France Christine Mondragon grew up very close to her big brother, Matt. She's the boyish type because she always hangs out with Matt and his friends. She may look and act like one of the guys, but France was never confused about her identity. She always knew that she likes the opposite s*x because every time she sees Aaron, her brother’s best friend, her heart beats like crazy. And so on her 18th birthday, she finally decided to confess her love to Aaron despite the 10 years age gap between them. That night, she offered herself to Aaron because if she would lose her innocence, she'd rather lose it to her first love. But then Aaron just laughed at her. She was just a little sister to him and said that Matt would never allow him to take his little sister as a girlfriend. France Christine Mondragon never felt so humiliated in her entire life. And so that was how her first love broke her heart.
After her debut party, she and her best friend went to a club to officially celebrate her adulthood and to somehow ease the pain she’s feeling after Aaron broke her heart. But Addie went out with a stranger and told her to enjoy and get laid. Because she’s not as liberated as Addie, she decided to go out of the club to get a cab and go home. But as she was walking she felt that some men were following her and so she ran as fast as she could in her drunken state. When she finally stopped, she lost consciousness. That’s when France Jaime Tejada first saw her. He brought her home without them exchanging names.
She was about to start her college life and so she thought that it would be the best opportunity to move on. She planned to study quietly and finish her pre-medicine degree in four years time only and so had no plan of entertaining boys. But one of her classmates in B.S, Biology threatened that plan – France Jaime Tejada, the Prince of bullies in their university who really is a real prince from Spain. On the first day of school, the two of them already squabble because they never imagined that they’d be classmates in college and the fact that they have the same first names made it worse. Every time a classmate or professor would call France, the two of them always looked back and so their classmates were teasing them. One absurd instance made their relationship worse. France Christine could never explain why she hates France Jaime so much. Maybe because of his guts, or maybe his mere presence is just so annoying? France Jaime on the other hand enjoys seeing her fuming in anger.
Day by day, the two of them bickered like no other but then the two of them seemed to be growing closer as well. No matter how much France wants to deny it, her feelings seem to grow for Jaime as she discovers who he really was. Beneath the badass and arrogant façade of the mighty Prince France Jaime Tejada is a sweet, loving and vulnerable prince who only wants to protect himself and his family.
When Jaime was about to confess to France, Aaron suddenly appeared in their university as their Laboratory Instructor. Even with her growing crush towards Jaime, France Christine still chose to pursue her longtime feelings for Aaron but for the second time around, her heart was torn into pieces. At that very moment, it was Jaime who actually stood by her. Jaime comforted her in his own little ways and reassured her that she’s beautiful and that she deserves to be loved.
France Christine Mondragon POV
Sobrang lakas ng music ko sa kwarto habang sinasabayan ko nang pag kanta ang paborito kung music artist sa aking speakers. Wait, kanta nga ba o pambubulabog ang ginagawa ko? Ah basta, wala akong pakialam kahit natutulog pa si Kuya Matt sa kabilang kwarto because today is the day! It’s my eighteenth birthday! Finally, I'm of legal age and starting today I can already do what every teenager does. This is our agreement kasi nina Mom and Dad. I promised to be such a good kid so I never once went out with my friends to party nor had any boyfriends, dahil bawal pa daw sabi ni Daddy and I respect that.
Yeah, I know…I may sound like a hypocrite to you but that's just who I am and how I was raised by such loving parents. Hindi ako sumusnod sa kanila dahil takot akong mapagalitan. Sinusunod ko sila dahil mas takot akong ma disappoint ko sila sa akin, takot akong masaktan sila.
“This is it!” super excited kong tili sa kwarto ko habang sinasabayan ko nang indak ang kantang ito ni Taylor.
Mahilig akong kumanta kahit na ang tanging nakakaalam nito ay ang kuya, sina mommy and daddy and ang bestfriend kong si Addie. This song, Secret Love Song, is my theme song for Aaron, my Kuya’s best friend, my first love, my one and only love.
Growing up, I have always looked up to kuya. Palagi akong nakabuntot sa kanya dahil gusto kung sinasama niya ako sa lakad nilang magbabarkada. Our home, the Mondragon household, ang naglalakihang tambayan nang mga kaibigan ni Kuya Matt. Strict kasi ang parents namin. Gusto nilang kilala nila lahat nang mga kaibigan nang mga anak nila at hindi nila pinapayagan noon si kuya Matt na mag sleepover sa ibang bahay. Kaya ang nangyari, lahat nang mga kaibigan ni Kuya ay dito samin nakatambay at kadalasan ay nakikitulog pa.
At siguro, dahil ang barkada ni Kuya Matt ang kinalakihan kong mga kalaro, ay naging boyish ako sa pananamit at kilos. I was never fond of designer clothes, bags nor shoes. What I love to wear is my favorite oversized t-shirts to hide my curves and match them with a pair of sneakers for comfort. Kahit naman mukhang lalaki ako at kilos lalaki ay alam ko sa sarili ko na hindi ako tomboy. I am 100% certain because everytime I see Aaron, my heart goes wild. Para bang ang buong katawan ko ay tumitibok.
And today, on my eighteenth birthday, I plan to confess my long time feelings to Aaron kaya nga sobrang kinakabahan ako ngayon.
“Kuya Aaron, no.. wait, that sounds awful. Again France.” I’m trying to practice kung paano ako magtatapat ang feeling ko mamaya kay Aaron. Of course, I cannot Kuya him if I’m going to confess right?
I cleared my throat and tried again.
“Aaron, I have something to tell you. Hmmm…Ever since....”
Naputol ang pagpa-practice ko nang biglang may kumabog sa pintuan.
“Hoy, France Christine Mondragon magpatulog ka naman!” sigaw ni kuya Matt sa labas.
“Hoy ka rin Matthew Mondragon! Anong oras na ba ha? Bakit natutulog ka pa?!” ganti kong sigaw sa kanya.
Patuloy ang malakas na pagkatok ni Kuya Matt sa aking pinto kaya napilitan akon pagbuksan siya.
“Sandali! Ano ba kasing kaila–” naputol ang pagsinghal ko sa kanya ng pagbukas ko sa pinto ay nakatayo doon si Kuya at may hawak na bouquet of flowers.
“Happy birthday, my little Princess whose not so little anymore” nakangiting bati ni Kuya Matt sakin.
Sa totoo lang, hindi dapat gawin nang kuya ko to sa ibang babae kasi kahit nakakainis lang tong lalaking to ay hinding hindi maipagkakaila na sobrang gwapo niya lalo na kapag nakangiti siya nang ganito. Haaay kawawa talaga ang mga babaeng patay na patay kay Kuya.
Kahit hindi ko hilig ang mga pa-flowers, na-touch pa rin ako kay Kuya Matt. Alam kong mahal na mahal niya ako kahit palagi kaming nagbabangayan.
“Aba may pa-flowers siya!” sabay tawa ko para hindi makita ni kuya na naiiyak ako.
“Syempre. Dalaga na kasi ang baby namin. Halika, mag-usap tayo France.”
France ang tawag sakin dito sa bahay. Sa school, France din ang tawag nang mga kaklase ko sakin. In fact, many of them does not know or nakalimutan nang may second name pa ako.
“Pumasok si kuya sa room ko at umupo kami sa gilid ng kama ko.
“Bunso, I know you’re a grown up lady now,” sabay yuko at halik nito saking buhok.
“But please, don’t just trust any guy kasi pag umuwi kang umiiyak baka makasapak ako ng tao.”
“Stop it kuya. Ang corny mo talaga,” natatawa kong tugon sa kanya.
Pero alam ko deep inside that my Kuya Matt is dead serious when he said that. Kinabahan tuloy ako bigla. Sobrang ingat ko sa pagtatago nang nararamdaman ko kay Aaron because I know that my Kuya would never take it lightly. But then, I am a big girl now and I have waited for years to finally confess my feelings.. I just hope that my Kuya will understand.
“Princess, I’m serious. You can never trust men easily. Dapat ipakilala mo muna sakin bago mo sagutin ang mga manliligaw sayo.”
I can feel my heartbeat racing. Ano kaya ang magiging reaksyon ni Kuya pag nalaman niya na balak kong mag confess kay Aaron mamaya, sa bestfriend niya. Baka magalit lalo ito pag napag-alaman na ako pang babae ang magtatapat.
“Yeah, I know Kuya. But you have to trust me din, okay? As you said, malaki na ako.”
“Alright Princess, of course I trust you. Baka nga ang mga lalaki pa ang matakot sayo eh,” pangungutya na sagot naman nito sakin.
“France Christine, aba kanina pa kita tinatawag sa ibaba,” biglang pasok ni Mommy sa kwarto ko.
“Andito lang pala kayong magkapatid. Get up already! We need to hurry because we have a lot of preparations to do for your big night, honey,” paalala ni Mommy.
Nagkatinginan lang kami ni Kuya sabay tawa. He knows how much I dread doing girly things.
I started preparing myself because the makeup artist was already waiting for me.
My 18th birthday will be held in our garden. Our home is huge enough to cater more than a hundred people but I opted to celebrate my birthday privately. Only family members and closest friends are invited for tonight.
“My goodness, gracious! You are so pretty kahit na bare face pa lang,” tili ng baklang professional makeup artist.
Nahihiyang ngiti lamang ang tugon ko sa kanya. Hindi ko naman talaga hilig to. I hate puting on makeup and wearing stupidly expensive designer’s clothes. My Mom just begged me to have a party like this. It’s her dream for her only daughter. As usual, I can’t say no to my Mom. I want her to be happy too.
“Honey, you can now open your eyes,” the makeup artist said.
Muntik ko ng hindi na kilala ang sarili ko. Although I’m a little bit uncomfortable with all this makeup, I am pretty satisfied with how I look.
I hope Aaron will see me as a grown up lady now. I stared at myself over the full body mirror I have in my room.
I am wearing a serafina champagne gown. The curves that I have been hiding beneath my oversized shirts have been exposed. Even if I’m only 5 feet and 3 inches tall, I know that I am attractively small and dainty. Petite and vivacious, that's how my best friend Addie always described me.
Naririnig ko na ang mga tili ni Addie once na makita niya ako tonight. We’ve been friends since kindergarten kaya sobrang close talaga namin. In fact, she’s my only friend. Matagal na niya akong pinipilit na magsuot ng mga sexy na damit pero hindi ko lang talaga yun style.
For the last time, I glance at my overall look. Hindi ako kinakabahan humarap sa mga bisita. What actually occupies my mind ay kung paano ako magtatapat kay Aaron ang aking nararamdaman.
You got this, Franz. It’s now or never.
I inhaled deeply and closed my eyes. Kaya ko 'to.