I watched him, my nose wrinkling involuntarily. Potatoes weren't my favorite kind of starch. I would eat it if I had no other choice, but I dislike how it becomes junk with how it's cooked. So fries—especially fast food fries—were one of the things I avoided, especially after watching a documentary about how they were made. Give me my cheese pizza instead, please.
He saw my expression. "Do you want some?"
I made a face. "Ugh. Do you know what's in those?"
"Treated with pesticides and chemicals. Not to mention hydrogenated oils, antifoaming agents, artificial colors, preservatives..." I rattled off, counting them off one by one with my fingers. "And it's deep fried, which means there's so much fat, not to mention all the salt in there. Eat that every day and your heart just might burst from high blood pressure, and the fries will still be in your gut."
He looked at the fries, then back at me, and slowly smirked. "Let me guess. You read that in those pseudo-health articles online, didn't you?"
I did see it first from those articles posted online, but I researched it afterward. I wanted to reach out and wipe that smirk off his face, but I crossed my arms and glared at him instead.
"Okay, then. Suit yourself." He finally made the carton fit, and picked up several pieces to stuff in his mouth. "These are really good, though, like it just came from high-fat oil."
He didn't see me roll my eyes at him as he eased out of the parking spot.
"So where is home?" he asked.
His eyes widened. "You walk from the HQ all the way to Alabang? How do you do that? Do you have superpowers or something?"
Uncontrollable laughter burst from my mouth. It was the kind that made my stomach hurt and brought tears to my eyes, something I hadn't done in a long time. It took a while before I managed to control my laughter.
"No, no," I said, after I had caught my breath. "Sorry. I rent an apartment near the HQ during weekdays. My parents live in Alabang."
"So I wasn't seeing things then. I wanted to say hi but I wasn't sure it was you, and then you left."
I decided not to explain that I was actually running away from him. We stopped at an intersection and I pointed to the right.
"I can drop you off at Alabang tonight if you want, too," he said after a beat.
That was nice of him. "Thanks, but I'm going somewhere tomorrow."
I shook my head. "I think I might have hit the quota for field work after my mission." Nico raised his eyebrows at me, and I added, "Not that there's a quota, but April's intent on letting me rest. Catch up on sleep and all, but..."
"...sleep is for the weak," we finished at the same time. We exchanged looks and laughed.
"So why don't you join the party tomorrow? I don't think April can do anything if you just show up."
"I'm going to a surprise brunch tomorrow. It's my friend's birthday."
"Then catch up. We have another party in the afternoon."
"I swear I'd really love to do that, but I have to go home after," I said. "My mom would throw a fit if I don't. She's been on my case because I'm not home enough." I snapped my mouth shut, surprised that I had shared that. I barely knew him.
"Well, I'm not surprised," Nico said, glancing at me. "I mean, parents always want to see their children, even if they're technically not kids anymore. If my Mom had her way, I'd be home every weekend, too."
"No, the rest of my immediate family is in Iloilo City. I'm staying with my aunt here."
"Oh yeah, that was in Sir Tony's announcement. The Iloilo part, I mean, not your aunt."
"They told me you were there in a mission trip, when I was hired," he said.
"So you slept on my desk."
Our eyes met, and his grin widened. "Which prompted you to look for me online."
My cheeks burned as I remembered that morning. "Ugh, this is so embarrassing. I didn't mean to do that. Or bring it up. I'm sorry—"
"Faith," he interrupted. The way he said my name made it sound different somehow and there was laughter in his eyes. "It's okay. I deserved that. But just so you know, I don't usually plan on making pretty girls mad at me the first time I met them. It's not something I want to turn into a habit."
It took me a moment to realize that he had called me pretty. Warmth unfurled from the middle of my chest, and I bit my bottom lip, flattered.
"So you go home to Alabang every day?" I asked, changing the subject. "Why don't you just rent a place near the office so you won't have to?"
"I thought about that, but I can't," he replied. We reached another stoplight, and he took that time to eat some more fries. "Free lodging and all. And I don't want to, actually. I go against the rush hour on my way home, so the daily drive's not so bad. Most of the time."
"Are you serious about that? Have you ever been in Manila when it's payday and it's raining?"
"I have, and it was crazy. It took me six hours to get home," Nico admitted. The light turned green and I pointed to the right. "But I like living there. It reminds me a bit of home. Once you get past the crazy expressway traffic, it's a pretty good place."
Well he was right about that. The south was quieter than being in the heart of the Metro. But the traffic was the deal breaker. The travel time and the stress of driving just weren't worth it for me. Renting an apartment was one of the best and cheaper decisions I made, together with my career shift. And my place wasn't just close to the HQ but also to my friends' houses and James' office. I couldn't imagine being on the road for six hours—that was already the equivalent to a round trip drive to James' grandparents' house in Lucena. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
"We're here," I said, pointing to the apartment complex at the right. Nico eased into the driveway and stopped the car before turning to me.
"Thanks for accompanying me, Faith. I really appreciate it," he said. I was seriously questioning my first impression of him as a sullen guy, because he hardly looked like that now.
"You're welcome," I replied. "Thanks for dropping me off. Can you find your way home from here?"
Nico nodded. "Yeah, I think so."
"If you get lost, call me."
"Okay, thanks." He held his phone out to me. "But I don't have your number."
"There." I handed him back his phone after I had entered my number and called myself so I could save his number as well. "I will probably give sucky directions, but I will try my best."
"Thanks." Nico paused. "So...I'll see you on Monday?"
"Yeah, see you."
"You sure you don't want fries?" He shook the half-empty container at me with a grin.
I made a face again. "No, thank you. I don't want anything clogging my arteries tonight."
He laughed then tossed some fries into his mouth. "Okay, more for me."
I climbed out of the car, closed the door gently, and started walking to the apartment. Then I thought of something, turned around, and walked back to the car, which was still idling in the driveway. Nico rolled the window down and gave me a curious look.
I smiled. "Halong sa pag-drive, Nico."
Nico's lips quirked, and his dimples said hello again. "Good night, French Fries."
YOU ARE READING
Keep the Faith (Preview)Romance
As a community development worker, Faith was quite familiar with heartbreak and recovery after all the time she spent on disaster relief missions. So when her five-year relationship ends right before she left for a mission trip to a typhoon-stricken...