Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Almond Eyes

It’s a lovely afternoon. The weather is cool and the sky is clear and blue.

Jonathan gives his signal and the camera begins to roll. Julia gracefully plays a province girl washing clothes by the river. She is laughing and chatting with other girls. She throws her lines, she laughs again. Then, she points out a rainbow shining in the quiet horizon. The girls show their excitement. Julia smiles more. She looks very comfortable in the picture.

Jonathan stares at her from his director’s seat. Her beauty is soft, enchanting, and he likes it when her eyes twinkle every time she beams a smile.

Finally, Jonathan says, “Cut.”

The girls start to get off from the water. Julia follows too. Her head hurts. She wasn’t really feeling well since this morning but she’s glad she was able to finish the last shoot for the day. Suddenly, she feels dizzy but she keeps walking. She needs to change, she feels cold with her soaked clothes.

Her assistant, Sheila comes to her holding a bathrobe. But just before Julia could reach for her robe, her sight blur and everything turns black.


The bedroom is dark, except for the light that comes from the lamp stand beside her bed when Julia opens her eyes. She slowly gets up. She doesn’t feel cold anymore but she can still feel a little pain in her head. She swings her legs to the floor and stands up.

The door opens and a tall man turns on the light. It’s Jonathan.

“What are you doing here?” Julia asks, a little disoriented.

Jonathan opens the door wider to give way to Sheila who is holding a tray with a bowl of fresh noodles and vegetables. She places the tray on the coffee table beside the glass door facing the bed. Then she opens the glass door so fresh air could come in.

“Are you hungry?” Sheila asks.


Julia sits on a chair.

“Just call me if you need me.”

“Ok, thanks Sheila.”

Sheila leaves and closes the door.

“Do you still feel cold?” Jonathan asks.

“No…” she says lightly.

He sits on the chair next to her.

“You passed out this afternoon after we did the last shoot.”

His gaze is fixed on her.

“You had a high fever.”

“I’m sorry…I wasn’t feeling well today…” she says quietly.

“And you didn’t tell me? Or Sheila?” his voice is cold.

“I’m alright now, Jonathan….” she says, not looking at him.

“Do you know that you, passing out this afternoon, show how irresponsible you are?”

“It won’t happen again, I promise…”

She takes a sip of soup with her spoon and starts eating her noodles.

Jonathan’s gaze is still on her. She must be hungry. Sheila said she loves noodles and it looks like she’s enjoying it tonight. Her hair is a little rumpled and she looks so frail and pale and beautiful.

Julia looks at him.


“You are so thin. You’re skin and bones. I honestly think I could break your bones with my bare hands. Haven’t you been feeding yourself?”

“I’m fine …How many hours did I sleep?”



Jonathan was having his regular morning jog when he saw a woman sitting on one of the benches along the jogging area of Manila Bay. She was facing the sea, holding a notepad on her lap. She was wearing a comfortable vintage t-shirt and a pair of jeans, and she looked simple, very simple. But there was something about her that drew his attention. He couldn’t figure out what it was so he decided to sit beside her. She glanced at him for the first time and there he saw what he was looking for – her almond eyes that reflect both serenity and solitude. He didn’t want to look away because he wanted to see more, to know more and understand more about those eyes. That moment, he promised to himself not to end the day without him convincing her to play the lead role in his next independent film.


Julia finishes her bowl of noodles. This time, Jonathan gives her a tablet of aspirin. Julia takes the tablet and drinks some water.

“Thank you…”

Suddenly a mild wind blows.

“Do you feel cold again? Would you like me to close the glass door?”

“No, it’s okay…”

Jonathan leans his back comfortably on his chair.

“You won’t be on the set for the next two days…”


“You heard me.”

“But I have a lot of scenes to finish for the next five days… you know that…” Julia says, a little worried.

“You can finish them after you take your rest…”

“Jonathan, you know I cannot do that…The crew worked so hard to prepare for this week’s shoot… I can’t afford to be the cause of delays…”

“For once, will you stop being stubborn, Julia,” Jonathan says strongly.

“You know I’m making sense here.”

“I’m the director… I call the shots.”

“I’m the one who owns my body and as far as I’m concerned, I’m the one most capable of knowing the things that I can or cannot handle…” she says defiantly.

“Really? So that’s why you ended up passing out this afternoon… because you are very capable in knowing what you can or cannot handle, right, Julia?”

She falls silent, a little irritated.

“Do you think I don’t know?”

Jonathan looks at Julia intently.

“You’ve been tiring yourself every single night writing on your notepad. And sometimes, you just go out of your room in the middle of the night, and watch TV. And you don’t eat on time. Are you trying to kill yourself?”

“Do I have to explain every single detail of my life?”

Julia is furious.

“And what is it to you if this is how I live my life?”

“I hired you for six months to do the role, and I have no plans of dropping the film on the second month just because my lead actress died due to lack of sleep and starvation,” he says dryly.

They are both silent for a while.

“Okay, I’m sorry… But I still think it’s absurd that you will postpone the shooting just because you think I need to rest… ”

“Aren’t you giving up, Julia?”

He speaks her name with an icy menace.


She tries to stand up trying to dismiss their argument but then she felt a tinge of pain in her head again. She decided to stay seated.

“You can’t do this forever, Julia…”

Her almond eyes meet his gaze and immediately shift on the table, but even then, she could feel the force of his gaze.


Julia had given her first love to a man whom in the end made her feel unloved, unappreciated and unimportant. She lost her smile since then. It’s a good thing there’s a camera that could command her to smile or laugh. Those are the only times that people could see her brightened face.

Sometimes, he would hate her for not fighting a good fight, for not being strong enough to face pain and letting herself lose the battle of failed love. Sometimes, he would hate the man who had done this to her. He would want to beat and crush him into pieces. But most of the time, he would want to take care of her and protect her from all the dragons of the world.


“What are you trying to write on your notepad by the way?” Jonathan asks in a gentle voice.


“Like what?”

“My thoughts…”

“You like doing that?”

“Yeah… it makes me feel better…”

Jonathan nods.

“So…how did I get into my room after I fainted this afternoon?”Julia asks lightly.

“I carried you from the location and asked Sheila to call for a doctor.”

“You didn’t have to do that…”

“Didn’t have to do what? Call a doctor to examine you?”

“You didn’t have to carry me all the way from the location and bring me to my room. You have your crew or other people to do that…”

A bitter smile curves his lips.

“You don’t have to shut your doors twenty-four hours, Julia. Let someone help you once in a while… Let me help you…”

Her throat is tight and painful.

“Why would you want to help me, Jonathan?”

“I don’t know… I just feel that I need to…”

Her almond eyes turn to him.

“You always love helping people…” She gives a brief genuine smile.

It is Julia’s first real smile tonight. Jonathan is pleased.

“You should learn to smile even if you’re not in front of the camera…”

Julia chuckles.

“See…you look younger and lovelier…” He smiles with genuine amusement.

“Stop mocking me, Jonathan…” She smiles again.

That smile. Jonathan is willing to give anything for that smile.

“So what do you intend to do after the film is finished?” he asks.

“I guess I’m going home to Davao,” she replies.

“But… you’ll still be coming to Manila once in a while, right?”

“Yeah, definitely… You know what, you should try filming in Mindanao… It’s a beautiful island…”

“I know… I have plans of doing that… maybe after this film. But you should promise me that you’ll let me hire you again…”

“Sure… but since that would be my territory, I’ll be establishing some rules…”

“Like what?”

“You’ll not be allowed to whine…”



Jonathan gives a short laugh.

“Julia, you are the most stubborn woman living on earth… Well, at least for me… How do you expect me not to whine over your stubbornness?”

Julia laughs too.

“I can’t believe that you’re making me laugh after you infuriated me with your whining tonight…”

Jonathan hopes that it will always be like this – seeing her laugh on a beautiful night with the glittering stars laughing along with her, and the friendly wind blowing her hair as if blowing all her hurts away.

“You’re beautiful…”

Julia’s hearty laughter fades. Her soft gaze rests on Jonathan. A slight smile curves her lips. Her eyes are smiling too. Suddenly, tears start to flow from her eyes down to her cheeks.

“You are such a good person, Jonathan…”

Jonathan’s throat is clipped. He can only stare at the woman in front of him smiling and crying at the same time.

All the more, he feels the desire to hold her and assure her that everything’s going to be fine, and that she can cry as long as she wants until the last drop of tear escapes from her eyes. Then, she will be happy again.

Julia wipes her tears.

“I’m sorry…” she smiles again.

“Do you know why rainbows are so special, Julia?”

She shakes her head, still wiping he tears.


“They are special because you can see them now and they are gone in a moment... so every second that you spend just looking at them is important, because you know that at any moment, their beautiful colors will fade away and you’ll see them no more…”

Julia is gazing at Jonathan’s sincere eyes.

“I guess you should also see your life like it is a rainbow…”

Julia smiles.

Someday, Jonathan will let her know that she is special, she is loved, she is important and she is accepted.

For tonight, Julia doesn’t need to hear those words from him, because just looking in his eyes, she knows that she is.

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