playing dodge ball or basketball or whatever or when you told me no watching movies in a friend's house for a sleep over or not to waste time on anything but studying--I did all that. Even when Im starting to look deviant. Because I respected what you wanted. Because I know youre just thinking whats best for me. But Pa, just for once. Let me do this. Please. No, at least accept that this is who I am.””
“Danny, shes begging. You know she never begs.” Because I never had anything to beg for. Except this.
Danny stood not saying anything and left the table. But it’s obviously written on his back how disappointed he was with Casey. She doesnt know how to feel about that. She thought for hours that maybe shes doing the wrong thing. Disappointing her parents is never a good thing, right? But what about her secret dream she planned to make real once shes through college? Is her dream wrong?
She fell asleep with no such luck in getting the answer. Until the next day she woke up. The next day, it was different. He respected her decision.
Which is why its so hard to tell them what happened. It took for her father a night to respect her decision. Or at least pretended to respect it in his own way. He still nags about her becoming a freelance writer. And would nag more from now own.
She wonders how many nights it would take for her father to process how she failed.
Surprised by how hot her tears were on her cheeks, she wiped it fast. But it just keeps on rolling down, trying to piss off the owner of the eyes.
“So, Casey, are you coming home?” her mothers voice brought her back to the empty apartment. For some reason, she really missed her ma, so much she wanted to hug the phone hoping she could reach her mother inside the machine. Now, shes thinking silly.
“Um, I guess. Yeah. Well, yeah I guess Im coming home. To check out, she forced a laugh but failed. But I know I havent miss anything much...””
“Your friend from high school is getting married though,” her mother said. That made her frown.
“Oh you know, Maris. She sent an invitation.””
“Oh, Maris. I didnt know. Well, Im happy for her. Can you pass that for me?”
“It's much better if she'll hear it from you. Besides, if Ill promise you that, you might change your mind about coming back home.” Her mother trying the old trick of blackmail draws a real laugh from Casey.
“Im coming home because Ive been missing you, ma. And pa.””
“Casey... I missed you too.” and then some silence.
Tell us everything, once youre ready. Once youre home.” her mother gently said.
“Okay ma. Im coming home.””
It was the longest trip of her life. She doesnt know if she felt edgy to go back home or if its because she doesnt want the bus to arrive in her hometown in Bicol. Probably the latter. Casey gently massaged her face and practiced a good smile for her parents. Shes been depressed for too long her face became stiff. When Casey saw her parents waiting for her in the terminal, guilty feelings overwhelmed her. Shes a failure to such awesome parents. She practiced the smile one more. Shes a failure, yes, but they dont have to see that, must not see that. She needs to act confident but not proud; she needs to look fine.
“Hi ma, hi pa.” she said almost in a high pitch. Like a messed up actor. Some things wouldnt go the way you plan it. But Caseys parents didnt find it weird at all. Or havent notice their daughter is trying to put an act.
“Casey, Ive missed you.” Her ma started hugging her as if filling up those two years when she couldnt embrace let alone touch her only child. It felt good. Casey breathed in her mothers scent. Shes five years old once again. Then turn 15 when she saw her fathers grumpy face.
“Hows my pa?””
“Fine as well.””
“Yeah? So what did you write?” Casey was taken aback because she forgot to think of an excuse about her book being stolen by her ex-boyfriend. Few months ago she told them about a novel shes been working on. And how smooth it was going. Now she knew it was a mistake.
Wow. This is the first time that we met after two years and he didnt even bother talking about this over breakfast.
“Daniel, will you please stop doing that? You shouldnt ask writers what they write, it sounds offensive.””
“How come its offensive? It was just a question.””
“They are sensitive about their craft. They dont like talking about it.””
“Says who?” her father sounded annoyed.
“Someone. Ok? Caseys ma always win. No matter what. But she knew her father just wanted their argument to end so he let her win all the time.
“It’s ok, Ma,” Casey said turning to her father for a hug. How she missed the guy! She loves him all the same.
“Ill tell you about it Pa. Some other time. Im just a little bit tired.””
“Of course you are,” Her mother gave Danny a look then started leading Casey to the car.
“You went in a plane then in a bus ride. Who wouldnt be exhausted?””
For the next weeks Cassandra avoided the very topic she dreaded her father would love to talk about. This was possible for her high school friend Maris appointed her as one of her bridesmaids.
It was awkward at first, seeing familiar faces after more than two years. But Casey tried hard not to show shes the one whos awkward.
“So what did you do in Baguio, Cassandra? Did you work there? Dont you think it was quite far?” Miranda asked, the older sister of the bride to be.
If only she could run away from this people bombarding her with questions, she would. But Maris is her long-time friend since childhood. So running away is not an option. She cant say they’re best friends. They are close, but she can’t tell if being close since they are kids means being best friends. Besides, Maris has lots of friends so Casey isnt sure of the real status she has with her. Shes only trying to be a responsible bridesmaid.
“Yeah, it was quite far. I worked there. But it felt like a vacation as well. So.” Casey answered awkwardly. Miranda nodded, not looking so convinced though.
“Aw, I envy you! You went to Baguio to explore and stuff!” Hannah exclaimed; who is another friend of Caseybut not her best friend as well. A close friend yet again.
“I wish I could get away from this too hot, sunny place too.” Hannah added.
Shes right, its too sunny for Caseys still gloomy feeling. But its a good day for their laundry. They are outside the garden of Maris house, at the backyard cleaning the big table clothes to be set for the wedding of Maris and Joseph. Casey hasnt met the groom to be yet. But he seems to be coming tonight to meet the friends of Maris. The girls have been talking about it for hours before Miranda changed the topic into Caseys topic.
“But hopefully, the weather of the wedding day would be this sunny. It would be a happy day.” Karina, cousin of Maris, commented as she looked up the sky; all of them washing the table clothes side by side, one at a time.
“So what happened with your work, then?” Casey thought Miranda was done with her but shes wrong. Casey slightly shrugged.
“It didnt work out well.” She said timidly. Casey wished Miranda would stop asking stuff from the past that only reminds her she hadnt really left Baguio. Instead it followed her here.
“Were you fired?” Miranda asked again. The other girls stopped washing the table clothes for a moment and looked up to her. She lowered her head and they all sighed.
Casey, its ok. Everybody has that work that just sucked. Weve been there. Im telling you.” Hannah tried to comfort her and hugged her. The other girls nodded, even Miranda consoled her.
“No, its not that.”
Casey was even shocked by what she said. The girls frowned.
“What do you mean?” Karina asked.
“I was laid off because of a book.” Casey said. What? Casey, stop blabbering!
“What book? Why would a book get you fired? Miranda turns to ask this time.
“Casey! You wrote a book! Finally!”yelled by Maris as she ran for Casey and hug her, causing both of them to fall to the basin full of water and table clothes.
Casey couldnt say a thing.
“You wrote a book? Youre an author now! I knew it! That was what youve been up to in Baguio! Hannah keeps shouting as she jumped in the big basin as well. They were all laughing and happy for Casey, that she has no idea how to tell them the truth.
“So, what did you write?” Miranda asked. The girls stopped playing in the water. Silence once again. They were waiting for her to answer.
“About a woman... who was searching for who she really is. She discovered she can go to other realms using anothers body. In that realm, shes already dead. But she also learned she can undo her death, by going back to her real time. And save her life. It was a journey of discovering back the joy of youth, the happiness of love, discovering in the process the real, Her.””
They were all staring at Casey. Then, applause erupted.
“Casey, Id love to read the book. Whats it called?” Maris the ever eager fan of Casey asked for the title of the book. Casey was taken aback. She hasnt concluded its title yet. Though it was already published under its tentative title.
Thats the name of the protagonist?” Karina asked
“No, it was Andrea, who is the protagonist.””
“I’m curious as to why its called Celestines World. Oh, is it going to be published yet?” Hannah prodded.
“Soon. Its already out in the store… actually.””
Cassandra has no idea why she said that. But stillit was her book though. It is hers. Theres no doubt about that. But the problem is, its not under her name.
And soon, it went out of hand. Their town is such a small one that the news of Casey finally becoming a published author has spread. At first only one person at a time would acknowledge that Casey had finally written a book. Sometimes in the market, in the church or in the park. But after that, people would visit her parents telling them how nice it was to have a fiction writer in their town and telling them if Casey can also include some real places of the town in her next books. Maybe she can write historical stories about the church in Vinzons, or the soldier fighting during the Aklasan or maybe include the first time the monument of Rizal erected in town of Daet. Just like how she used her High School in her first book. As long as its part of the province they wouldn’t mind.
Her parents, of course, were surprised.
How come youve never told us about this,” Danny asked Casey as he showed her a photocopy of the draft she had for her book. Maris and the girls were bugging her to show them her book but since theres no National Book Store in town, they wouldnt get the published one. And so, she printed it out instead. But it was also shared around the town, which never comes to her mind beforehand. She forgot about what her parents would feel as soon as the threat of saving face overcomes her mind. And what they knew was, she wasnt able to write her book, and that it didnt end well. How is she going to straighten out this too much mess?
Pa, I can explain”
But then Danny went for an embrace that Casey wasnt able to explain what needed to be explained. She saw her mother held a sob by covering her mouth using her hands as she watch the father and daughter sharing a hug.
“I am proud of you. You are a fiction writer, Cecey. It was a great story.” Danny was telling, smiling all big to her. She wanted to cry. This was probably the first time her pa looked so proud through his eyes. It was different of course, because this endeavour wasnt approved by her father. But Danny felt, he was wrong to think that his daughter couldnt do it. To be a real writer.
“Oh, Casey, I am also proud of you.” Her mother also went for a hug and another one for a group hug.
“Andy is really sad but also funny and shes intelligent, Honey. I love your characters!” Casey hears her mother saying. She only smiled amidst the hug, the champagne and the talk. Because she couldnt tell her proud parents that the book isnt hers anymore.
Then the wedding came. Two years ago, only some of the faces of the town are known to Casey. But today, they all stared at Casey as if they knew her. Well, technically they do, as the writer of Celestines World.
As she walks the aisle as one of the bridesmaid, she saw all the people cheering for the groom and bride, while they also acknowledge the so called author in her, even her parents faces appeared smiling to her. Then a face appeared before her, baffled to see her yet making her heart beat faster than ever.
“Why is Joseph not here yet, Maris?” Karina asked her cousin after were done with the laundry.
Hes fetching his best man. He was finally in Manila. That guy couldnt get hold on for many years, he was always away somewhere, just writing. But Joseph was able to find him then. He showed off out of the blue, for some unknown reason. And, oh. Hes also an aspiring writer, Casey.””
Tears started flowing from Caseys eyes as she sat down beside the other bridesmaids. The truth is, she liked the idea of her parents being proud of her writing a good book, people acknowledging her as an author, and her friends loving her Andy.
She loved the lies.
Secretly she savours each compliment, each smile, and laugh that poeple had given her, courtesy of the story of Andy, as they read the draft of her book. It was becoming real. The book was coming back to its real owner. It is her book. But why why does she feel like she was caught in a crime? Why does she feel like she wanted to hide? She wanted to go somewhere where nobody knows her. But not in Baguio. Maybe in other place. Maybe beneath the ground. Where no one can find her. The ceremony started but Casey was lost in thoughts on how she’ll be able to overcome this madness. As she turned to the other side, Aaron would also look at her. He would smile as if nothing happened. As if he was so glad to see her. For some reason, she felt annoyed. Irritated by the thought that the guy-no-the jerk acted like it was fine stealing a book from his girlfriend. She stood as it was her turn to light the candle.
She went to light his face on fire.
But she snapped out of it. She believes in God. She has that faith. She cant do it. But she wanted to. Aaron was still smiling at her. She held her anger in. Maris deserves a great and memorable wedding. After all, this is her day. Not Caseys.
She felt like her casket is dreading for it to be drop underground as she patiently waited for the truth to explode in her face.
“What is the title of your book that got recently published?” Miranda started asking the new guy. Casey closed her eyes. Aaron unknowingly turned to Casey and smiled faintly at Miranda and the girls. Casey went for the wine glass and abruptly left the table. She doesnt need to bear such an embarrassment anymore.
She can hear the girls murmuring as she walked out of the table and nearly threw the wine at Aaron when he followed her at the backyard of Maris’ house. They were shaded by the shadow of the trees that finally, Casey was able to let out her anger and slap her ex-boyfriend. Caseys tears found freedom and poured out nonstop.
“Casey, you have to know--”
“No! You listen to me! How dare you stole my baby and made people think it was yours?! I trusted you!” she said and slapped him one more. Aaron just stood in his place, blinking as he tried to absorb her anger.
Would you even, please, let me explain?
I know what happened. I know everything. You dont need to explain anymore. I wont accept your apology, Aaron, because I wont believe your excuses anyway.
“But just like you said... I thought you trusted me?” Aaron asked.
“I was wrong.” Casey answered. He let out a sour chuckle.
“You said you love me?”Aaron asked again. Why is he telling such stupid questions?! Is he expecting to receive more love from her despite what hed done to her?
“You mean loved. But I wasnt so sure anymore if that was really love.” Casey silently said. Aaron just nodded.
“I thought youd love to see this,” Aaron put a hardbound book just above a branch of paho tree.
“I wish you hold on to that trust before you decided to block me from your phone. I wish, you answer my calls or text. I wish you told me where you had gone when you left your apartment in Baguio. I wish you waited for me. To explain why those things turned out this way. I didnt mean to hurt you. With lowered head, Aaron talked more to himself than to Casey.
“I want you to go. Embarrass me if you want, to save your face. Just dont let me see you again. Ever. Goodbye.”
Arent you even going to see your book?””
She turned around and stared at him.
The following weeks, Casey didnt leave the house. Her parents are becoming worried of their daughter. But she wont talk nor let any visitors in.
People finally found the truth about her book that lots of the town folks wanted to see her. But she doesnt want to hear anything about the book, not even from her parents.
"I wish you'd tell us what's wrong." Danny said silently to his daughter, who's staring at the stars as she lay on the grass at their backyard.
"You're wrong," He added. Upon hearing this, Casey turned her eyes to her father. He smiled a gentle one.
"Cassandra, we are not perfect. Your mother and I have flaws. But we wanted what's best for you. So we tried really hard to be great in all the things you will witness from us. I never thought, it would be too heavy on your part. Maybe, somehow, we cherished you the wrong way," Casey pulled herself up and looked properly at Danny.
"I'm not sure what's happening to you. But I just want you to know, you were the best thing that ever happened to us. To me. You made me amazed. You made it a point to get away from our shadows. You strived hard to create a Cassandra of your own definition that some people won't even see us from you. You're better than I am. You stand for what you believe in. And that makes you beautiful, Casey. All I'm trying to say is. You are great. No matter what they say. No matter what you say. That's how we see you. How I see you. In other words... you're cool."
Casey started laughing. She knew her father rehearsed and adopted it from some book or a movie. He is not the type of guy who can create his emotions into words. But she understood his love despite the cheesy and mediocre lines. And her father cuddles her as she falls asleep waiting for the time when all of this will be over. Until one day, the news regarding the truth about Casey's book subsided.
Maris and Joseph will now go and settle in Quezon City to build their own life. And Casey, still seeing Maris as a close friend, decided to see her off.
Casey hugged her friend as Joseph started to fill in his car with their remaining stuff. Maris looked at her friends face for a moment.
You know, you are my best friend right? Maris asked thoughtfully. Casey let out a short laugh.
I didnt know that. I just thought were going to be friends forever.
Casey, thats definitely the definition of best friends, girl. Maris said matter-of-factly and they both laughed.
You know as well that we never judged you. Right? Casey lowered her head but nodded.
You heard? Course you heard. Everybody in town knew it wasnt named under me. The book is.
Maris frowned and gave her a puzzled look.
What are you talking about? Maris asked as she went for the car and started looking for something.
I am talking about Aaron. Casey said to the still busy Maris.
Oh, yup, speaking of him. He told us he was gone from Baguio and was late to receive the news that he was designated as Josephs best man. Haha. He said he was like a running mad man correcting an error in his first book,
I dont understand?
Let me finish first, darling. You see, hes supposed to publish only one book but decided to show the work of his girlfriend to his publisher and they liked it. But it got mixed up. It looked like he published two first books at once! He was hysteric to find your book under his name that he decided to sue the publisher unless they do something about it. Here. The corrected one.
Maris gave her a book, the same book she had seen and read back in Baguio. As she turned the book to its front cover she saw her name. Words couldnt get out of her mouth. She felt like choking and started crying.
How come you never told us he is your boyfriend? It was supposed to be a surprise, for your anniversary as a couple. From the way he talks, it was like he was planning to propose too. He wanted the book to be corrected right away that he wasnt able to talk to you about it properly so Maris had stopped talking and dropped the kitchen ware shes putting inside the trunk of the car when she saw Casey, staring at the ground and crying.
You didnt let him explain. Did you? Maris carefully asked. Caseys eyes slowly found Maris and run for a hug.
What am I going to do, Maris? she said between her sobs.
Soon, the publisher called for Casey for book and contract signing. Danny became her manager and helped his daughter went through the whole process without much problem.
But just like how she asked him not to show himself again, and because she pushed him away with another set of lies so he wont come back, just like how hes truly faithful, she never saw Aaron again since their talk in Maris backyard.
Her second book comes along entitled Broken Trust. And as promised, her town has bits of glory in her book. In that book, she wrote how sorry she was, how sorrowful and painful the void she has to fill but couldnt do so.
She wanted to turn back time but who is she kidding? Shes not Andy who can go to other realms.
It wasnt that long when she worried about glory, false happiness, not being able to see the bigger picture of her life.
Supportive parents despite her failure.
Friends who accept who she is; always trying to remove her wall of pretentions.
She didnt see what was more important to her. She was thinking only of herself. She wasnt able to check around her.
If only she can see him again.
If only she wasnt blinded by insecurities, if only she wasnt afraid of her parents criticisms, if only she cared for the real happiness. If only she writes, without thinking of the approval of others. If only she knew her short comings and her weaknesses. If only she can undo her story like the way a writer does, if the plot isnt going the way she wanted it to.
Why would you want to undo the story? Casey was signing the books without much of interest to look up towards the fans faces, that she was taken aback to hear someone question a part of her book.
All those things. It made the best version you. If youll undo that, you wont be able to write not even a single word, without those things happening to you.
She was thinking too much of the mans words that she hadnt notice another fan was giving her a book to sign to. She stood, worried to already lose the guy. Relieved to vaguely see his back just getting out of the store, she started running for him. Her father kept calling for Casey but she wont stop.
“Wait! Wait. She yelled. The guy halted.
I wont undo it then. Ill do a sequel. Please dont go.
Aaron turned around.
“But you didnt trust me,
I was wrong, she admitted as tears flowed yet again after years of being drown and being numb in the middle of her writing. She forgot she could feel emotions too. She forgot how sad it was. She forgot how the real him, is still much better than the one she had created inside her books. The real him. Oh, how she wanted him!
You dont love me anymore, so stop making a book that relates with me. And I already forgave you, so you can stop feeling guilty now.”
He said and walked away.
It wasnt because of guilt.
Aaron stopped walking again and looked back.
I just dont know… how to tell you how Ive been missing you.
He walked towards her and for a moment, Casey was wishing this wasnt ending too soon.
Go on, he said. She mustered up courage and stopped crying.
It was my way of saying It wasnt true that I didn’t love you
Casey shook her head.
“That I made a mistake of not trusting you.
Is that all? he asked. She nodded slowly as she couldnt find any more excuses to hold on to him. But she raised her head and said hurriedly,
And yes! I guess there was also guilt in those books.
Aaron laughed sourly at Casey. And shook his bowed head.
No I mean regret. Of letting you go but not being able to. Ive said things I didnt really mean. So Ive created pieces of you in those books so I wont be able to forget you. So it would seem that you were just there. Watching me write. Even though youre not.
Silence engulfed them as they look at each other. Listening to the streets of Naga City, as the late afternoon concluding for nightfall.
Did you say all what you needed to say yet?
He asked but Casey didnt move. What else could she say? She poured her heart out but he still wouldnt stay.
Goodbye then Aaron whispered and turned his back again. But because of her tears, he was slowly fading away in her sight.
I wrote those books because Im still in love with you, Aaron.
She, as well, turned around and walked away. She was all too late. Her books were too late and too vain for forgiveness.
Her heart jumped when someone grabbed her left arm.
And found Aaron beaming at her, out of breath.
You see when you love someone they said, you give a piece of yourself to that person each time you love. That when they went away, it felt like a piece of you went away as well. You wont be able to fill the void because the missing piece is with them. And so when they come back, you feel whole again…that is the meaning of love do you get what I mean?” Aaron, almost breathless, asked. Casey nodded.
Did I hear you right am I the missing piece, Cassandra? Or are you confused, once again, if what you feel is love or not?”
Casey grabbed the book she signed for Aaron and throw it to the trash in the corner. Aaron frowned at her, as he turned to look back and forth at the bin and at Casey, confused with what she did.
I dont need to write about you anymore, to be able to see you. To create a picture of you. Because youre here now. The missing piece.”
Casey and Aaron stared at each others faces, waiting for one of them to talk or move. But none of them even tried to blink.
So they both smiled. She was contemplating from doing so, but then Casey bravely pulls Aaron towards her and did what she always wanted.
A hug; to be able to find his scent once again.
Aaron suddenly pulled her from their embrace, and she was scared for a moment hes pulling away again. Not being able to see him again.
He went to the trash bin and dragged the book Casey just threw. He beamed while showing it to her.
I havent read this yet and the author was quite famous so this was also quite expensive.” He said as he wiped some dirt on it using his jeans.
Casey sighed, and started to laugh with Aaron.
Then she eagerly run towards him—grabbed the dirty wet book from his hands, pulled his collar in and went for a long awaited kiss—to finally get the missing piece, whom she had all along but lost.
The only missing piece that will make her whole and truly happy.
Writer or not.
Merci pour la lecture!