Unwillingly Yours(9)

By: Marian Tee & Lourdes Marcelo

His gaze on Jaike, Derek caressed her cheek with his knuckles as he told Angelo, “I don’t understand why you have to be so furious, Valencia. You seem to have someone else in your life as well. Jaike didn’t mean to fall in love with me but she did so she went here to do the right thing and tell you.”

The words he didn’t say but implied were clear to everyone. Jaike had the decency not to play around. Angelo didn’t.

“I wanted to be the one to tell you, but she wanted to do things right.” It was another not-so-subtle dig.

Angelo visibly bristled, but he still remained silent, his lips stiffly pressed together.

Derek’s broad shoulders moved in an elegant shrug as he turned back to Angelo with a smile, his hand moving down to curl around the side of her hip. “But now she’s said it. Don’t you think it’s better if we put the past behind now and move on?”

Jaike jerked in shock when she realized where Angelo was staring, his eyes narrowed and his nostrils flaring in fury as he stared at where Derek’s hand was holding her with familiar ease, a place that even he hadn’t ever touched. His face was filled with loathing as he glanced at her, snapping, “Is this true?”

And slowly, she heard herself saying, “Yes.”

Beside her, Derek’s body relaxed, and it was only then she realized how he had been standing so tensely while waiting for her answer.

“You’re right.” The coy smile Rosie flashed at Derek made Jaike feel sick. “We should let bygones be bygones and just be happy together.”

Jaike wanted to throw up. She couldn’t help turning to Angelo, searching for any signs of dismay in his handsome face. Couldn’t he see how the other girl was flirting with Derek? She knew Angelo was out of her league. She had known that from the very start, but at least she was and would have always been faithful to her, something Rosie could never be.

But Angelo was no longer looking at her or anyone else. “Fuck you, Christopoulos,” he said brusquely, and then he was walking away, dragging his date with him.

Marcy suddenly bounced into view. “Oh God, I can’t believe you had the courage to tell Angelo the truth and then this happened!” Her voice was unnaturally loud, making Jaike wince. Subtlety was so not Marcy’s forte.

Derek still had his arm around her. Five minutes ago, his touch would have sent her into a panic but now it was something that kept her world in balance, something she actually felt desperate not to lose.

“I want to go home,” Jaike whispered, more to herself.

“I’ll take you,” Derek said immediately.

Marcy nodded helpfully. “Yes, take your girlfriend home now, Derek.” Her eyes twinkled.

If she could just summon enough energy, she’d be glaring at Marcy by now. She was not Derek’s girlfriend! She wasn’t anyone’s girlfriend! She was an ex-girlfriend. That was what she was. An ex-girlfriend! The thought threatened her resolve, making Jaike shudder involuntarily.

Fifteen months. For fifteen months she had allowed herself to dream, had dared to believe that her life was finally going to be perfectly predictable because she had the right man next to her.

She remembered laughing with Angelo as they argued about her choice of paperbacks in the bookstore. She remembered the times he would wake her up with a sweet chaste kiss on her lips if he caught her asleep on her laptop. Jaike remembered a lot more, but the memories that used to make her smile were now like knife stabs into her heart. They were so beautiful, and they were so fake.

Derek’s arm tightened around her, and his voice was tight with worry when he spoke. “You don’t look good.”

“I’m…fine.” She was. She had to be. She had been alone before. She could do it again.

The walk back to Blake Hall was spent in silence. All she could do was concentrate on breathing and doing her best not to break down.

Derek’s arm remained protectively curled around her shoulders even all the way up in the elevator. When they reached her floor, her fingers trembled as she fumbled for the keys inside her bag.

Jaike turned around when she finally managed to unlock her door. “W-would you like to come in?” The words felt like they were from a Nicholas Sparks movie – it was that unreal, a bad omen that would somehow get a happily-ever-after.