It was late afternoon on a Friday. Nicolo was on his way to fetch Nikki from their house. They had permission to have dinner together tonight. They were celebrating their 3rd year together. Nicolo planned to bring Nikki to Eastwood.
Time flew by so quickly. Nikki was now a senior at PUS and would be graduating with honors in a few months. Nicolo had been employed by a multinational company and was recently promoted to junior manager, courtesy of his good track record and the recommendations of his superiors, who recognized his exemplary work.
Nikki was in her room brushing her hair. It’s been three years and yet, she was still as excited as she had been on their first date. Their relationship has been getting better and better. They did a lot of new things together. Nikki brought Nicolo to museums, theater plays and art exhibits. Nicolo taught her how to ride a bike. She never learned how coz daddy pogi wouldn’t allow her. Buti pa si Abby, natuto because Mama insisted she learn. Nikki taught Nicolo to bake. But Nicolo claims that her cookies were still way better than his. Nicolo taught her to eat fishballs and isaw. She found out they were good after all. With Nicolo, there was always something new to discover. Every day with Nicolo is happiness, she thought.
Nicolo was always welcome in their house. To Nikki’s relief, her Dad had finally accepted Nicolo with open arms. Richard and Maya treated him like a son. And of course, Luke and Abby always enjoyed his presence. Nikki couldn’t be more thankful that everything went smoothly.
“Hi Niknik! Happy anniversary!” Nicolo gave her a kiss on the cheek when he arrived. “Ready to go?”
“Hi Tooty!” Nikki called him her ‘cutie-patooty’ or Tooty for short. “Yes, let’s go na before traffic gets bad”. Nikki replied.
In the car, Nikki asked. “So, where are we going pala?”
“Ah, naisip ko sa Eastwood tayo pumunta, Niknik.”
“Eastwood? Why there?”
“Basta… may surprise ako sa yo.”
Nikki smiled. “Okay!”
They arrived at Eastwood before 6pm and parked in the mall. Nicolo took her hand and said, “May papakita muna ako sa yo, Niknik. Maaga pa naman”
Nikki raised a curious eyebrow, “Nicolo, what is it ba?”
“Basta. Let’s go.” He replied mysteriously.
They went down to the street level and out to the main driveway. Hand in hand, they strolled through the fountains until they reached the lobby of one of the condominiums.
“Tooty, why are we here?” Nikki asked quietly as they got into the elevator.
Nicolo looked into her eyes. “Nikki, trust me ok?”
Nikki nodded but she felt her pulse race as they stepped out into the 14th floor. Nicolo led her to the end of the hallway and brought out a key.
He opened the door and made a sweeping gesture towards the interior.
Nikki gasped. “Oh my gee…. Nicolo!”
They entered the studio suite. It was small but elegantly furnished. The soft lighting made the whole place look a hotel suite. The bed was on the far end, facing a big flat screen TV. A working desk was at the corner. There was a love seat in the carpeted area in the middle beside the dining nook which had a table for two. On the table was a big bouquet of carnations tied with a pink ribbon. Nicolo got it and handed it to her.
Nicolo told her, “Happy anniversary Niknik. Gusto ko lang sana ipagmalaki sa yo yung pinaghirapan ko. Nag downpayment ako on this condo just two months ago, after nung promotion. It was a good deal kaya hindi ko na pinalipas. Mura at mababa ang interest rate kahit 10 years to pay. Swak sa budget.”
Nikki looked at him proudly. “Aww, Tooty, you’re so galing talaga. Imagine, 2 years ka palang nagwo-work nakabili ka na ng condo?”
“Syempre, inspired ako eh!” Nicolo laughed.
Nikki put the flowers down and hugged him.
“I love you Nicolo Angelo Cortez”
“I love you Nikki Grace Lim”
He looked at Nikki and tucked her hair behind her ear. He then put his hand under her chin and tilted her face up to meet him.
Nikki closed her eyes as Nicolo’s lips met hers. He claimed her lips softly,gently. She sighed into his mouth and basked in the warmth of his breath on hers. After three years, she got used to how Nicolo kissed her, but this one felt different.
There was a sense of urgency, of excitement in this kiss. Nikki was unsure whether this urgency and excitement came from Nicolo or from her. She felt warm despite the air-conditioning. Her heart was hammering in her chest. Her knees, weak. She realized, with a blush creeping up her neck, that she was feeling the stirrings of desire.
She looped her arms around Nicolo’s neck and pulled him closer, encouraging him to deepen the kiss. Nicolo immediately obliged. His tongue slipped inside, savoring the sweetness of her mouth. Nikki felt her legs turn to jelly as he put his arms around her and molded her body onto his. Nikki felt the hardness of his body and she knew that he wanted her too. He started kissing her ear, nipping at her earlobe.
“Nikki,” he murmured in between breaths.
“Mmmm?” Nikki replied dreamily, eyes still closed.
“Nikki,” he said more firmly. He stopped kissing her. She realized he was calling her ‘Nikki’. He only called her that when he was serious… or mad. Nikki’s eyes flew open. Nicolo was looking at her with a serious expression.
“Siguro kelangan na natin bumaba at mag dinner”, he said in a tight voice.
“Nicolo?” Her eyes registered confusion. “What’s wrong?”, she asked gently. “Did I do something wrong?”
He shook his head and held her shoulders. “Nikki, pag nagtagal pa tayo dito… mawawalan na ako ng… ng control sa sarili ko”. He swallowed. She took a sharp breath and unconsciously held it.
“Niknik, you know I want you,” he said in a raw voice. “Pero we shouldn’t…I asked you to trust me di ba?”
Nikki stared at him. He looked flustered, flushed, embarrassed, crazy, confused, and yet totally adorable. He cared for her enough to stop himself from taking what she was ready to give.
“Oh, Nicolo…” she let her breath out and flew into his arms. “I think you’re right. We shouldn’t be doing this. But for the record, I feel the same way, okay.” Nikki told him softly.
“Bata ka pa, Niknik…”
“Nicolo, I’m already turning 21. I know what I want… but maybe nga we shouldn’t. Unless you changed your mind na…” she said teasingly.
“Nikki,” he warned. “Don’t make it harder than it already is…”
They both laughed out loud at the double meaning of his words.
Suddenly, Nikki’s phone rang. They both jumped in surprise. It was Maya.
“Hello, Mama?” she asked, a bit breathlessly.
“Hi Nikki. Nakaalis na pala kayo ni Nicolo. Hindi na tayo nag-abot.”
“Um yeah, ah sorry. I didn’t know uuwi ka ng maaga”, Nikki stuttered.
Maya immediately felt something was amiss. “Nasaan pala kayo ni Nicolo?”
“We’re in Eastwood lang naman, we, uh, we kinda just got here, uh sa Eastwood. We left na agad kasi before it gets traffic,”, she glanced at Nicolo who sat on the bed and was grinning at her discomfort. “Uh, papunta palang kami sa restaurant”, she finished.
“O sige. Nikki, wag lang kayo magpagabi masyado okay? At wag mag side trip kung saan-saan ha?”
Nikki’s eyes widened. “Ma!”
“Ma, don’t worry na, ok? Bye, thanks for calling.”
Nikki looked at Nicolo and shook her head smiling. “Ang galing talaga ng instinct ni Mama. I think she knew that we were…” They looked at each other. Nicolo smiled.
“Halika nga dito Niknik”. He sat her on his lap and cupped her face.
“I will never do anything that might cause us problems. Pwede yun maghintay,” he told her affectionately. “Kasi, mahal na mahal kita.”
She nodded and leaned on him for a moment.
“Thanks Tooty. I love you too… forever.” She hugged him tightly.
“Forever, Nikki?” he asked her softly. He looked at her serene face and choked up. She looked like an angel, she was so beautiful. His heart felt so full of love for her. He saw his future with Nikki. He knew she was the one. He wanted to be with her forever, raise a family with her, do crazy things with her, laugh with her, be by her side until they were old and grey. Yes, Nikki was the one. The only one.
“Yes, Nicolo, forever”.
He was planning to wait until later that evening, but the moment had presented itself.
“Forever talaga Niknik?” He suddenly had mischief on his face. “Papayag ka magpa-sakal, este, magpa-kasal sa isang tulad ko?” he said, his eyes twinkling.
Nikki stood up in surprise. “Ikaw talaga! Para namang you’re asking me to marry you, Nicolo!”
“Oo Niknik…” Nicolo smiled and brought out a ring. He kneeled in front of her. “Mahal kita Niknik. Mahal na mahal. At para malinaw, Nikki Grace Lim, oo, I’m asking you… will you marry me?”
Nikki’s mouth fell open. She wasn’t expecting any of this. Her silence made Nicolo’s heart race in panic.
Then she smiled. “Tooty talaga!” She gave him her famous capital W sign.
“Huh? Whatever with a capital W?” Nicolo asked, confused.
Nikki replied with a laugh, “Wedding, with a capital W!” She wrapped her arms around him. “Para malinaw… Yes, I will marry you, Nicolo Angelo Cortez!”
Nicolo hugged her back tightly and placed the ring on her finger. She looked at it with tears in her eyes. She could hardly believe it. Nicolo, the ex-basag-ulo, best buddy she had for the longest time, will soon be her husband. They will live together, start a family together, grow old together. Happy tears rolled down her cheek. Nicolo put his hand on the sides of her face and wiped the tears away with his thumb.
They looked at each other in silence, in awe of the love they saw in each other’s eyes.
“I love you, Niknik”
“I love you too, Nicolo”
A/N: Thanks sa lahat ng bumasa, kinilig, nag like at nag comment. Salamat sa pagbigay sa akin ng encouragement sumulat. I’ll be away for a while. Sana makahanap ng inspiration while I’m gone. Take care to all, thanks to excess baggage, especially Miss Mae sa lahat lahat ng trust and encouragement. Bye for now… -lainey