12 Months of Romance | 24 Reasons to Love: A Holiday Anthology sneak peek at Kit Salazar’s Until the Last Petal Falls and Maria Criselda R. Santos’ Lost and Found.
Ruthless critic and book club president Jacob finds a lost journal, and his curiosity gets the better of him: He reads musings and poems of a certain Ellie Andaya, critiques her work, and unexpectedly falls in love with the mysterious owner. What he does after, and where he ends up, is an encounter he’ll never forget.
* * *
Candles of different colors stood in rows at the prayer room in Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish Church. Jacob had just finished lighting a white candle— first in his prayers was to find Ellie. Despite losing her journal, he managed to remember bits and pieces of what she had written there.
Jacob sat in one of the middle pews and took out the mahogany box. He had been walking for hours, not sure whom to ask, and the box was already adding to the strain on his shoulder. Wincing, he adjusted the strap of his backpack and carefully rearranged its contents.
He opened the box and checked his “Ellie kit”: guitar strings to replace her rusty ones, a thimble to add to her sewing kit, a headband with bunny ears (Ellie had written that she would like to sport bunny ears, even for just a day, if only she weren’t so old for it), and dried carnations.
He had not read any entry about carnations, and he was not sure if Ellie liked dried ones, but he thought he had to preserve them as a token of friendship.
In truth, he never really forgot about her. When he found out that they were moving to Antipolo, he was ecstatic—Marikina was just two (long!) rides away from their new home. A week after their family relocated to the uplands, Jacob immediately bought the wooden box and a new journal to replace what he had lost. He made sure everything he listed was ticked off before he set off to find Ellie in the city.
Jacob scanned the journal’s pages—lined cream paper, thick enough to absorb the darkest ink and to last endless flipping and handling. The covers had a gilded floral design that matched Victorian filigree, bound by a tiny metal clasp to be secured by a padlock. He resumed rearranging the things inside the wooden box and was about to put it back in his backpack when he heard a vaguely familiar voice.
“Let’s walk instead. My house is just a couple of blocks away.”
Instinctively he looked for the source of the voice—a woman who looked to be in her midtwenties, her hair fashioned in a layered cut. She had gained a little weight, but it was the same stance—and miraculously almost the same look: a pastel-colored chiffon blouse and dark blue jeans. And the bag. Jacob would not miss the red bag for anything.
He slung his bag over his shoulder and ran toward the two women walking down the aisle to the doors.
“Miss? Ellie?” he called hesitantly.
One of the women stopped walking and looked at him. “Yes?” “Ellie Andaya?” he said, panting.
“Yes . . . and no,” the woman said, casting wary eyes at him. Her companion nudged her. “How did you know my—?”
“I got your journal,” he cut in. “You lost it at the Manila Literature and Arts Center months ago. You bumped into me, and your things fell on the floor.”
Ellie blushed as a look of recognition flashed across her face. “I did lose my journal. Gosh, that was you?” Her disbelief betrayed the cool and composed demeanor she tried to show.
Jacob prepared himself for the worst. He could bring himself to admit that he lost the journal, but how could he tell her he read it?
College best friends Michael and Sara wanted to be more than friends with each other, but they never knew how the other felt. They reunite years later during a reunion, and sparks fly between them. Will they take this chance and finally act on the feelings they still have for each other?
* * *
A shower of petals slowly drifted around Michael, creating a hazy and dreamlike atmosphere. He reached out to catch one, and saw it was a Sakura petal made out of paper. “What?!
“Sorry, sorry!” Beside the booth stood Jay, another member of the art club. He was holding a bucket half-filled with paper petals. “I tripped and spilled some of the petals. Damn, Ella’s going to kill me,” he muttered, naming the art club’s president.
Sara laughed. “Well, there’s no escaping her, as she’s right behind you.” Jay yelped and gave a start, spilling even more petals to the ground.
Michael grinned, and met Sara’s eyes. Humor danced there, and her grin was wide and unabashed. “Hi,” he said.
“Hey.” She walked up to the front of the booth and waved. “Sara.” “Michael,” he replied, waving back. “So, you’re new?”
Sara nodded. “Yeah, new to the club, new to the school. I just transferred.” “Well, welcome to Madrigal High. And to the art club.” “Thanks.”
Michael glanced at the book on the table in front of him. It was page after page of sketches, and a lot of really good ones. “May I?”
Phil nodded. “Pick something and we’ll work on it. For a fee, of course.”
“Right,” Michael flipped through the book, impressed with the quality of the work. He stopped at the page that showed a fanart from of one of his favorite video games. “Hey, this is pretty great. I’d like something like this done. Who drew this?”
Both Phil and Sara glanced at the drawing, while Ella and Jay bickered in the background. Phil pointed a thumb in the direction of Sara, who at the same time, said “Me.”
Michael grinned. “Can you draw We Pei?” He asked, naming one of the lesser known characters in the game that happened to be his favorite.
Sara looked at him, then at the drawing, then back up at Michael. She grinned. “Let’s discuss the fee.”
They started hanging out often after that. Michael found out that Sara loved video games as much as he did, and at one pointed wanted to be a character designer. He said she could do it, given her talent, while all he could do was be a player.
He found numerous reasons to hang out with her. Michael enjoyed her company, and could talk to her about almost everything. After a while, Michael realized that his feelings for Sara had grown to be more than friendly.
He had heard gossip around school; people wanting to know if they were dating. At first, he just laughed it off, but after a while, Sara would blush and mumble something before changing the topic. And he wasn’t averse to the idea of becoming more than friends with her.
It was almost his graduation when he decided that he should tell her. The person he blurted out this idea to was Franco, who laughed and said, “I knew you’d like her when I told you to go to the art club booth.”
Michael knew that he would be seeing Sara at lunch. As he rounded the corner heading to the cafeteria, he saw Sara standing in front of her locker with two girls he didn’t know. As he neared them, he heard his name.
Sara looked surprised, then wary. “Why do you want to know?” The girl shrugged. “Maybe I want to ask him out myself.”
Sara took a deep breath and looked away. “No one’s stopping you.” Her voice was soft, and Michael wasn’t sure what it meant.
The girl stood taller. “So you’re all right if I ask him out?”
“I’m not his keeper.” She closed her locker door with a firm push. “I don’t care at all.”
As Sara walked away, Michael felt his heart break. It looked like he was the only one who was feeling something more than friendship for the two of them.
What do you think? Visit my page again tomorrow to catch a sneak peek at the stories for the month of May!
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Fantasy to explore. Romance to devour.