“Hey, sweety. Fall is already starting there. I’m sure it’s getting colder now. Magsuot ka ng makapal na coat, okay? I don’t want you to get sick. Always keep your door and windows locked. Saka huwag kang masyadong magpapagod sa trabaho. If you need anything, call us. Your Dad, siblings and I miss you so much.” It was a voice message from Mom.
I sighed heavily and pressed the button to make it stop before the next message played. I’d been living in California for the past four years now. Bumibisita naman sina Mama at Daddy dito, they visit almost every two months. Minsan pati yung mga kapatid ko. I miss home but I couldn’t get myself to set foot in the Philippines. Mas mabuting dito na lang ako. Hindi ko kayang tumapak doon na alam kong hanggang ngayon malay pa rin ang gumawa sa akin ng kahayupang iyon. Mom and Dad never quit. Hanggang ngayon hinahanap pa din nila ang dumukot at gumahasa sa akin. Dad swore he would never stop until he finds them.I went to the bathroom and took my clothes off. Much as I didn’t want to, I couldn’t help but lower my gaze and touched the scar embedded on my left breast. I was branded like a farmyard animal and no amount of skin laser therapy could ever remove this. I went into the shower when I realized that I was going to be late for work. I worked as a librarian at a local public library just a few miles away from my house. I overstayed in bed again so now I had to rush. I wore a red cashmere sweater, a black skirt, dark stocking underneath it, and a pair of brown leather boots. I grabbed my keys and made sure all my windows and doors were locked before heading to my car. I started my car and drove to our local library.
“Good morning, Mrs. Keri.” I greeted the old woman with a smile as I walked in, Ms. Keri was the head librarian for over three decades now. She was at her workspace, busy sorting out the returned books.
“Good morning, darling. How’s the weather outside?” She gave me a sweet smile. She had genuine love for her work, she wouldn’t last this long if she didn’t. This old dusty library had been my life for the past years I’d been here. This may seem like a boring job but I’d rather deal with books than people. This place gave me the quiet I needed.
“Getting colder.” I took off my brown coat and hang it on the rack. It was nice and warm in here.
“Good thing it doesn’t snow in California. But my God, have you seen the trees? Mother nature has outdone herself this season.” Her voice even though raspy from smoking cigarettes, was cheery and welcoming as always.
“I’m going to put these books away.” I said, pushing one of the two book carts full of, well, books.
“Hold on there, darling.” She said before I could even take my second step. She closed the book in front of her and stack it up along with the books she’d already scanned. “If I were to set you up on a date with my sweet nephew, what would you say?”
“No, thank you.” I politely answered.
“My nephew’s name is Edward. He’s a smart young man, very kind and polite. He’s always clean and well-groomed. Give yourself a chance to get to know him. I’m sure you’ll like him.”
“I don’t think I’m ready to meet anyone yet.” I shrugged.
“Oh, darling.” She exaggeratedly put her hand to her forehead just like in those old hollywood films. “What are you doing? Wasting your pretty face on this old, smelly library? I’ve never heard you talk about any guy in all the time we’ve worked together.”
“There haven’t been any.” My eyes lowered. “Dating is not my priority right now.”
“If I could bring back my youth and look as pretty as you, I’d be dating left and right by now.” She shook her head, looking disappointed. “Would Saturday be good?”
I shook my head. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Keri. I have an appointment on Saturday.”
I meet with my therapist every Saturday. Cindy had helped me recover from the trauma of what had happened to me. I used to get really vivid flashbacks before. It was like watching a film of the assault, it felt like reliving it again and again. It was hard at first but having someone to talk about it was a big help. Over time, the flashbacks lessened and I started to live normally again but to this day it still sometimes visits me in my dreams.
“If only we could switch bodies.” She sighed deeply.
Yeah, if only. I didn’t want to be stuck in this body anymore. I hate what had been done to it, I hate what it remembers, I hate what it let them do…
I shook my head, trying to push the thought away. I sorted the books out, putting them back in their proper shelves. This helps me keep my mind off of things that I shouldn’t think about. I just had to make sure the books should be in the genre they belong, the titles in alphabetical order. That’s all I needed to think about.
“Excuse me.” I heard a deep voice from behind me with a tap on my shoulder. Startled, the book I was holding flew out of my hand. It was followed by a manly chuckle.
I frowned turning to face him. “Did you need any help?”
“No, I need a doctor.” He flashed a playful smile, revealing his pearly white teeth. He was hot. Hollywood A-list kind of hot. He had dark and mysterious aura about him. I didn’t know, maybe it was because of his dark, silky but messy hair or was it his eyes? They were the darkest eyes I had ever seen, it was almost vantablack. Vantablack is the darkest material ever made and looking at his eyes made me feel like I’d been sucked into a black hole. “Of course, I need help.”
This was the first time I had ever seen him in my two years working in this library. I knew almost everyone who comes in and out of here. I’d been friends with most of them.
“Hello, earth to librarian.” He waved his hand in front of me. His words finally sunk into me and I blinked.
“What do you need?” I rested my hand on my hip, showing him a little hostility.
“A book.” He said with a smug smile.
“Yes, but what type of book do you need?” I rolled my eyes.
“Sorry, you weren’t being specific.” He let out a delicious chuckle.
“You were the one who came up to me and asked for help.” My frown grew deeper and then said under my breath, “Gwapo nga, antipatiko naman.”
“Salamat. Harsh judgement but still, I’m flattered.”
My eyes snapped up at him and then they widened. My jaw dropped open. Nakakaintindi siya ng tagalog? He did not exactly look caucasian but he didn’t look like what a typical Filipino would look like. He looked hispanic with his well-defined jawline, his sharp nose narrow and boldly arrogant.
“Kabayan.” He sneered.
Nag-init ang magkabilang pisngi ko at tumalikod ako. I didn’t want him to see me blush.
“I’m quite busy. Ano bang kailangan mo?”
“Saan ba dito ang psychology section. Sorry, this is the first time I’ve ever been here. I still haven’t moved my books from my old house. I just moved into a new home a couple of days ago.” He said.
“The last aisle to the left. That’s where all the psychology books are.” I answered in an even tone, trying to send him the message that I wasn’t interested in talking to him.
“Okay, thanks. See you around.” He said and then walked away.
I let out a deep breath it was as though I’d held it the whole time. Muli kong binalik ang atensyon ko sa mga libro.
“Bye, darling. I’ll see you on Monday.” Mrs. Keri waved her hand at me and I answered with a smile. I put the last of the book on the book cart and got ready to go home. My mind battled whether to stop by at Papa John’s to grab a quick dinner or should I just drop by at Safeway to do my grocery shopping. I grabbed my coat and hoisted my bag on my shoulder. I made sure I’d locked the library before getting out.
Kailangan ko pang umikot sa likod ng library dahil nandoon naka-park ang kotse ko. Post lights lit up the outside of the library. I began to walk to the parking lot. But I felt something off as I was walking. My shoes clicked clicked on the pavement but I could hear another footsteps behind. I looked down and saw a shadow behind mine. I began to pick up my pace, my fast walk became slow jog. My heart slammed rapidly against my ribs. Nakita kong humabol din sa akin ang aninong nasa likod ko.
I dipped my shaky hand inside my purse and grabbed my can of pepperspray. I would not let it happen again. No…
The shadow was getting closer to me. I turned around and aimed the pepperspray to whoever it was. Just then a large hand grabbed mine, immobilizing them in a firm grasp. I took a sharp inhale when my pepperspray dropped to the ground, taking away the control I felt like I had at that time.
“Let me go!” I screamed. I had attended a bunch of self-defense and martial arts class. I tried to kick him but he managed to block me off. Nadulas ako sa sahig at nahulag ang malaking katawan sa ibabaw ko.
“Noo…” I silently said when I felt the heavy weight on me.
‘Patayin mo na ako, demonyo ka! Patayin mo na lang ako. Just end this!’ I screamed over and over as he took me. My hands were tied above my head. I tried to pry my hands off the rope but the more I pull, the more it tightened around my wrists. The callous hand opened my legs wider and he thrust deeper and harder into me. I screamed in pain. My insides were already sore and raw but he still wouldn’t stop.
“No! No! No! Get off me! Get off me!” I punched and pushed the body on top of me and crawled away, hugging myself as I trembled. Mariin kong ipinikit ang mga mata ko at pilit pinalis sa isip ko ang pangyayaring iyon.
“Hey… hey… it’s me. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” The voice gently said. I looked up and saw his face. Still dark but there was now it had a soft and gentle streak. His hand reached up to touch my face but I quickly slapped it before it even came in contact with my skin.
“Get away from me!”
“I thought you were going to shoot me with a gun. I’m sorry.” He explained.
“Bakit mo ba ako sinusundan?” Galit na sabi ko.
“You locked me in the library.” He huffed. I stood up and dusted my skirt. Tumayo din siya. He easily towered me as he was tall and big.
“Bakit hindi ka man lang nagsalita?”
“The lights suddenly went off. Nasa pinakadulong aisle ako. How was I supposed to know?” He brushed his fingers through his midnight dark hair.
“Eh bakit sinusundan mo ako?” My eyes narrowed at him.
“Hindi kita sinusundan. Dito naka park ang kotse ko.” He shook his head. “I’m Callum.”
He held his hand out to me.
I looked down at it but I didn’t take it. “Okay.”
“Okay?” His brows raised in amusement. “You’re really friendly.”
I gave him a sarcastic smile.
“So, are you going to tell me what your name is?”
“My name is none of your business.” I said and walked to my car.