Disclaimer: Please see part 1.
There I go I, just fall in love again and when I do
I can’t help myself, I fall in love with you
Pulling up the black Tumi-Alpha from the baggage carousel, she placed it beside the big carry-all bag on the metal trolley. She didn’t look around, trying to be inconspicuous despite the disinterested look of the customs officials and the newly arrived passengers, walking casually towards the arrival lobby straight to the greeter’s area where her sisters will be fetching her.
The flight back home was unnerving and it filled her with great uncertainty. Doubts, whether she was doing the right thing or whether this is the right time, continued to plague her even as she walked through immigration back in Wellington. It was difficult to just watch everything she built for three years just crumble down before her, knocking down the protective wall she has surrounded herself with. If it was only her life that is at stake here she wouldn’t be this scared, but since she has also placed her son’s life in harm’s way she couldn’t help but be apprehensive about its outcome. She guesses there wouldn’t be any “Mother of the Year” award waiting around for her. She smiled crookedly, thinking about the irony of the situation. She should be a good daughter first before she could even think of becoming a good mother to her son but, with what she has done in the past, her parent’s forgiveness would seem to be her only redemption before she could somehow move on.
Her thoughts screeched to a halt when she saw a car stop in front of her, her heart beating with trepidation.
“Sarah?” the voice that called her was unsure.
“Ate Shine,” she answered at the open car window, uncertain of her welcome.
The door immediately opened for her and she was allowed to step in, both her sisters pulling her into their arms and squeezing her tightly, crying silently, finally letting her feel the grief they felt when she left them. Regret for time lost and opportunities missed overwhelmed her. Why didn’t she tell them what happened to her? Why didn’t she ask for their counsel? She’s sure they would’ve understood. She knew they wouldn’t have condemned her and would’ve done their best to help her. They grew up very close. Despite the little squabbles that come with childhood, they’ve grown such a deep connection that rooted to more than sisterhood, their common experiences forever fusing their lives together.
The truth was she got scared—that and her pride got in the way. She wouldn’t have been able to bear the disappointment she would’ve seen in their eyes. It was easier to run away than see the respect they had for her disappear altogether.
The knock on the window startled them. It was the airport police asking them to move along. They straightened themselves as their driver finally started their car and merged with the slowly moving lane in front of the airport terminal.
“Marami tayong kailangan pag-usapan,” Sarah said, wringing her hands unable to look at them.
Grasping her hands, her sister Jonnah just nodded at her, tears still glistening in her eyes, assuring her that they are more than ready to listen.
Suddenly remembering something, she glanced outside the window.
“Pwede bang dumaan muna tayo dyan sa KFC?” she hurriedly asked, almost missing the turn. “May kailangan lang akong daanan,” she looked at them, her eyes pleading, seemingly asking for more understanding on their part.
“Manong, park muna po tayo dyan sa KFC,” her sister Jonnah instructed their driver, wondering what put that expression on her sister’s face.
Immediately going down from the car, she searched the parking lot and quickly approached a parked vehicle.
Jonnah and Shine watched their sister from a distance as she entered a white car in front of the fast food restaurant. After a while, she finally stepped out, now carrying a blue backpack on her shoulder, still talking to the person inside. Thinking that she was about to come back and walk their way, they were surprised when she suddenly leaned in and picked up something from inside the car. Both of them gasped when they saw that it was a child. Speechless, they could only watch and wait for her as she carries the napping child back to them.
The boy was turned away from them, his face hidden in her neck as he sleeps in exhaustion. He‘s wearing a striped shirt and khaki pants, his head covered with a cap. He’s obviously not Caucasian, having dark hair and dark complexion. They were wondering who the father could be and where she could’ve met him.
Taking the back pack from her full hands, Shine assisted Sarah back into the car and patiently waited for her to settle in. The car was quiet; no one was speaking, each occupant waiting for someone to break the silence.
“Mommy?” the boy whispered groggily, finally stirring awake.
“Baby we’re here,” Sarah informed her child happily, disguising the tumultuous emotion she was now feeling. “I want you to meet your aunts,” she softly said as she removed his cap and made him sit on her lap facing them.
Both of her sisters sat back in shock. John Lloyd Cruz. This child is unmistakably his.
Sarah was observing them as they stared at the child in her lap. She knew they’ve probably guessed by now who the father is and are perhaps full of questions for her.
Johnny crawled clumsily towards them and gave them each a kiss and a tight hug, smiling at them afterward. The shock on their faces turned to tenderness, finally seeing their sister’s toothy smile on the round face.
“Nakuha nya yung ngiti ko,” Sarah pointed out smilingly.
“Anong pangalan nya?” Jonnah asked softly, love already blooming on her face.
“John Delfin,” she answered. “Johnny o JD.”
“Bakit hindi mo sinabi sa amin?” Shine asked weakly, wondering how her younger sister could’ve managed on her own.
Sarah shook her head and glanced at their driver, delaying the answers, making them spend the rest of the ride home in silence.
Later that night, after she and her son have settled in her old room, she went to the kitchen, leaving the door of her room slightly ajar for her sleeping child. She found her sisters talking quietly, seated at the kitchen counter, each holding a mug. Getting a drinking glass for herself, she filled it with water and sat silently with them.
She couldn’t remember ever doing this. She’d always been in a hurry, too busy to just sit around and talk casually with her sisters until late in the night. There were a lot of things she couldn’t do and a lot more she had given up for her career but the distance that resulted between them was an outcome she didn’t bargain for. It’s probably one of the reasons she was able to leave them for so long.
“Si Daddy?” Sarah asked her sisters.
“Magkasama sila ni Gab sa hospital, sila ngayon nagbabantay sa Mommy. Kami papalit sa kanila bukas,” she informed her distractedly, obviously wanting to talk about a much more burning issue.
Sarah procrastinated, not looking at them. Although she was willing to talk about her son and how she lived during the three years she disappeared, the other part that went with it was the one thing she didn’t relish talking about—Johnny’s father. She knew they would have to talk about him and, however she wanted to leave him out of this conversation, he is an integral part of her son’s life—and somehow, hers too. She knew that because of what she had let happen between them, their lives will be forever connected. She realized she couldn’t hide anymore and just let others shield her from her own mistakes. It’s about taking responsibility and growing up. It’s high time that she did.
Finally, she lifted her head and gazed at her sisters. She had been selfish. She only realized now that whatever she had done in her life, they too were greatly affected. She has always felt that they never understood her when in fact it’s the other way around.
“Bumisita sa akin si Lloydie sa America nung bago dumating si Mommy,” she narrated. “Magkasama kami buong araw nun tapos …,” pausing, unable to bring to words how special that day was for her, “may nangyari sa amin,” she looked down feeling guilty, “pero kinabukasan nawala siya.” How can she explain the shame and devastation she felt when she woke up and didn’t find him there? How can she put in plain words how she wanted to die when she found out he was getting married? How can she tell them that she would have begged him to come back to her if she didn’t go away and saved herself from losing all of her dignity?
“Kailangan kong umalis,” she explained, “balak ko sana magbakasyon lang at makapag-isip pero noong nalaman kong buntis ako, ang naisip ko lang eh paano ko ilalayo ang anak ko sa kaguluhang ginawa ko.”
“Bakit umalis ka,” Jonnah asked, seemingly confused, “nagbago ba ang isip mo? Nalaman mo bang hindi mo pala mahal si Lloydie?”
“Mahal na mahal ko siya,” Sarah answered impassionedly, quietly, wiping away the tears that slipped from her eyes.
“Pero bakit ka umalis?” it was Shine this time.
“Nabalitaan ko kasing ikakasal na raw siya,” she revealed, looking at them strangely, getting confused herself. She was thinking it was obvious why she had to leave.
“Sa iyo,” both her sisters said at the same time, looking flustered.
“Sa akin?” she exclaimed doubtfully.
“Kumalat yung balita nung nandun pa kayo ni Mommy sa America. May nagsabi sa amin na nakipag-break na raw si Lloydie. Mukha ngang totoo dahil naunang umuwi yung babae dito sa Pilipinas. Tapos nakarating din sa amin ang balita na ikakasal na raw si Lloydie, at sa’yo daw. Natawa kami. Syempre hindi kami naniwala dahil nasa America ka nga. Pero nung umuwi ang Mommy ng mag-isa, napa-isip kami…kaya lang napaka-imposible. Ngayon, naisip ko na baka sa kampo nung babae nanggaling yung balita na kasalan,” Jonnah finally concluded, her head shaking in regret.
“Pumunta dito si Lloydie nung hindi ka umuwi kasama ni Mommy. Ayaw siyang kausapin pero nagpumilit sya, nagbabantay siya sa labas araw-araw hanggang napapayag niya si Mommy. Nung una, akala ni Lloydie na itinatago lang namin ikaw sa kanya, pero, nung lumipas ang isang taon, huminto na sya ng pagpunta dito. Naniwala na rin sya siguro na kahit kami, hindi namin alam kung nasaan ka,” Shine said regretfully.
“Bakit hindi mo sinabi sa akin,” Sarah asked Jonnah, tears flowing from her eyes, her body trembling in shock. She knew she couldn’t blame them because she was the first to shut everybody off from her life.
“Hindi ko alam. Ayaw kong madagdagan yung nararamdaman mo kaya napagkaisahan naming huwag na lang iparating sayo. Kung sinabi mo lang sa amin…” Jonnah said, gathering her weeping sister into her arms, her heart twisting in compassion for the difficult life Sarah had to go through alone when she went away from them.
“Naawa kami sa kanya pero wala kaming magawa para matulungan sya,” Shine was saying. “Hindi namin siya maintindihan kung bakit ganun na lang ang paghahanap niya sa’yo…pero kanina, nung nakita ko si Johnny, doon ko lang naintindihan.”
Sarah has stopped crying, feeling despair creep into her heart.
“Kamusta na siya ngayon,” she asked her sisters, exhaustion evident in her voice.
Sarah saw them look at each other strangely stirring new fears in her.
“Nawala siyang bigla. Walang nakakaalam kung anong nangyari sa kanya. May naglabasan ngang chismis na nagbago na siya simula nung nawala ka,” Shine informed her silent sister.
The room became quiet, all of them wondering what went wrong, asking themselves why they didn’t do anything to change things.
“Matulog ka na muna at bukas na lang natin pag-usapan ulit,” Jonnah was telling her, seeing how exhausted her sister is. “Pupunta pa tayo bukas kay Mommy.”
Sarah nodded standing up; the long travel and the shock she received just now are already taking its toll on her.
“Patawarin niyo ako,” she began, her eyes swollen, tears collecting in her eyes.
As answer, her sisters stood up and went to her, enveloping her in their arms.
The van was waiting for her outside. She is finally going to see her mother after three years and she couldn’t explain what she was feeling—fear, shame, anticipation and even love boiling up inside her, filling her up with tension.
Putting down her son, she took his hand and led him towards the kitchen where Manang Susan is waiting for them. She would have to leave her son to her for the day.
“Johnny, she is Manang Susan,” she informed her son, “and she will be taking care of you. Be good, ok?”
Kissing her son one last time, she walked towards the front of the house where her sisters are waiting for her. They were about to ride the van when they heard loud bangs on the gate startling them to attention. The driver went to look who was making the noise but he was forced inside when he opened the gate.
“Nasaan na sya?” she heard someone say, a voice that she has not heard for three years. “Nasaan na si Sarah?”
She was paralyzed in her place beside the van, unable to move for fear of discovery, her heart beating a thousand times a minute. He was still hidden from her sight, fifteen meters away from where she was standing. If she wanted, she could still ran to the back and hide there—but then she remembered her son and the decision she made last night. It’s no longer the time for hiding.
Stepping away from the van, she looked back to the questioning eyes of her sisters and gave them a look of surrender. Upon their nod, she turned towards the voices of the two men at the gate and walked towards them.
“Manong, sige na po, ako na po ang bahala dito,” she said, interrupting their heated discussion. “Pakihatid niyo na lang po sila ate sa hospital,” her gaze following him as he walked away, not looking at the quiet man left standing at the gate.
She was startled when she felt a hand grab her arm. He was pulling her outside to his car, opening the car door for her to slide in, not allowing her to resist. When she was finally buckled in her seat, he drove the car without talking.
She stared at him hungrily, taking advantage of his inattentiveness. He looks so much thinner, his forehead lined with deep grooves, and stubbles darken the top of his lips and chin. His eyes are filled with sadness but his jaw is clenched with determination.
“John Lloyd…,” she began carefully.
“Please, just, just…keep quiet,” he said with controlled emotions.
Suddenly an epiphany came upon her as she stared at the tense figure sitting beside her. She has always felt safe when she was with him, she’s always known he will never hold back anything from her no matter what the situation may be—so, why did she keep on doubting him? Why was it so difficult to trust his love for her? How many times has he made her feel secure when doubts fill her mind?
One memory came to her, that time when he had his birthday in ASAP right after they paraded in front of him. Some of his old friends and on-screen partners were there—Bea, Kaye, Jody, Desiree and some of the others. She remembers feeling so out of place, wanting only to hide, but then he took it upon himself to assure her of her importance in his life by pulling her closer than what was allowed between friends. Ever since, she can’t seem to remember him not pushing her forward or upward when all she wanted to do was step back and step down. He never hid the fact that he was proud of her and that he will always be her greatest fan.
Finally understanding him, she sat back and waited; now ready to face whatever punishment he intended to give her. He will never hurt her, she realized it now. Whatever pain she has seemed to affect him doubly so, and knowing that, she is now sure he will not do anything that would hurt her in any way.
A few minutes later, the car they were riding finally grinded to a halt in front of his house. He went down immediately and went around the car towards her side and opened her door. Grasping her arm, he began pulling her again until they got into the house, closing the door behind them.
“Ngayon tayo mag-uusap,” he said impatiently, pushing his unkempt hair back from his face, looking lost even in his own house. When she didn’t speak immediately, he trained his look on her, moving his eyes from her head to her feet. She felt conscious all of a sudden, pulling at her short hair behind her neck, wanting it longer so that she could hide from his heated gaze. She has wider hips now and fuller breasts after she gave birth. She only wished that she wore better clothes earlier.
“God, you look beautiful,” he said helplessly, sighing in misery.
She swallowed, wanting to go to him, longing to wipe the pain from his eyes. “Kamusta ka na?” she started, delaying the inevitable as much as she can.
Gritting his teeth, he turned away angrily. “He, he,” he laughed, unamused by her question, “tignan mo ako, napaka ok ko nga eh,” he said sarcastically.
“Anong gusto mong sabihin ko?” she asked, getting exasperated by his anger.
Suddenly he sat down weakly, leaning his head back on the back rest and closed his eyes.
“John Lloyd?” she asked, going to him, panicking at the sallow look that suddenly came upon him. “Lloydie, anong nangyayari sa’yo?” She brushed his hair back from his face, feeling the clammy sweat of his skin as she sat beside him, feeling shivers flow through him.
Unable to help herself, she leaned in to him and hugged him, wanting him to absorb the heat from her body. She felt his arms go around her and hugged her back—tightly.
“Patawarin mo ako,” she finally whispered to him brokenly, “hindi ako nagtiwala sayo.”
He nodded, pulling her closer, gaining strength from her closeness. “Basta ipangako mong hindi mo na ako iiwan,” he whispered back.
“Pangako,” she promised passionately.
“Then marry me—today.”
She pushed herself away from him wanting to see if he was serious. “Nagbibiro ka ba?” she asked.
“Mukha ba akong nagbibiro?” he asked back, hungrily looking at her face, touching her cheeks lovingly.
“Pero three years tayong hindi nagkita, paano ka nakakasiguro na hindi pa ako nagbabago?” she asked objectively.
“Hindi mo na ba ako mahal,” he asked her frowningly.
“Mahal,” she whispered, blushing, unprepared by his question.
“So anong problema?” he asked, undeterred by her fears.
She shook her head helplessly, thinking him to be too incorrigible. How can she say no to him when he was sitting so close to her. “Eh ikaw,” she asked, her eyes resting on his chest, “mahal mo pa rin ba ako?”
Pulling her suddenly, he started kissing wherever he can—her neck, her cheeks, her nose, her ears, until he finally caught her lips with his and kissed her with all the love he has in his heart. She saw that he was crying when he released her, and so, doing what she wanted to do the first time she saw him today, she tried to wipe the sadness from his eyes with her words.
“Yes, I will marry you,” she promised him.
NOTES: Sorry for the delay.