Archive for February 2nd, 2016

Slow Burn – Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Natasha plopped herself down her sofa after she had closed the door on Jeremy, and stayed like that for a while, still in shock at the intensity of the kiss that they have shared! She was not really expecting that their Friday night bonding would end like that, with a bang, with a big bang! It was the first time she and Jeremy had kissed like that outside of the musical they did.

She touched her lips which were still tingling, reliving the kiss in her mind. Oh my! What is happening to them? What brought it on? She does not have an idea. All she knew at that moment was that whatever she thought was extinguished several years ago had just came to life all of a sudden. The kindling actually started a fire, a slow burning one!

Jeremy Ledesma came into her life like a shooting star streaking into the night. She knew of him, but she never thought that they would cross paths. They didn’t move in the same circle. Their lifestyles, what she can gleaned from the numerous articles, features, and social media uploads on him, seemed to be the exact opposite.

By the time they met, she had several musicals and straight plays under her belt. While Jeremy, on the other hand, was already hugely popular by then and had several bestselling albums, and sold out concerts under his belt.

One evening, over cups of coffee, Seb, her friend who will direct Rent, and who also directed several other shows she had been into, told her that aside from her Mimi, they have cast the other roles, including that of Mark, Maureen, Angel, Colin and Joanne, but they were still waiting for the nod of the guy that they very much wanted to play Roger.

Natasha smiled, remembering that night. She and Seb were having coffee in a new coffee shop in a quiet, off the radar part of Quezon City as far as watering holes are concerned, when he started telling her about the casting just to divert her attention from the bad day she had.

“So, who is this all important guy that we are waiting for to play Roger?” Natasha asked desultorily, her mind was still on the bad day she had. Seb is used to her occasional moods, like this, when she sees her father, and would always cheer her up so she snaps out of it, fast.

“Oh my, Nat, it will be a casting coup if we can get him! Oh my God, I’m so excited. I wish he would finally say yes!”

“So, who is it?” Natasha asked, not really understanding Seb’s excitement. Her friend is flamboyant and openly gay and the way he was acting that evening, he didn’t sound at all like the very good theater director, who had honed his craft in New York, that he is! He was giddy.

“We are talking to Jeremy Ledesma! In fact…!”

“What? Him? Does he do theater? Can he do it? His background is not exactly theater!” Natasha asked before Seb can finished what he was about to say! She was just surprised at what he said. She thought Seb and the producers were in talk with a well-known Filipino-American actor who had been in several West End and Broadway productions before moving to the Philippines for good to be with his Filipino relatives, for Roger!

“Of course, Nat! He is the perfect Roger! All those angst and rebelliousness, being channeled on stage!” Seb pointed out. “Yes, this will be his first foray in professional theatre, but unknown to many, he was not a stranger to it. I also know that he is an easy guy to work with, professional and always on time for all his commitments.”

“Really, he is on time? With all the partying that he does?” Natasha asked, then continued, not seeing, that Seb’s expression has changed. “Really, Seb, I know he will sell tickets very fast, but do you want the notoriety that is always with Jeremy Ledesma?”

“Oh, I see, my reputation had preceded me!” A masculine voice remarked from behind Natasha, lightly.

“Jeremy, I’m glad you can make it!” Seb greeted the speaker effusively. He stood up and hugged him.

The name of the person who spoke finally sunk in, into Natasha. Oh my God! She also remembered Seb’s face changing as she was finishing what she was saying! She slowly turned and saw a handsome guy dressed casually in jeans and dark-colored t-shirt.

“Hi Seb! My apologies for the vague reply to you earlier. I thought I will be unable to get away from my other appointment at all. I decided to take the chance that you will still be here! You did mention that you will be here until 9PM.” Jeremy said amiably, smiling at Seb, not noticing that the quiet cafe was suddenly abuzz with conversation, realizing who had just came in!

Jeremy then looked at where Natasha was sitting. She knew her face was flushed, embarrassed at what she had just said. She was not normally quick to judge people! She wished then that the floor will just swallow her.

“Hi, I’m Jeremy!” He then offered his hand to her. She took it and it felt like she was hit with an electric current when their hands touched.

Natasha, was at a lost for several long minutes, just staring at the most beautiful brown eyes she had gazed upon and the handsomest face she had seen! She had met plenty of good-looking guys throughout her career, some of them visiting foreign theatre actors, and she was not moved like that. There was just something in Jeremy Ledesma that sets him apart from the rest! It was no wonder, he elicits screams everywhere he goes, with all that good looks, it is criminal, really, she mused while trying to gain her equilibrium.

“H-hello, I’m Natasha Reynoso!” She managed to say, suddenly feeling so guilty for saying those things about him when she didn’t really know him at all. Worse, he heard it! You have more manners than that, Nat!

“You were ‘Tuptim’ in the ‘King and I’, ‘Liesl’ in ‘ The Sound of Music’ and ‘little Cosette’ in Les Miserables!” Jeremy said, smiling oh charmingly at her, gazing at her intently.

“Oh, you have seen me on stage!” Natasha was surprised that he had remembered her for those roles she played many years ago.

“My Mum was a big theater fan. She used to drag me to the theater when I was a kid!” Jeremy explained, a bit self-consciously, so different from Natasha’s image of him in her head. “Nice to finally meet you, Natasha.”

“Jeremy, please have a seat. Join me and Natasha. It’s okay, she will be in the musical too.” Seb said, cutting through the private world Natasha and Jeremy were finding themselves into. “That is, if you can stay?”

“Oh sure, I don’t have any more plans for the evening.” Jeremy said, then he looked at Natasha and started saying as he was about to sit, “So, what will be your…..

He was unable to finish what he was saying and before he can sit down, a group of girls approached them, and asked for a picture with him. He obliged and right before Natasha’s eyes, he changed demeanor, got more like the Jeremy she sees in television interviews. It felt like it was what the other people at the coffee shop were waiting for, they also asked for a photo with him.

“Sorry, about that!” Jeremy sat down and looked apologetically at Natasha and Seb after the flurry of photo ops and selfies with him. His admirers went away happily.

“No worries, Jeremy. I thought this coffee shop would be quieter than the rest. That is why I chose this.” Seb remarked. “Well, it was. But since you were here, apparently not. Probably, someone already tweeted that you are here.”

“I don’t mind the fans. I owe my career to them. I’m sure you are used to them also, Natasha. But I better warn you also, that you may find yourself online and speculated on as you were with me!”

“Oh! It is okay! I don’t normally check what is being uploaded and floated on social media!” Natasha thought it would just be run of the mill kind of tweets and feeds about them, how wrong she was 24 hours later! “What could they say about me! I’m not the famous one, you are!”

Looking back to that evening, 24 hours later, she thought Jeremy was about to say something, but stopped himself. Instead, he looked at Seb and with a big grin, more like a child who received the best present from Santa, he told him his news. “Seb, I’m in, man! Thank you for this opportunity! I have been wanting to do this for so long!”

“OMG, really!” Seb shrieked happily! “I’m so happy. Now I have a complete dream cast! I should be the one thanking you, Jeremy!”

“You know I really, really wanted to do this. I can’t think of anything else since you called me about it. I just needed to talk to my management company. I’m looking forward to being a part of your production. It is a long way from our high school days and all the stage plays we were in, eh!”

“You two, know each other before? You did theater in school” Natasha asked, surprised. She was just content to be a passive listener, as she was trying to digest that Jeremy Ledesma seemed to be different from what she had heard and seen on TV.

Jeremy focused his whole attention on Natasha and with a big, boyish smile, he slung his arm around Seb’s shoulders affectionately. “This guy and me go a long way back. Didn’t he tell you? We were high school classmates, and we were both members of the theater club while in that all boys school.”

“Yes, Nat, I was about to tell you about that earlier. But Jeremy arrived.” Then at Jeremy, Seb said, “Nat is a friend too, Jeremy. I met her when were at the university. She will be Mimi to your Roger.”

“Wow, that’s great, Natasha! Before the hordes arrived, I was going to ask you what your role will be. I’m sure you will be a great Mimi and the role suits you. You have a beautiful voice. I’m so looking forward to doing the musical with you. I’m honored, actually!”

“Really!” Natasha said in a disbelieving tone, unable to help herself. Maybe he was just trying to be nice, patronizing, or being ‘showbiz’ in saying that. She can’t help it, sometimes, glib and charming guys raised her hackles! He is just too good to be true! She can’t helped being cynical at times, with all that she had seen happening to people she loves.

“Of course!” Jeremy replied, still smiling at Natasha, either he let passed her show of cynicism or he didn’t notice it at all. When they got to know each other better, Jeremy had teased her mercilessly about it. They laughed about it, but Nat knew it was not one of her shining moments.

Before Jeremy can finish what he was about to say, another group of girls approached their table and requested for a picture with him. He obliged. It was followed by another group, who were not as polite and as well-behaved as the first one. Jeremy with all the phone cameras thrust on his face, just smiled all throughout and posed, amiably.

“I better get going, Seb. I’m sorry for cutting this short. Please excuse me, Jeremy!” Natasha said, when the last group left.

She stood up, she was in a bit of a funk, and for some reason she can’t understand, a bit irritated with the gaggle of girls approaching them, or looking at Jeremy surreptitiously from their tables. Funny, how the coffee shop got full fast since he arrived! She felt like a bug under the microscope! “I’ll go ahead, Seb.” Then looking at Jeremy, she said, “Nice meeting you, Jeremy. Until the rehearsals then!”

“Nat, are you okay? Why don’t you stay a while!” Seb was surprised that Nat was leaving as they were thinking of seeing the last screening of a movie they have been both wanting to see. But of course, that was before Jeremy showed up. Seb told her later why he met her and Jeremy at the same time in that cafe. She knew that Seb wanted to ask her what was really bugging her, but Jeremy was there. Seb is also used to the cheerful, positive Natasha, and she was not that at all, that evening.

“I’m okay, Seb. I’m just tired. Just go catch up with Jeremy here! And no need to go with me out to the car. I’m parked just outside the door.” She told Seb, who was about to stand and go out with her to the parking lot. She just gave him a beso. “Let’s meet again on Saturday, okay?”

Seb nodded. “Take care, Nat! Text me when you get home.”

Jeremy, however, stood up, smiled at Natasha, then said, “Great meeting you, Natasha! See you at the rehearsals, looking forward that!”

Natasha felt his sincerity and she felt like a heel for the way she spoke about him, earlier, and the weird way she was acting that evening. Fair is fair, she acted badly. He had been nothing, but very nice and courteous to her the whole time. He acted like a normal person and not like a famous singer with an attitude and an oversize ego.

“I’m looking forward to that as well. And Jeremy, my apologies for the way I spoke earlier. I realized that I was speaking out of turn and I was being unfair as I don’t really know you, to be saying things like that. Then, I’m not good company to you and Seb also. I’m not always like this, really!” She finished with a smile.

He smiled back at her, a smile that reached his beautiful brown eyes, and for a little while, Natasha forgot where they were. It felt like it was just the two of them there, all the noises and the giggling faded in the background.

“Thank you, Natasha. I appreciate the candor. No worries. I’ll just work on you getting to know me better. Rest and relax. Works for me when I feel a bit off.”

“Thanks, Jeremy, I will just do that.” They way he was looking at her, Natasha felt herself blushing. “Good night.”

Before she can recover from that, he leaned forward and gave her a beso! “Drive carefully and see you soon.”

Someone caught that ordinary, harmless kiss on camera and posted it online, and it went viral! Suddenly, Nat’s life changed.

The beeping of her phone interrupted Natasha’s recollection of her and Jeremy’s first meeting. Who could be sending her a message in the middle of the night! She stood up, grabbed her phone where she dropped it earlier. Jeremy sent her a message.

Good night Nat! Sweet dreams! See you soon. And by the way, I’m not sorry we kissed.

“Oh my!… Natasha managed to say, with her heart hammering against her chest. How can she sleep, with that text message!

She went back to the sofa, plopped herself down again, and stared at the ceiling. What to do now? She asked herself. She felt giddy and at the same time nervous at what she feels in her gut – a big shift in hers and Jeremy’s relationship! Is she ready for it? What if…? Well, let’s see, she mused, then grinned. She just can’t help herself! Quizas, quizas, quizas! She started humming that too, from an old song that her mother likes very much.


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