I’ve always thought of C.P. Santi‘s writing as this delicious balance of sassy, sweet, and juice-out-of-your-nose funny. She has an innate grip on the culture of both countries she calls home, and that’s something that seeps out of her work (see Be Careful What You Wish For and When Cocoy Became Kikay). She brings all of these in her new book of short stories Maybe This Time, together with a couple of new aces, as she writes about second chance romance.
An accidental reunion . . . a sneaky plot . . . things finally falling into place.
Maybe This Time contains three heart-warming stories of love and second chances. Because when fate gives you a break, you grab the chance to finally make things right.
In Sweeter by the Second, when paintings conservator Rina David arrives for the Arts Festival in the heritage town of Jimenez, she’s reunited with Tony, the guy she once loved and lost. Now vice-mayor of Jimenez, Tony wants Rina back in his life and will do everything he can to convince her that they belong together.
Pamela Quiroz hatches a plot to get her parents back together in Exorcising my Ex. But will a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner succeed in reconciling Geno and Viv? After all, it’s been more than fifteen years since they first got together and they aren’t the hormone-driven teenagers they once were. Will wine and cheese balls still do the trick?
Torch, meet hand. Arne Weichmann has been waiting twenty-one years for Bea. Is it finally the right time to make his move and convince her that they are Meant to Be? He hopes so. Because he doesn’t think he’ll survive losing the one person who brought warmth and sunshine to his life.
I love how these short stories are still brimming with Santi’s signature humor and sweetness, but this time with a little bit more adulting. I love how she’s able to get into the heads and hearts of these couples, now grown-ups and years apart from the young, hormone-fueled lovebirds they were before, and find the itch there that most of us might recognize. What if years before, I chose wrong? What if all this time it was really you?
Rin and Tony, Viv and Geno, Arne and Bea–everyone had their own dreams, their own distractions, their own plans that somehow kept love from surviving. A theme like that usually results to heavy stuff, but in Santi’s capable hands the stories came out light and relatable, sincere and heart-warming, and of course, many colors of kilig.
Get your copy of Maybe This Time on Amazon 🙂
Sweeter by the Second
“I like seeing you in my bed.”
I frowned at the man who stood by the foot of the bed, a smug look on his face. “You like seeing me bedridden?”
Tony laughed and sat down. “Oh, Rin. I’ve forgotten how literal you are.” Shaking his head, he traced the bedcover’s crochet patterns with a finger. “No, I mean I like seeing you here . . . in my house, in my room. Not bad after what—ten years?”
I smirked. “Talk about delayed wish fulfillment.”
“Well, you’re here now.” Tony looked me straight in the eyes and smiled.
At that moment, I swear I felt weak at the knees.
Er . . . not entirely true. I’ve been feeling rather weak for the past three days—the effect of a bad case of food poisoning (damned roadside shawarma craving).
Ignoring the way my heart hitched in my chest, I rolled my eyes at him. “I knew it. This was all a plot to get me here.”
Tony chuckled. “Nu-uh, this is all on you, Miss Piggy . . . wandering off by yourself . . .”
“I wasn’t alone. Mimi was with me.” I was defensive. I’d just wanted a few hours by myself—to cope with Tony’s sudden reappearance in my life.
“Refusing my offer to drive you . . .”
“You had work!” I protested.
“And eating street food when a perfectly good dinner was waiting for you here.”
“I’m paying for my sins now. Happy?” Believe me, visiting the toilet every few minutes was torture.
“Tonying, stop pestering Rina.” Manang Dalma, Tony’s housekeeper came in the room and put a tray of steaming lugaw on the bedside table. “Here hija, see if you can keep this down.” She helped me sit up and handed me the bowl and a spoon. Frowning, she shooed Tony off, “Go and eat or your breakfast will get cold.”
“Opo.” Tony saluted her before he turned to leave. “Take good care of my girl, Manang.”
Laughing, he ducked to escape the balled-up napkin I threw at him.
Exorcising my Ex
I glanced at my watch just to make sure—my efficient, punctual daughter was officially ten minutes late. Smirking, I thought of all the mileage I’d get from teasing her about it. Pam got riled almost as easily as her mother did.
Just as if I had conjured her from thin air, a tall brunette appeared in the doorway. Her long hair was perfectly styled, and her sleeveless shift fit lovingly over her trim curves. Large eyes, framed by the longest eyelashes I’d ever seen, slowly scanned the room. The moment they met mine, they flared in surprise before narrowing.
I rose to greet her. “Viv. This is a surprise.” I bussed her cheek, lingering a moment longer than necessary.
She drew back, but not before I heard her sharp intake of breath. Glancing around, she asked, “Where’s Pam?”
“On her way, I suppose.” I helped her into a seat. “Didn’t know you’d be here today, Viv.”
“I didn’t know you’d be here either.”
“Hmm. I wonder if—” I broke off as both our phones vibrated.
Sure enough, it was a lengthy message from Pam:
sPam: Hi, Mom and Dad!
Yes, I’m with Tita Joy and I’ll be sleeping over at their place with her and Kesha tonight.
Yes, this is a setup. Happy anniversary! 🙂 Yeah, I know you never married, but when you were together, this was your anniversary (it was in mom’s scrapbook). This was also probably the day I was conceived fourteen years ago, so Happy Conception Day to me, too *\(ˆoˆ)⁄*
Anyway, I just thought that now Mom is back in town again it would be nice if you could catch up with each other.
I already paid for dinner. This took quite a chunk out of my med school nest egg, so you guys better sit and enjoy it.
I love you both!
P.S. I really, really don’t want to be grounded forever. I love you!
I shook my head. My girl was devious. Just like her Dad.
Meant to Be
“So, why did you call me over?”
Tina jerked a thumb at Bea. “You free next weekend? Bea needs you to attend a wedding with her in Tagaytay. That ass Carlo will be there.”
Bea flinched at the sound of her ex’s name. They’d broken up over four months ago, but everything still seemed so raw. She turned to Arne. “You don’t have to . . .”
“Want me to beat him up for you?” Arne’s eyes weren’t smiling anymore. “Just say the word.”
Bea shook her head. “No violence necessary.” She managed a weak smile. “Though I could use a friend by my side.”
“Then you’ve got me.” Arne held her gaze.
Suddenly, Bea felt her heart skip a beat. Unable to look away, she felt trapped by the intensity of Arne’s gaze.
Despite what her sister thought, Bea had certainly gotten the memo. Arne was gorgeous . . . and out of her league. She’d firmly buried all her girlish fantasies about him ages ago.
Or had she?
The moment was broken when Tina groaned. “Toilet break, excuse me.” Arne stood up and helped her to her feet. She shooed him away. “No, no, sit back down, I’m fine. Stay and talk. I’ll be back in a bit.”
Preoccupied with watching Tina waddle away, Bea was surprised when Arne spoke.
“You didn’t tell me.” Arne had moved closer. Hands clasped, he leaned forward. His elbows rested on his knees and his eyes were intent on hers.
Bea’s smile was sad. “There was very little to tell. We broke up, end of story.”
“You guys were together for a long time.”
Bea sighed. Apparently she wasn’t getting out of this inquisition. “He met someone else.” Her laugh was hollow and without mirth. “I mean, we meet people all the time, right? But he said . . . he said it was different.”
Arne’s hands clenched. “Now I really want to beat him up.”
Bea shook her head. “Don’t bother. Maybe it’s better this way.”
She’d wasted almost ten years on Carlo. Huh. That was a huge chunk of her life.
They’d been happy together . . . or at least she thought they’d been. But Carlo kept putting their wedding off. It had been almost three years since he’d asked.
A sigh escaped Bea’s lips. Sometimes she wondered if she should have done something . . . tried harder.
“Don’t blame yourself.”
Surprised, she looked into Arne’s eyes. He’d reached out and covered her fidgeting hand with one of his. He squeezed, as if he was trying to infuse her with his warmth.
“He was an idiot to let you go, Bea. You’re better off without him.”
Over the last few months, she’d heard variations of those same words from family and friends. But now, with Arne looking earnestly at her, she could almost believe it.