A quick glance at the corner of my screen told me I should start fixing my things and get ready to leave if I wanted to be back in the office by the time lunch hour was over. I could have gone on an extended lunch for that day but it was a busy day at work again, and I had a meeting at two, and I wasn’t even sure if traffic was going to be with my side at this time, so I really needed to go.
“Luke, I’m going out for an early lunch, okay?” I told Luke, my back-up, as I started getting my things together. Luke, whose eyes were glued to the monitor, waved his free hand dismissively. The rest of the team were in their own worlds as they worked on their projects, and I couldn’t help but feel proud of them for a moment.
As I was locking my laptop, I heard someone approach and lean on the side of my workstation. I stifled a groan — what wrong timing for whoever it was who wanted to talk to me then. I really needed to go.
“Hey Ruth, where are you off to?”
I looked up and was face to face with Ian, who smiled as soon as our eyes met. I couldn’t help but smile as well, as I always liked seeing him.
But as much as I do like that, I still needed to go.
“Do you want to have lunch?” Ian asked, not waiting for me to answer his previous question. “Are you having lunch with Mitchie or any of your friends?”
Why is he suddenly so inquisitive? “No, I’m not having lunch with Mitchie or anyone else. I have to go somewhere else…so I guess it’s rain check on that lunch.” I finished apologetically. Ian’s face fell.
I forced myself not to say anything after seeing his disappointment, so I turned to lock my laptop and my drawer. However, Ian was insistent.
“Well, where are you going?” He asked as I grabbed my purse.
“Somewhere,” I said vaguely, wishing he would really lay off on all the questions. It’s not that where I was going was such a secret; I just always do it alone, and without any questions from other people. I like Ian well enough but I didn’t think he’d be interested in where I was going that afternoon.
“Where?” He pressed, following me as I started to head to the lobby.
“In Makati, okay,” I finally said. Ian got to the doors first and pushed it open for me and we headed out to the lobby to wait for the elevator.
“Where?” He asked again.
“Greenbelt,” I said, hoping he would drop it already. “Look, I’ll have lunch with you tomorrow, okay? I just really need to go now.” Where is that elevator?
“What are you doing there?”
I finally let out a groan. “Why are you so persistent today, Ian Balboa?” I asked, mock-glaring at him. As expected, he just grinned when I finally cracked.
“I just want to know where you’re off to,” Ian said, putting an arm around my shoulders. I hated to admit it, but I liked it too when he did that. “And I was wondering if I can come too.”
I opened my mouth to say no, he couldn’t come, but then stopped. Why am I doing this alone, anyway? Ian’s going to know about this eventually, so why not let him know about this now?
“Are you sure you want to come?” I asked, looking him straight in the eye to make sure he knows I’m serious. Thankfully he wasn’t dense about it, and I think he actually looked a bit nervous when I finally asked him straight out.
“Well…yeah, I do,” Ian replied, nodding. “So will you let me join you?”
The elevator finally arrived, the doors sliding open in front of us. I stepped inside and pressed the hold button and looked at Ian. “Come on. But I’m driving.”
* * *
“Where are we going exactly?” Ian asked, shifting uncomfortably in the passenger seat. He didn’t like it when we’re together and he’s not driving, and just to annoy him, I try to drive as much as I can. He never gets annoyed though, but we always tease each other about this quirk.
“I told you, at Greenbelt,” I said as I turned to enter the parking at Greenbelt 1. Thankfully, there wasn’t much traffic, so we got to Makati in ten minutes. I found a parking spot near McDonalds and eased my car in. Ian leaned his head to the window and checked as I made sure the car was straight, and nodded in satisfaction when I finally pulled the handbrake. I turned the engine off and we got off the car. We started walking towards the direction of Greenbelt 3 after I locked the car, and Ian started questioning me again.
“What are you planning to do here?” Ian asked. “Shopping?”
“No, of course not,” I said, picking up my pace.
“Well, what is it, Ruth?” There was already a trace of impatience in his voice, and I chuckled.
“I like it when you’re getting impatient,” I said, giving him an affectionate punch on the arm. He laughed and shook his head.
“Seriously,” he said. “What’s the deal?”
I looked at Ian and wondered for a moment how he would react when I tell him what I was really planning to do here. It’s been a personal thing for me, to go Greenbelt every two months and visit one of my favorite places in the city, the Greenbelt Chapel. It’s not only because it’s calm and serene, but because every other month, I make it a point to go to confession. My friends knew this, and they try to join me as much as they can. I wasn’t sure what Ian would think — we went to some masses together a couple of weeks back, but I figured he was just that, a guy who goes to mass because he has to. I knew he was a Catholic, but we never really discussed our faith as much. I knew it should be the first thing we should talk about, but somehow, there was always something else.
That was one thing I feel a bit guilty about, and I promised myself that if Ian and I were to go through whatever it is we are doing together, then we should really talk about our faith.
I just don’t know how to open that topic yet.
“I’m going to confession, Ian,” I said softly. I saw his eyes widen, and I turned to look ahead. I expected that reaction.
As we walked, I waited for him to talk, to say something. I don’t know what I wanted to hear, but his silence was kind of but he was quiet. When we finally reached the small bridge to the chapel, I turned to look at him. He had a pensive, kind of faraway look on his face, even when he turned to look at me.
“Look, you can wait for me at Starbucks. This wouldn’t take long,” I said.
“Why would I do that?” he asked. His tone was a lot gentler than I expected it to be.
“Well…I don’t know. You may not want to join me or something. Plus I know it’s not really something you know people are doing; you just kind of assume that they do. And it’s not something to flaunt. I guess. And…well, you don’t really have to come with me.” I said, mentally slapping myself for blabbing. I knew what I was saying was not making any sense. I finally turned and started walking to the chapel.
Suddenly, Ian’s hand was in mine. I looked back at him and he fell on a step beside me, a smile on his face.
“Why are you always assuming that I don’t want to do some things?” he asked, shaking his head. “I was planning to go to confession next week, too, but I guess today’s just as good.” He let go of my hand and started walking ahead of me towards the chapel. I was stuck where I was, gaping at Ian as I digested what he told me.
I stood there for a while, until Ian turned and looked at me. “What are you waiting for, Ruth? Come on.” he walked back to me and put his arm around my shoulders and led me to the chapel.
As we entered the chapel and headed for the confessional, I turned to look at the cross that was at the center of the circular chapel. It felt like God was grinning at me right then, and I was struck by how lucky I am to have Ian.
Thank You, I thought, smiling at the cross before taking a seat at the line for confession.