This is a continuation to The Deleted Nic-Nik Scene 8 (The Green-Eyed Mallows)
Philippine Literature class was right before lunch break every Monday and Tuesday. Iñigo asked to have lunch with Nikki on those days and she had agreed. Sometimes they had lunch together with Stacey, who was also their classmate in Philippine Lit. On Thursdays and Fridays, Nicolo and Nikki had the same late lunch break so she had lunch with him on those days. She was off early on Wednesdays and usually spent lunch and the rest of the afternoon with Stacey and Megan.
Iñigo came to their house every other weekend. Richard was always very accommodating, he would even ask Manang Fe to prepare a special merienda when Iñigo was there. This did not escape Maya, who bugged Luke to invite Nicolo over more often and planned fun activities with them. Richard raised an eyebrow at Maya when he found Luke, Nikki, Nicolo and Abby happily playing in the pool one Sunday.
“Kala mo ikaw lang ha? Mas masaya sila, o, tingnan mo!” Maya told Richard. “Next year lang siguro kasama na nila dyan si Matti!”, she grinned at him.
Richard shook his head and laughed. Wala talagang panalo laban kay Attorney!
Richard watched the kids and Nicolo for a while. He realized that although Nikki seemed to like Iñigo, the friendship between her and Nicolo had deepened its roots even more in the recent weeks. And he knew firsthand, that friendship is the best basis for a romantic relationship. He smiled to himself, remembering how he and Maya started out… as friends. He told her that night at the prom, that “a man and a woman can’t remain friends forever”. He was right. It wasn’t long before they fell in love. He suddenly felt nostalgic. First, because he realized that Nikki is growing up and will eventually fall in love, no matter what he does or says. And ultimately, the boy will be her choice, not mine nor Maya’s, he sighed. Second, he remembered Maya and their courtship days. Parang kelan lang, ako yung nanliligaw…
He watched her as she smiled at his kids. He walked over and hugged Maya from behind. And in full view of the kids, he turned her around and kissed her full on the lips. “I love you”, he whispered.
Luke hooted out loud. “Woohoo Dad! Super PDA naman yan!”
Nikki and Nicolo looked at Maya and Richard, then at each other. She splashed water at Nicolo, who started comically raising and lowering his eyebrows. Abby clapped her hands in delight.
Maya blushed and gently pushed him away shyly. “Mahal naman eh, sa harap ba talaga ng mga bata? Nakakahiya!”
“Win some, lose some, Maya. You’re not gonna win every battle my dear.” Richard grinned like a schoolboy and scooped her off the ground, whispering, “Besides Maya… pwede na ulit! At hindi lang kalokohan ang pwede!” He laughed naughtily and carried her back to the house, to their room. Luke hooted at them even louder, much to Maya’s embarassment.
One Friday, over lunch, Nicolo took Nikki to the nearby technohub mall for lunch instead of the cafeteria. Both of them were dismissed earlier than usual, giving them a two and a half-hour lunch break. They had a leisurely lunch and stayed for dessert. He entertained her with stories of his childhood and she couldn’t stop laughing at his misadventures.
Nicolo was the funniest person she knew. Nikki always enjoyed Nicolo’s company. But how come she didn’t feel as kilig with him anymore? Unlike with Iñigo…
Iñigo was quiet and mysterious. He didn’t talk a lot, instead letting her do the story-telling, which became the bulk of their lunchtime conversation. She was bored sometimes, but when he looked at Nikki with those dark eyes, she could feel the goosebumps on her arm. He said things like, ‘you’re so beautiful when you laugh, Nikki’. And he says it seriously.
She realized she wasn’t getting kilig because Nicolo didn’t do those things anymore that made her kilig. He calls her ‘Miss Beautiful’ in a teasing way. Nikki sighed. Before, when Nicolo first told her that he liked her, he took her hand and kissed it, or gave her sweet little gifts. Now, it was like they’ve settled into a really good friendship and nothing more. The thought disappointed her big time. She realized that kilig or not, Nicolo was still ahead in her heart.
They left the restaurant and went for a short walk in the garden at the back.“Nicolo, can I ask you something?” Nikki asked as they stopped to watch the ducks in the garden.
Nicolo leaned on the rails above the small pond. “Oo naman, ano ba yun Niknik?”
“Are you still courting me pa ba, Nicolo?”, she asked straight to the point.
Nicolo was taken aback by her question. He paused for a long time before replying. He stepped closer to Nikki and caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. Nikki shivered at his touch.
“Nikki Grace Lim, yung totoo? Ayoko nang ligawan ka…”
Whaaat? Nikki’s eyes widened in surprise and hurt. But before she could reply or walk away, Nicolo grabbed her arm and pulled her close.
“Nikki, ayoko na maging manliligaw mo. Gusto ko maging boyfriend mo. Gusto ko sana, tayo na.” Nicolo was looking at her with passion in his eyes. “I love you Niknik matagal na matagal na. Hindi ako magaling manligaw, hindi ako marunong manuyo o magpa-gwapo sa babae. Kung ano yung nakikita mo, yun ako.” Nicolo lowered his eyes, afraid to look at Nikki, afraid of her reaction or rejection.
Nikki was dumbfounded. All this time she thought Nicolo wasn’t interested anymore! So he still loves me! Her heart leaped at the thought. When Nicolo looked down, she moved in closer and cupped his face in her hands.
“Nicolo, outside my family, you are the most special person in my life. You ought to know that already. I thought… I thought you wanted to just be friends nalang kasi parang lumalayo ka…”
Nicolo looked up at her, put his hands on hers and removed them from his face. He put Nikki’s hands together and kissed them.
“Niknik, hindi ko naman nilayuan ang pagiging friends natin. Lumayo lang ako sa panliligaw kasi alam ko namang wala akong binatbat kay Iñigo. Mayaman, gwapo, matalino, at mukhang botong boto pa ang Dad mo sa kanya. Tapos parang kinikilig ka lagi pag kasama mo sya… ayokong maging hadlang kung sya ang pipiliin ng puso mo…” he almost whispered the last line.
Nikki blushed a bit but replied. “I admit naman na kinikilig ako sa panliligaw ni Iñigo at the start, but I have thought about it a lot… We don’t have a lot in common, wala nga kami masyadong napag-uusapan, unlike tayo na very effortless ang friendship natin. Nicolo, it’s your company I enjoy. You make me laugh. I can tell you anything. I feel so comfortable with you…”
Nikki took a deep breath and looked into his eyes. “Truth is, it has always been you, Nicolo,” she finished softly.
It took a while for Nikki’s words to sink in. Nicolo was still staring at her face, half-wondering if he was dreaming. But his body moved faster than his mind could comprehend and so his lips found their way to Nikki’s.
To be continued!!! 🙂