Chapter Eleven

I slightly opened my eyes and saw Yeren’s face only a few inches away. The warmth of his breath on my cheeks sent shivers through my spine. I tried to move but Yeren had pinned me in place, wrapping me with an arm and leg. I blinked tight, realizing the jolting pain in my head.

He stirred, his grip tightened on my waist. We stared into each other. He grinned. “Morning Mr. Ian,” he said, bending his face closer. “It was a wonderful night.”

A stream of blood surged to my face, intensifying the throbbing in my temple, heart drum rolled as everything happened again in my retrospection. I wanted to run away but he kept his arm around me, only moving his leg.

“Being shy now, drunk-boy?” he teased and blew softly on my cheeks before rolling back to stretch. I couldn’t be more embarrassed at the time but the throbbing in my head helped in relieving my chest.

Yeren offered me a cup of coffee when I got up. I gladly accepted, giving him a rueful half-smile. “Sorry, about last night.”

“No prob,” he said reassuringly and sipped from his cup. “I told you, it was wonderful.”

I laughed, telling myself not to take it too seriously.

“Anyway, wanna explore the town?”

I happily agreed. After emptying the cups, we left the room by eleven am. It was a surprise to realize that we woke too late in the morning. On the stairs, I finally had the chance to ask Yeren about the rent which I always seemed to forget. He nonchalantly said that we should split the bill equally which was much smaller than I thought. Much smaller than my rent allowance could pay the whole fee and still had some left.

“We can also contribute to the food allowance weekly,” he said as we exited the apartment complex. The sky was surprisingly clear, colored in endless blue. “We can shop together on Sundays. I’ll do the cooking, you’ll do the dishes. Or the other way around, whichever you prefer. It can save us a lot of money.” He glanced at me with a hopeful gaze. “How does that sound?”

“That sounds great but…” I stroked my hair, averting my eyes. “You shouldn’t let me cook unless you want to see the building in ashes.”

Yeren nodded and laughed a bit before we entered a typical Filipino eatery. The place wasn’t anything fancy. There weren’t many people inside. It has a usual buffet where I could choose any dish. I ordered one and a half rice, chicken caldereta, and adobo. Yeren ordered the same.

The wallet almost slipped from my hand when I paid at the counter. My meal totaled a hundred and thirty pesos, an amount I wouldn’t have imagined. I turned to Yeren and gave him a surprised look before stepping to the nearest empty table.

“How was it?” Yeren asked as soon as he sat in front of me.

I rolled my eyes, “Too expensive.”

He laughed a bit. “Believe me but it’s the cheapest diner in the area.”

“What?” I grimaced, chewing the food that was too bland for my taste. “Fast-food would be much better then.”

He shrugged, “Nah, I hate fast food.” He shook his head a few times over. “You wouldn’t get the nutrients you needed from them. Those foods can kill you.”

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I beamed from my lips, “I never thought you were so health-conscious.”

A sigh left his lips slightly open. “I wouldn’t say that but I can’t deny it either.”

“Is that why you learned how to cook?”

He laughed, flicked his gaze from his plate back to my eyes. “Half correct, half wrong.”

A soundless ‘what?’ came out of my mouth.

“Mom taught me when I was younger, you know, before…” he paused, his eyes turned melancholic for a brief second and brightened again. “Before she passed away.”

His words hung for a moment.

“Sorry,” I muttered, my voice barely above a whisper.

“I don’t mind. Anyway…” He smiled. It always ends with that. “I learned to cook as a kid but I only started to cook for myself in college. You know, for the same reasons.”

I tried to finish the food but it honestly required so much effort. The name of the eatery which was as bland sounding as its food had been blacklisted to the places I wouldn’t go again.

We strolled down the road as he pointed at a few other diners. He explained that most of them had decent food but with much higher prices, one of which he talked with great enthusiasm. A steakhouse that can cause us a thousand pesos for a single meal. A sigh escaped my lips at the thought.

The shortest way from the apartment to Tuazon University was a ten-minute walk. Made me understand why the rent was much cheaper. Most students my age would probably treat it as a hassle. Too far for their liking. I don’t. It was nice to have a short walk, a time to contemplate for myself, before and after attending my classes.

We stopped by the nearest grocery store. Yeren bought some vegetables, a tray of eggs, powdered milk, a kilo of chicken and pork, several kinds of biscuits and crackers, and a box of cigarettes. I watched him as he casually tossed them in a yellow basket like he already knew everything he needed. Of course, it surprised me when he got a box of cigarettes but I didn’t ask. Heck, I didn’t even buy anything.

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When we got home, I quickly grabbed some clothes from the closet and a towel and had a cold shower. Just what I needed. I felt refreshed from three hours of strolling around as I laid in my bed that was still beside his. I heard him step into the bathroom shortly after.

I turned my head when the door silently creaked. Yeren came out, half-naked. I stared at him with much interest, refusing to look away even though my face was red hot. He didn’t have detailed abs but I particularly like his muscular bare chest. It perfectly matched his wide shoulders and tall frame. He grinned which ultimately made him look like an Olympian god. I gasped at the sight. His lips widened to his ears. Air blew between us and I was left kinda disappointed as he dressed.

Yeren joined me in bed, his back against mine. Neither of us started a conversation, we didn’t feel the need to. I didn’t particularly feel sleepy but his snores that were barely perceptible lulled me to sleep.

A cold hand wrapped tightly around my neck, so powerful that I had no breath in my lungs. I tried to shout but the sound wouldn’t come out, air was choking in my throat. I shut my eyes and pretended to be asleep, convincing myself that it was a ghost. The ghost pressed his weight against my chest, his breath brushing on my cheeks. Heart pounding, I listened to every sound: the tick of the clock, the whistling wind, and his rapid breathing. I opened my eyes slightly and traced the silhouetted face of the man in front of me. His body jerked away, moving his free hand. A sharp metallic object shone between my eyes through the faint light from the stars above. My body trembled as I began to cry. He covered my mouth and I smelt the faint scent of tobacco in his hand. I tried to struggle but my tiny body couldn’t withstand his grip. His eyes filled with burning rage forced me to give in. He withdrew the knife from the table beside my bed and grabbed a piece of cloth that he forcibly put on my mouth. I was helpless as he tied my hands and feet. He lit a cigarette before rolling me like a log. A cold object touched my back and he slipped beneath my shirt. The sound of ripping fabric filled my ears…

Then I felt an exhilarating burning sensation on my back. My eyes widened, almost enough for the cornea to come out. I shouted my lungs out but the sound remained trapped in my mouth. Another burning sensation touched my back. One after another. I couldn’t do anything but cry, cry silently within the ropes that held me.

Tears rolled down my cheeks. I looked around, realizing that this wasn’t my room. I immediately rushed to the bathroom as I tried my hardest to contain my sobs. I felt it again, the burning sensation on my back− it was overwhelmingly painful. I wanted to strip my shirt but my hands were trembling so much– and stiff− hardened like a rock.

I started to jump like a madman. Sobs became louder− my hand suddenly gripped the collar of my shirt and pulled it with great force. Two buttons came undone, the cloth tearing apart. I forcibly planted the torn fabric on my mouth, covered my face with my hands as I sat in the toilet. I cried and cried, only God knows for how long. Still, the pain in my chest wouldn’t disappear.

A surge of panic streamed through my veins. I ran my hands through the bathroom necessities I placed above the sink, breathing profusely. Anything sharp, just f****** anything sharp! My gaze paused, laying its full attention to a razor. I swiftly slipped the blade out and slashed my left wrist− slice my flesh again− deeper, one after another.

Crimson fluid rolled out from seven deep cuts as I removed the clog in my mouth. I bit the back of my lower lip. The pain was exhilarating, it calmed my nerves down and stopped my tears from flowing. When the bleeding stopped, I washed my wrist and silently got out.

A faint smile curved my lips, seeing Yeren was still asleep. I wore a long-sleeve from the closet and dumped my shirt in the bin, then gently laid in the corner of my bed− about two feet away from him. A familiar heaviness lingered in my chest as I watched his back and listened to his light snores. I turned away, pressing the back of my head in the pillow.

Did I make the right choice?

A sigh escaped my mouth, trying to push the thought. I spun to the side and looked at him who had shifted away− farther away− to the corner of his bed. My heart stung, fists clenched. I pulled the pillow above and embraced it. I turned again to the other side− from the corner of my bed.

At least, he’s faced against the wall while I was…

I was on the verge of falling.

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