“Mommy…” Arthur left a sweet kiss on my cheek as I laid on the bed. “Are you okay now? Sabi ni Daddy and Mama you’re not feeling good.”
I turned my head to see my son, leaning over to my shoulder. I passed out from the emotional exhaustion and woke up with him the first thing in sight. I turned to my back and embraced him. Somehow, just the mere presence of Arthur soothed me. He was the beauty that came out of all the pain I’d been through. He was my strength personified and my resilience embodied.
“I’m okay now. Kiniss mo na ako eh.” I smiled.
Callum sat on the edge of the bed and handed me a cup of tea. I sat up and took it from him. “I already asked Manang Gloria to bring you your breakfast.”
“Thank you.” I said, taking a small sip.
“Dr. Daddy, di ba doctor ka? Can you make Mommy feel better. I don’t like it when she’s not feeling good. You made me feel better when my heart hurted.” He innocently said.
“I will do everything to make Mommy feel better.” He cupped my chin and left a gentle kiss on my lips.
A soft smile broke across my lips. “Just being with you two makes me feel so much better.”
“Maybe we can tell Mommy funny jokes to make her feel laugh so she’ll feel even more better.” Callum suggested. “Do you know any funny jokes?”
“Um…” Arthur thought for a second. “Okay! This is a joke from my classmate but I guess I can borrow it. Why did the chicken cross the road?”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because the chicken wants to get to the other side of the road.” Arthur laughed. We both laughed not because of the joke but because of his laughter. It was so contagious.
“I have one!” Sabi ni Callum. “What time did the man go to the dentist?”
“What time?” Arthur eagerly asked.
“Tooth hurt-y.” Callum answered.
It was so bad I just had to laugh but Arthur’s laughter topped the joke off. He was literally rolling on the bed, laughing. We just couldn’t help laughing along with him. Callum jumped in the bed with us and wrapped his arms around the two of us.
“Our son’s a very simple young guy. Dr. Daddy makes a joke. He laughs at it.” Callum grinned and nuzzled against Arthur. “I have another one.”
“Okay.” Arthur was already giggling.
“Do you know you can’t play cards in the jungle?”
“Why?” Arthur asked.
“Because there are so many cheetahs.” Sabi ni Callum.
“I don’t get it.” Arthur wrinkled his nose in confusion.
“Cheetahs are animals and it sounds like cheaters.” Callum explained.
“Oh…” Arthur nodded his head but it was obvious that he hadn’t fully understood the joke yet.
“Corny na si Dr. Daddy.” I teased.
“You two just can’t appreciate a good humor.” Cal chuckled and then his expression turned serious. He nipped my chin between his two fingers and made me look directly in those dark eyes. “Love, I swear, for as long as I’m breathing I won’t let anyone harm you or Arthur. Not even myself.”
I bent my head down to kiss him on the lips.
“Ooohh… you kissed!” Arthur’s eyes widened as he looked up at us.
Callum covered Arthur’s eyes with his hands and proceeded on giving me a kiss. I laughed against his lips.
“I can feel it. We’re so close to catching them.” Mahina pero mariin na sabi ni Dad. Dad’s men were able to track down where the package was dropped off. They looked through the CCTV footage of the branch and a camera caught the man who sent the package. The problem was the man had a face mask, glasses, and a cap on. He was wearing an all black clothing and he was lean and muscular. Bukod doon, wala na silang nakuhang impormasyon ng lalaki.
The door to Dad’s study was slightly opened and I could see them through the small crack. Dad was sitting on his conference table with his friends and their men. Dad had been working non-stop on finding the men who’d abducted and abused me.
“These guys know the game they are playing. I’ve sent my best men to do the work but still nothing!” I overheard Tito Axel say.
“We always think we’re close to catching them and then we hit a dead end.” Tito Wayne shook his head, disappointment and frustration evident in his voice.
“I think that’s exactly what they want us to think, that we’re one step away from catching them. Kasi nga pinaglalaruan nila tayo.” Tito Seth tapped his fingers on the table.
“Soon their sick little game will be over. We will put an end to it.” Sabi ni Uncle Tristan.
“Lahat gagawin ko maibigay ko lang sa anak ko ang hustisya at maibalik ko lang ang katahimikan sa buhay niya. Kayang-kaya kong gawin kahit ano para sa mga anak ko. I will kill and die for them.” Dad said through gritted teeth.
In that instance, I felt secured. I had a Dad who would protect me with his life, I had my family, and my Dad’s friends who treated me nothing less of a daughter.
The wedding still pushed through despite what happened. Everything was done as planned. I wore a simple white wedding dress. It was clean and classic just exactly how I wanted it to be. I looked out the window from my room and saw the people standing outside the church. There was not a single unfamiliar face as we only invited the people close to me.
I let out a deep inhale. I couldn’t believe how nervous I still felt even though this was my second wedding. Kinasal naman na kami ni Callum. I’d be Mrs. Callum Francois again for the second time. Ngayon nga lang we were going to make it official in front of my family and everyone I love.
“Ms. Audrey, ready na po kayo?” Asked the organizer, popping her head through the door of the car.
“Yes.” I sat right up.
“Okay, we’ll get everything ready and I’ll tell when you’re allowed to get out of the car.” She instructed.
I nodded my head and tried to calm my racing heart. After a few minutes, I was given a signal to come out of the car and then the church door opened. All heads turned to me and at that moment, I felt like the center of the universe. At the end of the aisle stood the two guys I love. I took a deep breath, a final sigh of relief. Dad and Mama walked up to me and gave me a hug.
“Another one of our baby’s going to get married.” Mama said as she cupped my face.
“Ma, I’m already married.” I said, through my tears.
“And you’re going to get married again.” Sabi niya.
“You’ll always be Daddy’s girl, won’t you?” Dad asked with voice constrained with tears.
“Always.” I nodded and tears gushed out again.
Mama and Dad walked me down the aisle as the song started. I could already imagine the life we’d have together as a family. I was just a couple of steps away from the life I’d always dreamt of. Just a few more steps. One… two… three… I lost count of the steps and just focused on them. I knew that as soon as I got to the end of the aisle, I wouldn’t have to walk through life alone anymore. I’d have them beside me forever. My very own family.
We reached the end of the aisle and Cal’s eyes were red with unshed tears while he looked at me.
“Take care of Arthur and Audrey. They’re yours now.” Dad said as he handed me to Cal.
“Daddy, Ma!” I gave both of them a hug.
“Your Dad and I will be here for you. We’ll always be. Remember that, okay?” Mama said, wiping my tears with her thumbs.
I nodded my head. I turned to Cal and hooked my arms around one of his while his other hand held Arthur’s. The three of us walked to the altar together. The ceremony began and after the sermon the priest made us say our vows.
“Mrs. Francois, this is our second wedding but it still feels like thr first with you. I will never get tired of marrying you. I will marry you in every church in this world if I have to. I will marry you in the next life we have. I will find you and I will marry you over and over again. Nothing in this world could be more beautiful than you and the love and trust you’ve given to me. I want to fill the empty space in your heart with love and nothing else. Thank you for showing me real love. With you and Arthur, I feel like God has forgiven me for all the things I did wrong in my life. I love you, Audrey. No matter what happen, always remember that. Everything I have and everything I am now is yours forever. Take this ring as a sign of my undying love and as a symbol of all that we share.” He slid the ring on my finger. I fanned my eyes with my hand as I felt tears sting my eyes.
He then turned to Arthur and got down on one knee to level with him. Cal gave him a kiss on the nose. “And you, our little musician, I want nothing but the best for you. You are our precious little boy. I promise to always love you as much as I love Mommy. I know you’re a good boy and you will grow up to be a fine young man. I know you will be one of the greateast musicians someday. I want you to promise me you’ll make our dreams come true. I want you to promise me you’ll love and respect Mommy. Hindi mo siya bibigyan ng kahit anong sama ng loob. You’ll give her lots of kisses and hugs every morning and before you go to sleep at night.”
“I promise.” Arthur said. Although he was too young to understand what was going on and why Callum was saying these things in front of many people. I knew he could feel the rawness of our emotions. Our son was getting teary-eyed too.
“That’s my boy.” He offered his fist to our son and Arthur fist bumped him. He then took out a necklace with a guitar shaped pendant from his coat pocket and put it around Arthur’s neck. “I want you to have this as a promise that I will be the best stage Dad that I can be and I will always be here to love you and support you. I’ll always be your biggest fan.”
It generated an ‘aww’ from the people when Arthur threw his arms around Callum and buried his face into his neck as he cried.
“Callum, our love wasn’t the conventional one but it was wonderful. You came into my life when darkness was all I ever knew. When my world was cold and when it was hard to remember the sun was still there. You gave me warmth when everthing felt cold and in time of darkness, you comfort me. You took me in and never gave up on me when I had already given up on myself. You chased the darkness away and washed it with joy. I love you.” I tried hard to keep my voice steady but it was all in vain. I slipped a ring on his finger and after that he didn’t even need the priest to tell him to kiss me, he cupped my face and kissed me. I kissed him back with every bit of love in my body.
We were in our garden, where the wedding venue was held. All of the guests were in long dresses and tuxedos. Everyone were mingling and talking with each other while waiters walked around with platters of glasses of wine and champagnes and finger foods.
My two boys were nowhere in sight. I just left to change into a simpler dress and when I came back they were no longer where I left them. They were probably up to something again. Alam ko na ang tinginan ng mag-ama kanina.
Suddenly the spotlight was pointed at the platform that was set up in the middle of the garden. There they were my two boys. Callum had the guitar strapped around him. Callum sat on the armchair on the platform while Arthur sat on one of the arm of it with a mic in front of them.
“Can the beautiful bride come up here?” Callum said through the mic.
I folded my arms over to my chest, smiling as I shook my head. Anais and Therese pushed me to the stage.
“We’ll sing a song for Mommy. Dr. Daddy and I practiced this for one week because we want to surprise her.” Arthur said.
Callum started playing his guitar and the two sang together. Callum’s eyes were on me the whole time.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older then wouldn’t have to wait so long? And wouldn’t it be nice to live together in a kind of world where we belong?” They sang.
“You know it’s gonna make it that much better.” Now it was just Callum singing and he turned his head to Arthur and raised his brows, giving him the cue.
“If we could say good night and stay together.” Kanta naman ni Arthur.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wake up in the morning when the day is new? And after having spent the night together, hold each other close the hold night through.” They both sang in chorus.
“Happy times together we’ve been spending.” It was Arthur’s turn to sing solo.
“I wish that every kiss was neverending. Wouldn’t it be nice?” It was quickly followed by Callum.
“Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true. Baby then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do.” They sang together again.
“We could married.” Sang Arthur.
“We could be married.” Callum backed up in the song.
“And then we’d be happy.” It was Arthur’s turn again.
“And then we’d be happy.” Callum sang the phrase again.
“Wrouldn’t it be nice?” And then they both sang together.
The audience clapped and they even got a standing ovation. I was sure my two boys felt like rockstars as they got up from their seat and bowed. I laughed and clapped along. Callum hooked his arm around my waist while carrying Arthur in his other hand.
“Did Mommy like it?” Callum asked.
“I love it. Thank you. You two were wonderful.” I gave them both a kiss.
Arthur was the apple of everyone’s eyes that night. He was congratulated more for his performance than we were for our wedding. Everybody thought their song number was adorable. I felt so proud of my little musician.
While I was going around and talking to our guests, Callum suddenly disappeared. I tried to find him and saw him in the corner by himself, talking to someone on the phone. He sounded angry at whoever it was he was talking with. Gusto ko siyang lapitan pero parang may kung anong pumigil sa akin. I stayed at a distant where he couldn’t see me but near enough so I could hear.
“Get away from my family. Leave my son and my wife alone. Ano bang gusto mo? Magkano ba ang kailangan mo? I will send you the money first thing tomorrow.” There was urgency in Callum’s voice. “If you don’t want the money then what do you fucking want? Raven, I’m sick of playing your game. I don’t know what you fucking want anymore. I am sick of playing your games. Huwag na huwag ka na ulit makalapit kay Arthur. You have no idea how much I want to get my hands on you and kill you right now. Pasalamat ka at hindi ko pa rin alam kung nasaan ka, hindi ang mga Cordova ang papatay sa’yo. Ako na mismo. You kidnapped my son, you fucker!”
I covered my mouth with my hand as I felt a gasp rose from my throat. My knees suddenly turned to jelly. I had to lean against the wall next to me to keep myself from falling to the ground.
“What do you mean you’re here?” Callum looked around. “Do not fucking make a scene here, Raven! Stay where the fuck you are and don’t let anyone see you. Lalabas ako.”
I gathered all the strength I had in my body and followed Callum. Lumabas siya sa gate ng bahay. I followed him as he walked out of the gate and to the corner of our house’s tall wall, away from the guards’ sight. A man was waiting for him there. He was leaning against the wall with one foot pressed on it as he drew the cigarette to his mouth.
Bumilis ang paglakad ni Callum ng matanaw ang lalaki. He greeted him by punching him square on the jaw, causing him to topple down the ground. Naaninag ko ang mukha ng lalaki. It was the same man I saw walked out of Callum’s house in California. His sister’s son.
“Fuck you!” Callum’s chest heaved up and down as he grabbed him by the collar. “How dare you kidnap my son? Paano mo nakuha ang DNA result at bakit mo pinadala sa mga Cordova iyon? Why did you send my wife the iron? What the fuck are you trying to do? Are you trying to get us both killed?”
“I got a strand of your hair the morning you met up with me. You’re not the only one who knows how to play sick games.” He smirked.
“What do you want from me? Why are you doing this to me? If something bad had happened to my child, mas mauuna akong patayin ka kaysa kay Cordova.”
“Did you get scared when they saw the DNA result? I wish I was there to see your reaction.” He said in a taunting tone.
“You’re fucking crazy!” He said in a growl as he shook his nephew.
“What do you call yourself then? You are as sick as my mother, Callum! You’re worse than her. After everything you did to Cordova’s daughter…” Raven shoved him.
“I wish I could take it all back but I can’t! I just want to build a new life with her and our son.” Callum’s voice shook as he spoke.
“And does that help you sleep at night, Callum? Do you think marrying her would actually magically make everything right.” Raven chuckled. “You fucking raped her!”
It was as if a bomb had exploded inside my ears. Parang nagunaw ang buong mundo ko sa narinig ko.
“Hayop ka!” I couldn’t stop myself from charging at him and hitting him. “Ikaw ang bumaboy sa akin! Mga hayop kayo!”
“Audrey…” He looked like a deer in the headlight.
I punched him in the face, on the chest, everywhere. I didn’t care where my fists landed. I wanted to kill him. All along, he was one of the men who’d violated me. I slept with him and married him not knowing that he was one of my abusers. I felt disgusted. If I could, I would scrape off every kiss and touch he left on my body.
He held my wrists and I spat on his face. “You disgust! Huwag mo akong hawakan.”
“I’m sorry, Audrey.” Tears began to spill from his eyes. He hugged me but I pushed him away from me. I didn’t even want to be anywhere near him. He dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms around. “Patawarin mo ako. Audrey, please…”
Hatred and disgust burned inside me, spreading althroughout my body. The man I married was the same man who’d abused me. Hindi pa siya nakuntento sa kahayupang ginawa niya sa akin noon. Pinaikot niya ako sa mga palad niya at pinaniwala ako sa mga kasinungalingan niya. He deserves to die and I wanted to kill him myself. White hot fury fill my heart and I felt like it would explode anytime soon. I cried out as I continued punching him, my whole body trembling with rage.
“Hayop ka! Mga hayop kayo! Binaboy niyo ko!” Umiiyak na siigaw ko.
“Mr. Spiderman!” Arthur was suddenly hopping towards us.
I quickly caught my son in my arms before he could even go to Callum and his nephew.
“Mommy, siya si Mr. Spiderman.” He said, pointing at Raven.
Suddenly men in full black clothing came out from everywhere like sentinels. There was not an inch out from the men that surrounded us. I hugged Arthur even tighter, fearing for him more than I was for myself. I forced his face down my shoulders so he wouldn’t see anything he wasn’t supposed to see.
“Itaas niyo ang kamay niyo!” Utos ng isa sa mga lalaki habang nakatutok ang baril kay Callum at Raven.
They both slowly held their hands up.
“It’s over…” Dad suddenly walked through the ocean of men that surrounded us and stepped in in front of us, facing the two. “You will pay for everything you did to my daughter.”