Chapter 5

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As it turned out, Sweet Reds had already been closed for an hour before we got there. From his car, Nico and I stared at the dim storefront, his dismay so palpable that even I felt disappointed. He peered at the store with his chin on the steering wheel, as if staring at it could make it magically open again.

"Well, that's too bad," Nico said for the third time that night.

"I'm sorry."

He glanced at me, messy hair falling into his eyes as he turned his head. He brushed his hair back and shrugged. "Hey, it's okay. Not your fault."

"I know. I just feel like I should say sorry. It seems like you really wanted to get here."

"Well...yeah." He looked at the store again and sighed.

"Is it for the lemon squares?"

"No. I was supposed to get their revel bars."

I shook my head. "My best friend's co-worker makes way better revel bars. Sweet Reds' lemon squares are fantastic, though."

"It's a good thing I didn't catch them today, then. I'll go back for the lemon squares next time."

"Better get here earlier."

"Yes, definitely." He threw one last look at the store before starting the car. "I'm sorry for wasting your time. I'll drop you off now. Point the way?"

His phone rang before we even moved. I recognized the tone immediately because it was a song from this British boy band that even the kids in Iloilo really loved, and because Nico's phone would play the tone at exactly four-fifteen every afternoon. He hesitated, so I told him I didn't mind waiting a little more so he could take the call. He nodded gratefully.

I pulled my phone out of my bag to keep myself busy. There was a message from Rain about Mark's birthday party the next day, and another from April asking if I was home yet. As I replied, I heard Nico speaking to someone in another dialect. It took me a while to realize that I understood what he was saying—well, part of it, anyway—because it was in Ilonggo, which I had learned during my stay there.

I tried my best not to eavesdrop as I fiddled with my phone, but bits and pieces of the conversation pierced my concentration. He was apologizing for not getting the revel bars, and he promised to make it up next week. He asked what was for dinner, and then said he's not sure how long his travel time back home will be because of the traffic. Then he fell silent, and for a moment, I was afraid he caught me eavesdropping. Then he laughed softly. It sounded affectionate, like he was talking to his girlfriend. Then again, Ilonggos always sounded like that.

"Pangga," he said after he finished laughing, and that confirmed my theory. Pangga, the Ilonggo term for someone you love.

Of course Nicolas Tamayo had a girlfriend. Someone as hot as him would have one.

Did I just call him "hot" in my mind?

My cheeks burned, and I tried to focus my phone, afraid that he would see my face and somehow discover what I was thinking. I was still mindlessly clicking through my phone when he cleared his throat. He looked at me expectantly, his eyes wide in the dim car.

"I know I promised to bring you home already, but can I ask for one more favor? Where's the closest drive-thru place here?"

"You mean fast food?"

He shrugged. "It's a long drive home and my last meal was hours ago, and they didn't save dinner for me."

There were a number of restaurants that he would pass by on his way home, I wanted to point out, but I decided not to. I still wasn't looking forward to going home, so I pointed him to the fast food branch I knew. After asking if I wanted anything, to which I declined, he ordered a burger meal with extra-large fries. He must have been really hungry because as soon as he got the food, he found a parking spot, took out the red carton of fries, and started eating as he tried to make it fit the cup dispenser.

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