Love is never easy, but the journey to that happily ever after is what makes it worth it. Witness the struggles of these characters as they work their way through both new romances and second chances at love in this four-story bundle. Features “I Still…” by Beth G., “Sigh No More” by Carla de Guzman, “Velvet Valentine” by Giselle Bacalla, and “One Sweet November Day” by Amae Dechavez.
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Click the Read More link for the excerpts. My reviews for Sigh No More by Carla de Guzman and One Sweet November Day by Amae Dechavez, as well asstory blurbs and author follow links are found HERE.
EXCERPT from I Still…
I SHOULD not have agreed with Greg.
I discreetly looked out of the glass window. The evening lights were blaring on the street and people were busy going in and out of bars, though I could not see any establishment in this area that screamed BAR. It’s Friday night, and instead of celebrating the end of a spectacularly tiring week, I was trapped in one of the tables for two of this seemingly high-end restaurant called Sernin’s, trying to hide my boredom. I haven’t been here, and I have never heard of this until now, and I was somehow grateful that I did. The food was superb and the ambience was great. Sitting across me was Carl. I just met him a few hours ago, and as much as I wanted to give him a chance to prove himself better, I was starting to regret agreeing into this whole idea of blind dating all together.
Earlier, I agreed to go out with Greg and Margot, two of my friends from Shön, the women’s magazine where I worked. But when I learned that Alex was also coming with them, I backed out.
“And why?” Greg asked sternly.
“I don’t want Alex pestering me the whole night,” I admitted.
“But Margot and I are planning to set you up with him!” he exclaimed.
“The more I shouldn’t come then,” I shrugged.
Then Greg went in front of my desk, put his arms across his chest and gave me The Look. The one he always gave me whenever he thought I was acting dumb or playing stupid. The one of the many things about him that made him so gay.
“You know, Jamee, why don’t you just go out with him and be done with it?”
I exhaled. I could not believe we were discussing The Reasons Why I Don’t Want to Go Out with Alex all over again. “Because number one, he’s not my type. Number two, he creeps me out. Number three, all the ladies here want him, and I don’t want to be in the way of their fantasies.”
“Is that so?” Greg sounded unsure, just like he always did whenever we talked about the subject. It was as if he never believed everything I said.
Well, it’s true. Alex had been asking me out, and I had been saying no. Sure, he’s the tall, dark and handsome type of guy that every lady in the office craved for his attention. Lean and muscular, like he could be one of those nude statues in Rome. It’s not that I was all into physical looks or anything. But like I said, he’s not my type. Or maybe it’s his muscles that crept me out.
“Yes,” I said firmly.
EXCERPT from Sigh No More
Carla de Guzman
Right. Morning outfit selfie. Here we go.
I really looked awful in the morning, all messy hair and puffy eyes. That last beer really was a mistake. I adjusted the angle of my phone slightly, before I gave the camera my brightest, still-slightly-sleepy smile. I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to wear today (horror of horrors) and I ended up with my loose, ripped drawstring jeans, my favorite chunky sandals and a loose white shirt. It was going to be another hot day in DC, so a pair of plastic cat eye glasses went with the outfit. I put my hair up in its usual half-topknot and grabbed Claudia’s peach lip tint to swipe over my lips. I looked into my vintage full length mirror and snapped the photo.
“Beatrice Noble: Up and ready by 10 am and I’m already working,” I typed out on the phone’s notes. “Had a back and forth conversation with our printer regarding our new greeting card line while in bed, now heading off to meet with Claudia at Petit Jolie.”
That sounded good, didn’t it? I frowned little at myself in the mirror. I widened my eyes until I looked crazy and puffed out my cheeks. Gaze into the eyes of an underpaid, overworked, under-slept self-starter!
Claudia Crowne and I quit our jobs two years ago to start our baby, the Noble Crowne Paper Company. We started out with small jobs, making invites for relatives’ weddings, postcards and notepads. Then the next thing I knew, my life turned into a whirlwind of printers and paints, clients and meetings. Suddenly my social media posts were more important than times in and out, my 9 to 5 had turned into 24/7, and the voice in my head telling my that there was something inherently wrong with doing what I loved had finally dulled into a whisper.
Was it scary? It was still, in a lot of ways. Sometimes I think that it’s all been a fluke, or a dream of some kind, but then I check my ratty old filofax and the list of things I have to do just make me feel happy. It’s so weird.
One of the lifestyle blogs Claudia and I religiously followed finally responded to Claudia’s emails and asked for a ‘day in the life’ article from the girls of Noble Crowne. It was a big deal for us, and both Claudia and I were determined not to screw it up.
Which was why, when I arrived at Petit Jolie, I wasn’t at all surprised to see that Claudia was wearing a short, sleeveless tunic printed with orange roses, mums and little red flowers that I used to pick from bushes as a child. Claudia made that dress from a pattern I gave her when I was first starting to paint. Now almost every piece that we produced in our little stationery company featured my hand painted flowers.
“You couldn’t be just a bit more subtle?” I teased, kissing my best friend’s cheek as we sat on our usual table of the corner cafe. Claudia and I lived within walking distance of each other on Kings’ Street in Old Town, Alexandria, a little neighbourhood in Virginia that still had wrought iron street lamps, twinkle lights on the main street, small Victorian buildings, shops and boutiques just by the Potomac River. I loved our neighbourhood. It was so pretty and quaint, despite being a stone’s throw away from Washington DC. Petit Jolie was a small boulangerie in the middle of an American street and smack dab in the middle of the town. It was also where the idea for Noble Crowne was born.
EXCERPT from Velvet Valentine
Do you still remember your childhood?
While you were a kid filled with curiosity about the world.
If you do, then everything new always made you feel like your heart was going to leap out of your chest.
Most of us thought that it was only temporary.
The excitement dies down as we grow tired of the feeling.
While our Parents would tell us that we should always calm down and wait, we would still find ourselves expecting for surprises.
It was also the same feeling for me, I guess.
When you started your first day of pre-school, where our parents held our hands tight as the moment sinks into them that their child is finally growing up.
It is in this moment we experience change.
Often times, children in these stages would drive themselves crazy of excitement while others feared the uncertain detachment of the normality that they grew accustomed at home.
Where meeting new people seemed like such a scary thing.
In these moments we find ourselves looking for support from our family, as they root for our success.
In these moments we are told that there is nothing to be afraid in going to school and that they are there for us when we fail. Even then we still feel that sense of uncertainty and because being young was all we were.
Our imaginations ran wildly and imagine the worst case scenarios and it is in these exact moments in our lives that define us without even knowing that it could be the very definition on how we can handle ourselves as we grow.
Unfortunately, not many of us had the same experience to hold dear in our hearts.
In this story told in a million ways possible through a series of different versions of your inner self. Travel back with me in time, as we remember our younger years together as youthful kids growing up into our ideal selves.
EXCERPT from One Sweet November Day
Hindi mapakali si Ethan sa klase niya. Sino ba naman ang hindi mapapa-sabi ng ‘mahal kita’ sa taong gustong-gusto mo na uling makita? Dapat nga noon ko pa nasabi ‘yon sa kaniya no’ng bakasyon sa Pila.
Pinanood niya saglit ang kanilang propesor na tutok sa pagsusulat sa pisara ng course syllabus nila.
‘So, ang ibig sabihin nito, may girlfriend na ‘ko…’ muni-muni ni Ethan. “YES!” Napalakas ang sabi niya ng ‘yes’ at nagtinginan ang lahat sa kaniya sa klase.
Tinignan siya ng masama ng propesyor at buti na lang at unang araw pa lamang ng klase kaya’t ini-dismiss pa rin sila, pati siya—nang maaga.
“Warning ha, Mr. Crisologo,” sita ng propesor niya.
Habang nasa koridor papunta sa kasunod niyang klase ay ini-text ni Ethan si Maylie, tinatanong kung anong oras ang bakante nito.
“Lunch break ko ng 11 am. Pero 30 minutes lang ang break ko,” text back sa kaniya ni Maylie.
“Eh hanggang anong oras ang trabaho mo sa library?” text muli ni Ethan.
“11.30 pa ang vacant ko pero wala na rin akong klase ng 2.30 pm to 4. Susunduin kita mamaya d’yan sa library. :-D” text ni Ethan.
Excited na lumakad si Ethan patungo sa silid ng susunod niyang klase.
Hindi nagkakalayo ang gusali ng Humanities College of Arts and Sciences at ang Main Library kaya nang i-dismiss nang maaga ang klase ni Ethan sa Hum. ay agad siyang tumungo sa library.
Gaya ng inaasahan ay halos wala pang mga estudyante sa library sa unang araw ng school year. Ngunit gatambak at gabundok ang mga libro at babasahing kailangan isaayos ng mga empleyada at student assistants sa library.
Napatingin si Maylie sa may pasukan ng library dahil napansin niyang may isang lalaking huminto nang nakatayo roon, pinagmamasdan siya nang maigi.
“Shhh…” puna kay Maylie ng kasamahang estudyanteng empleyada.
Tumayo si Maylie sa kinauupuan at iniwan muna saglit ang pagsasaayos ng mga aklat base sa laki at paksa. Bago pa sila makita ng assistant head librarian ay hinila na niya si Ethan sa pagitan ng mga istante sa likuran ng silid-aklatan.
“Anong ginagawa mo dito?”
“Maaga kaming dinismis.”
“Eh bakit ka pumunta dito?”
“Eh namimiss na kita eh,” ngiti ni Ethan.
Pinigil ni Maylie ang puso niya. ‘Sana hindi ako namumula…’
“Ethan, may trabaho pa ‘ko. 11 pa ang break time ko.”
“Hindi naman ako magtatagal, gusto lang kitang makita.”
Habang patagal nang patagal, pahirap nang pahirap ata ang pagpipigil ni Maylie ng kilig at ngiti niya sa kakaibang epekto ni Ethan sa kaniya. “Mamaya na tayo magkita. 2.30, di ba?”
“O sige, susunduin kita.” Umakmang hahalik sa pisngi si Ethan ngunit pinigil siya ng hintuturo ni Maylie. Nginisian ito ng pilyong si Ethan at saka na umalis ang binata.