Yes I love the Nic-Nik-Miel love triangle. Think of this story as something like that. Pero in reality, I’m all for the NikMiel tandem. Sorry guys… So eto na… It’s a bit heartbreaking, yet I hope you like it.
Looking Back – Part One
The gates of NAIA Terminal 2 were buzzing with arrivals, departures, farewells and welcomes. A mixture of emotions hung thickly in the air. He picked up his luggage from the conveyor belt and started to walk toward the exit. Suddenly, his gaze caught sight of auburn waves, smooth ivory skin, and that figure no other could ever have. His breath caught and he tried to turn away.
Yet he could not.
It was her. This girl… no. No longer a girl, but a woman. This woman who haunted his every thoughts. She who made his lonely nights miserable. She, although they have never seen each other for years, made her memory seem closer to reality than a mere illusion.
She flipped her hair back and caught sight of him. He stood frozen on the spot.
Not knowing what to do, impulsively, he lifted a hand as a form of greeting. She did the same.
Unable to avoid the inevitable, he urged his legs to move forward.
He watched her wary eyes and stiff posture. She was still beautiful even with that never-failing tilt of her chin. Despite some changes of her appearance, she was still the girl he fell in love with. As he closed the distance that separated them, he drew all courage to his gut and placed on his mask of bravado.
“Hi, Nikki Grace.”
It seemed as if the world stopped turning. Time stopped. No one was in the area. Just the two of them battling the strong urges they’ve kept hidden away all these years.
“Uh, so how are you? Long time no see.” He began.
“I’m fine thanks.” She tilted her head down, watching him with wide eyes, trying to calculate him at the same time. “You?”
“I’ve been better.” He shrugged, as if trying to gain back the smugness he once had.
“Work.” He continued to stare at her, willing her never to go away.
“Mmm…” She heaved a hopeful sigh. “Look, Amiel…” she started to pick up her bags. “I don’t want to play one-word games. So, I better go.” That was when his brain started to work again. In panic, he grabbed her oversized shoulder bag.
Eyes met, and once again they were transported to the time when everything seemed wonderful.
The weather was balmy that day. It seemed strange that for the month of September, the weather seemed Bipolar enough to contest a mental person. Nikki, with her friend Stacy, were leaving the room to catch a breeze from outside.
“Let me carry that for you.” Amiel, the “new guy” came just in time to catch up with the two.
“No na. I can carry my own bag naman.” Nikki tried to shoo him away, and yet deep inside her, she was glad he was there.
“Oh come one, Nikki Grace. We’ve been through this discussion before. And besides, it’s what a suitor does, right?”
“I’ll leave you two alone now.” Stacy said her goodbyes with that knowing glint in her eye. Nikki, despite the protests, felt that it was the perfect time to talk to him.
“Let me accompany you sa lobby habang naghihintay ka sa sundo mo.”
They both walked in comfortable silence, a quick glance here and there, and a small smile gracing their lips.
They arrived at the front steps of the school and Nikki thought “It’s time.”
“Listen, Amiel…” she turned to look at him and she knew she was making a mistake.
“Yes, Nikki Grace?” when she didn’t speak, he asked again. “What’s wrong? You look sad.” She shook her head and took a deep breath for confidence.
“Look Amiel, this has to stop.”
“What? Me carrying your things?” he joked.
“I’m serious, Amiel. Look, you’re a great guy. I’m actually lucky to have met you, but…”
“Nikki, are you asking me to stop courting you?” His brow wrinkled and she felt torn. With a heavy heart, she nodded. Surprisingly, when she looked up, she saw that he was smiling. Though, it did not reach his eyes.
“You’re…. okay with this?”
“To tell you the truth, I’m not. But I understand. Afterall, you are still young. In fact, so am I. But that doesn’t mean I have to stop being your friend, right?”
Nikki was relieved to hear that from his mouth. Her smile came back to her face in full, and her heart could not be filled further with such joy.
“I admire you, Nikki. And because of that, I would like to be your friend. Someday, I hope, that we could be more than what we are right now. But as of now, I’m glad that we could be good friends.” He threw her his most charming smile. Her insides did a mini cartwheel.
“Thank you so much, Amiel. This turned out far better than I imagined.”
“But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop treating you this way, though.”
“What?” Her face scrunched up in confusion.
“You don’t strike me as someone who prefers to be mediocre. And I believe that you should always be treated above the norm. Like a princess, if you will. As you’re friend, and potential suitor…” she threw him a cautious look. “…I hold the responsibility to treat you like a princess. And if I do my best, I could even make you fall in love with me too.” Suddenly, she felt her body stiffen. This was supposed to end.
“Don’t worry, Nikki Grace.” He leaned forward towards her. “I won’t actively court you. But I will never stop pursuing you.”
—————————–end of flashback——————————-
“Would you like to have coffee with me?” The thirty-year old Amiel started to speak in a voice that was too soft to hear.
“What?” he repeated his question. Nikki felt dumbstruck! After all these years of no communication, he really expected her to say yes to this invitation?
“Okay.” He couldn’t believe she just said yes. After regaining his composure, he picked up his bag once more, and took hold of Nikki’s shoulder bag.
“For old time’s sake.” He smiled at her, and she mentally cursed herself for falling for that trick once again.
They found a fairly secluded spot at a nearby coffee shop. Neither spoke, but God knew there were things to be said.
“So…” They both said at the same time followed by the awkward silence.
Amiel coughed and took the opportunity presented.
“So… red huh?” He resisted the urge to take a lock of her hair in his fingers. The way he used to before.
“Mmm… yeah. It’s for a role.” She lifted a bundle to play with.
“Little Mermaid? I saw the posters.” He smiled. He knew it wasn’t a wig.
“Yes. You watched?” Her face lit up. How he hated to disappoint her. He only shook his head. But God knew he wanted to. Several attempts were made. He had once bought a ticket during her last play. But he never had the courage to walk in the theater. He watched as her face dropped.
“I hear you’re the next Lea Salonga.” He didn’t only hear. He was there when the declaration was made live on National Television.
“Oh stop. That wasn’t seriously made. I’m still at the bottom of the ladder.” She tried to hide her blush. But her dyed hair only made her face glow the more. “Uh how about you?” She tried to divert the attention towards him. “Did you ever pursue acting?”
“Oh no. Not me.” He tried to hide the bitterness in his voice. “I took over my family’s business.”
“What’s it about?”
“Stationary supplies. We distribute to major stores and brands.”
“Oh that’s cool.”
Again, the silence loomed over them. Amiel started to fidget in his seat and Nikki started to play with her mug. He racked his brain for something… anything to fill the gap of silence, when finally, Nikki spoke up.
“Why did you do it, Amiel?” Her eyes were downcast. He knew exactly what she was asking.
——————-flashback to fifteen years ago—————–
Nikki said her goodbyes to the person she considered as her “big brother” in school. He was off to the university and she was left in high school. Amiel had hugged her tightly and whispered “I’ll miss you, princess.”
“As if naman we won’t be seeing each other na noh.” Nikki hated goodbyes. Even temporary ones. But she had to put on a strong facade.
“Iba pa rin yung araw-araw kitang nakikita.” This made her smile. She wondered if he still had feelings for her. She surely did for him. But pride and promises ruled out that she was not yet supposed to entertain any suitors.
“We’ll still hang out right? I mean, you can still visit to help out sa teatro if you like.”
They did keep their communication lines open. As much as possible, Amiel continued to call Nikki at night before going off to sleep. It was as if nothing has changed. During sembreak, Amiel invited Nikki to a party.
“Just by yourself?” Richard Lim’s voice boomed as Nikki asked permission.
“You’ve met him dad. He won’t do anything out of line.” Nikki pleaded with her eyes. Richard knew he had succumbed to this.
“But still, Nikki. You’re a girl. And besides, what kind of party is this anyway.”
“I’m sure it’s not a drinking party, daddy. Umaga naman siya. Lunch time. So you don’t have to worry. I promise I’ll be home by six just in time so we can have dinner together.”
“Ayan naman pala, Ricky. Baka may celebration lang. Payagan mo na.” Ricky looked at his wife with loving eyes yet with a surprised expression. Never had she stood beside the children’s choices when she was not certain that they would be alright. Mother’s instincts probably.
“Fine. But you have to call me every hour so I can be sure you are alright. And I’m bringing you there and fetching you as well.”
“Call dad? Text na lang please.” She said with a pout.
“Fine.” He said in obvious defeat.
“Yay! Thankies daddy!” she then leapt up and hugged him.
At the day of the party. She woke up early to prep up. Amiel didnt say what kind of party it was. So she opted for something neutral. She choose a dress and simple accessories: earrings and a hair clip. Precisely 9am, Amiel texted.
“Yeah. Dad’s bringing me there in a while.”
“See you! ;)” Suddenly she felt giddy over that wink.
As they were approaching the clubhouse where the said party was supposed to be, she suddenly felt nervous. Her heart was beating twice its pace and she felt her blood rushing from her face.
“Nikki? We’re here.” Richard looked at her daughter. “What’s wrong Niks?”
Nikki faced her father and shrugged. “Nothing dad. Bye and thank you again. I’ll text you every hour.” She leaned up to kiss his cheek.
Nikki went inside the clubhouse and was surprised to see a variety of ages. She suddenly got confused and wondered if she was in the right venue. She craned her neck to look for Amiel and spotted him. The sight was worth capturing. He, carrying an infant as a few other children surrounded him. A smile unknowingly planted itself on her face. His head lifted and he met her gaze. Slowly he smiled and approached her. Nikki strained to keep all poised and natural as to not melt on the floor.
“Hi.” He greeted her.
“Hi. Yours?” She said nodding to the infant.
“I wish!” He laughed at that. “Meet baby Zoey. My youngest cousin.” He approached and lifted the baby’s hand for Nikki to hold.
“Hi Zoey.” She cooed to the baby. “She’s adorable.” Her eyes lifted and suddenly she was aware of their proximity. Time was at a standstill and electricity was crackling between them.
“Amiel, is this our special guest, Nikki?” A pretty woman approached the two and broke the glass barrier that separated them from everyone else.
“Oh yeah. Ma, this is Nikki. Nikki, my mom, Karen.”
“Hi tita Karen.”
“Hi, welcome dear!” She then surprised Nikki by scooping her up in a tight hug. “Amiel anak, introduce Nikki to everyone okay? Here let me carry little Zoey.”
“Amiel?” Nikki looked up to the one beside her.
“Yes, princess?” The endearment made her giddy.
“This isn’t a party?”
“Of course it is. It’s our family reunion!” He then led her through many tables, placing his hand at the small of her back.
Did he even dare include her in his family?
“So Amiel, magiging parte na ba siya ng ating clan?” Nikki panicked when she was introduced to his uncle. He casually draped an arm over her shoulder. And even though she knew she was supposed to swat it off, she let it linger.
“Naku tito. If only she’d allow me.” She pinched his side which earned those who witnessed a good laugh at his expense.
“You’re so g-r-r talaga!” Even if deep within herself, she would gladly accept the offer.
Throughout that day, Nikki never felt left out. She knew that this was where she really wanted to be. She tried denying it to herself, never even told anyone about it, but she just couldn’t escape the fact that she was truly, overwhelmingly falling in love with Amiel Sebastian.
After lunch, they all gathered around the makeshift stage and Amiel’s aunt announced over the microphone that Amiel would be singing for them a song. Nikki, obviously surprised, looked at him.
“I didn’t know you sing!” She said accusingly.
“Not by free will, Nikki Grace.” He then stood and got a guitar from someone.
“This song is lola’s favorite. So I’m dedicating it for her and lolo. May their souls rest in peace.” He then started to strum an achingly familiar tune.
“It’s a little bit funny… this feeling inside.
I’m not one of those who can easily hide.
I don’t have much money,
But boy if I did.
I’d buy a big house where we both could live…”
Nikki stared at him in awe. He never fails to surprise her. His voice, though not perfect, tugged deep in her soul, and she was lost in the words.
“I hope you don’t mind…
I hope you don’t mind…
That I put down in words…” he then looked straight in Nikki’s eyes.
“How wonderful life is, now you’re in the world.” That’s it. She gave up denying it. She loved him.
Later that afternoon, while Amiel was helping clear out some of the dishes, Nikki was tasked to watch over the sleeping baby Zoey. After a while, Amiel was beside her.
“Getting tired?” He asked; his voice full of concern.
“Not really.” She turned to him. “I love children. Especially babies. They’re so soft and cuddly.”
“You look good like that.” His statement caught her by surprise. “I just wish that was our baby you’re holding.” A blush crept to her cheeks.
“Amiel…” She started to protest.
“Relax, I was only kidding!” Her panic eased but her smile continued to grow. She knew he was only joking. But how she wished she could summon all the powers of the universe to make the pretense true. How she wanted to freeze this moment and make it last for all eternity.
“Thank you for inviting me. I had a great time.”
“Thank you for coming. You made me very happy.” He then came close to kiss baby Zoey’s hand. His face a mere hairsbreadth from hers. Her heart threatened to burst. No one should feel this happy.
“Amiel, nandito na sundo ni Nikki.” One of Amiel’s cousins called out from the entrance.
“Here.” Nikki handed Zoey over to Amiel. Their arms brushed, and Nikki felt a frisson of emotion rush over her system. “Thanks again.” Boldly, Nikki went to her toes and placed a chaste peck on his cheek, leaving Amiel stunned.
—————————–end of flashback——————————-
Amiel looked at Nikki. Guilt and sadness washed over him like a bucket of cold fish. It disgusted him. He was disgusted with himself.
“I have no excuse. I was a jerk.” Nikki looked up, disbelief written across her face.
“Then let me understand, Amiel. I want to understand. You knew how I felt for you. You knew I’d be yours in a heartbeat. Why did you leave me then?” Her sudden outburst made her eyes glimmer with unshed tears. Amiel wanted to hit himself for letting this happening.
“Because I’m a coward.” He finally admitted.
——————-flashback to thirteen years ago—————
Amiel held Nikki’s hand as they strolled out on the lush garden, generously illuminated with soft golden lights. It was Nikki’s senior prom and he was her escort once again. They stopped in front of a wide fountain.
“You look really handsome tonight.” Nikki blushed as she studied his profile in a black tuxedo. He turned to her and lifted her hand to his lips.
“And you are exquisite, my princess.”
They have been like this for some time already. After Amiel’s family reunion, they both knew that they would no longer be just friends.
“I’ll be graduating soon.” She happily informed him, hoping he’d get the hint.
“I know. And I’m so happy for you.”
“And I’ll be in college. Thank God! We’ll be schoolmates!” Still, she waited for his reaction, and yet got none.
“Amiel?” She asked when he was not saying anything. “Are you okay?” Worry etched her face.
“No, it’s nothing, princess. Nothing to worry about.” They were soon talking about nonsense topics and Nikki wanted to scream at him. When they were out of topics to talk about, Nikki took a deep breath.
“Amiel, aren’t you going to court me anymore?” Clearly, he was surprised that she should ask him this.
“Why do you ask, Nikki Grace?” Something was off and she knew it.
“Well… because…” She was starting to blush. Did she have to admit herself to him? Didn’t he know?
“Shhh… Don’t you worry. We’re in no rush.” Oh but she was actually. She wanted to feel how it would be to have a boyfriend. They had acted countless times as if they were a couple, but that’s what it all was… an act.
When he started to lead her back to the ballroom, her heart and mind battled whether or not she should tell him. In the end, all reasoning failed.
“Amiel, I’m in love with you.” She spoke just as they were about to reach the double doors. She felt him squeeze the hand he was holding. She unexpectedly became nervous. Slowly, he turned to her with a small smile. His eyes, painting her with unspoken emotion.
“And I with you.” Her breath caught and she was spinning.
—————————–end of flashback——————————-
“I was afraid of what might happen.” He said in defeat. It was never easy, imagining this moment. And now that it’s happening, Amiel felt terrified.
“Why?” she whispered. “Why would you be afraid?”
“Because I knew that if things didn’t work out between us, we would never go back to what was then.”
“Well, it never worked out either way.” She said bitterly. She was then drawn back to the time when she knew about the terrible truth he had kept away.
——————-flashback to twelve or so years ago—————
“Niks…” Stacy came in the auditorium where Nikki was rehearsing for the school’s annual production.
“Hi Stace! Wait lang ha. I’m just highlighting the rest of my lines.”
“Niks, I have to tell you something.” Dread was in her voice.
“Wait lang Stace. I’m almost done.”
“Amiel has a girlfriend.” Stacy blurted out and watched as Nikki’s hand froze, her eyes looked up, and her breathing hiked up a notch. When she faced Stacy, she was as pale as death.
“I’m sorry Niks.”
“What are you talking about?” Stacy saw how Nikki tried to pull herself up despite the bad news.
“I saw him with another girl sa building nila. I saw them, Niks.” Stacy dreaded doing this. “And they were… intimate.”
“I don’t believe you, Stacy.” She couldn’t stop herself. She had to see, if only to prove that Stacy was wrong. He loves her. He said so himself.
Nikki forced her legs to hold her up when she saw what she saw. He was with another girl. They were with friends in a long table. He sat on the table, her head was on his lap, their hands playing with each other. But what broke her heart the most was when the girl lifted her head and he gazed down on her with that same look he had always shared with Nikki. The one that spoke volumes of his feelings. The one that he made her believe was only for her. As if that wasn’t enough, he worsened the damage by leaning down to kiss her full on the lips. Nikki could only take so much. She ran away from the scene and took a cab home.
The next day, Saturday, Nikki was surprised to see Amiel waiting for her downstairs.
“What are you doing here?” She didn’t move away from the stairs.
“You weren’t returning my calls and messages. I was worried.” The concern he painted on his face only made her anger burn greater.
“Princess…” but she cut him off.
“Don’t you dare ‘princess’ me you jerk!” She hissed.
“What’s the matter?” He said, genuinely confused and worried at the same time.
Nikki took a quick glance around and took the argument outside. That was where the dam burst.
“I know you’re hiding something from me, Amiel Sebastian. So stop your lying and tell me the truth!”
“What are you talking about?” He was genuinely dumbfounded.
“Did you really think that I was stupid enough to not notice?” Her sobs racked her body. “How could you do this to me?!”
“Nikki-“ he tried to hold her but she withdrew her hand away from his reach.
“Tell me, Amiel. Do you, or do you not have a girlfriend?” That surely silenced him. Knowing that there was no escape, he looked at her with a pained expression.
“God! Did you even have to say those two words!?” She wailed. “So what was I? Practice?” She started to wheeze.
“No of course not Nikki. You’re someone I treasure!” He tried to defend himself.
“Niks?! Anong nangayayari dito? Amiel?” Luke, her brother ran outside as soon as he heard the screaming.
“Kuya…” Nikki spoke in between wheezes “…get… Him… out of… here… please…”
That was the last she saw of Amiel. The next day, she dropped all subjects and begged her dad to send her to an arts school abroad. At first, Richard was angry, but after days of seeing Nikki wear the same expression she had when Alex died, he reconsidered.
—————————–end of flashback——————————-
So after years of hiding and avoiding him, here she was casually drinking coffee with him in an airport lounge.
“I know I made a mistake. I know I should’ve pursued you. It was a mistake to have backed away from you and choose another.”
“Too late for that now.”
“Nikki, I know you’re mad. But…”
“Look Amiel, I don’t want to rehash the past. I just want to know why you treated me differently and then set me aside the next day.” Her voice was soft, and he knew she was trying her best not to cry.
“Look, this is not a reasonable explanation, but here I go anyway…”
To be continued…
Amiel’s POV for the next part…
Let me know what you guys think…