Marianne Montenegro arrived home around lunch with Manang Doray and Dr. Tristan Mendoza. She and Manang Doray saw Tristan in town when they stopped to buy supplies for the house. When Tristan found out that they just commuted from Calapan, he offered to take them home. Marianne initially declined as Tristan might be busy with the clinic. Tristan insisted.
Marianne told him that Pippa is home. Tristan said taking them home means he can say hello to Pippa too, like hitting two birds with one stone. Marianne then suggested that he stays overnight if he is free, so that he and Pippa have more time to visit as the childhood friends haven’t seen each other for quite sometime. Tristan said he will since he and his clinic partner, Dr. Joshua Carlos are not that busy at the moment. If there is an emergency he can just come back, he told Pippa’s mother.
The clinic was started by Marianne’s husband Dr. Tomas Montenegro and Tristan’s father, Dr. Benjamin Mendoza more than 20 years ago, with Marianne as their nurse. When Doc Tommy died five years ago, Doc Benjie as he is fondly called by the residents of the town, continued on with the clinic with Marianne.
However, when Marianne said she wanted to retire from the clinic three years ago to concentrate on running the resort, Doc Benjie said it was about time he does as well and pass the torch to the young ones. Tristan took over and after a year, his friend, and a classmate at the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, Joshua joined him. They hired two new nurses, and a medical technologist, and they have been running the practice since.
Tristan is several years older than Pippa but since their parents are friends, they too became very good friends since they were kids. He, Pippa and Belle were inseparable when they were growing up. He was like a big brother to Belle and Pippa, growing up, as the cousins were both only child.
“Tristan, you can have the room you occupied the last time you were here.” Marianne said when they were in the living room. “Maghahanda lang kami ni Doray ng lunch natin. For sure, walang naluto si Pippa since walang masyadong laman ang refrigerator kahapon kaya nga kami naghinto sa bayan.”
“Sige po, Tita Marianne, I will just bring my bag up, then help you.” Tristan said. “Nasaan po kaya si Pippa, parang sobrang tahimik nitong bahay.”
“Naku, baka natutulog pa iyon. Minsan ganyan ang batang iyan. Gawa nga siguro ng nature ng work niya.” Marianne replied.
“Sige po, hintayin na lang natin siyang magising. Aakyat na po ako, Tita Marianne.” Tristan said.
Tristan opened the room he occupied before, the one beside Pippa’s, and got the surprised of his life when he saw two people sleeping in the bed.
“Pippa!”…. Tristan exclaimed before he could stop himself.
Pippa was jolted out of sleep for the second time. But this time because someone called her name quite loudly. She opened her eyes and checked her surroundings. She realized that she feel asleep in the room where Ethan is staying and that during the course of the night, she and Ethan ended up in the middle of the bed. Ethan’s arms were around her, and she was half-lying on Ethan’s chest.
“Tris! What are you doing here?” Pippa asked, suddenly very much awake, surprised to see her childhood friend inside the room.
Beside Pippa, Ethan stirred, opened his eyes and realizing that there is another person in the room, he too sat up, shaking off sleep. He noticed too that he and Pippa ended up sleeping very close to each other. They must had sought each other’s body’s warmth while sleeping.
“Good morning to you Tristan!” Ethan greeted the doctor calmly. He had met Tristan through Tita Marianne when he accompanied her to town one time. They never got to talk much, but he seemed an okay guy, apparently well-loved by the people around here, and the girls around are crushing on him and the other doctor, according to Belle. He also noticed that Belle’s tone of voice changes when she speaks of Tristan. He thinks she has feelings for the doctor.
“Good morning, Pippa, Ethan! I’m sorry for barging in and disturbing your sleep. I didn’t know the room is occupied.” Tristan said, trying to regain his composure and be nonchalant at what he thought he saw. Pippa and Ethan are both grown-ups and single, even if the last time he talked to Marianne she mentioned that Pippa has a boyfriend in Manila. He felt like he was kicked in the gut when he saw Pippa in bed with another guy.
“This was the room I used the last time I was here, ilalagay ko lang sana ang bag ko. I’ll get going then. Excuse me. Oh by the way, Pippa, your mom is downstairs, making lunch. Nakita ko kasi sila sa bayan kanina.” He added.
“Oh, Mom is back then. Okay, I will go with you and say hello.” Pippa said, getting out of the bed, wanting to talk to Tristan alone and explain what he saw. “Ethan, I’ll see you downstairs.” She told Ethan, suddenly turning shy and a bit self-conscious in the light of day.
Ethan gazed at Pippa, intently, gauging her mood, but unable to.“Okay, Pippa, I’ll see you and thank you for keeping me company this morning when I had a nightmare. I really appreciate it. I guessed we just fell asleep while watching The Avengers.” He said not only for Pippa’s, but for Tristan’s benefits. He does not want him to think negatively of Pippa. He knows that Pippa and him sleeping like that, even if nothing happened, is not the norm where they are.
Pippa got what Ethan was trying to convey, and she appreciated it very much. “Oo nga, last thing I remembered was The Avengers battling the Chitauri in New York.” She said smiling, then looked at him and mouthed a silent thanks. “See you downstairs. Halika na, Tris.” She gave Ethan one last glance and a sweet smile, then closed the door with Tristan in tow.
Pippa and Tristan spoke at the same time while they were in the corridor in between the rooms. They looked at each other and shared an uncomfortable smile, both unsure on how to proceed.
“You go ahead, please, Pippa.” Tristan finally said.
“No, you go, please. What was it you want to say to me?” Pippa insisted.
Tristan took a deep breath and said his piece. “Pippa, I just want you to know that whatever I saw in that room stays there. It is yours and Ethan’s business.”
Tristan wants to reassure Pippa, the childhood friend whom he would like to look at him as more than a friend, somehow, wanting her to know that he is not passing judgment or drawing a conclusion at what he saw, or that he would tell her mother about it.
“Thank you, Tristan. But the thing is, that is what I wanted to talk to you about. While what you said is correct, that is mine and Ethan’s business, nothing happened in there beyond us sharing a bed. We ended up sleeping while watching DVDs, which I think now, you have left behind in that room. On how I ended up in that room instead of mine, was like what Ethan said, he had a nightmare. I just kept him company.”
“Pippa, hindi mo naman kailangang mag-explain to me, pero thank you pa rin for telling me. I hope you understand that I am not passing judgment on you and him earlier. I believe in the adage ‘live and let live’.” Tristan assured Pippa.
“I know that you didn’t. We have been friends long enough for me to know that.” Pippa said with a smile. “Thank you. Please go ahead pala, I’ll just take a quick shower and then I will be down too.”
Pippa went down 30 minutes after. When she went to the kitchen, she saw Tristan having coffee with Ethan and her mom.
“Mom!!!!” Pippa said with a big smile, then went to her mother and hug her tight while giving her a big kiss on the cheek. “I super missed you! Mabuti nandito ka na. Naaayos ang car ng maaga?”
“Pippa, anak! Naku, mabuti naman at nauwi ka.” Marianne said. She is happy to see her only daughter. She also knows that there must be a very compelling reason why she is home all of a sudden. Hindi nga nito nakuhang tumawag sa kanya na uuwi pala siya. Normally, Pippa calls days before she visits to let her know.
“Hindi pa nagagawa ang kotse. Iniwan na lang namin si Manong Ben sa Calapan. Nag-commute lang kami ni Doray kasi nga gusto ko na ring makauwi at makita ka. Nag-worry din ako na mag-isa ka rito. Mabuti pala at sinamahan ka nitong si Ethan.”
Mommy Marianne continued, unaware of what happened upstairs. “Ito namang si Tristan, nakita namin ni Doray habang nasa bayan kami. Nag-offer na ihatid kami. Para nga rin daw magkita kayo.”
While she was chatting, Ethan stood up and poured Pippa a cup of coffee. Pippa thanked him with a big smile. The scene did not escape Tristan’s notice. He is only human and he was wondering how come the two of them were already very close when apparently, they just met yesterday, according to Tita Marianne.
“Sandali na lang itong lunch, mga anak.” Tita Marianne said, cutting into Tristan’s thought.
“Errr, Tita Marianne, I’ll go to the cottage for a while to take a shower.” Ethan said putting down his cup.
“O sige, pero bumalik ka agad, Ethan at ng habang mainit pa itong sinigang, makain na natin.” Marianne told her friend’s son. Ethan is like a son to her also, even in the short time she had known him, parang si Tristan.
“I will. I’ll be back in a jiffy.” Ethan said with a smile. “I’ll see you in a while, Pippa. Tristan, Manang Doray, see you.” Then he was off through the back veranda.
“Bakasyon mo ba ngayon Pippa? Mabuti pinayagan ka ng boss mo.” Mommy Marianne asked her daughter.
“It’s a long story Mom. But yes, I can stay for several days. Katatapos rin lang naman noong isa kong project.” Pippa replied obliquely. While she had decided now that she wanted to tell her mom the whole sorry story, she wanted to do it when they are alone.
“Mabuti naman. I missed you.” Marianne said. “Medyo matagal-tagal ka ring hindi nauwi. Kapag kami lang ni Doray dito, kakalog-kalog itong bahay. Mabuti nga, kapag libre itong si Tristan, dumadalaw. Nadagdagan pa nitong si Ethan. Nabanggit ba niya sa iyo na anak siya ni Virgie?”
“Yes, Mom. Nagkakwentuhan na kami kahapon. We also went down to the resort last night. Nag-hello kay Belle and spent some time by the beach.” Pippa replied.
“I’m glad na nagkasundo kayo kaagad.” Marianne said. “Doray, pakihanda na nga ang mesa.” She told Manang Doray who was then making a pitcher of juice.
“Okay, Ate Marianne.” Manang Doray replied. Then she proceeded to set the table. Pippa offered to help, but Manang Doray told her to just chat with her mom as she really misses her company.
“Bayaan mo Tita Marianne, I will also visit more often, kapag libre ako.” Tristan promised.
“Oo nga, anak. Isama mo si Josh nang makapag-beach naman iyang kaibigan mo. Mula nang dumating dito, aba eh iisa lang beses ko palang yatang nakitang nag-relax.”
“Sige po, sasabihan ko. Ewan ko nga po doon sa mamang iyon. Lumipat nga ng Mindoro dahil ayaw na raw niya ang buhay-hospital sa Maynila. Mas gusto niya raw na mas relax ang work environment niya, but the thing is, workaholic naman kahit nandito.”
“Talaga, Tris! Sabihan mo yang si Josh na hinay-hinay lang.” Pippa added.
The three of them talked about the clinic and then Pippa’s job while waiting for Ethan to return so they can eat.
When Ethan returned, he saw Pippa talking animatedly about something, with matching gestures, which made her mother laughed. She was so full of life and she looked like, at that moment, without worries. She also looks more beautiful today in his eyes.
Ethan’s gaze then shifted to Tristan and was surprised at what he saw. He was looking at Pippa with tenderness. So, that is the way the wind is blowing, huh! The doc has feelings for Pippa, which she seemed very unaware of! For some reason he can’t explain, finding that Tristan likes Pippa that way, bothered him.
“O heto na pala si Ethan. Kain na tayo.” Marianne said, when she saw Ethan standing by the back door.
Pippa looked at Ethan and her heart beat faster at what she saw. Ethan looked very nice in his faded jeans and t-shirt, freshly shaven and his hair still wet for the shower. He was also giving her a bone melting smile again. “Pippa and I’s first real meal, since yesterday!” He remarked.
“The two of you didn’t eat?” Marianne asked surprised.
“Mom, itong si Ethan, feeling hunger strike kasi wala kayo ni Manang Doray, peanut butter sandwich lang ang dinner kagabi. Hayun, mabuti na lang may nakita akong eggs, cheese at bacon sa ref. Nagluto ako ng omelette.” Pippa said.
“Tita Marianne, you know me and the kitchen, we are not exactly friends.” Ethan said with a self-deprecating smile. “Mabuti na lang, Pippa saved me. That was the best omelette ever!”
“Sus bola, gutom ka lang kasi.” Pippa teased. “Compared to the peanut butter sandwich you were eating, mas masarap talaga iyon.”
“Hindi ah! Honest, it was really delicious.” Ethan said, grinning engagingly. “Crossed my heart!”
“Sige na nga. Thank you.” Pippa said with a smile.
“O siya, siya, kayong dalawa, tama na iyan. Kain na tayo. Doray, halika na. Huwag sabihing hindi ka pa sasabay sa amin.” Marianne said. She ushered everyone to the dining table. She noticed the easy camaraderie between her daughter and Ethan. They seemed to have really gotten to be fast friends in a very short time.
Ethan pulled the chair for Pippa. They shared a smile. Pippa thanked him. Ethan sat beside her, then started serving her food. A sight that didn’t escape Marianne Montenegro’s notice, nor Tristan’s.