Hello! Welcome to the first draft of A Shower of Starlight! Mas mature po ang theme ng kuwento na ito kaysa kay Kevin, and this is a New Adult story so there will most likely/definitely have one or two love scenes along the way (help me!).

I only have an outline for this, so I don’t have a schedule for updates (as usual), but I’m thinking that this will also be a 100K+ word story. I’m hoping /aiming for weekly updates so sana… It will also, eventually, be self-published.

This chapter is public and free to read, and so will the next chapter (which I’m still in the process of editing), but the third chapter will already be locked and only available for BMC supporters and members.

Thank you for taking me to endless virtual coffee dates and helping me feed my cats! MARAMING SALAMAT PO! You guys allow me so much freedom in both my everyday life and in the things I write, and I will always be greatful for you guys for that.

I hope you enjoy this story, too.

CW // Discussion about polyamory. Underage drinking.

Chapter One

Karina

DJOSER and I were never really close. We were close enough, but not really close. I’ve known him since I was six, when I first became friends with his sister, Arsinoe, my best friend and my brother’s girlfriend.

Gawd.

I remember Djoser explaining that he was named after the Egyptian pharaoh, Djoser. He had been (still is, and probably always will be) a history nerd. I remember him playing—or trying to play—volleyball with me and Noë, and being really patient with us when we end up hitting the ball wrong.

Puwede mo kaming iwan na magkasama sa isang kuwarto o sa isang party at hindi kami mauubusan ng pagkukuwentuhan. We had too many shared memories. There wouldn’t be any awkward silences or excuses to leave just so we don’t have to make small talk. We were okay with each other, but rhat was it. We weren’t really close.

And eventhough I watched him grow up from a thin, nerdy kid into this tall, wide, well-built and really cute hunk of a nerdy guy, I never really thought of him as a “guy”, you know? As in a guy I can like. He’s Noë’s Kuya. He’s Djoser. ‘Yun lang siya sa ‘kin.

And I wasn’t going to look at him differently dahil lang boyfriend na ng best friend ko ang kapatid ko, at madali na lang na lumingon kay Djoser and think about… possibilities.

So wala talaga. The idea—or any idea at all— that he and I can be more than Noë’s brother and her best friend—never occurred to me. Not even when I opened the door of my new condo on an early Thursday evening, and saw him outside, looking like a sad, little puppy that his fur parents had left at the city pound.

“Hey,” bati ko na kunot ang noo.

“Hey,” he called back, his eyes shifting away from me. “Nandito ba si Noë?”

Mabagal akong umiling pero tumabi ako para papasukin siya sa condo. “May date sila ni Kev. Mamayang gabi pa ‘yun uuwi.” I watched him walk in, his shoulders a tense line. “What’s weong? Are you all right?”

Bumaling siya sa ‘kin at nagbukas ng bibig na para bang sasagutin niya ang tanong ko pero nagbago ang isip niya. He closed his mouth and shook his head.

“You wanna talk about it?” I coaxed gently.

He only looked at me again.

Nagkibit-balikat ako. “I’m not Noë but I’m a pretty good listener…”

Noon na siya huminga nang malalim. “Do you have any alcohol around?”

Kumurap ako sa kanya, nagulat sa tanong niya, at na nagtanong siya in the first place. Mukhang malaki ang problema nito ah.

Anyhow, dinaan ko sa biro.

“Djoser, I’m living on my own for the first time in my life. Of course, I have alcohol.”

Mahina siyang tumawa at napangiti ako. Isinara ko ang pinto saka ko siya giniya sa kusina.

“What do you want?” tanong ko. “Hindi kami mahilig ni Noë sa beer but we have tequila, vodka and Jack Daniels.”

Nagsalubong ang mga kilay ni Kuya. And there was the responsible Djoser I know. “Why do you have that much alcohol?” mapanghinala niyang tanong. “You’re underage.”

“So are you,” I pointed out with a smirk. “Bukas ka pa twenty-one.”

He shrugged. “May magsasabi ba sa ‘kin na bawal ako maglasing?”

“Nope,” I said cheerfully. “Kung gusto mong maglasing nang alas dos ng hapon, no one will tell you no here. And relax. It’s not like Noë and I drink all the time. Happy Independence Day gift ng mga kaibigan namin ang mga ‘to when we moved in. Wala pa nga kaming binubuksan.”

I moved to one of the cupboards above the counter and opened one of the doors to reveal our stash of canned goods and chips. Camouflage lang ‘yun though. Nasa likod n’un ‘yung mga bote ng alak.

I looked back at Djoser. “So? What’s your poison?”

Saglit siyang nag-isip na seryoso ang ekspresyon sa mukha na para bang life and death na desisyon ang pinag-iisipan niya, but that’s just how Djoser is. He’s so earnest. In everything.

“Tequila,” sa wakas ay sagot niya. “I want shots. May lemon ba kayo?”

“Yup.” Itinuro ko ‘yung refrigerator saka ko itinabi ang mga lata ng Spam at corned beef ns nsgtatago sa bote ng Patron.

Hindi naman talaga kami mahilig uminom ni Noë. The last time I drank was at my debut and that was supervised pa by everyone in my family. I did drink one time before that. I know, I know, underage drinking is wrong, and to be honest, dangerous. Especially if you’re a woman because, well, men… But I was perfectly safe at that time. Puro kami girls and we were sleeping over at one of our friend’s house.

It was more of an experiment for me. I drank because I wanted to check how much alcohol I can drink before I get drunk.

I found out na lasing na ako sa six to eight shots of tequila. But if I take more after that, nawawala ‘yung lasing ko for some reason.

Apparently, namana ko ‘yun sa tatay ko.

Anyway, please don’t drink if you can’t handle it. And please drink responsibly!

Having said that, the Patron was a gift from one of my and Noë’s friends. I actually like the bottle more than the tequila inside but hey, free booze!

I brought the bottle down and hunted up our shot glasses while Djoser quietly sliced the lemons by the sink.

Hindi ko mapigilan na mapasulyap sa kanya. Medyo nag-aalala kasi ako. Hindi nga kasi mahilig uminom si Djoser (which is why I was comfortable having shots with him. I know I can drink him under the table) so hindi ko maisip kung anong klaseng problema ang meron siya ngayon na gusto niyang mag-shots.

“Iinom ka rin?” tanong niya nang mapansin na dalawang shot glass ang dala ko.

“Yeah. Mas masaya kapag may karamay, right?”

We sat across from each other sa kitchen island na naghihiwalay sa kusina at sa dining area. I shook salt unto my wrist, then watched him do the same after. We licked at the salt, took the shot, then sucked on a lemon slice from the plate he placed at the center of the kitchen island.

Djoser winced; I didn’t.

It took another shot before he said anything.

“I think my girlfriend and I just broke up.”

I blinked. Ah… I see. Kaya naman pala. Djoser was crazy in love with his cute, little girlfriend. I can understand why he’s all torn up kung break na sila.

“I’m sorry,” I said sympathetically before what he said caught up to me. “Teka. You think? You mean you’re not sure?”

He poured us another shot each, and he went about the ritual of licking, shooting and sucking as carefully as if he was disarming an explosive before he spoke again.

“Hindi naman namin sinabi na break na talaga kami, pero na baka kailangan ko raw ng oras na mag-isip.”

“Ikaw?” tanong ko bago ako umiling. “Okay, this is becoming more and more confusing. Why don’t you start from the beginning? What happened?”

Huminga nang malalin si Djoser saka nag-angat ng paningin sa ‘kin, and I saw there all the hurt and the confusion he was so obviously feeling.

“She’s Polly,” sabi niya.

Which doesn’t tell me anything.

“I know,” sabi ko. “I’ve met her. I always thought na bagay sa kanya ‘yung pangalan niyang Pollyanna. Not in a bad way, of course! She’s just so—”

“No, Karina,” buntong-hininga ni Djoser. “She came out to me. She’s poly, as in polyamorous.”

Oh.

Oh!

“As in—?”

“Yeah,” malungkot na sabi ni Djoser. “As in the textbook definition of polyamorous. Or she says she thinks she is, because she said she wants to be in a relationship with more than one person. As in she wants another boyfriend apart from me.”

“Oh,” sabi ko na lang ulit. I have opinions about people who are polyamorous, but I wanted to know Djoser’s first. “What did you say?”

“What can I say?” he laughed without humor. “Nagulat ako eh.”

“How did she tell you?”

Muling nagsalin ng shot si Djoser. At this point, nakakatatlo na siya sa isang shot ko. He made another face at the taste of tequila before sucking another lemon slice.

Huminga siya nang malalim. “She suggested that we have a threesome.”

Oh, my god!

“And… you said no?” I asked carefully, neutrally, kahit pa hirap na hirap na akong mapanatiling blanko ang ekspresyon ko. “I mean, a lot of guys would jump at the chance.”

Pinaningkitan ako ni Djoser. “Yeah, no. I’m not ready for that. I’m vanilla. Plain vanilla. I’m the really boring, sugar-free vanilla. I’m not built for threesomes.”

I paused, but my lower lip, ‘tapos hindi ko na natiis. “Masarap ang vanilla sa sundae, lalo na kung nasa gitna siya ng chocolate and strawberry ice cream.”

Tumawa ako nang mapapikit si Djoser at kinusot niya ng mga daliri ang mga mata niya. “Pucha. Pati sa ice cream, threesome pa rin.”

“Pero hindi nga!” sabi ko na. “What did you say? And is she really poly?”

He gave me a dry look. “Ba’t parang amazed na amazed ka pa?”

“Because I’ve never met someone who’s openly poly before.” Then I realized something. “Oh, my god. May permiso ka bang sabihin sa ‘kin ‘yan? Djoser, you can’t just out people!”

“It’s not like I posted a status update on Facebook!” reklamo niya na parang na-insulto. “And I know you. You’re not going to tell anyone either. Right?”

Mapagbanta ang huling salita.

“Of course not!” I scoffed.

“Wait.” Siya naman ang nag-alangan at pinagmasdan niya ako. “Are you…?” He let the question hang in the air.

“Me? No!” tawa ko. “Selosa ako. And I’m too possessive to be poly.” Pinag-aralan ko siya. “You do know what being polyamorous means, right?”

FYI, polyamorous people are different from cheaters. They’re the ones who are in romantic or sexual relationships with more than one partner with informed consent of everyone in that relationship. Meaning no one is cheating and no one is getting cheated on.

Personally, sabi ko nga, masyado akong selosa at possessive to share a boyfriend. But I’m also open-minded enough to know and accept na may mga tao talagang gan’un. I know it’s a hard sell for a lot of people, because we live in a conservative country and it was unconventional, pero sa ‘kin, basta wala naman silang sinasaktan, eh go. Humayo sila at magmahal ng marami.

But let’s get back to Djoser.

“Yeah, I know what it is. I have basic knowledge. And she explained it to me, anyhow. Poly daw talaga siya. It’s not just wanting to try a threesome.” Muling napapikit si Djoser at kinusot ang mga mata niya.

“The things I told her,” he said in a low voice, his tone filled with guilt. “I accused her of cheating on me and using polyamory as an excuse. I was such a dick to her.”

He took a deep breath and looked down at his empty shot glass.

“Matagal na kasi kaming nagbibiruan tungkol sa threesome. I always thought it was all a joke. But then, she suggested it again, at seryoso siya. And, well, the discussion went downhill from there. Kung hindi ba ako sapat sa kanya, and then, ‘yun. She told me she was poly. ‘Tapos alam mo ‘yun? Sabay kong naintindihan ‘yung sinasabi niya pero gulung-gulo rin ako.

“And then she told me that she had always been poly, and that I was her first monogamous relationship. Pakiramdam ko tuloy kasalanan ko pa kasi sinubukan niyang baguhin ‘yung sarili niya para makasama ako, pero sa huli, hindi pa rin ako sapat para sa kanya.”

He took another shot, and I took my second one. Saka siya nagpatuloy. “Kung niloko na lang kasi niya ako, I’d have an excuse to be angry at her. I can be self-righteous. Pero hindi eh. She said na sinabi niya sa ‘kin na poly siya kasi ayaw niyang mag-cheat kung sakaling may makilala siyang magustuhan din niya. She made it clear it wouldn’t be anything I’d do kung mangyaring magkagusto siya sa iba. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love me or that she loves me less. It’s just how she’s wired. At ‘yun nga ‘yun, di ba? That’s how she’s wired. Wala akong dahilang magalit sa kanya. She hasn’t cheated, and she doesn’t want to cheat. Hindi naman niya ‘yun sinasadya di ba? The way na hindi ko sinasadya na monogamous naman ako.”

“I know,” sabi ko. “And it’s not. Sabi nga niya, that’s just how she’s wired. Hindi naman siya nag-boyfriend ng iba habang kayo di ba? She didn’t cheat.”

Nag-angat siya ulit ng mukha sa ‘kin. “You’re being very understanding and non-judgmental about this,” he pointed out. “I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

“Bakit?”

“Dapat kampi sa ka sa ‘kin eh.”

I shrugged and reached for the salt shaker. “Kampi naman ako sa ‘yo! But I’m also an understanding and non-judgmental person.”

“Eh ikaw? What would you do kung umamin sa ‘yo ang boyfriend mo na poly siya?”

Umiling ako. “I know what you’re doing. And what I would do shouldn’t tell you what you should do.”

“Oo nga, pero curious ako. What would you do?”

I unconsciously traced a finger over the lip of my shot glass. “I’m not sure,” amin ko. “It’s complicated.”

He let out a laugh. “Believe me. I know.”

“Depende siguro?” I said. “Depende kung gaano ko kamahal ‘yung boyfriend ko. Gaano mo ba kamahal si Pollyanna?”

Calling her Polly right now feels weird, knowing that she really was poly.

My heart ached when Djoser looked up at me with his sad, wet eyes. “Mahal na mahal,” tahimik niyang sagot. “Mahal na mahal ko siya na kahit alam kong masasaktan ako, parang gusto ko siyang payagang magmahal ng iba pa bukod sa ‘kin kasi alam kong d’un siya magiging masaya talaga.”

Hindi ko alam kung si Djoser pa ‘yun o ‘yung tequila na, but I bit off the joke I wanted to say kasi alam kong kahit ano pa ‘yung nagtulak sa kanya na sabihin ‘yun, the words came from his heart. And he didn’t need my sarcasm, not now.

“Djo, she tried to be monogamous for you, and it didn’t really make her happy. Do you think you being polyamorous for her would make you happy?”

He didn’t answer, but I kinda have an idea what he was thinking. He only poured us both more shots.

Later, as he got even more tipsy, he told me how Polly had cried when she told him, how she apologized, and that she had came out to him because she didn’t want to lie anymore or to hide anything from him. Gusto rin daw siya bigyan ni Polly ng chance na mag-isip kung gusto pa niyang manarili sa relasyon nilang dalawa.

I didn’t know Pollyanna enough, pero parang mabait naman siya base d’un sa ilang beses na nag-meet kami. And mukha namang mahal niya si Djoser. Saka I can imagine the courage it took to actually come out and admit that she was something society would look at negatively. Sasabihin ng mga tao na excuse lang ‘yun para makapanloko, o na natural na malandi lang siya kasi hindi makuntento sa isang lalaki.

Medyo napalakas ang pagbaba ni Djoser sa shot glass sa counter top. I just had my fourth shor, and he just put away his eight. Mapula na ang mukha niya at glassy na ang mga mata niya. Bungisngis na rin siya na para bang nakakatawa na lahat ng sinasabi niya.

“Paano kaya kung bad boy na lang ako?” tanong niya habang ngumunguya ng potato chip na inilabas ko kanina nang mag-crave ako ng ibang maalat. “Masyado kasi akong mabait eh. I mean, tingnan mo ah. Iniisip kong baka okay lang sa ‘king magpatuloy na makipagrelasyon sa isang taong magiging masaya lang kapag dalawa kami sa buhay niya.”

“Wala naman sa pagiging good boy or bad boy ‘yun, Djo,” I told him. I was pleasantly buzzed now, too, pero hindi pa ako lasing. Mga two shots pa.

Unlike Djoser…

“Alam ko! Pero naisip ko na rin na masyado yata akong mabait,” he whined—actually whined—as he crunched on a potato chip. “Sa sobrang bait ko, naisip ni Polly na bigyan ako ng chance at na subukang maging monogamous para lang makasama ako.”

“Eh anong klaseng bad boy ba ang gusto mo?”

“Dunno.” He shrugged as I stood up from my seat to go get us both water. “Puwede ba akong biker dude? Or… Or I can get a nose piercing.”

“Sipunin ka, Djo,” paalala ko sa kanya mula sa harapan ng refrigerator, hawak na ‘yung isang pitsel ng tubig. “Masisinghot mo ‘yung piercing mo.”

“Magpapa-tattoo ako!”

“You hate the sound of the tattoo machine. You said it reminds you of being at the dentist.”

“Magsisimula akong manigarilyo!” he said triumphantly. “And for extra bad boy vibe, kung saan-saan ko itatapon ‘yung upos ng yosi ko!”

“That wouldn’t make you a bad boy, Djo. That will only make you a littering ass. Isa pa, you were asthmatic when you were a kid. You’d probably trigger that if you start smoking. Paano ka tatagal ng three to five sets sa volleyball court nang may hika, aber?”

“I hate you.”

Malutong ang tawang kumawala sa bibig ko. “You love me and you know it,” biro ko.

Bumalik ako sa mesa na may dala nang dalawang baso at ipinagsalin siya ng tubig. Itinulak ko ‘yun palapit sa kanya.

“And do you even hear yourself speak? Gusto mong maging bad boy? Ikaw? You call your mom twice a day to make sure she’s okay. You’re always your friends’ designated driver because you rarely drink. And you drive your sister everywhere when she asks you to even when you’re busy.”

“Bakit? Hindi ba tumatawag sa mga nanay nila ang mga bad boys?”

I started laughing again. He scowled, then very deliberately poured another shot of tequila into the shot glass. Hindi ko alam kung ginawa ba niya ‘yun nang gan’un ka-ingat dahil ba gusto niyang patunayan sa ‘kin na puwede siyang maging rebellious bad boy o dahil tatlo na ‘yung shot glass sa paningin niya at ayaw niyang matapon ‘yung tequila.

Halos kutsarain na niya ‘yung asin sa bibig niya, ininom ang shot, pagkatapos eh kinagat ‘yung lemon slice at nginuya. I bit my lips to keep myself from grinning. And maybe the responsible thing for me to do was to stop him because that has to be his eleventh shot.

He slammed the shot glass down, stared at me with blurry and unfocused eyes, and then swallowed a few times.

“Teka lang. Nasusuka ako.”

And then he stood up on unsteady legs and stumbled in the direction of the bathroom where he promptly made a mess on the tiles.

“Shit, Karina, I’m so sorry,. I’m so sorry,” he said between heaving breaths into the toilet bowl as I stood at the door. “I’ll clean that up.”

“Sure, bad boy,” biro ko, not without sympathy although I couldn’t help but wince because he was kneeling on the mess. Kumuha ako ng face towel mula sa stash na nasa itaas ng bathroom mirror at binasa ‘yun.

“Fuck. Hindi na ako iinom ulit,” he moaned, and I couldn’t help but laugh. But I didn’t tell him na lasing pa nga siya sa lagay na ‘to. Wait until he had a hangover.

He flushed the toilet and I helped him up. Napa-upo siya sa gilid ng toilet and he almost brought me with him, but I managed to brace a hand on his shoulder, and he instinctively lifted his hand to my hip while I stood between his legs.

Under any other circumstance, this would be a scene worthy of a romance novel, minus the mess on the tiles and Djoser’s unfocused eyes and miserable expression. But this was Djoser so no, not romance novel vibe.

“Wipe your face and take your clothes off,” wala sa sarili kong utos.

Nanlaki ang mga mat niya. “Huh?”

Natawa ako ulit nang ma-realize kung ano ang sinabi ko, saka ko itinuro ang marumi niyang T-shirt at pantalon.

“You made a mess of yourself,” sabi ko. “Magbihis ka na muna. May mga damit dito si Kevin. You can wear those while I wash your clothes.”

“You don’t have to. Sa bahay na lang ako magbibihs.”

Tinaasan ko siya ng kilay. “Paano ka uuwi? No way in hell I’d let you drive, and you can’t get into a Grab car smelling like that. And isa pa, sa palagay mo kaya mong maglakad palabas ng condo na ‘to?”

He closed his eyes and groaned. “No,” he replied meekly. “Hilong-hilo ako.”

“Exactly.” I stepped back from him. “I’ll get you some of Kevin’s clothes. Can you make it outside on your own?”

He nodded miserably at lumabas ako ng banyo. Naglilista na ako sa isip ko ng mga kailangan kong gawin. 1) Kevin’s clothes (na I shouldn’t mention to him na sa closet ni Noë ko kukunin); 2) paper towels, bleach and a mop for the mess in the bathroom, and maybe, 3) isabay ko na ‘yung mga damit ko kung maglalaba na rin naman ako.

I knew where Kevin keeps extra shirts and shorts in Noë’s closet so hindi ko kailangang maghalungkat pa. Kumuha ako ng isang puting T-shirt at isang pares ng itim na shorts, saka ako lumabas ng kuwarto ni Noë.

Nasa banyo pa rin si Djoser nang balikan ko siya pero nalinis na niya ‘yung kalat sa tiles. Mukhang naka-ubos siya ng isang roll ng toilet paper para gawin ‘yun, but okay. Na-appreciate ko ‘yung effort.

“Sorry,” sabi niya na hindi makatingin sa ‘kin habang binubuhol ‘yung plastic bag na gamit namin sa trash can.

“Hey, it’s okay. You didn’t have to do that.” Inabot ko sa kanya ‘yung mga damit. “Kung gusto mong mag-shower muna, go ahead.”

He looked at the clothes and at the shower stall. “Uh, yeah. Thanks.”

“Just leave your dirty clothes at the door,” sabi ko saka ko siya iniwan ulit para magligpit na sa kusina.

Sabi sa ‘yo, I have a buzz, pero mahina ‘yun kasi I only had four shots, pero uminom pa rin ako ng dalawang basong tubig para mag-hydrate. I munched on a few more chips before I put the bag away, then placed the bottle of tequila back behind the cans of corned beef.

Hinugasan ko ‘yung mga shot glass saka ko sila ibinalik sa cupboard, wiped the counters down, then went to the laundry/storage room to prep the washing machine and the cleaning materials I need for the bathroom.

Paglabas ko, bukas na ang pinto ng banyo pero wala na si Djoser sa loob. Maayos na nakatupi ‘yung mga damit niya at nasa kitchen island na. My brow furrowed and turned around to look for him. Gan’un katagal ba ako nawala at natakasan ako? He didn’t try to leave, did he?

But then I saw him.

Nakahiga na siya sa sofa, suot ang shorts ni Kevin pero hindi ang T-shirt, at parang malalim na ang tulog. Malapad ang sofa namin na regalo ni Tito Ash ko. He has a thing for comfy sofas. But while it was wide enough for Djoser, it wasn’t long enough so his legs were propped up on the armrest at his feet while his head rested on a mound of throwpillows. I winced because I knew he was going to wake up with a stiff neck along with the monster hangover headache, but I didn’t have the heart to wake him up. Isa pa, I kinda feel guilty kasi ako ‘yung nagpainom nang nagpainom sa kanya.

Kumuha ako ng kumot mula sa closet ko saka ako bumalik sa kanya at kinumutan siya. I adjusted the temperature of the air conditioner then fixed the blinds so it was dark inside, then I gave him one last look.

I smirked. Bad boy pala ah? He looked so much more like a baby boy than a bad boy that it wasn’t surprising that someone was willing to change herself just so she could love Djoser.

I couldn’t help myself. I ran my fingers through his damp hair, trying not to wince because that would make a mess on the throwpillow. I pulled the blankets higher over his shoulders and left him to sleep quietly.

Mamaya, kapag matino na siya, I’d let him talk about this again, and, maybe, help him figure out his feelings.

Siya na rin naman kasi ang nagsabi., he was a good guy. I know he’d do the right thing. He always does.

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