Chloe woke up at four thirty in the morning. All things she would need for the twelve days' seminar were already in her blue luggage and the big black bag. She felt excited the night before for she would gain another learning, friends, and adventure in life. She was always thankful in the Department where she belonged because she knew that their every action leads to further development of the teachers that benefits the nation in general. She strongly believed that even if the Department is not being perfect, she knew that it was the best institution that she embraced, and she was very proud of it. ''Good morning, Chloe.'' She turned when the waves of Yolanda's voice reached her ears. ''Good morning too, Yolanda. Thank you, bhe, for making yourself free this day just to take me to Naga City.''
''No problem, Chloe. I should be the one that must say thank you. I can visit my relatives there again. By the way, where in Naga City are we going Chloe?'' While she talked, Yolanda always showed her warmest smile. ''Reyalle Hotel.''
''Okay. Very familiar, bhe.'' Yolanda said the words with confidence. ''I know that is the reason why I did not hesitate to choose you.''
''Okay, bhe. You can go inside the car. Time is running. I do not rush driving along the road, but I don't want you also to be late in your seminar.'' Chloe settled herself in the soft seat of her own car and thanked Yolanda again. Yolanda just smiled in response.
Yolanda was thirty-one years old and still not yet married. She had a square face with two big tantalizing black eyes. She had a sexy body with rigid muscles for she spent four times a week in the gym. She was five feet and five inches high. In general, Chloe could say that she was beautiful. The only problem with her was she had big earlobes. Yolanda was the gardener of the mansion and one of her best friends. She was the type of a woman who was very realistic. One of the things that she liked most to her was that while driving she talked less that allows her to sleep and reach her destination safe and not exhausted.
From her own town to The Land of Happiness, Sorsogon City, the traffic was still moderate that allow them to reach the City in twenty-five minutes. It took them another ninety minutes of smooth driving to Legazpi City, the Land of the Perfect Cone, as other people would say especially the tourists. As the car traveled from The Land of the Perfect Cone to the Land of the Holy Mother, which is Naga City, Chloe can't help but sleep because she felt dizzy of the unending passing by the different vehicles in both sides of the lanes. It was quarter to eleven when they reached the Reyalle Hotel. Yolanda parked the car in front of the Royster Restaurant. Yolanda helped her in embarking her luggage from the car then after Yolanda had made sure that Chloe was secured she said goodbye. Chloe went directly to the young woman at the information desk. The woman in the information desk instructed her that Echotel would be her place for twelve days. On the way to have her seat as she planned about her next step, she met Sheila Codon. Sheila was a friend and a teacher in a nearby school in the nearby barangay. ''Oh, my goodness, Chloe! You just arrived?'' Sheila got surprised when she saw her. Sheila was thin but sexy. She had a small face and almond-shaped eyes that made her look like a Korean. She had a fair complexion, average height, long and black straight hair that almost reached at her waist. ''Yes.'' Chloe showed her warmest smile even if she slightly felt tired. ''You register now then after that you visit your hotel. Where is your destination?'' Sheila was a jolly person and talked very fast that always burst in laughter every time she talked. ''Echotel.'' Chloe hesitated to say it because she was not sure if she pronounced it correctly. ''Yes. Great!'' Sheila burst in happiness. ''I'm also in Echotel. We can see each other frequently.''
''Yes.'' Chloe showed in her face the feeling of gladness because she met an acquaintance in the said hotel. ''For the time being, let's go upstairs and we will look for your name and register. Did you secure a Travel Order?''
''Okay. What are we waiting for?''
Sheila was in class 8B while she found her name in class 8E. After she registered her name, they decided to visit the biggest church in The Land of the Holy Mother for the session would start in the afternoon. It would be good to start for the seminar by offering herself to God first.
The seminar was about the 'critical content' where the teachers and the students found difficulty in understanding the concepts in different disciplines in Science. For five days, Chloe found the discussion boring, but she tried her best to understand some of the concepts especially in Biology and Chemistry. It was because in the new curriculum teachers have to teach different subjects that are beyond their expertise. She was aware of the spiraling of the curriculum that sometimes she even found herself dizzy because of the concepts that she was not familiar with. The seminar would be her chance to learn ways and strategies that would help her to love the subjects that she did not understand. Luckily, because of will and determination to learn, Chloe found Biology and Chemistry enjoyable, desirable and interesting. In the remaining days of the seminar, Chloe enjoyed a lot for the topics were all about Physics, Earth and General Sciences. At the end, Chloe learned two things in the seminar: determination and willingness to learn. Without these two, no matter how many seminars that the Department would offer if the concerned teachers had no willingness to learn new things and determination in understanding the goals of the new curriculum it would simply be useless. She returned home and had so many new techniques to apply to maximize the knowledge and learning of the students.
In the first week of June, the department store was loaded with so many diversified people preparing for the incoming school classes. Most of the people inside were groups of parents and students looking for ready-made school uniforms. Parents simply relied on the ready-made school uniforms because they won't have to consume enough time in having to visit the tailors in town for sometimes they were fully occupied. Parents took the opportunity because the said department store offered a discount of up to sixty percent. Aside from the discounts, the said department store had a lot of raffle draws that made the people appreciate it for when luck would visit their lives they can win up to a million pesos that could change their status in life.
In the second floor of the department store, a man with heart–shaped lips was standing behind the rack in the T-shirt sections for men as if looking for something to buy but his eyes once in a while gave a furtive glance at the young Mayor while selecting a polo shirt which he found quite big for his body size. The Mayor wore a fitted striped blue polo shirt and fitted jeans that made him more handsome. While scrutinizing every item, the Mayor moved with confidence. The thing that confused him was why he looked for a polo shirt which was beyond his size and far from his type. Until the storm in his mind began to be clear when a man a few inches taller than the Mayor with a body that would fit the size of the polo shirt that the handsome Mayor just selected approached and cupped the waist of the young Mayor. Paul did read a thing not written verbally, and simply nodded.
Chloe went to the colossal department store to buy some foods for her own room. She did not notice that her room was empty of foods after she had left a couple of weeks ago to attend the seminar. She bought foods that would be enough for almost a month. She decided like this because visiting the department store to buy foods would be difficult especially during school days where even weekends were occupied when the service of a public servant was badly needed. After she paid the goods she needed, she went to the baggage counter to leave it first for she remembered that she had to buy new clothes in the second floor of the department store for the opening of classes. She was on the food section then traipsed slow on the way toward the stairs with preoccupied mind as she tries to recall what she might have forgotten to buy when she bumped into someone. She shifted her face to ask for an apology. ''I'm sorry, sir.'' Her face had brightened when she saw the familiar face of a handsome man that's very dear to her heart. ''Chloe, it's you. How are you?'' The clear, courteous and mellow voice of Father Alex rang in her ears. ''I'm fine Father Alex. It seems you buy a lot of things here.''
He closed his eyes in just a blink. In Chloe's mind it moved in a slow motion, she saw the innocence in his face. The face that had made her cry for a thousand sleepless nights. ''Would you please help me Chloe in deciding other things that I need to buy.''
''Toothpaste, Shampoo, ahmmm…soap.''
''Done.'' Father Alex faced her with a smile. The old feelings were buried already that made her stare directly at his eyes. ''Okay. Ahmmm… How about some bread and mayonnaise?'' While they talked, they slightly moved in every section that would help Father Alex to decide items that he would like to add. The bodyguard of Father Alex who just came from the toiletry section was behind him slowly pushing the cart. ''How about this?'' Chloe's right hand picked something without seeing at it. Chloe saw Father Alex eyes widened and his Adam's apple bounced slightly in his throat as he swallowed hard then produced a smile. ''If you were offering me a flavored juice, I think Chloe you forgot that apple is my favorite flavor.''
''I know that your favorite fruit is apple. How could I forget it?'' She said defiantly but she saw the face of Father Alex's bodyguard as he tries control himself from bursting into laughter. ''But that is not a box of flavored juice, Chloe.'' Father Alex's voice was cool and hesitant.
'Oh my God!'
Chloe ran her gaze to her hand which was holding something that she could not even determine. As if her senses weakened from the excitement that she could not explain. But the moment she saw it, shyness enveloped her.
'A box of condom! Strawberry flavor. Oh my God, forgive me!'
Her thought was in shock. ''I'm sorry Father Alex. I thought I was holding a box of flavored juice.'' Her voice was fading and almost tight. ''Sometimes the right hand picks something which is not the right choice. I have no reason to use that thing you have offered me, Chloe. '' Father Alex smiled widely at her. Chloe felt her face turned red. ''I…ahmm... sorry Father Alex.'' She said apologetically. ''It's alright. Well, I think I should go now and pay these items.'' ''Your mother owns this department store. Yet you obliged yourself to pay.'' ''Well, business is business.'' Father Alex showed his charismatic smile and they said goodbye to each other.
Chloe reached the base of the second floor but could not still forget the thing that she showed to Father Alex. The unexplained excitement that she felt turned into a ravaging shame. She did not know how they arrived in the said section that made her hands got the box of condom. The feelings of gladness that she saw again Father Alex seemed to weak her intuition. She taught her mind to leave the shyness behind. She thought of different designs of new clothes that she would wear every Friday. She passed by a few bargain racks when a voice from behind startled her. She was deeply in thought that made her not to notice him. As she glanced over in her shoulder to the source of the voice, Chloe saw a man with a gun shouted to everyone to cooperate with him. Chloe thought that this man was a thief. She was about to run to hide when in an instant the man noticed her and in just a few seconds he seized her by his large muscular arms and encircled around her neck. Chloe could smell the stinky odor of the crazy man's breath that almost made her faint.
The man with the heart–shaped lips was on the opposite side of the aligned racks loaded with so many men and ladies' dress with different designs and styles when he heard the blast of a gun. A few seconds later, the screams of people followed as he saw people running in different directions. The sound that alerted him most was the voice of a woman asking for help as she was seized. The screaming voice sounded familiar. As he turned to his left, he perceived a muscular man seize the woman he saw in the Guevara residence during the ordination. The man was out of his mind moved backward while he hauled the woman. The man with the heart–shaped lips walked in normal steps toward them. When the crazy man noticed him, he commanded him to stop as he pointed a gun to the man with heart-shaped lips.
Chloe moved backward as she was hauled by the crazy man away from the incoming man with heart-shaped lips. Chloe recognized his face instantly. He was the man who wore the red long-sleeved polo. But now he wore a fitted black T-shirt covered with a dark red leather jacket and fitted pants. Chloe saw the man with heart–shaped lips did not listen to the crazy man who captured her; instead, he walked leisurely toward her location. Chloe thought about begging the stinky crazy man to release her, but she did not know how for she could not even breathe. She was about to talk but the man with heart–shaped lips was already two meters and a half away from them. The crazy man pointed the gun hysterically at the man in black with a heart–shaped lips and shouted angrily at him not to move or even get closer for he would not hesitate to fire his gun on Chloe's head. Chloe shivered for she could not imagine herself having an untimely death. The crazy man shouted again louder but the man in black with heart– shaped lips not unperturbed even the tip of his hair. The worst was he continued to approach them. Chloe felt tears streaming down her face because of fear. The crazy man lost his patience at the man in black with heart–shaped lips and pushed her to the rack instead that made her dropped in pain. The crazy man moved forward and raised the gun toward the man in black with a heart–shaped lips ready to pull the trigger. But before the crazy man could do so, the man in black with a heart–shaped lips swiftly swung his hand and body, clasped the crazy man's hand, pulled it abruptly and twisted it in a very painful way. While they were in the battle for control of the gun, the man with a heart–shaped lips twisted the attacker's hand upward and pulled the trigger with the bullet striking the bulb attached to the ceiling. Some parts of the department store had partial darkness while the people ran and continuously screamed out of fear. The time the man in black with a heart–shaped lips had an open space for opportunity, he kicked the crazy man in the waist that made the crazy man to drop his head on the opposite rack. The gun flew upward then landed on the floor and hid itself among the bargain racks. The crazy man moaned with pain. Chloe screamed out of her fear and the time she had a chance; she pulled her body up and ran toward the man in black with heart–shaped lips and embraced him so tight. Tears with fear ran in her lovely face. Three security guards arrived to apprehend the crazy man. ''Are you okay?'' He asked her when they parted. His voice was soft and very masculine as if she had heard the soft voice of Father Alex. ''I'm quite fine.'' Her lips were shivering. ''Thank you.'' He simply answered her with a nod. ''May I know your name? '' Chloe demanded. The man stared directly at her eyes and a mellow voice reached her ears. ''Paul.''
''I'm Chloe Santos, Paul. Thank you for saving my life. Perhaps, without you, I would be dead by now.'' Chloe angled her face toward her right side when she heard familiar voices. ''Oh my God! Chloe are you alright?'' It was Selene breathing heavily while she approached her with concern in her face. Chloe noticed Selene's blouse had two buttons which not fastened. ''Thank to God someone saved you.'' She heard the voice of Alejandro who was behind Selene standing anxiously. ''Yes, because of him.'' She turned around but she never saw even the shadow of the man with a heart-shaped lips. They were about to leave when Madam Chelsea's voice was heard from behind. ''Oh my God, Chloe I'm so sorry for the mess. I know you are badly hurt but I assure you that he will be punished.'' ''Thank you, Madam Chelsea. You have nothing to worry about such rare and crazy things sometimes happened. I only thank to God that I'm still alive.''
''Thank you for understanding but I will double the security so that such thing will never happen again. You don't deserve this. I adore you. You are brave and great, Chloe. I know you must go home now to take some rest. My security will assist you on your way out.'' ''Thank you, Madam.'' Two things that Chloe had left in the said place: shame and shock.