Book Title: Keep the Faith
Release Date: July 31, 2016
Author: Ana Tejano
As a community development worker, Faith was quite familiar with heartbreak and recovery after all the time she spent on disaster relief missions. So when her five-year relationship ends right before she left for a mission trip to a typhoon-stricken town in Iloilo, she tries not to make a big deal out of it. How can she be broken up about a breakup when she’s with people who literally lost everything?
But now that she’s back, all Faith wants is for her life to go back to normal and have people stop looking at her with pity. Never mind that she still has a lot of questions about the breakup, or that she feels a tiny ache every time her ex comes up in conversations. She’s okay now, and happily distracted by Nico Tamayo, the attractive new guy at work.
With new possibilities in the horizon, Faith thinks she is well on her way to moving on. But when her past comes calling back to her, will all the good things in her present be enough to keep her on the path? Or will she finally learn that there was more to heartbreak and recovery than what she knows?
Links to Purchase:
• Amazon – http://bit.ly/ktfnovel
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Ana Tejano has been in love with words and writing ever since she met Elizabeth Wakefield when she was in Grade 3. She has contributed several non-fiction pieces in print and online publications, and has been blogging for years. When she’s not writing, she works as a communications manager for a payroll outsourcing firm, and serves in CFC Singles for Christ in every other time that she doesn’t spend reading or sleeping. She lives in Metro Manila and is also known by another name in her other circles (but it’s not a secret identity, really).
• Website: http://www.anatejano.com
• Twitter: @itstimeana
• Facebook: http://facebook.com/itstimeana
• Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/anatejano
• Instagram: http://instagram.com/storiestotell
I froze at the sound of that now all-too-familiar deep voice—now less sleepy—and my panic gave way to anger. I turned around slowly.
Nico’s expression was friendly, oblivious to my seething. “I just want to say sorry for sleeping on your desk. Alvin told me you were coming back but I thought it wasn’t until Monday so I didn’t transfer immediately.”
“Did you touch anything here?” I pointed to my cubicle’s walls, ignoring his apology.
“You’ve been using my desk since you got here. Did you remove anything?”
He shook his head, his messy hair flopping on his forehead. He brushed it away with a hand. “No. Why would I remove anything? I only sleep at other people’s desks, but I don’t take anything.” He gave me a cheeky grin at the last part, an attempt to make a joke, but I was too worked up to play along.
“Then what happened to my pictures, huh?”
I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I turned, and there was April, holding out a small paper bag. “Hey. I almost forgot to give you this.”
“April, do you know—”
“I heard you. They’re in the bag,” she interrupted gently. “I took your pictures down, okay? It’s not Nico’s fault. He didn’t even see them.”
I took the bag from her and peeked inside, and found the smiling face of my ex-boyfriend looking at me, beside my own. I was unprepared for the stab of pain when I saw our matching grins, remembering exactly when that photo was taken (second year anniversary, right after he took me out to dinner).
“I thought it would help if I cleaned it up when you told me what happened. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.” She squeezed my arm, and left to answer her phone that started ringing again.
Squashing the urge to sort through the photos and memories, I shoved the paper bag in my bottom drawer, shutting the drawer with a loud click. When I looked up, I saw that Nico was gazing at me intently, and my face burned with shame again. Twice now. I can’t seem to get off on the right foot with this guy.
“I told you I didn’t know about anything,” he said, amused.
Well thanks a lot for rubbing it in. “If you hadn’t been sleeping on my desk then I wouldn’t have asked you.”
“Didn’t you learn much from what you saw on my profile?”
“I wasn’t stalking you!”
A small line formed between his eyebrows as if I was a Math problem that he was trying to solve. I tried to stare back at him but his brown eyes were too intense. Then to my surprise—and frustration—I saw the beginnings of a smirk tug at the corner of his lips.
“Aren’t you going to say something?” I crossed my arms.
Then his lips stretched into a full-fledged smile, a dimple popping on his right cheek. “I’m sorry. I promise I won’t sleep on your desk again.”
“Good,” I said with a firm nod. Then I started to feel a little silly for my outburst, especially after he seemed so gracious. “I’m sorry, too.”
“Peace?” he asked, extending his right hand to me. I uncrossed my arms and looked at his hand warily before glancing up at him again. He was still smiling.
“Okay,” I said, just a little begrudgingly, and reached out to shake his hand.
“My name is Nicolas, but everyone calls me Nico.”
“Hi, Nico,” I said, trying not to think of how warm his hand was. “I’m Faith. Faith Alvarez.” I let go of his hand. Too much hand-shaking was weird.
There was that dimple again. “I know.”
The tiny tinkling sounds of the chime sounded extraordinarily loud in the empty office as she left. As soon as she disappeared from my view, I switched to my browser, and in less than a minute, I was staring at James’s smiling face on his social media profile page.
He had just changed his profile picture. His hair was shorter, shaved closer to his head. The last time he had this hairstyle was around three years ago. The photo looked like it was taken at a restaurant, and that he was with some people, but I could only see the shoulder of whoever was sitting beside him. I recognized the red and blue plaid polo shirt he was wearing—my birthday gift to him last year. Seeing that gave me a huge wave of relief. He hadn’t thrown it away.
I know cyberstalking my ex wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t like I hadn’t checked on his profile when we were together, but now that we’re not, I couldn’t help but look at it every time I logged on. This was all I could do while I mustered up the courage to reach out to him so we could talk about what happened, for my peace of mind.
James’ eyes crinkled whenever he smiled genuinely, like he was doing in this photo. A slight ache tugged at my heart as I stared at it but I shrugged it away as I scrolled down his timeline.
There wasn’t anything else new on his profile that I hadn’t seen the last time I checked (yesterday). With a tiny sigh, I clicked on some albums that he posted after the breakup to see if there were comments that I hadn’t seen yet.
“Faith, what are you still doing here?”
“Holy crap!” I shot out of my seat, and for the second time since last week, my heart leapt at the sight of Nico.
“Hey, hey, sorry.” He put down on the floor the big plastic box he was carrying and held up his hands, as if I was a wild animal about to bite him. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to surprise you. I thought you heard me.”
“You think?” I exclaimed, taking a step away from him. My voice was shrill from the adrenaline running through my veins.
“I’ve been in the supply room all this time. April even said goodbye to me. I thought you left with her.”
“Why are you still here?” I struggled to keep my voice calm but my nerves were still strained. I jumped a little to shake it off, but my shaky knees made me stumble. Nico reached for my arms to keep me from losing my balance.
“Hey, be careful.” His grip was firm but gentle and helped to steady me, but my heart refused to calm down. I pulled away, stepped back, and leaned on the table, finding it more soothing to hold on to rather than Nico’s warm hands.
“You’re here!” Rain greeted us happily when we got to the small function area that she reserved. It was already set up, with one long table at the center with about fifteen seats surrounding it, and another table on the side for presents.
“I didn’t realize we were expecting this many people,” I said.
“Some of his high school friends, people from college, and his sisters,” Rain explained. She motioned for me and Meah to help her with the banner, then climbed up one of the chairs, holding one end. “Lissa will be here, too. She’s just on cupcake duty.”
I passed more tape to Meah to secure her side of the banner when Rain’s phone, which was near me on the table, rang. Lissa’s face flashed on the screen. Rain jumped down from her spot, dropping her end of the banner. We made a face at her, but her panicked expression shut us up.
“Oh, fudge. Are they with you now?”
Lissa’s tinny muffled voice from the phone was the only sound in the quiet room. Rain’s eyes were wide. “And you’re just about to park. Oh…okay. Can you give us about five minutes before coming in? Okay? Thanks.”
She hung up, and we watched as she took a few deep breaths before facing me. “Faith, I’m so sorry.”
“Why are you apologizing?”
“Lissa just got here, with the cupcakes,” she said slowly. She glanced at Meah, who suddenly had this knowing look on her face. I had an idea what she was about to say, followed by a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“And…James is here with them. I’m so sorry, Faith. I didn’t invite him, promise, but he dropped by our place with Andrew, and Lissa invited them.”
“I can find a way for him to leave if you don’t want him here,” Rain said, clearly distressed. “I’m so sorry.”
Meah’s eyes were on me, ready to spur into action if needed. My ex-boyfriend was outside, and in a few moments I will see him again. We will be in one place, and this was my chance to talk to him after more than three months of not being in contact with him.
“Faith? What do you want us to do?” Rain asked.
I looked at her and slowly shook my head. “Nothing. It’s okay. Don’t worry about me. I don’t mind if he’s here.”
My friends exchanged looks. “Are you sure?”
I nodded firmly. “I told you guys I was fine, remember? And James and I will see each other sooner or later. Better now when I’m with you guys than when I’m by myself.”
So that was how I ended up in the same room with my ex-boyfriend a week after I got back, three months after our breakup.
“So, French Fries, will you tell me who that guy is now?”
I looked at him with a start. Nico was near enough to have a clear view of my screen that showed a photo of James, and the screen gave off enough light for me to see his curious expression. I locked my phone, put it back in my bag, and looked out the window to avoid his intense gaze.
“Faith?” Nico said softly after the silence had stretched on long enough. My name sounded weird coming from his mouth after I had gotten used to his calling me French Fries. “I’m sorry. Look, I won’t press anymore—”
“He’s my ex,” I blurted out. He was silent so I sighed. “That guy in the pictures was my ex-boyfriend. But I’m pretty sure you figured it out already, or you must have heard about him from our colleagues.”
Without my phone, it was too dark for me to see his expression, but his hesitation filled the air. Finally, he said, “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
But that was the thing. Now that I’ve said it out loud, I wanted to talk about James, about us. His memory was now a phantom inside the van I felt I should entertain so it wouldn’t leave me.
I missed him so much.
“We were together for five years, and he broke up with me before I left for my last mission,” I started slowly.
“Oh,” Nico rubbed his face with his hand and let out a breath. “That sucks. I’m sorry.”
I shrugged, ignoring the pinch in my heart. “These things happen, unfortunately.”
I paused, sensing his discomfort again. I bit my lip to suppress a giggle; it was kind of amusing to see the confident Nicolas Tamayo fumble.
“Why did you break up?” he asked.
“He said he can’t do this anymore.”
Silence, then, “What the hell does that even mean?”