Chapter 23 : Who knows him best

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Pumapailanglang ang isang malamyos na musika habang kabadong naghihintay si Grey kay Noreen. He was wearing a nice suit. There were stars and the full moon in the sky. Maganda ang bihis ng hardin ng unibersidad kung saan sila nagtapos ng kolehiyo. Inarkila niya para sa gabing ito. May mesang nakahanda sa gitna ng gazebo para sa dinner. May maliliit at mababangong kandila sa pathway kung saan maglalakad ang babae. May arko ng bulaklak. May malalamlam na ilaw. May mga musikero na tumutugtog gamit ang violin at piano.

Higit sa lahat, may singsing sa bulsa ng coat na suot niya.

"Grey..?" mahina ang boses ni Noreen nang tawagin ang pangalan niya.

Nilingon niya ang babaeng bagong dating. She looked delicate and angelic in her pink dress and flat shoes. Malaki ang mata nito sa pagtatanong habang lumilinga sa paligid at bumabalik ang tingin sa kanya.

He was nervous. He was mesmerized. He was in love.

"What's this, Gregory? Ang sabi mo, magkita lang tayo... " mahina ang boses ni Noreen nang makalapit sa kanya.

"Yes. I did tell you to meet me here. Do you know why here?" tanong niyang hindi matanggal ang mga mata rito.

Pinid ang mapupulang labi nito. Alam niyang alam nito kung bakit doon siya nakikipagkita at kung para saan ang lahat ng nakikita nito. Noreen knows everything about him–about them. They both know she has a better memory when it comes to events, dates, and places.

"It's because this was where I realized that I'm in love with my best friend. And this garden was where you told me that you're in love with me, too."

Napalunok ito at nagsimulang magkaroon ng bakas ng luha sa mga mata. Napatango-tango ito. Of course, she remembers.

"You're with me all my life. Through all the ups and downs. During the most painful. During the happiest. There were a lot of things that I couldn't have handled right if you weren't with me. We are each other's fan and confidante. You know me best. So tonight, in this very same garden where we fell in love, I wanted to ask you..." kinapa niya ang kahon ng singsing na nasa coat pocket, inilabas, at binuksan.

Kumikinang ang bato ng singsing sa loob niyon. Bakas ang kaligayahan sa mukha ni Noreen nang makita iyon. Pero dagling napalitan ang saya ng ibang damdamin nang mapatingin ito sa kanya.

Something was wrong yet he asked her the question anyway.

"Noreen, will you be my wife?"

Lumunok ang babae. Ilang ulit itong tumingin sa singsing, sa kanya, at sa kalangitan na para bang naroon ang isasagot nito.

"Gregory... As much as I wanted to be your wife... I can't."

Hindi siya nakaimik. Anumang paghahanap niya ng mas mahabang kasagutan sa mga mata ni Noreen ay wala siyang mabasa. It's too absurd for her to decline. They both know that they should be together.

"Why?"

"I'm sorry, Grey. I cannot tell you now."

Tumalikod ang babae at patakbong umalis.

What was it that he saw in her face that night? What was it that made her refuse him? Fear? Worry? Doubt? Hanggang ngayon ay hindi niya alam.

Isang linggo matapos ang proposal, nalaman niyang aalis si Noreen patungo sa Paris. Inabangan niya ito sa airport na dala ang singsing. Her almost swollen eyes and her hunched shoulders told him that she had been crying, too. Before she boarded, he gave her the ring saying,"When you come back, I want you wearing this ring."

The Late Bloomer (Published under PSICOM)Tahanan ng mga kuwento. Tumuklas ngayon