The author of the quirky novel My Imaginary Ex
comes back this year with a realistic story of romance that will make you question your notions of love.
In No Strings Attached, Mina V. Esguerra
introduces a class act in smart and reliable Carla.
She’s so good at her job she can make miracles happen at the last minute, but while most of her girlfriends are married, Carla’s still single and fast approaching 30. Enter Dante
, a sexy, if arrogant, man who injects a little excitement in Carla's life when they start dating. The only catch is he's five years younger than her. Her guy best friend tells her to just enjoy the ride, but there's a niggling thought of the back of Cara's head warning her that Dante’s too good to be true.
Has Cara finally met her match, or is she on her way to making the biggest mistake of her life? Grab a copy of No Strings Attached
to find out. Check out the excerpt linked below for a preview.
Sometime early September, three months after the "fling" started, I finally told a friend about it. But maybe I shouldn't have told Tonio, my model-handsome slut of a Guy Best Friend. (I call him that to differentiate him from Mary, Girl Best Friend.) Anyway, I poured my heart into that carefully worded sentence, and he just laughed at me.
I had to reach over and hit the emergency stop button on his treadmill because he knocked down his towel and could have tripped over it. Didn't want anything to happen to that face—especially because of my little announcement.
We were at the gym that Tuesday evening, side by side at the treadmills. I was doing a light jog, he was in the middle of his regular sprint, when I said it.
"I've been dating a younger guy."
He caught himself on the rails and held on, but was still laughing. "Is this the same guy from Batangas? How much younger?"
I sighed. "Five years."
"Shit, Carla, that's nothing." A toned arm reached down to grab the fallen towel and he started up the treadmill again. "Five years means something when you're teenagers. But you're twenty-nine and he's..."
"Yeah I can do the math."
"Carla, Carla, Carla." He had a smug look on his face. "I always knew I'd hear something like this from you one day."
"Ugh, not when you say it like that."
But who was I kidding? I wanted this kind of reaction. Not just acceptance, but actual encouragement, and it was why I came to Tonio in the first place. Apart from being the only other single person in our college barkada, he would be the least judgmental (relatively). I had gone through enough self-doubt in the three months that I'd been kinda sorta in a relationship.
Tonio and I met in college, through common friends who started hanging out at a tambayan
together. At most we were probably two dozen, but after college the group whittled down to six core people who still kept in touch. There was me, Tonio, Mary, two other girls and one other guy. Every few months we still tried to have dinner together, but by now almost ten years had passed since college graduation and it was harder to coordinate schedules.
Also, everyone else, except for Tonio and me, were married with children.
Back then my friend Tonio—now going by Anton—was not a buff manslut yet. He was good-looking, sensitive, if a little overconfident. I was extremely unfashionable and a little chubby around my waist and on my face. Still we actually had a little flirtation going on for several years. Our friends thought we would eventually end up together. For three weeks soon after graduation, we actually did, but it didn't last.
Fast forward ten years, and he ended up becoming my Guy Best Friend. I used to have only one best friend, Mary, but a wedding and a kid later and I stopped inviting her out every single time I needed to vent. Tonio's lifestyle was a little more accommodating—we went to the same gym and lived close enough to each other to frequent the same supermarket. He also bulked up and started calling himself Anton. I dropped twenty pounds, despite a continued fondness for baked goods. And we both learned the importance of correct clothing sizes and flattering haircuts.
You'd think that we'd still be hung up on each other after becoming exponentially more attractive, but no. Our transformations actually underscored how great we were as friends, because it revealed something that I hadn't even admitted to myself. That we were different from the rest of our barkada.
"Why?" I demanded, slowing down on my treadmill. "Why aren't you surprised?"
He smiled as he shook his head. "Couldn't figure out what exactly was wrong with you, but now that you said it, yes—dating a younger guy is the solution."
"There's nothing wrong with me," I protested.
"Okay, I didn't mean it that way then. Replace that with different. But you know what I mean, right? We're not like our friends anymore."
What Tonio meant, I assumed, was that in the past five years our other friends had joined a club—the Marriage Club—and since then they started operating on a whole other wavelength. They seemed to get one another though, talking about in-laws and kids and breastfeeding and pre-school.
It wasn't that they became boring to us; we just didn't get it. I knew why Tonio wasn't into it. Years ago he discovered he was an attractive guy and started exploring his potential as a "player." Now at twenty-nine, he still enjoyed that life, and any opinions he had about breastfeeding, I wouldn't want to hear.
I wasn't sure why I wasn't into all that domestic couple stuff, though. I wasn't the type who slept around like he did.
"I'm not like you," I said.
"Are you bringing him to our birthday party?"
That was the question, wasn't it? I did just tell one of my closest friends that I was seeing him. Did that make it official? "I don't know yet."
The answer tickled Tonio. It sounded weird and new coming from me, the most relationship-illiterate of the bunch. "Are you having fun right now?"
I almost said no, just to spite him, but it wasn't true. "Yes."
Tonio laughed. "Maybe you're just a late bloomer."