Jeremy put his phone down on the coffee table in the living room of his penthouse unit in an upscale condominium building in Makati after he texted Natasha. Smiling, he went to his room and took a shower. When he got out, he eagerly checked if there was a reply from her. He was a bit disappointed that there was none, but he was not surprised. He had given Natasha enough to think about and absorb for a while. He hoped though that she would see things the same way he would like to see or envision it to be, them in a romantic relationship!
He went to bed, but unable to sleep, still too keyed up with what happened that evening. He stared at the ceiling, put his right arm behind his head, using it as a pillow, then thought about his friendship with Natasha, and how it was, and how it is about to change big time once he let her know that he likes her a lot in romantic way. Stephen is right! Maybe, it is about time he does. He had tried, but unable to suppress anymore, what he feels for her. He sometimes wondered, how he lasted that long, being just friends with her!
Jeremy smiled, remembering his first meeting with Natasha. She was like a prickly cactus that evening. Later, when they became friends, she admitted to him that, that night was not one of her best nights. Then, he teased her mercilessly about it, acting out how she had been, in an exaggerated manner, and they have a good laugh about it.
Natasha told him that she was actually going through something that evening. She just saw her father with his second family. He was indifferent to her, and it hurt, especially after she had observed him being sweet to his daughter who was just a year younger than her! Yes, her father was already in relationship with his wife number two while he still married to Natasha’s mother! Added to that, one of her friends was going through a bad break up. Natasha is very cynical about love. It was one of the first things he had found out about her when they got pass their several false starts. It was the main reason why they ended up friends instead of being in a relationship. She nipped everything in the bud, when he started letting her know that he was interested in her romantically!
The moment their eyes met, that evening at the coffee shop he felt a pull, a very strong instant attraction to her. She looked so lovely, sitting there, trying to go for nonchalance after he heard her dishing the dirt on him, base solely on what she had seen on television or read in the papers and online, to Seb! She looked cute with that lovely flush on her face. He had known who she was. He had seen her as a cute theater kid, to the lovely teenager she had become in The King and I and The Sound of Music, two of his Mum’s favourite musicals.
He has not followed much of her career after that as he stopped going to the theater when his Mum died , and everything just went downhill with his father. Several years after his Mum died, they are still very much at loggerheads on most things. Sometimes, Jeremy wished his father would just let him be! How he missed his Mum, even after all these years!
While he was talking to Seb, he was very much aware of Natasha’s presence opposite him, serenely sipping her espresso. She just looked on at them, listening to them discussing the musical. Except for her initial falter when she introduced herself, she was as cool as a cucumber most of the time. He didn’t see her expression changed when he introduced himself, like what happened to people when they realized it is him, the famous singer. It was liberating that she was not in awe of his celebrity status. In fact, later on, Natasha admitted to him that one of the reasons she left early that night was because of all the fans that approached their table for photos. It was too much for her.
Of course, the following day, the shit hits the fan, so to speak, when their photo, him kissing Natasha good night on the cheek, went viral and she was paraded on social media as Jeremy Ledesma’s new flame, the latest in a string of party girls that people thought he was dating or passing his time with. She was put under intense scrutiny and worse, bashed by his so-called fans who were hiding under usernames and aliases! She was also sought after for interviews by entertainment bloggers and showbiz reporters. Both of them were, as it was the first time, a photo was taken with his ‘date’ that’s not in a bar or a party venue.
He clarified that he and Natasha had just met by accident because of their common friend, Sebastian Garcia. But it didn’t stop the talk or the bashing. At that time, they can’t reveal yet that they will be working opposite each other in a hit musical. There was a press conference scheduled to announce him joining the musical and present the other cast members several days after that meeting with Seb and Natasha. He can’t preempt that! It was what his management company’s condition to Seb and to the producer of the show. He communicated as much to Seb that evening.
Initially, his manager was against him doing the musical as it would take too much of his time, his schedule was packed. Besides, he said, theatre was not his forte. But Benedict relented when he insisted that it is something he would like to do for a long time. He wanted to prove that he was not just another pretty face who can carry a tune.
Besides, he wanted to do it also for his Mum. It has been something they both love and a big part of his happy childhood with her. He had been wanting to do theater for so long, even before he became a famous singer. His father objected as he wanted him to join the family business. He never liked Jeremy putting himself in the public limelight. He was also the main source of his Mum’s unhappiness and early death, in Jeremy’s mind! He rebelled and did the things his father hates.
The day after he and Natasha first met, when he found out about the viral photo, Jeremy called Seb to get Natasha’s number, wanting to apologize to her for what had happened. Well, that was his excuse. He actually wanted to see her again, not only because of the musical, but because he was very much attracted to her. He wanted to pursue her romantically. It was just that, due to the people asking for photos the night before, he forgot to get her number.
When Natasha, told by Seb beforehand that Jeremy will get in touch, picked up the call, her voice sounded frosty. He asked her if they could meet! She declined politely, saying that she didn’t want to add more fuel to the fire. She also told Jeremy that while she knows things like that are part and parcel of being the Jeremy Ledesma, she does not appreciate being on the spotlight in that manner. Outside of her work, she told him, she was a private person.
He apologized profusely, especially as he can’t disclose yet that they would be working together in a musical. Natasha said she understood and that it was beyond his control, anyway. People will say whatever they want to say, and see what they want to see, believe what they want to believe. After that, luckily their viral photo was overtaken by another one, that of another showbiz couple who were caught on camera kissing in a parking lot! Of course, they were still asked if there was something between them when they were presented to the media, but they both denied that there was. The of them also explained that, they met for coffee because of the musical, like Jeremy had previously said. After the press conference, he invited her for a drink, but she declined. The next time they saw each other was on the first day of their rehearsals.
Jeremy’s phone made a beeping sound in the middle of his introspection. At first, he frowned, wondering who could be messaging him in the middle of the night? Then he suddenly remembered his text message to Natasha earlier. Maybe, it’s her! Finally! He scrambled out of the bed fast, woke barefooted, in his boxers to where he had left his phone, earlier, in the living room. Good thing, he still heard the faint sound of it beeping!
Excitedly, he swiped his phone open. His excitement turned into disappointment several seconds after. It was not Natasha who sent him a message via Viber, not a text message from her after all! The message was from a commercial model he had dated for a couple of times. She even sent a photo of herself in a provocative dress, holding a drink at the watering hole in Bonifacio Global City where he met her one Saturday evening. Ashley was asking if he would like to join her and her friends, and she even promised to make it worth his while.
Jeremy wondered why did he ever date her! He ignored the message, put his phone on silent, then went back to bed. He was through doing meaningless stuff. He will just concentrate on his campaign to win Natasha.
The days that followed were busy days for Jeremy. He rehearsed for his upcoming concert, guested in a musical variety show and did a photo shoot for a magazine. He also shot a commercial for a car company, who wants to introduce their latest model to the young and hip crowd, and thought that he would be the best ambassador for their new product.
He asked the producers if Natasha, should she agree, can be one of the guests in his concert. They have said yes. He was planning to tell Natasha about it when they see each other again for the awards ceremony they will go to. They haven’t communicated with each other since ‘the kiss’, but that’s not unusual. There were times that they don’t talk for days due to their busy schedules.
Wednesday evening came! He was excited, not because he might win another award, but because he would see Natasha again. He ordered flowers for her and it was delivered just before he left his place. At first, he hesitated doing so as Natasha might ask all sorts of questions as it was outside his norm, but he wanted to do it, so he dialled the number of the florist that he uses from to time. The florist smiled when he told her what he wanted and told him, he was in luck as their new shipment had just arrived.
He texted Natasha when he was about to leave his place, and she just replied a short okay. Half an hour later, he was parked outside her building. He texted her again to tell him he was there. He drummed his fingers against the steering wheel, patiently, nervously and excitedly waiting for her!
Jeremy didn’t wait long. However, his eyes popped, and he gasped, when he caught sight of Natasha and what she was wearing, with matching stilettos! She was a vision in the dress she chose to wear that evening, a deep violet halter dress that hugged her curvaceous body, something she usually hides in leggings and loose shirts. Well, the dress did look very, very nice on her, even if it is more revealing that what she usually prefers or what he have seen her wear. He guess the dress was okay, and that was before she turned a bit to thank the receptionist!
“She can’t be seriously wearing that!” Jeremy exclaimed, sitting straighter from his slouching position, seeing Natasha’s dress was not so demure after all! Most of her upper back was bare! He got out of the car, fast, and met her halfway.
“Hi Jer!” Natasha greeted him as she would normally do. He can’t detect any change in her treatment of him. In fact, she sounded like the kiss didn’t happen and he didn’t send that text message. “Nervous? I’m sure you’ll win so don’t be!”
“Hi Nat!” Jeremy greeted her by kissing her cheek as he normally does also, when they meet up. He knows he does not have the right but he was unable to stop himself. “Errr, Nat, is your dress okay? Are you sure, you want to attend the event in that?”
“Ha, what is wrong with my dress? You told me, not so formal.” Natasha asked, surprised, checking the dress she was wearing.
“Errr, yeah! But isn’t it too revealing? It is backless!” He managed to say, treading carefully. “Do you have a shawl or something for that? What’s called, a wrap? It might also get cold in the venue!” He added hastily. Fast thinking there, Jer, he told himself!
Natasha laughed, her lilting laugh that Jeremy likes very much. “Come on, Jer, this is perfectly okay. Unless, the dress does not suit me? Hindi ba bagay?”
“No, Nat, you look very lovely, actually.” Jeremy admitted reluctantly.
“So, on with this dress! By the way, what brought this on? I have worn skimpier clothes on stage.” Natasha asked, finding Jeremy’s reaction a bit strange, after all this time!
“Oh nothing! Come let’s go.” Jeremy gave up explaining that he was feeling territorial and protective of her. He was in the past, but it was not as overt as this. He would just protect her the way he had been doing in the past.
Jeremy escorted Natasha to the car. He opened the door for her, then went to the driver’s side. He remembered the flowers. He grabbed it from the back seat before he went into the car.
“For you Nat!” Jeremy handed Natasha a beautiful bouquet, of tulips of different colors, as he slid into the driver’s seat!
“Wow, this is so lovely, Jeremy.” Natasha said, her heart beating faster. This was not the first time Jeremy gave her flowers, or gifts, but this is the first time he gave her tulips and usually too, he gives her flowers or gifts during the opening night of the show she was in! She looked at him a bit puzzled.
“Well, I just want to thank you for going with me this evening. I know you were a bit reluctant to do so.” Jeremy hastily said. He felt himself flushing and a bit nervous. He wanted to ease Natasha gently into him courting her, and suddenly he was nervous that she would see through him, with the flowers he gave her out of the blue.
“What are friends for! You know, you are very important to me and I want to share this evening with you, despite the crowd.” Nat said, looking at the tulips! “But thanks a lot for the lovely flowers.”
“Thanks a lot again, Nat.” Jeremy put his hand on top of Nat’s and gently squeezed it. “I appreciate you doing this very much. You are the best! I’m lucky to have you!”
Natasha looked at him in surprise, but she didn’t remove her hand. He smiled. She smiled back.
Jeremy drove off, humming his latest song, about a guy who can’t fight his feeling anymore for a girl he likes very much for a long time. Natasha on the other hand, stared at the vibrant tulips on her lap, touching one gently as she relived the kiss that she and Jeremy shared several days before!