Disclaimer: All events written in these works are fictitious and are in no way meant to imply actual facts about the people portrayed. Any resemblance to real occurrences, past or present, is purely coincidental.
“Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare…; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose…; perhaps…perhaps…love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.”
Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Avonlea)
A little fall of rain
Can hardly hurt me now
You’re here, that’s all I need to know
And you will keep me safe
And you will keep me close
And rain will make the flowers grow.
Sarah was standing awkwardly at the center of her small living room trying not to stare at the man who rescued her. John Lloyd was at the farthest corner of the room seemingly interested at her collection of dog figurines she’s been collecting the last couple of years. She couldn’t afford to get a dog to take care of even though some friends have been offering to give her one, painfully declining their offers, unsure of how it would fare in her care when she would be out of the house most of the time anyway.
This situation just feels too weird, too surreal for her already overworked brain to absorb and to process objectively. John Lloyd Cruz is there in her living room, standing casually just a few feet away from her. Earlier outside, she wasn’t given any opportunity to just quickly thank him and hastily see him off, which was what she was planning once they reached her apartment. She was still composing words in her mind to show her gratitude without looking like a sappy fan when he simply removed the key from his car’s ignition and went to her side of the door and helped her fish her house key out from her soaking bag, kindly unlocked the front door himself and carefully guided her in—as if he’s been doing it all his life.
Now she is unhappily looking at her apartment through this man’s eyes. The living room, dining room and kitchen were all meshed together inside the 20 square meters of space. She has always found it very convenient to have a place where you could just stand in the center of the room and have everything at arm’s length. It was suitable for her kind of lifestyle, where she can watch the tv, cook her meals, wash the dishes, and do the laundry all at the same time if she wanted to. The size never bothered her before, but now, with him standing just 3 feet away from her, the whole place has somehow become constricted and claustrophobic. The room was clean though. Thanks to her mother who had taught her early on to be a stickler for cleanliness, having the habit of always leaving the room behind her spotless.
“Parents mo?” he asked casually, looking at the photograph resting on top of the television, picking the one where she was sitting on her dad’s lap while her mom was caught mid-laughter, trying not to move even when her dad tickled her from the back. She was eight when that was taken. She made a point to fill her home with pictures of her and her parents. Somehow the photographs make her seem not so alone—her place looking peopled even if it was not.
“Yes, sir,” she answered distractedly, not noticing the irritated look that he threw her way when she used the term given to people in authority.
“Dito rin ba sila nakatira?” he asked her stiff figure, wondering if it’s okay to leave her since her parents would be there to take care of her.
She shook her head, “wala na sila,” she just said plainly.
“I’m so sorry,” he apologized frowningly. “…mga kapatid?” he continued as he looked at her inquiringly, and she just shook her head again.
“Nauuhaw ka ba?” she asked rather hurriedly as she turned away, trying to dodge the next questions that usually follow after she reveals her “parentless” existence.
Putting the much needed distance between them, she went to the refrigerator intending to search for a cold drink to give him even though she knew she only has water to offer him. Quite suddenly, the lights went out. The darkened night sky momentarily flashed brightly followed instantly by a loud crack of thunder causing her to scream shrilly and fly towards him bodily. She embraced him from behind, her arms clutching him tightly to herself, her hands clasped together in front of his belly as her face pressed immovably on one of his shoulder blades. Experimentally, rather surprised at her reaction more than anything else, he tried to loosen her arms a fraction, trying to ease up the impeded blood flowing from the other half of his body. She instantly contracted her arms tighter, her whole body trembling with uncontrollable fear, mewling pitifully behind him.
“Sarah,” he said gently, not wanting to add to her distress and startle her. He knew she wouldn’t be caught dead standing this close to him. He doesn’t think she’s the type who insinuates herself to people just to gain attention. Instinctively, he knew that there’d be hell to pay once realization dawns on her and she sees herself holding him in her arms albeit involuntarily. The wall she raised between them when they “met” in the flood was a very thick one and he doesn’t think any amount of rain would be able to break it down. “Sarah,” he said a little louder this time as he gently but forcefully unwound her arms from around him, intending to turn around and put his arms around her instead. “Ok lang yan, hindi tayo maaabot ng kidlat,” he chided jokingly, chuckling at her expense.
As if awakening from a deep sleep, she jerked away from him and scrambled to the farthest corner of the room, uneasily looking at him—embarrassed, trying to control the shaking of her hands. For a moment, when another lightning flashed outside, he caught a glimpse of her eyes before she turned away. It somehow made him feel uneasy, bothered by whatever put that expression on her face.
“Sarah…?” he asked frowningly, stepping slowly towards her, now truly confused and worried by her odd reaction.
“H-hindi, ok lang ako…,” she insisted rather nervously, her voice fading weakly away, as she looked down at the floor, away from his probing eyes, refusing eye contact.
Despite her actions that scream, DON’T COME NEAR ME, he decisively walked towards her bowed figure and pulled her into his arms.
And that did it.
She collapsed weakly into his ready arms and cried.
He drew her in more securely and allowed her to cry for a few more minutes, murmuring nonsensical words of comfort, trying to reassure her just by his mere presence. He knew he can’t leave her now, not like this and not anytime soon.
Unable to hold her up much longer he decided to pull her to the bed near them. He knew it would have been more prudent to have brought her to the sofa but it was a few feet farther away from where they were standing and besides, he didn’t think it would be able to bear their combined weights.
Sarah went along with him, not showing any sign of resistance, seeming to have abandoned all her inhibitions along with the disappearance of electricity.
He leaned back on the headboard and held her comfortingly, waiting for her tears to die down. He is unsure if he wanted know anything more about this girl. Whatever the reasons were, he knew it could only be terrible for it to be able to make her crumble into his arms like this.
“Umuulan din noon,” she finally whispered, her voice sounding hollow in the dark, “m-malakas ang hangin sa labas ng taxi-ng s-sinasakyan namin.”
He pushed her still wet hair away from her face, and smoothed it out as her cheek rests on his chest. He didn’t want to distract her from her thoughts but he did want to let her know that she’s not alone—that there’s someone listening to her.
“Ang lakas ng kabog ng dibdib ko. Naririnig kong nanalangin si mommy sa tabi ko pero hindi ako makasabay dahil nakatitig ako sa labas. S-sabi ko sa driver h-huminto muna dahil masyado malakas ang ulan,” she murmured plaintively,” pero hindi sya nakinig.” She involuntarily tightened her arms around him and continued sobbingly. “N-nahulog sa b-bangin yung sinasakyan naming taxi,” Sarah muttered brokenly in the dark. Fresh tears readily filling her eyes as she remembered what happened soon after the vehicle they were riding in fell headlong into the ravine. The loud crunching of metal and the deafening sound of shattering glass as the cab rolled down the side of the mountain reverberated in her memory. She remembered being tossed around over and over until eventually the world mercifully stopped spinning. But then the eerie sound of silence was the only companion she had as she waited for their help to come.
“D-dalawang oras bago dumating ang t-tulong,” she sobbed heartbreakingly,” pero huli na ang lahat para kay Mommy—wala na sya.” Two hours felt like a thousand years. Twice she tried to move but both times she fainted from the pain that radiated from her legs and ribs. She tried to look around the cab but it was just too dark. She called and she called for her mom but she remained quiet beside her. At first she could still hear her breathing hard but after she fainted the second time…silence. The rhythmic beating of the pelting rain woke her up and she knew even then that her mother had left her.
He felt her heart break once more for the mother who was taken from her too early, for the mother who slowly died as her daughter watched helplessly beside her. How could you recover from such pain? How can you stand again and start anew?
He wanted to tell her that things would be okay and that everything will be alright. “Time heals all wounds” were the first words that came to his mind but somehow they didn’t seem right. Somehow, even though the situation was asking for it, no word seemed appropriate. His fear that he would hurt her more was paralyzing him from saying anything, making him forget all the lines he’s come to memorize, words that he had mastered to win people to his side, statements that made both his fans and directors love him, witty quips that had been time-tested to gain both women and men’s approval, clever remarks that have saved him from awkward situations more times than he could remember. Now, when he needed them the most, words eluded him. For the first time in his life they failed him.
He gathered her tightly, unconsciously trying to absorb, if it was even possible, all the hurt that he could feel flowing in her. “It will be alright,” he whispered to her tearfully. “I promise that everything will be better tomorrow.” His voice was quiet, devoid of any affectations. His words echoing in the room, sounding, not really like a promise, but a vow from one heart to another.
Strangely, as she closed her eyes in exhaustion, she believed it. Yes, everything will be better tomorrow.
That night, even as the storm continues to beat outside, for the first time in many years, she slept peacefully.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which people in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey