#SayFeels! with Jacob and Joei from Simply Joei by Clare Elisabeth Marquez

Available only on PH bookstores, published by Anvil Publishing.
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Pay -up Time! Or Is it?

One never gives up on true love. So Jake didn’t.

Holding on to the one that shouldn’t have gotten away, gorgeous Jake Calleja – engineer, entrepreneur and all-around hunk of a man – brings up old debt to bring in possibilities of future love with the beautiful and elusive Josephine Telencio. The two had a brief but unforgettable “history” in college, a past that Jake would seek to bring back in order to bring his “Joei” back in his life. To face their “unfinished past” entails a make-believe relationship for the sake of an ailing matriarch, an unforgettable country drive into the heart of the storm, a family drama of the queen mother and the wicked sisters, the inevitable supermodel ex, and lots of sparks in between.

A story of second chances and risking it all for a journey to a lifetime love – Jake and Josephine will take you to laughs and tears, to the highs and lows, to knowing when to hold on … or to let go.

Are things better left in the past? Or will true love prevail in the future?

“Where have you been?” a whispered grumble came from the man sitting in the dark at our living room.

I was caught unaware that I screamed out loud, clutching my handbag to my chest. It was thirty past ten on a Friday evening, my body fatigued but my heart even more so. The emotions of the last twenty four-hours heavy-loaded a thick, constricting obstruction in my heart.

“What … what are you doing?” I eyed my husband as light flickered on. Jake is sitting at the corner settee near the floor lamp where he usually stays up to read. His thick, dark hair disheveled, the folded sleeves of his white shirt carelessly pushed back on his forearm, his dark red tie loosely on. Jake didn’t respond as he leaned forward, his beautiful dark eyes still latched heavily onto mine, penetrating deep, straight into my thundering heart. He clasped his large hands together at the center, the tips of his fingers grazing at his full lips, elbows on the knees. He seems thoughtful and calm. But I know my husband better.

Jacob Calleja, his eyes fiercely gazed at me is not relaxed. At. All. I can see his taut jaws, the tight grip of his knuckles, his rigid body and the seemingly stoic face.

“It’s Valentine’s day,” Jake stated his words softer but no less meaningful. With a tinge of annoyed accusation.

Backtrack a month ago, Jake was excited in planning a getaway for us on Valentine weekend. But early morning of today, I left before him. While he was still in the shower, I snuck out but not before making sure his usual healthy breakfast and lunch are packed to-go. I didn’t leave any note but I placed his baon at the center of our breakfast table where he can easily see them. We may be at odds but I wouldn’t not take care of my Jake. Five minutes after I left the house, he phoned me. I ignored it. I couldn’t drive well, cry and answer his call all at the same time.

I was still hurting.

We had our first huge fight last night. On the eve of our first Valentine’s Day as wedded couple. Jake and I fought over something we both fiercely are too stubborn to nudge, something we both differ significantly in opinion.

We are at a standoff. I didn’t want to give in and knowing the man that Jake is, I don’t see him doing the same.

I walked a few steps forward to the spacious living room of the condominium unit where Jake and I are staying, albeit temporary. It’s his bachelor’s pad. Large, minimal in décor, too masculine in design. I sat down on the edge of the couch, weary as I closed my eyes, breathing in deeply for good measure. Talking has always been easy for my husband and I. We understand each other. We know each other well. But we are also stubborn fools, one wouldn’t just give in easily as should.

I won’t, particularly at this impasse. I feel it’s far too important for me as his wife, as a woman, to get this take, no matter how difficult it may be, no matter how tough Jake resists. I need to make him see the value of my request, my demand.

Before I give him my gift for Valentine’s day.

I inhaled, drew out a cleansing breath, before opening my eyes to catch Jake’s anguished face.

We were fighting over the purchase of our newly chosen home in the city. Much as we want to stay in Jake’s bachelor’s pad, we agreed that it’s best to get a house where we can start to plan out a family of our own. After just searching for a few houses, we finally found the one we want to buy. It was the perfect size, the perfect location, the perfect home for us. It cost twice the amount of what the previous houses we viewed but it felt like home.

So I wanted to buy it. With my own money. Jake didn’t think so.

Since our getaway home in Ilocos was solely purchased and gifted to me by my then-fiancé, I wanted to have my share in buying our own house in the city. I was fighting for my right to share the acquisition.

Jake vehemently, exaggeratedly, didn’t think so.

So it was a conversation that led to undefeatable arguments, to angry misunderstandings, and when we realized that neither of us was willing to give in, we just ceased talking. I walked out to diffuse the tension, leaving a fuming Jake firmly seated on the bed, glaring daggers at me. Instead of returning to our bedroom after a few moments of reflection in the living room, I went to the guest room, deciding it’s best to stay there instead of sharing the bed with cold-shouldered Jake. But I have not hit my head on the pillow yet and here comes my husband, banged the door open and without words, angrily picked me up like I’m some lightweight doll, marching to our bedroom then tossed me on our master King-sized bed. Before I can even lift myself up in protest, he crawled beside me and pulled me in his strong arms to spoon.

“We always sleep together, Joei,” he whispered grumpily, “Even if we are not talking, even if we are fighting, we always sleep on the same bed, every night, with you in my goddamn arms!” He pulled me closer to his naked chest, his arm around my shoulder and the other pinning me in my middle. Shoving his face down the back of my neck as he always does at night, I didn’t utter anything nor make a move to leave. I was still mad, still feeling raw on how juvenile and at the same time barbaric my husband is. If I don’t love him, I would have kicked his ass. I wanted to stay rigid, not even touching the arms that are locked securely around me. But few moments later, my body gave me away, my breathing became relaxed, easier, and, due to the long day at work and the longer evening of squabbles, I began to fade to slumber.

It was a stroke of luck that I escaped the clutches of my husband this morning. I woke up earlier than Jake, not unusual but normally he would follow a few minutes right after he feels I’m no longer in bed with him. This morning, despite the queasy feeling, I showered, dressed up and prepared food right about when he was just stirring awake. He called my name and when I didn’t answer, went looking for me. He saw I was ready for work so he mumbled sleepily that he will shower quickly before we go. We leave for work together, of course. I hardly have the use of the car he also bought for me because Jake chauffeurs me everywhere we go. It was more like we are almost always together that I rarely drive the red BMW he gave as a surprise gift last Christmas. This was when I just got him several expensive ties as gift. It seemed unfair and I needed to rectify this one-sided situation.

I felt the constriction in my throat as I controlled the wobbling tears threatening to fall as I faced my husband tonight.

“You always give me stuff,” I revealed, whispering. I chanced a glance at the immovable Jake.

“What?” he asked. I saw confusion in his eyes.

“You gave me a huge cabin in the mountains, the house of my dreams, on the day of our engagement. You gave me the red BMW as a Christmas present. I have a shitload of jewelries, tons of clothes, bags, shoes. You always give me stuff, Jake,” I was seemingly blabbering but I was getting to my point.

“So?” was his flippant response, “You don’t want me to give you stuff, Joei? Is that it?” he asked, incredulous his eyes was wide in confusion and bewilderment combined.

I was shaking my head. Giving me stuff makes Jake happy, I know that for sure. But it was not what I was driving at. And I want him to see what I was driving at.

“I don’t give you anything,” I whispered again.

“What?” Jake asked again, even more perplexed.

“I don’t give you anything, Jake. In this relationship, in this marriage, you always take the heavy burden of our expenses. You pay for our bills, for our food. You always pay when we dine out, you take me to expensive vacations. Everything, Jake. You cover all the expenses in this home,” I expressed wearily, looking at him with guilt and sadness.

“And this is the reason why we are fighting over you wanting to give your life savings to share in the purchase of our house?” Again, his disbelieving voice annoys the hell out of me, as if he is belittling my concern over my need to make this point early on in our marriage.

“No.” My voice shook but I sit taller, brows furrowed. “The reason why I want to give my life savings is because I need to contribute to this marriage. I don’t just take, Jake. I want to give, too,” I explained but it was more of insistence of my will.

“Oh you mean taking care of me is not contributing to this marriage? You mean every single time you take care of our house, of making this cold, sterile pad into a warm, comfortable home to go home to, is not contributing to this marriage, Joei?” There was a hint of sarcasm and a full weight of annoyance flavored in his statement.

All of a sudden, Jake stood up. I leaned back as he crossed the small space separating us to kneel in front of me. I met his eyes because his words breached the wall of my stubborn, wounded heart, despite having it said in displeasure.

“You mean every single time you put your arms around me when I have a rough day at work isn’t making a contribution to this marriage? You mean when you make me laugh with your silly, cute jokes, when you take care of our Oliver, when you make sure we have a clean home, that my favorite food are always served, those things, those valuable, way more important, intangible things, are not contributions to this relationship? This marriage?” Jake took my hands to grasp them tight before lifting my face by the cradle of his hand.

He smiled the smile I love. The one that emphasizes his kindness, the one that shines his wisdom. The one he knows that gets to me every single time.

Don’t you dare give in, not yet, I told my beating heart.

“I should be the one protesting here. All those things you say I give can never match the valuable gifts you put in this marriage. You provide me way more than I can ever …” Jake was still speaking when I bent forward to touch my lips softly to his. To make him stop. And also I missed kissing him this morning.

“Stop, Jacob,” I whispered, tears filling my eyes but I was finally smiling back at him.

“You’re crazy, babe,” he whispered back before taking over the kiss. As passionately as he always gives.

“This isn’t a contest, babe,” he convinces me, “You know it makes me happy to give you ….”

“I know, Jake, I know,” I nodded understandingly, caressing his cheek, “But you also need to allow me the chance to give. To contribute. Money-wise,” I stressed that last part to dig in deeper in his sensibilities and show him its significance to me.

“I have a good, stable job,” I continued on, “I earn. I need to be able to contribute because I can. I want to. This isn’t me stepping on your pride or taking away your happiness in providing for me, it’s me being an equal partner in this marriage. Those things you say I do, I do them because I want to take care of you …”

“And I want to take care of you too by providing you all that I can …” Jake argues but he needs to hear me.

“And you do! You do, Jake,” I grasped his forearms, squeezing, “But you have got to let me have a share on this. Please,” I pleaded, grip tightening.

Silence as Jake stares at me, contemplating.

I looked back with eyes seeking understanding. Settling an argument where he can support my wish.

“This is something important to you, Mrs. Calleja?” My husband quietly asked of me.

He held my face tenderly with both his hands while stroking my cheeks softly with his thumbs, wiping away the last stains of tears.

I nodded, “Yes, Jake. Yes, it’s very important to me.”

He exhaled, nodding knowingly.

“Okay,” he conceded, leaning back.

My heart exploded with happiness. I reached him to curl my arms around his neck but just as I was about to jump him, he shook his head slowly, untangling my arms then firmly held my shoulders to steady me back.

“I will pay for the down payment and you pay the rest of the mortgage,” Jake gave me his options, bargaining on how things will go.
I raised my eyebrow, skeptic.

“Oh you mean pay the down payment up to 90% then leave the rest of the 10% mortgage for me to pay? I don’t think so, buster!” I pinched him as I shook my head to refuse.

“Okay, you pay the down payment – not with all of your life savings, for god’s sake, babe – then I’ll take care of the rest of the mortgage,” Jake bargained, pinching my arms back but soothingly caressed them right after.

“Nope!” Shaking my head still, I dislodged his hold of me by leaning back on the couch, crossing my arms and giving him a warning death-stare.

“What do you want, Josephine Calleja?” His voice was of defeat and a tad of exasperation, sighing deep. He parted my legs to kneel, putting his hands on my sides as he caged me in before moving close.

“I want to … pay for it all?” I tested the waters, thinking maybe I can pay for the house. In maybe ten or fifteen years.

Or maybe to test his patience, find out if he’s giving in.

He quirked his brow, face turning serious once again, “You’re shitting me, I hope,” says Jake, leaning closer to intimidate. “That’s not partnership and you know it,” he reprimands.

“Fine. Fifty-fifty, how’s that?” I negotiated, moving forward to graze my lips on his.

“This is outright robbery,” he whispered, kissing me ever so softly before a side-tilted smile.

“Sharing 50-50 is outright robbery of what? This is a fair trade, if you ask me,” I whispered back, touching my nose to his, inhaling deeply my husband Jake, my favorite scent.

“Fine,” he answered petulantly before grabbing my face to tilt then driving in a solid, full-on, devouring kiss which left me ardently panting for more.

It took us a few more moments of breathlessness before coming up for air. I ended up flat on the couch with my husband on top of me. I see the smiling face of the man of my dreams, the love of my life as he gazed at me lovingly. I have not been too lucky to have much in life, all the measurable wealth of this world I lack. But now I know, now I understand why. My life is waiting for the best thing to come. The man that is my husband is all that I need in this world. I have everything because I have Jake.

“I love you, Jacob,” I declared.

He smiled the smile I love where his shining eyes spoke a thousand words that only I understand.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Mrs. Calleja,” Jake whispered, “I have something for you.” He pulled himself up before grabbing me with him.
Jake took me towards the dark, empty dining room, straight to the balcony where I immediately saw the dining set-up complete with candles, surrounded with different, colorful, fragrant gardenias, lilies, lilac, gerberas, heliotropes and lavenders. I entered the spacious veranda to take the full effect of the beautiful set-up. There were small, shining lights hanging from the awning, the cool feel of February night perfect for romance. The table was lighted with two glass-covered candelabra, a bucket of champagne at the side and … a small wrapped gift on top of a clean, white plate.

I glanced at my husband standing by the glass sliding door, his eyes still fixed on me.

“That’s my something?” I asked, giddy.

Jake nodded, a secret, small smile painted on his face.

Excitedly, I sat and grabbed the gift, untangling its red ribbon before tearing its gold wrappings. Inside is a small, rectangular jewelry box. When I opened the felted box, it’s … empty. I furrowed my brows in confusion.

I felt a slight touch on my knee. Turning, I saw my husband on his knee, holding out in one hand a pair of stud diamond earrings – the exact pair I saw in Hong Kong two months before where we spent our Christmas holiday. It was in a small jewelry shop where Jake insisted we check out. I didn’t want to, at first, until those glittering, heart-shaped diamond earrings caught my eyes. Jake wanted to buy it for me outright, insisted and demanded was more like it. I simply rolled my eyes and dragged him out of the shop like a sulky child in need of a happy meal toy to pacify. He let go of it, or so I thought, my sneaky little hubby.

“I love you, babe,” Jake stated, half rising to press a soft, damp kiss on my lips then another one on my forehead as he swept the bangs off my still startled face. He placed the diamond earrings on the table as he tenderly removed my small sleepers from both ears before putting the jewelry he gave me himself.

“They look good?” I happily asked, feeling the weight and texture of the studs with my fingers.

“You’re beautiful,” he replied instead.

“You’re cheesy,” I mockingly teased.

“And you love me,” was his confident response.

I leaned forward to brace myself on his shoulders then whispered, “Crazy about you, Jake. Head over heels crazy, babe.”

We smiled at each other, the rift from last night forgotten, forgiven, resolved.

I am way more than ready to give Jake my gift to him.

After dinner, while Jake was quietly drinking his coffee, I took a quick trip back to the kitchen to grab me some water and sliced some blueberry cheesecake for dessert. Re-routing to the living room to grab my purse, I went back to see Jake playing with Oliver, our spirited, highly vivacious canine.

I sat down and nervously watched my husband laugh while Oliver turned in circles, trying to catch his own tail. It’s our dog’s crazy game that never fails to make Jake laugh.

“Jake?” Anxiously, I grip the small box in my hand.

“Yeah, babe?” he answered but his eyes still focused on Oliver.

Swallowing, I drew in enough courage to push the small, simple box towards Jake, near where his coffee was placed on the table.

“Happy Valentine’s day, babe,” I said. Catching his attention, he glanced at me. My eyes flicked on the box I set before him then nodded my head for him to open.

Smiling like a silly boy, he grabbed the box and eagerly opened it.

I saw the moment his smile was wiped off his cheeks. That moment when his glistening eyes of unshed tears met my own teary ones.

He smiled the smile that I love. But it was the most beautiful I have seen, by far.

Once again, he looked at the piece of plastic his shaking hand was holding before meeting my eyes.

“Yeah?” he simply asked.

“Yeah,” I confirmed.

I couldn’t contain my happiness the tears that flowed from my eyes manifested. My heart couldn’t stop beating so fast I felt it might burst open my chest. My husband stood up to make one giant step towards me before kneeling down once again, and lovingly touched my belly as he heaved gasping breaths.

We were laughing and crying at the same time. Both of inexplicable joy.

I leaned forward as his arms wrapped around my back, pulling me closer. I touched my forehead to his, caressing his face with love and affection. With our eyes closed, we come to understand that our lives will never be the same.

On this day, we start a little family of our own.

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