“Can you tell me again why we are stocking all these tarpaulins at my place instead of at the office?”
I was out almost the entire day on the Friday after my date with Gino, attending client meetings for our other upcoming events. As I was on my way home after the last of my meeting from all the way in Alabang, I got a call from Ian asking for a humongous – his word, not mine – favor, and if he could meet me at my condo. I said yes, and was welcomed with Ian waiting for me at the condominium lobby with five huge rolls of tarpaulins on the floor.
“It’s because we’re out of storage,” Ian explained, almost sheepishly. The cargo elevator arrived and we got in, with Ian pushing the cart that I borrowed from the condo’s maintenance so we could carry the tarpaulin up to my unit.
“How can we be out of storage?” I asked, confused. “We’ve never ran out of storage at work before.”
“I know, it’s a first,” Ian said with a sigh. “But there are boxes of souvenirs for this company anniversary on Sunday that’s still eating space there, and there’s no place else to store these tarps for tomorrow. You’re the closest one to the office and my last hope to keep these tarps safe for tonight.”
I nodded understandingly. “It’s okay; I’ll be going to that product launch anyway tomorrow, so I could bring them there.”
“Or I could just pick them up.” Ian supplied.
I shook my head firmly. “No, I’ll do it. You’ll waste gas if you swing by my place before going to the venue, and these things could fit in my car tomorrow.”
“But how will you carry them down?”
“Ian.” I said, giving him a look to give it up. He just smiled and shook his head just as firmly, and told me he’ll drop by at six in the morning. I swear, that guy can be so stubborn.
We reached my floor, and I held the elevator doors open as Ian pushed the cart out . We made our way to my unit first in silence, until I remembered something from last night about Ian. The question was out of my mouth before I could stop myself. “So how was your date with Mary last night?”
I was expecting Ian’s face to flush in the same way it did when I asked about Aizza, but instead he just smiled. I looked at him carefully, trying to decipher his expression, but was hopeless – his smile looked as neutral as what Naomi gives me whenever I interrogate her about something. Then he spoke up: “Mary’s just a friend.”
I could not help it; I snorted at his line. “That is the oldest line in the –“
I stopped in my tracks, eyes on my door. My unit was at the very end of the hallway, the door partially hidden from view because of its position. We were a couple of steps away from the door, and instead of it being tightly shut the way I left it this morning when I went to work, it was slightly ajar. I could see the living room lights shining through the small opening on the door, and some sounds coming from inside my unit.
Ian noticed that I had stopped walking and had stopped too, looking back at me with a puzzled expression. I could feel my heart racing, wondering who could have broken into my place. The only spare keys I have were at Pia’s, and I know that Pia was out on a date with Gelo tonight so there’s no way she could be inside. And Pia would definitely text if ever she needs to go to my place for something.
I was already doing a mental inventory of the things that might be stolen from inside my unit and who I need to call to report all this when Ian said my name again. I looked at him, worry written all over his face and whispered, “Someone’s broken in.”
His expression darkened a bit as he glanced at my door and then back at me. He let go of the cart’s handles and reached for one of the tarpaulin rolls, carrying it like a bat. He motioned for me to stay and then started creeping towards my door quietly.
When he was near enough, I saw him take a deep breath, and then used the tarpaulin to give the door one big push, opening it fully. I heard a crash, then a gasp. Ian stepped in front of the door cautiously, and then there was a scream.
Wait a minute. I know that scream.
I felt my legs moving and I was at my door in a second. There in the middle of my living room stood my sister, holding one of the vases in her hand, ready to throw at Ian.
“Naomi! Wait! No!”
Author’s note: This is a recycled piece, written years ago as a part of my NaNo 2008 novel. Found it again today and tweaked this particular scene. 🙂