Somewhere

 

I could live my life never knowing you exist,

Then I would never miss you.

Life would go on with ease, I’d dream no reckless dreams

Experience no joy in schemes.

– Julia

She opened her eyes and all she could see was sky, all she could breathe was green grass which was soft underneath her. Then his hand moved to her stomach. She could feel his warmth even when cotton cloth and delicate sheer swaths rested between her and his skin.

His fingers traced her face slowly and knowingly, shivers crawled her skin from her face to her arm down to her belly.

His face covered hers, his body enveloping her body. She hears the gentle rustle of his white shirt on her white muslin dress. All was white. And everything else concentrated on her stomach. She didn’t know that the belly could hold such breathtaking sentience.

 

 

A few ringlets of clouds swirl in the sky, which I guess is good because today of all days I wish for a perfect weather.

Happiness for me is constantly feeling lazy. And this is one of those idle days, the sun warm on my cheeks, a butterfly blue sky hovering above me, its wings like a magic wand endlessly granting my wishes.

Mateo, Andres and I are in charge of the sun glare protectors which we are about to buy at the Farmacia Blumentrit this morning. Mateo is the kind of person who people tend to be drawn to. He has the most engaging smile and though he’s more lean than muscles, his strength is obvious for he likes sports as much as any full blooded young man and is captain of his soccer team.

Andres on the other hand is handsome, but too serious. He rarely smiles, but has a good heart.

Mateo drives the Buick with me at the passenger seat and Andres at the back.

“Next year I will get my license and I will be driving dad’s Cadillac,” said Andres Torres seriously.

“That’s great Andres. We can go joyriding with my colehiyala friends. I can introduce you to some of them,” I say.

He scratched his head. “I-I’m not really interested right now.” He says shaking his head, his wavy hair bouncing at the top.

He is three years younger than Mateo who is twenty but a little more mature in the way he behaves. But he worships his older brother Mateo.

Our families have long been friends. I have known them forever since we were kids playing in the vacant lot behind our house.

My mother intimated to me that anyone of the two boys would be a great husband material since they had breeding and old money.

Of course I was aghast when she told me that. I believe in falling in love and not being paired off like cattle. My feelings I kept to myself because I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I tell her my deepest thoughts.

The breeze that hit my face as we travel along Rizal Avenue is sleek, it glides through my skin and flicks my long brown hair which I wear loosely. A scarf is wrapped around my head to keep the locks inside but they still manage to escape, the tendrils licking my lips and ears.

I look at Mateo beside me. Mateo’s hair is slicked with pomade but it keeps falling to his forehead.

He catches me looking at him and he points a forefinger and pokes my cheek.

“Aw!” I say indignantly. I turned eighteen last month. And although I have been trying to act like a lady, Mateo still treats me like a kid.

I growl at him though lightheartedly. I catch his eyes boldly.

“Stop looking at me like that,” he says.

“I wasn’t looking at you. You must be mistaken. I want to learn how to drive. I was watching you drive,” I lied. Try as I may, my voice sounds a little too frenzied.

How can I tell him that I just had a dream about him last night, that he was making love to me in that dream? That he was touching me in all the parts of my body that counts. Just thinking about it makes me warm and tingly inside.

I wish he would look at me the way he looked at me in that dream. The way he whispered my name with his lips close to my ears. The way he said my name as if it was the most important word in the universe.

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Unspoken

I mustered all the dignity I had, walked the runway walk I mastered from Jay of America’s Next Top Model and went to the driver’s side of the car. But halfway across my foot suddenly stopped heeding my brain.

I couldn’t lift my left foot. I looked down and saw my high heeled boot stuck in a chink on the floor. I swayed left and right, my arms like wings flapping helplessly. I quickly extended my hands to reach the pavement and catch my fall. In a sitting position, I tried to pull the trapped heel from the crack on the floor.

At the edge of my consciousness I was aware that the door of the Mercedez opened. A man came out. First I got a glimpse of the half boots stepping out then, long legs in blue jeans. Then I saw him in full splendor.

From my point of view he was towering. He strode to where I squatted, while I feebly worked on my stuck shoe. I heaved a deep breath and pulled. There was a brief tug and then at last, it was free. At that moment of feeling momentary freedom, I became acutely aware of his presence.

My downcast eyes traveled slowly, from the point of his well-polished shoes, passing by well tapered legs, to firm masculine thighs, to his white shirt hugging strong hips.

A portion of his chest was visible from his shirt which was unbuttoned a few inches down. The shape of his body could not be contained in that shirt.

How would it feel to slip my hand inside that shirt, caress that muscled chest and feel it tense at the touch of my fingertips? Oh my God, here I am again. Help me be strong in the face of temptation. I thought to myself. Luckily, he couldn’t read thoughts or so I prayed.

I watched him watch me as I stood up, his eyes hidden beneath dark glasses, but the granite jaw clenched as I drew my full height which was a few inches from his chin.

I looked up at him with a steady gaze.

He took off his sunglasses and a grim face appeared before my unbelieving eyes. It wasn’t the seriousness of the face that unnerved me as much as its familiarity.

The face belonged to Ian Diaz. The one.

What would you do if you saw this guy from the past, a guy you loved so much you found it hard to love again?

And that’s not all. I did something that only I knew. It was a secret I carried for a time. The shame lasted for a while but I moved on. Till now.

How should I introduce myself? Hi, I wrecked your life ten years ago? Remember me?

My teen life flashed before my eyes. I must have been staring because he looked impatient.

“I’m so sorry.” I rattled a good deal of apologies which sounded like my voice was coming out of my nose. “I never saw it coming. The other car just stopped without warning. I- ahh- I was…”

He had a knot on his forehead. Other than plain irritation, he did not seem to recognize me, so I pretended not to know him either.

He was shaking his head as he looked at both cars. I took his cue and pretended to inspect the damage. He was too close for comfort, his body heat dispersing like heat molecules wrapping themselves around me.

“There’s really nothing we can do. You were very near that car. Next time widen the gap so you won’t have this mess again,” he said and turned a bit to his right.  It was too late when I realized I had moved too close to him. His face was almost touching mine, I smelled his minty breath and fresh grass smelling cologne. Our eyes met, and for an instant my heartbeat faltered. His lips were so close to mine we were almost touching.

If my skin were touching his I would have understood it. But we weren’t touching. Still his proximity sent shockwaves to my hair roots, electrifying my body. It couldn’t be happening again.

His face changed expression for a nanosecond. But I processed in my mind that he was blaming me by his tone. The nerve to preach to me. Who did he think he was?

“Excuse me, maybe you should have widened your space.”  I looked straight at him. Nothing. He had that curious look but it passed. Clearly he did not spend ten years thinking about me. There was no recognition whatsoever in his eyes. I felt like a fool.

I gave him my calling card and we exchanged insurance information. I walked back to my car as soon as we were done.

“Come on, Becca. We really have to get going,” I told Becca who was leaning on my car. I wanted to get as far away as possible. He would realize soon enough. But first I had to recover from the shock of this situation.

Then Becca recognized him. “Wait a minute, isn’t he-” before she could say anything else I pulled her to the side and schussed her to silence.

The police officer came and it took us an hour to file a report. Becca had to go back to her office so we didn’t have time for the Miss Saigon matinee anymore.

I was in deep thought because the man in the Mercedes was the man who broke my heart. Ian Diaz. His finely chiseled jaw was more pronounced now, slight stubble carelessly left unshaven. His eyes were more mature, his manner derisive, as if the world owed him an explanation.

He didn’t even recognize me.

Novellette: Boracay Sizzles

Tanya went in. She heard the door to her right open.

His shadow loomed at the doorway, his eyes dark and foreboding. Light and shadow played on his naked upper body from shredded sunshine coming from the slatted windows. She remembered how once she trembled at the beginnings of desire when she was young. And now, he looked like a god descended from the gates of heaven. She reluctantly dismissed these thoughts.

I can handle this. It’s not like I’m still twelve. I’m not a virgin anymore. Haha. That’s a funny thought. I will not let him think that I have thought about him and that kiss. My first. His first.

 

“Tanya.” Julio’s voice was more a statement than a question, his tone having an intense deep shade which made something inside her quiver. His voice was low with a slight growl.

He knew her. He knew her and his voice did not deny it. Did she sense a longing, a craving? Oh she wished in her heart her imagination was not running away with her in tow. She saw how his eyes swept over her. His demeanor did not change with what he saw but his green-brown eyes grew wider with desire.

She had an absurd need to escape at the moment his huge frame blocked the door.

One look at his rugged face one can see so much experience. Tall- maybe six feet- and more- his sunbleached brown hair was blown by the sea breeze. His eyes were dark and long lashed because of the Mediterranean blood, she remembered.  These eyes looked older beyond his thirty four years.

He knew her. Questions teased in her mind. He knew her before, somewhere between obsession and awakened desire. And how?

But now, did he even let his imagination run riot at the ripeness and readiness of her body?

Tanya felt memories spin in and around her, she felt like sea glass lost in the sea.

 

“Are you the one I’m looking for?” She asked. She wanted to keep her voice on an even tone but somehow she felt it tremble. Casting her eyes on the water she saw the speedboat anchored at the side of the rocks.

“Well, depends on what you want.” His voice was a drawl. It was hard to read his mind. He looked cool and collected. Unlike her whose mind was wretched. But of course she kept an air of defiance. She’s not going to buckle just because he looked like Achilles.

He didn’t take his eyes off her. She met his gaze head on. From out of the blue he smiled.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

He cocked his head on the side, still with a playful grin on his face. “You look like you’re preparing to be eaten,” he said.

She blushed to her hair roots. She wondered if he can read her mind. Was she really that transparent? He obviously thought that he can intimidate her. She tried erasing the image that that declaration conjured for her. She kept her stern look and tried to sound professional.

“A real estate agent told me there’s a property for sale here. But this is Cutty’s Cliff. I’m looking for Ari’s Point.”

“You’re in the right place. Sit?” he pointed to a white wicker chair. She shook her head. She didn’t want to be too relaxed around him.

“So you own this place now?”

“Yes,” he said. He sat at a high stool near the bar. She got a glimpse of his muscled thighs.

“Why are you selling it?”

“My wife died. She was the one who liked keeping it. I would have sold it a long time ago.”

She felt a pinprick inside her chest. She gazed quickly at the sea, trying to distract herself. “So you got married.”

“Yes. Two years ago,” he said. He rose and walked to the bar. “How about a drink? Coffee? “ He poured himself a brandy. She noticed he was drinking early.

“I just had coffee,” she said. She sat down across from him. The light from the window was misty because of the clouds that gathered at the horizon. It landed on one side of his face, lighting that side, showing a square jaw that clenched every now and then. Aside from the scars at the back of his thighs, there was no visible mark on his person. But somehow she felt the inner turmoil on his face.

She couldn’t help but drink in the sight of him. His brown skin covering the sinewy muscles that she suddenly had the urge to touch.

 

“I am not selling this to a person who doesn’t know anything about the history of this place.”

“How can you say that? Have you forgotten? I grew up here. This is my home.”

“But you gave it all up.” Tanya became afraid at the severity in his voice. “You should have never come back. There’s nothing for you in this place.

 

Tanya went to the open window. “I wanted to come back…” she stopped.

“I’m talking about somebody who can love this place. I’m sorry, I’m afraid you’ve just wasted your time.”

“Oh, so that’s it. You wanna up the price. Name your price.”

“You don’t get it do you? You don’t belong here. You don’t understand how it works. And you don’t have the kind of money I’m asking.”

Confused, Tanya instinctively backed away. “Why are we fighting? How hard can it be? Anyway there are people I can pay who can do that for me. I’m a business woman. I know how it works.”

“Yes. You do. You know how to make money. You people think that that’s what we need here. Well this place is not the stock exchange.”

“If you sell to me it’s a win-win situation. You get your money I get what I want”

“It’s always about what you want.”

He covered the meager space between them with a stride and grabbed her waist, encircling his long substantial arms around her tiny waist. He coaxed her lips but they parted without too much effort. The taste of his lips made her think of wild honey.

When he released her she felt ashamed for having succumbed easily to his seduction. She wiped her mouth as if to show displeasure. “Is that what it takes to get this place?”

His face was ashen. He went to another room and stayed for a minute. Tanya felt uncomfortable. She was totally unnerved with his taking liberties. But she couldn’t resist him.

When he came back, he said, “You can have this place if you are willing to be my partner. If not, save your breath because you can’t have it.”

“Me, your partner? Your imagination is surely way among the clouds. This isn’t some game, a telenovela where you can manipulate people.”

“What’s so bad about that? You think you’re so high and mighty? I think you just made it clear just a moment ago how you despise me,” he said the word despise with smugness. She couldn’t answer. Her response to his kiss was too much of a giveaway. She melted at the mere thought of his arms around her.

He took the glass of brandy and drank all of the contents.  “If you hadn’t noticed, I also get what I want.“

 

Novel: Romancing Stone

She calls it serendipity. Collette keeps meeting Stone in unexpected settings, catching her unaware. He challenged her to date him for a month to forget the man who left her once and for all. Just heartbroken and starting a new job, can she handle it? Can she handle the strong animal instinct that Stone aroused in her? Can she resist the nerve-wracking attraction she has for him?

Novellette: The Summer You said Hello

Edward and Camille have been best friends since elementary. Edward has a secret crush on her. After graduating from college, they lost touch. They meet again by chance one afternoon.

Now a DJ on the radio, Edward seems a bit aloof. But seeing him again, Camille is sure of one thing- she is in love with him.

Camille calls him at the radio station using a different name. But Edward knows her voice, as clear as a silver morning.

 

Beyond Romance Class

 Passion unleashed, fully fledged authors spread their wings and begin their journey beyond the romance class and into the unknown.

Erica Jong said, “ We all have talent, what is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads. “ 

The #romanceclass or Yes, I’m Writing a Contemporary Romance Novella group is having its first anniversary bash on February 8,2014 , coinciding with the launch of a group effort called Luna East Academy, an anthology of short stories for the younger set or what is called young adults . The party will be held at the Ayala Museum lobby.

What does it take to write a romance novel? If this is a question that lingers in your mind, there’s a word that can answer it. Passion. Not interest, not pastime, but something stronger to the point of obsession.

Writing is a very private endeavor. But if you are planning to publish, it’s best to find a group like #romanceclass for support and group effort on marketing strategy. Yes, marketing. Unlike traditional publishing where you just submit your manuscript to an editor of a traditional publishing company and then wait to be accepted (or rejected whatever the case). They market your book and print it and distribute it to bookstores. In indie publishing, you market your own work.

In indie or independent publishing, you write the book, create your cover, upload it on an online platform like Smashwords (who in turn distribute it to Kobo,Sony, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Amazon, etc.) where readers buy it and download it on their computers, tablets, cell phones and other devices. You can also opt to have it printed which is more expensive to do.

The #romanceclass mentored by bestselling romance novelist Mina V. Esguerra has accomplished a successful project which has spawned other projects, which as of this time are under wraps. But to be sure, they’re getting hotter by the minute. Knowingly or unknowingly, Ms. Esguerra not only set off an industry but a sisterhood of the literary kind.

 More than fifteen people were able to finish their novels, and ten have so far published online and in print.  The writers do the work themselves like finding editors, printers (if they want it in printed book form), and marketing it through social media, television and newspapers. The question remains, who decides who goes or stays? Not the traditional publishers anymore, but the readers themselves.

To quote Mark Coker, Ceo and Founder of Smashwords, the best books market themselves on the wing of word of mouth. Write a good book, give it great editing, great cover, and a fair price and then get to work on the next book.

This new breed of independent romance writers hugging the Philippine literary scene are here to stay. There is a void inside Filipino readers’ hearts and bookshelves. And I personally believe, like what Ms. Jong  said, where there is emptiness, there is fullness somewhere.

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Discover a Book by its Cover

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My inspiration for my book cover is the selfie which is what Georgina uses as HER inspiration. The backdrop is Paris, a place that has been considered the center of gravity for artists, poets and writers. Since the book centers on the changing life of a yuppie, I put greater emphasis on her face…They say that a face can launch a thousand ships…

Reading a Book is a Walk in the Park

One of my friends said that books are passé. Now that computers have virtually dominated our milieu, books will become a relic of the past according to her. I begged to disagree with her. I tried reading on the computer for a few hours and I got an eye strain. Well, assuming that iPads and Kindle have gone viral and infected just about everybody in cyberspace, books still have the greatest impact on some of the most celebrated leaders of our time.
I’m not exactly a techie, but I have moves of my own when it comes to the keyboards. And I love my computer. But it doesn’t give me the relaxation that a good book can.
Alas! With all the techno craze going on in the virtual sphere, our children are all spaced out. And they are actually enjoying the time of their lives.
But why books? Are we not now in the future as what Isaac Asimov predicted?
A book is like a walk in the park. It gives you time to reflect without the temptations of facebook, google, messages, or whatever. It’s the grass under your feet, the clouds floating idly by.
Here are some courses of action you can do to save your child from the clutches of his cyber attachment and lead him to discover the beauty of the pages.
1. Be sneaky. Buy the latest craze in the market like the Hunger Games or the Harry Potter series. Make sure the books lie around where the kids can find it. Read some fascinating parts or mystery and tell them about it during dinner. Use the cool words in the book like quidditch or something unpronounceable and have a fun time tongue twisting. Talk about the characters like Katniss and Peeta.
2. Create a game where in the children have to guess the characters in a book. It can also be a story game. This will stimulate interest in the characters. What magical powers do they have? Who is Harry Potter’s love interest? Where is Panem? What do you mean by “hunger games”?
3. Go to the bookstore with the kids and browse. It’s free to browse. The smell of the pages, the illustrations, the touch of the book jacket, they all come together as an experience in itself. The library was a magic kingdom to me when I was small.
4. Buy books that have familiar characters like Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys. Tell them that the movies were actually made based on the novels not the other way around.
5. When you go to the beach, have a picnic or travel to another country, buy a book in that place. Make the book a part of your travel.
6. Always scout for great buys in second hand stores. I found most of my classics in bargain bins.
7. Make them choose whatever topic they like. I have hundreds of classics in my shelves but my kids prefer Libba Bray and J.K. Rowling.
8. Be firm when it comes to playing computer games. Put a password in the computer.
9. Tell them reading is cool. It makes one a more interesting person.
10. Read. Perhaps that is the best way to do it. When a child sees you reading, he will be curious. Make this curiosity work for you by taking him into your world.
11. And when you take a walk in the park, don’t forget to carry one. It’s the one friend that will always be there.

Published in the Manila Bulletin.Image