Pippa dropped her bags in the living room of her family home in Puerto Galera, Mindoro. The house is unusually quiet. Her mom is definitely not home. No one is home, not even Manang Doray, their longtime kasambahay, it seems. She should have called her mother to let her know that she will be home. But calling someone, even her mother, was the farthest thing from her mind when she took the late night trip out of Manila last night. She arrived at the Batangas Port at dawn and waited for the first boat she can take to the island province where she grew up.
Pippa decided to grab a drink first before she calls her mother. She went to the kitchen, checked the refrigerator and found several cans of Coke inside. Her mother has not changed her habits. She still prefers to drink Coke from a can than in a plastic bottle.
Drink and cellphone in hand, Philippa opened the door that leads to their back veranda and garden. She was about to sit when she noticed someone doing some yard work. She walked nearer the edge of the veranda and got a better view of the guy cutting the trunk of a dead tree. He was working earnestly in chopping the trunk into smaller pieces. He didn’t notice her. He was shirtless and from where she could see, he has a very nice, toned body, as if he is used to outdoor activities. Maybe, he is someone her mom hired to do the yard work. She had done that in the past as there is no male in the Montenegro household.
“Hello there!” Pippa called from the veranda.
The guy didn’t hear her at first so she called out a second time. He looked up and Pippa almost lost her breath. Before her was the handsomest guy she had seen a long time. Not even her boyfriend, correction, ex-boyfriend now, who is a commercial model can compare the male specimen before her. She felt an instant attraction, but fought it. She is totally off relationships at the moment. She went home to lick her wounds.
Ethan looked up to check who called his attention. He saw a tall girl, wearing a purple t-shirt and maong shorts that showed endless legs, and holding a cold can of Coke he wouldn’t mind having as yard work made him thirsty, standing at the edge of the veranda. He guessed right away who she is as he had seen photos of her in the living room. He is curious to find out, though, if she is as beautiful in person as in her photos.
He approached her. “Hello to you too! You must be Pippa, I mean Philippa!”
“Yes, I’m Pippa. You know me? Do I know you?” Pippa asked, thought she know that she has not met him before. She doubted if she can’t forget a face like his. He has a movie star look in him.
“Hi I’m Ethan!” Ethan said, giving Philippa a friendly smile that showed off his dimples. “No, we haven’t met. But your mother mentioned you. Besides, there are quite a number of photos of you doon sa living room ninyo.”
“Oh! Yes, mom likes displaying those.” Pippa said, noticing that Ethan’s Filipino has a slight accent, as if he has not spoken it in a long time or is not using to speaking it. He also spoke English with a British accent. Judging by the way he look, and talks, she doubts whether he is a common utility guy that her mother hired. She would hazard a guess that he is of mixed heritage. Maybe, he is Filipino-British, judging by the accent. Maybe not! She decided to probe into his background and his connection to her mother subtly. “Have you been doing this long for my Mom? I mean doing yard work!”
“Oh, for about a month na,” Ethan said, not elaborating. The less details he gives, the better. For now, he prefers it that way. He looked at Pippa’s face and he knows she is very curious about him, what exactly is his place in her family home. He was not really expecting Pippa to go home all of a sudden. Her mom, Tita Marianne told him that her daughter has not been home in three months due to her new assignment at work and only managed short, hurried phone calls to her.
In the course of knowing Marianne Montenegro, she had told him about her only daughter who prefers to live and work in Manila than manage the family’s beach resort here in Puerto Galera. She said her daughter is beautiful and could have made a career as a fashion or a commercial model. Marianne told him that Pippa was approached by talent scouts when she was at university but she declined. She opted to finish her degree in Mass Communications and is now working as a program producer in one of the television channels in Manila.
Remembering what Marianne told him, yes, she is correct her daughter is beautiful, very beautiful with her high cheekbones, pert nose, pouty lips, long eyelashes and heart-shaped face. In fact, Pippa reminds him of Audrey Hepburn. She should be working in front of a camera and not behind it.
When Ethan didn’t say anything, Pippa decided not to ask him any more questions, no matter how curious she is. “Okay, I’ll leave you then. I need to call my mother pa. Alam mo ba kung saan siya nagpunta?”
“Tita Marianne attended a wedding sa Calapan.” Ethan said. “Kasama niya si Manang Doray, with two other ladies!”
“Tita…?” Pippa asked, curious again, though she know that the word ‘Tita’ is loosely use anyway. There is something about this guy that draws her in.
“Errr, yes! She asked me to call her that.” Ethan answered, not really saying why he is calling Pippa’s mom, Tita.
Well, Pippa thought, if getting information from this guy is like pulling a stubborn weed, she better stop. She is tired and emotionally drained! She does not have the energy, no matter how drawn she is to him. She sighed. Off relationships, remember! Why does she always end up falling for the wrong guy, and her now ex-boyfriend Martin is number one in that list! But she does want to think about it now.
“Okay, Ethan, nice meeting you. I will just text Mom, then rest. I had a long journey. Pagpapahinga na lang muna ako sa room ko.” She smiled at him, then turned to go inside the house, at the same time typing on her phone.
“Bye Philippa! See you around.” Ethan said as his gaze followed Philippa’s departing back.
It was Ethan’s turn to be curious on why Pippa is home all of a sudden. She didn’t even call or text her mom that she is coming home apparently. He can also see that she is exhausted, and if his guess is correct, she had been crying. Her eyes were still puffy, not much, but he noticed it.
However, he has enough on his plate at the moment, Ethan thought. He didn’t come to Mindoro looking for a relationship. He is there to put his life back together. He went back to chopping the tree he felled earlier. He told Tita Marianne that he will do it, instead of her hiring someone. In fact their deal, at his insistence, is that he will do all the ‘guy work’ in the house, in exchange of her letting him stay at the small cottage at the edge of the property. He likes the place as it has a nice view of the beach. In return, Marianne told him, and that she was not accepting a no, to take his meals in the main house. It is the least she could do, she stressed. Ethan said yes as he is not very well-versed in the kitchen.
Pippa texted her mother, who promptly replied that she and Manang Doray will be back around 5PM or so. They are attending the wedding of Manang Doray’s niece Marina. She told Pippa that she is one of the principal sponsors. Mommy Marianne also told Pippa that she shouldn’t be surprised to see Ethan around the place. Pippa thought of asking her who exactly Ethan is, but before she could do so, her mother told her she needed to go. Pippa decided to reserve her many questions for later. She climbed the stairs that leads to the second floor of the house, walked towards the end room, her old room, to rest all her worries away until her mother returns.