SUNSET

An ALDUB Fanfic

Disclaimer: All fiction. Any similarities are mere coincidences. This was written for entertainment and not for financial profit.

He hesitatingly opened his eyes, unsure of what awakened him but felt a gentle summon calling him from the deep sleep he was in. Sluggishly, he looked around, temporarily disoriented by the darkness, trying to familiarize himself with the place he found himself in.

A single recessed light by the window illuminates the entire room.

He closed his eyes once again and exhaled, relieved when he finally heard his name called.

“Tisoy,” said the voice quietly.

“Kanina ka pa?” he replied silently, his eyes still closed.

“Oo,” the voice replied smilingly, recognizing instantly the sound of contentment in his voice, “eh, kamusta ka?”

“You already know. Kaya ka siguro nandito.”

Nobody spoke for a while. Only the constant muted beep of the intensive care monitor beside the bed momentarily filled the air.

“Have you forgiven me?” she asked silently, no trace of hesitation in her voice.

He didn’t answer immediately but the sudden appearance of tears that seeped from his eyes and the difficult wheezing of his breath spoke for him.

Soft hands gently grasped his cold hand, intertwining her fingers with his, squeezing it firmly when he submitted to the comfort the warmth of her hands offer.

“How can I not?” he finally whispered painfully. “It was not your fault.”

One of her hands lifted and wiped the corners of his eyes. Rubbing away the traces of the sadness that usually grip him when he remembers her.

“I knew it would hurt you but I was not given a choice,” she squeezed his hand again and started stroking his temple. She allowed him to soak in her presence, her touch as evidence that she’s really there. “And besides,” she added after a while, “I also knew you would survive—kasi nga mas mahal kita,” she added teasingly, “I wouldn’t have.”

It had been a running joke between them, ‘who loved whom more?’ in effect, starting an unspoken competition between them to show ostentatious demonstrations of love for each other. Nobody ever understood what went on between them, no one was ever allowed inside their bubble, but everyone felt it and labeled it with different names although everyone believes, and agrees, it was a lot more than that.

He exhaled exasperatedly, opening his eyes just to glare at her, “Joke? Gawin daw bang joke?” he moaned in disbelief.

Seeing her sweet smile somehow melted the pain in his heart and quickly changed it into the familiar joy he’s always felt with her. He lifted his hand purposefully and caressed her cheek. “You’re beautiful,” he whispered reverently, “so beautiful.”

She smiled back and stroke the deep indentation on his left cheek. Her eyes tracing the whole of his handsome face comparing it to the time she last saw him. His once fleshy cheeks are now hollowed and his darkened skin bears testament to his love for the outdoors, while his now grayish eyes look tired and heavy with pain. His forehead has a permanent frown etched on it, framed by thinning gray hair matted on his head. “So are you,” she whispered back lovingly, “So are you,” stroking one cheek tenderly.

“I missed you,” he whispered in wonderment, gazing at her thick lips, remembering the many times she boldly kisses him because, she confessed, she was just too overwhelmed by her love for him. With her, he was always secure that he was loved. She never made him beg for affection—even when she was mad. For her, just because she loves you, whether you deserved it or not, she will always make you feel you are cherished.

She straightened and stepped back from the bed when she heard the door open. A young man wearing black slacks and a long-sleeved white polo hesitatingly entered the room. He obviously just got home from work.

“Dad? Do you need something?” he uttered, glancing her way, obviously unsure of his reception.

Alden didn’t turn immediately to the door when it opened. He was still gazing at her with great attentiveness until the moment the young man spoke to him.

“Hindi, bakit?” Alden rasped with great difficulty, looking dispassionately at his son. His face devoid of any expression.

“I heard you talking,” he explained simply, “I thought you were calling for your nurse. I just spoke to her. She’s now talking to her substitute,” he informed him. His face unsmiling, also devoid of expression. When his father just stared at him, he sighed heavily and turned back to the door. “Ok Dad. Just call if you need something,” he prompted drily, before turning away, leaving the room to them.

“Kamukha mo siya,” Maine commented simply. Walking back to his side. Alden closed his eyes again, clearly unwilling to talk about what just happened.

“Tell me,” she coaxed. He’s always been loving—affectionate. What she witnessed was a different person altogether.

Alden sighed and gave in dispassionately. “Noong nawala ka…,” he paused, trying to control the sadness that wanted to overwhelm him once again, “I decided to come here. Only a few people knew me here and, I believed, those who still did will forget me eventually. I couldn’t bear anymore the look of pity in people’s eyes when they look at me and leaving the country was the only solution I could think of—to cut off everything that was familiar.” He was having a difficult time speaking but he needed to explain himself.

“Even your family?’

“Lalo na sila,” he whispered sadly.

He heard her sigh and take a deep breath. He knew how much it takes from her not to show him her disapproval. And somehow that made him feel better. She’s always encouraged him to give equal attention to his friends and family and to keep them close and near. But then she left, and that’s about the only signal he needed to do whatever he wanted.

“Please continue,” she encouraged.

“After a few years I met someone and we got married,” he narrated factually. “But a year after that we got divorced.”

“Why?”

“She knew about you before she married me,” he reasoned out blankly, “but it seemed she couldn’t accept that after I put a ring on her finger.”

“And your son?”

He didn’t speak for a while, lost in the past where their conversation un-apologetically pushed him to. “I’ve always known I wouldn’t be a good father,” he confessed bitterly.

“No. I saw you with kids…we spoke endlessly about children. What really happened?” her voice insistent but treading carefully. “You don’t love him?”

His eyes suddenly opened and flashed at her, “Of course I do,” he rasped painfully.

“Then?”

He pushed his head back in the pillow and closed his eyes once again. “Paano ko iwanan niya rin ako?” he whispered, finally revealing the fear he jealously hides in his heart, “What then? What if I was left alone again?” he rasped vacantly.

“So you left him first?”

He turned his tired eyes towards her once again. “I’ve always been here for him. Always provided for his needs. I took him in when his mom remarried.”

She exhaled painfully and took his hands once again, bent her head and kissed them. They stared at each other’s eyes, speaking to each other’s soul, decades of conversations taking place. Her eyes asking forgiveness once again, his eyes, finally—forgiving.

Then they smiled.

After a long time, their hearts became one once again and they were able to smile that same sweet smile meant only for each other.

“There is still time,” she reminded him after a while. He needed to patch things up with his son.

“He hates me,” he said, his voice disheartened.

Suddenly the door was enthusiastically pushed open as small scampering feet run towards the bed.

“Lolo Tisoy! Lolo Tisoy!” a little, bob-haired girl called out excitedly, lisping charmingly.

She was wearing a white shirt under a red Minnie Mouse jumpsuit. Her short bangs frame a round bedimpled face. She was about five years old. Her beaming face was obviously meant for her grandpa alone. She was about to climb the bed but the young man who came in earlier was not far behind her and held one of her arms back, restraining her.

“Charmaine–Meng, what did I tell you? Your grandpa is sick,” he warned her quietly, “you shouldn’t be here. Where is your yaya?”

“But dad,” she explained piteously, her head bent low, “I brought him flowers.” She extended her arm in front of her father, displaying three yellow carnations in her hand. “It was supposed to be a surprise,” she pouted. “It’s his favorite,” she informed him proudly, “same like mine.”

“Richard, let her be,” Alden quipped sternly, the wheezing sound in his breathing not enough to hide his displeasure.

Alden turned to the little girl now sitting right by his waist, his expression bright at the sight of his granddaughter who seemed unmindful of all the tubes connected to her grandpa. She was quick to hop on the bed as soon as her father let her arm go, not waiting for him to change his mind.

“Lolo Tisoy,” she said loudly, her large eyes rounding with great excitement, “happy birthday!” She swiftly bent towards him and kissed one cheek exuberantly, handing him the flowers she was holding in her hand.

Alden’s face was simply glowing, albeit strained, momentarily forgetting the sickness that has been plaguing him for months. “Thank you Meng.” A tear escaped his right eye, bothering his little granddaughter whose attention was latched on his every expression.

“Lolo Tisoy, why are you crying,” she asked worriedly, reaching out one chubby hand to rub away the trail left by the tear on his cheek. “You didn’t like the flowers?”

“I loved it,” he said strenuously, his voice rough with emotion, “Lolo’s very happy,” he explained smilingly to the little girl.

“I know it’s still 5 hours before your real birthday but I want to be first to greet you,” she informed him seriously. “—and also mom told me I should sleep early,” she whispered to him furtively.

Alden stopped himself from laughing out loud, not wanting to offend the serious child, not that he could. His granddaughter is just too smart for her age.

“Aldub you Lolo,” she whispered in his ear before clambering down the bed.

Charmaine’s father, Richard III, was not far behind his daughter. Calling out to her to be careful. Maine shook her head in amusement, he’s so like his father—the great wall of Alden.

“Who gave her her name?” she finally asked.

“His father,” Alden sighed begrudgingly

“Coincidence?”

He was silent for a bit, obviously deliberating if he should tell her about it.

“Sikreto ba?”

“Hindi,” he said, “but I know you’d have a lot to say about it.” He sighed and unwillingly surrendered to the inevitable. He’s always been powerless to keep anything from her. She’s always had the knack to worm anything from him.

“When he was a teenager he discovered your pictures in my computer while he was using it.”

“You hadn’t deleted them?”

He glared at her. “You know I couldn’t.”

“Nanduon yung pangalan ko?”

“Wala.”

“Then how did he know?”

He frowned, trying to remember. “A few years ago,” he started, but then his face turned to amazement. “A month before his wife gave birth he came to me and asked about the woman in the computer–about you.”

“You told him about us?”

“Hindi. How can I? I told you, I wasn’t very—open with him.  I just told him your name.” His face filling with more wonderment as a realization finally hit him. It seems his son somehow deduced that she meant a lot to his father–maybe even loved her. Even though his son should’ve hated her, he even named his daughter after her. A clear indication that he not only loves his father but honors him as well.

“So, do you still think he hates you?” she now asked quietly.

He shook his head, unable to speak. His eyes giving in to fresh tears.

“Iyakin ka talaga, noh?” she whispered tenderly as she put both her palms on his cheeks to catch the tears flowing down them.

He chuckled as he placed both his hands on top of hers. “I love you,” he confessed adoringly, his eyes crinkling at the sides.

She chuckled as well, “I love you more,” she teased, her eyebrows moving up and down.

“Salamat,” he said, as her hands slipped from his cheeks.

“Para saan?”

“For making me see that, and for giving me my son back.”

“I am sure you would’ve discovered it on your own.”

“But still…”

There was a short rap on the door before it opened, and in walked Alden’s son. Maine went quietly to the window to give them some privacy.

“Dad, I am sorry for Meng…”

Alden shook his head and lifted one arm towards his son to bid him to approach him. “Richard,” he motioned for him to come near. His son was surprised but suddenly wary by the sight of tears in his father’s eyes. As how ‘her Alden’ been all his life, never one for half-measures, he explained everything to his son. Once he’s decided on something, there wouldn’t be any doubt of what his intention will be. So his son understood, understood how his father really loves him and how sorry he was for the years he was distant to him.

She watched them from the window. Her heart full. And, however cliché it is, the sight of tears on men would always move women’s hearts with tenderness and love.

When Richard III finally left, she walked back to Alden’s side and took his hand in hers. He looked so tired but happy.

“It is time,” she said remorsefully.

“Please…,” he swallowed hard, “don’t go. I don’t think I could bear to see you go again” he begged, his eyes filling with fresh tears. Both his hands were grasping hers now. Panic written all over his face. “Christmas 2015. You left for Japan,” grief finally overtaking him, his grasp suddenly loosened until it fell back to his side, leaving her hands empty, “you promised you’d be back—but you didn’t.”

Tears welled and started falling from her eyes, as she watched him break down in front of her. “They said it was an accident,” he mumbled in between sobs, “but I didn’t believe them. I had to go there myself and see,” his body was shaking with grief, “but even then I couldn’t accept it.”

She couldn’t bear to watch him suffer any more so she lay on the bed with him and took him in her arms, hugging him with all her might until his tears subsided.

“I was sent here to give you a message,” she whispered in his ear. He was now lying on her chest comforted by the beat of her heart. “You could come with me or you could stay—it is up to you.”

In an instant his head lifted and looked her in the eyes, “I will go with you,” he said resolutely. He bent his head once more and continued listening to her heart.

They laid like that for a while, comforted and lulled by each other’s breathing.

“Kantahan mo naman ako ulit,” she requested, stroking his head tenderly. “I miss you singing to me.”

He smiled. “Do you know I will be 70 years old in,” lifting his head a bit to look at the clock on his side table, “an hour?”

“Yes, I know,” she answered smilingly.

“So you already know what I’m going to sing to you?”

“Sing it.”

“And, darling, I will be loving you ’til we’re 70
And, baby, my heart could still fall as hard at 23
And I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Well, me—I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am…”

It took a minute before the blare of the Intensive Care Monitor was noticed, and another minute for the nurse to reach the patient’s side. His body was already unresponsive to the resuscitation so the time was called a minute after that. It was 12:05 am.

They were both standing by the window watching the drama unfold in front of them until the end when the time was called.

When the room was finally abandoned by everyone, they finally looked at each other. He was 23 again and she was 20. They smiled for the simple joy of being together.

“Can you sing to me that song again?” she asked as he hooked his arm over her shoulders.

He nodded, as they continue to walk.

“For all the times I felt cheated, I complained
You know how I love to complain
For all the wrongs I repeated, though I was to blame
I still cursed that rain
I didn’t have a prayer, didn’t have a clue
Then out of the blue

God gave me you to show me what’s real
There’s more to life than just how I feel
And all that I’m worth is right before my eyes
And all that I live for though I didn’t know why
Now I do, ’cause God gave me you”

THE END

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