“Tama na… please, ayoko na. Patayin niyo na lang ako.” I silently sobbed. A finger lightly brushed away a few strands of hair away from my face. I swallowed, my whole body shaking with fear as I felt myself anticipating what he’d do to me next. It was always unpredictable. Always more brutal than the last. I let out a loud cry. “Just fucking kill me already!”
“Aaahhh!” I screamed when I felt pain on the burnt part of my skin. The smell of alcohol wafted over me. A cloth was gently patted on my skin and then I felt a cool gel touch my burn. The stinging pain lessened and my body was able to relax.
The hand cupped the back of my head lifting it up and another forced a pill in my mouth and washed it down with water.
“Why are you doing these things to me? Ano bang kasalanan ko sa inyo?” Umiiyak na tanong ko.
There was no answer. There had never been an answer before. All there is was pain and silence. Defeaning silence. The worst thing about silence is its indifference. Besides the low grunts and groans they sometimes make when they’re impaling in and out of me, there was nothing more. The absence of noise from my abusers were unnerving. It made me hard to imagine what kind of people they were or if they were at all. They could be the devil for all I know.
I was tied and locked up in God knows where. I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t move. The things I exist for, my dignity, my whole being were all taken away from me. All I knew now was pain. It was the only stimulus I could have.
“Bakit? Bakit niyo ginagawa sa akin ito? Bakit ako?” This time my voice were soft. Nawala ang sakit ng paso at napalitan iyon ng pagod. I felt drained, emotionally and physically. All I wanted to do now was to sleep.
A warm body laid beside me and an arm encircled around my waist.
“N-no… no… please…” My voice shook, instinctively moving my body away from it.
The arm pulled me closer and I tried to pull away but I couldn’t. It was wrapped around me like steel bars.
“Bitiwan mo ako! Bitiwan mo ako!”
“Nooo! Let go of me!” I pushed the body away from me and huddled in the corner of the bed. I hugged my folded knees to my chest as I trembled in fear. Callum lifted his head up and looked at me with eyes still hooded from sleep. He had a dazed, confused look on his face.
“Audrey…” He slowly sat up. “It’s me. It’s Callum…”
My heaving breath finally slowed down. It was just a dream. My body stopped shaking as the realization sunk in. I jumped on him, wrapping my arm around his naked torso. “I… I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“It’s alright. No worries.” He said, soothingly stroking my hair. “Did you have a bad dream?
“I nodded my head as an answer.
“I’m here. No one can hurt you now. I won’t let anyone hurt you…” He left soft kisses on my forehead.
“Cal…” I slowly pulled away from him. “I think it’s better if you sleep a little farther away from me. I… I don’t like being held while I’m asleep”
“Am I making you uncomfortable. I’m sorry. Do you want me to go home?” He gently asked with an undertone of worry in his voice.
“No… no…” I shook my head.
“I’ll just move to the couch.” He said, trying to make me feel more comfortable.
“No. I want you here. Huwag mo akong iwan.” I said and my eyes lowered. “Callum, I like being with you. It’s just that some things remind me of what they’ve done to me. I… I’m sorry.”
“I understand. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s completely normal. You’re healing in your own way, in your own phase and in your own time. I want you to know that I will be with you every step of the way. When you’re done, things will be good again.” He stroked my cheek and forced a smile. His dark eyes bore a hint of something I’d seen in most people when they find out what I’d gone through. I hated it.
“You’re no longer my therapist. Bakit ginagawa mo ito? Why do you want to help me?” I asked.
“I- I don’t know.” He let out a deep sigh.
“Dahil ba naaawa ka sa akin?” I asked, accusingly.
His gaze lowered.
“I don’t want any pity, Cal. I am tired of people pitying me. Pati ba naman ikaw?” I let out a deep sigh.
“I don’t mean it like that. I admire the braveness you have despite what you’ve been through but I know you’re already tired. You have a lot of repressed emotions you don’t want to face. ” He took my hand in his and kissed the back of it. “Audrey, I don’t want you to ever feel like you’re alone in this. It’s okay to feel scared. It’s okay to feel weak.”
“You know what I feel? I feel angry!” My hands clenched into fists and my eyes watered with hot tears. “Gusto ko silang magbayad sa ginawa nila sa akin. Mga hayop sila! Binaboy nila ako!”
He pulled me to him and I was in his arms. I started punching his chest in an angry fit as memories began to flood me. “Binaboy nila ako, Cal! Mga walanghiya sila! Ano bang kasalanan ko? Bakit ginawa nila sa akin iyon?”
“Shh…” He hushed soothingly as he kissed my hair. “You did nothing wrong. It wasn’t your fault…”He gently laid me down the bed as he stroked my hair. He just held me and let me cry my eyes out, silently assuring me that he was here for me.
I woke up to the sound of my phone ringing. My eyes were heavy and puffy from crying myself to sleep last night. My body immediately searched for Callum’s familiar heat but it wasn’t there anymore. I found myself alone in bed when I opened my eyes. All that’s left was his natural manly scent mixed with his cologne and wrinkled sheets beside me. I felt kind of disappointed but I had to remind myself that what Callum and I had was just casual sex. I shouldn’t let myself get too emotionally involved with him. It was better this way.
I sighed, reaching for my phone. Mama was video calling me again. I quickly grabbed the blouse I wore last night and put it on before answering the call. The first thing I saw was Mama’s smiling face.
“Hey, honey.” She spoke with her usual gentle voice.”Kamusta ka na? Have you had your breakfast?”
“I just woke up, Ma.” I answered.
“I’m sorry. Nagising ba kita?” she asked.
“No, it’s alright. Magseseven na rin naman.” I yawned, stretching my arms out. “How’s everything there?”
“Everything’s fine. Your Dad and I miss you.” Sabi ni Mama.
“Miss you too, Ma.” I sighe and smiled. “Is Dad there?”
“He’s taking a shower. Why?” She asked, her brows crumpled.
“Well, I’m kind of seeing this guy…” I bit my bottom lip and I immediately felt butterflies in my stomach.
Mom’s lips broke into a wide smile. “Finally! Who is he? Saan kayo nagkakilala?”
“His name is Callum.” I couldn’t help but giggle like a little girl.
The door suddenly opened and I could see Callum walking in with only his boxers on. I gasped and put the phone down so Ma wouldn’t see him. It would be so embarrassing if Mama did see him.
“W-what are you still doing here?” My head turned to face him.
“I’m sorry. Narinig kasi kita sa loob. I hope you don’t mind me going through your kitchen. I’m making breakfast for us.”
“It’s… it’s fine.” I bit my bottom lip, trying to focus on nothing but his face. I was careful not to look further down.
“I’ll call you when breakfast is ready.” He showed his pearly whites before closing the door.
“Audrey…” I heard Mama’s teasing voice. Inangat ko ang phone ko at nakitang nandoon pa siya sa screen. She had a wide grin across her face. “Is that him?”
“Ma, I’m sorry…” I felt so embarrassed that my Mom had to see that.
“He’s a handsome young man.” Sabi ni Mama. “How long have you been seeing him?”
“Not long ago.” I shrugged. “But we’re not really dating. It’s kind of a… um, casual affair.”
“I see.” Mama nodded her head. “Ang mahalaga masaya ka sa kanya. That’s all I ever want for you. I want you to heal and live a normal life.”
“I’m trying…” I forced a smile.
“I’m glad you are.” Mom gave me the gentlest of smile. “Just don’t tell your Dad about this yet, okay? Alam mo naman ang Dad mo, minsan may pagka-overprotective iyon.”
“I know. Kaya nga sa’yo ko lang muna sinabi.” I chuckled.
“How was your sleep?” Callum asked while we were eating breakfast. He made omelette, bacon, sausage, and pancake for us. He was big on breakfast while I usually have fruits and oatmeal. This kind of reminded me of my family. Ma would wake up before any of us so she could make breakfast for us. Matakaw din kasi si Dad at ang mga kapatid kong lalaki pagdating sa breakfast kaya kala mo palaging may feast sa umaga. Even when Kuya Miggy had his own home, he’d always drop by in the morning tpo have breakfast with us. Ganon din sa dinner.
“My sleep was good.” I answered between chewing my pancake.
“Who were you talking to?” His eyes narrowed with curiosity.
“My Mom. Gano talaga si Mama, she always calls to check on me”
“She must be a good mother.” He commented.
“She’s been nothing but wonderful.” I smiled and then that smiled turned into a quiet snicker.
“What?” His brows furrowed.
“She kind of saw you.”
“Are you serious?” His eyes widened. “I was only wearing boxers.”
“I know. I was so embarrassed.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were talking to your Mom.” He said in genuine apology.
“It’s okay. Mama thinks you’re a handsome young man.” I snorted.
“She does?” He smiled. “Does that mean your mother approve of me?”
I pressed my lips together to keep myself from smiling like a teenager who’d seen her crush. “Don’t get too giddy. Madali lang kuhanin ang loob ni Mama. You’re going to have a huge problem with my Dad. Masyado kasing overprotective yun.”
“I’d love to meet your family someday.” His eyes turned intensely darker as he said those words and then he lowered his gaze. “My family was never like yours. Growing up, I’ve always felt alone…”
I swallowed, feeling something dislodged in my throat when he said that. It was as if I could feelt the pain seeping through me with his words.
“Now you have me…” My hand snaked over his.
His eyes lifted to mine and he smiled again. “Thanks. Audrey.” He let out a deep sigh as he gently looked at me. “Why haven’t we met sooner?”
We finished ur breakfast and I insisted on cleaning up and doing the dishes as he had already cooked breakfast for us.
I found Callum in the living room. Nakatayo siya sa harap ng cabinet ung saan nakadisplay ang mga pictures namin. He was scrutinizing the pictures.
“Callum…” I called him out.
He turned his head and looked at me. “You have a lovely family.”
I smiled and stood next to him. “I miss them so much. Mataga na akong hindi nakakauwi sa Pilipinas.”
“Wala ka bang planong bumalik?” He asked.
“Wala pa sa ngayon.”
“You look so young here.” He pointed at the picture of Coco and I.
“Nineteen pa lang ako niyan.” I smiled.
“Is that your brother?”
I nodded my head. “He’s my twin.”
“That’s why he looks so much like you.” He chuckled.
“That over there is my Dad and Mom.” I pointe at the next frame.
“Phoenix Cordova.” He silently said.
“You know my Dad?” My brows furrowed.
“Of course I do! He’s a legend in the business world. Haven’t I mentioned that my father was a businessman? I actually met him when I was a kid.” He smiled. I stared at him and I never realized how ferocious he looked when he smiles. His canine teeth were longer than the rest, making him look almost dangerous.
“Small world.” I chuckled a little. “Ano bang pangalan ng Dad mo?” I’ll ask if he remembers you and your Dad.”
“I’m sure he doesn’t. We’d only met him at a business convention once. Besides, smaill time businessman lang si Dad compared to him.” He shrugged and his attention returned to the frame. He looked at the huge family picture placed in the center. Nandoo si Dad, he was sitting in the middle with Mama standing beside him. Nandoon si Coco karga si Cookie, si Kuya Miggy, si Ronnie at isang batang nakakandong kay Dad. “Those must be your siblings.”
“This is Coco, my twin, and that handsome little guy there is my nephew, Cookie. He’s my twin’s son. Tapos ito naman si Kuya Miggy, he’s our older brother and that dark haired girl is our bunso, her name’s Ronnie.”
“What about that cute little boy over there?” He looked intently at the boy sitting on Dad’s lap, drawing his face closer.
“He’s Arthur…” Iyon lang ang nasabi ko.
“Is he your nephew?” He turned his head to me and smiled a gentle smile.
I blinked and pretended to look at the clock. “I-I’m going to be late for work. I think you should go home.”
“You’re right.” He agreed. “I have to go. I don’t have time to go to the gym anymore. I’ll be heading straight to the clinic.”
He cupped my face and kissed me on the forehead and then looked me in the eyes. “Bye for now.”