Tatlong araw akong nagluksa at umiyak. But when they retrieved his body, I knew I’d finally found closure in what had happened to me four years ago. His body was found burnt beyond recognition and I didn’t want to see it. I wanted to always think of him like the first time I saw him. I could still remember when he walked up to me in a grey button down shirt. I wanted to remember him and his beautifully dark eyes that changes with his mood. It was over now. He was gone. The demon that haunted for the past four years was now gone.
I felt a sense of calmness in my life that I hadn’t felt in a long time. A sense of peace. I loved Callum and a small part of me would always do. But he had hurt not only me but my family. He had caused so much pain that couldn’t be undone and no love could cover. But hate was just as useless. Hate would not bring back everything that I had lost in the past four years. Hate would only make me a bitter person.
I had forgiven him and I had forgiven myself for not knowing. I had forgiven myself for abandoning my own child and for blocking off the love I felt for him for years. I didn’t want to go back to the person I were before. And so I set myself free. I took the chains off from my hands and feet.
I wasn’t meant to live a life of hatred, regret, and grief. It wouldn’t be the mother I would want to give to my son. I was meant for a life of happiness. I was meant for better days. I was meant for a life filled with smiles, laughters, and wonderful memories with my son. I was meant for a life filled with love even without him in my life.
The world is indeed a beautiful place. But sometimes it’s harder to see the beauty of it when you’re alone with nothing but your pain, when you put up a wall around you in fear of being hurt again, when you get stuck in just a part of it. You should walk and roam until you see the beauty of it again, walk until you find where you belong, roam until you find something that would make you believe again and something that would give you dreams.
“Mommy…” Arthur took my hand and pulled me the backyard. Nandoon si Mama at si Dad, pati na ang mga kapatid at mga kaibigan ko. It looked like they were having a barbecue party and I wasn’t informed.
“Surprise!” They all stopped and shouted when they see me.
“Oh you!” Bumaba ang tingin ko kay Arthur. I picked him up and showered him with kisses. “What is this for?”
“Daddy said we should throw you a party so you don’t feel sad.” He answered.
“I’m not sad…” I pressed a kiss on his forehead. “You want to know why?”
“Why?” He asked.
“Because I have you.” I hugged him tighter.
“I’m not sad too because I have you and even if I don’t see Dr. Daddy for a long time, I know he’s happy playing with John Lemon.” He smiled.
Hindi ko tinago sa kanya na wala na ang Dr. Daddy niya. We had to explain to him that his Dr. Daddy got into a car accident and that he wasn’t going to be around anymore. I told him he was probably playing with his favorite musicians somewhere.
“We decided to have a little get together. Ayaw kong nakikita kang malungkot.” Dad said as he walked towards me. He stopped and wrapped one arm around me and kissed me on the forehead. “Gusto kong makita mo kung gaano kadaming tao ang nagmamahal sa’yo at kung gaano ka namin mahal. We’re here for you.”
“Thank you, Dad. You’re the best.” Mahinang sabi ko bago ako tumingala sa kanya. He looked down at me with so much tenderness in his eyes. Like I hadn’t grown up and I was still his little princess.
“Of course, I’m your Superman.” He laughed.
He did feel guilt when he found out about Callum but I told him that he shouldn’t because this was how he chose to go. Siya ang nagdesisyon sa ginawa niya. He was not a bad person and he didn’t deserve to carry any guilt in his heart.
“Group hug!” Ronnie shouted and started attacking us with hug. Coco and Cookie soon followed after and then Mama and Kuya Miggy. All I felt right now was warmth and love. They surrounded me with so much love there was no space for grief.
“We love you.” Mama whispered and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
“I love you too.” Sagot ko.
“Halika na, kanina pa ako nagugutom. Gusto ko ng kumain.” Coco complained rubbing his tummy.
“Akala ko ba si Ate Anais ang buntis, bakit parang ikaw ang naglilihi, Kuya?” Ronnie chuckled.
“Sinabi mo pa.” Anais rolled her eyes. “Mas feel niya ang pagbubuntis ko. Hindi nga ganon ka worse yung symptoms ko compared when I was pregnant with Cookie.”
“Baka naman hinakbangan mo noong natutulog. Di ba may old wives tale na kapag hinakbangan mo daw ang husband mo while you’re pregnant he’s going to get all the symptoms.” Sabi ni Therese.
“It’s actually called Couvade Syndrome. It’s a condition in which a partner experiences the same symptoms and behavior as an expectant mother would.” Yvo said.
“And there you go. He always has an explanation for everything.” Tate said, patting Yvo’s shoulder while holding a can of beer in the other.
“Kaya walang gustong makipag-usap sa’yo. Ang sakit mo sa ulo.” My twin brother grimaced. He just never outgrew making fun of our cousin.
“Ikaw talaga.” Mama softly slapped Coco’s arm. “Ang laki-laki mo na palagi mo pa rin niloloko si Yvo.”
“Aunt Cassie, I’m used to it. Don’t worry.” Yvo shrugged.
“Mommy, marunong na akong magplay ng Twinkle, Twinkle. Do you want to hear me play?” Tanong ni Arthur.
“I would love to.” I buried my face into his cheek and inhaled. “I would love to hear you play and I know it’s going to be good.”
“Okay! Wait, I’ll go get it!” Bumaba siya mula sa pagkakarga ko sa kanya at nagpasama kay Ronnie na kuhanin ang gitara niya.
“He really does love music. He’s going to be the first Cordova musician.” Kuya Miggy proudly smiled.
“Oh he’s going to be the next Paul McCartney.” Sabi ko naman.
“Hell yeah!” Coco exclaimed. “And Cookie here is going to be the next top model!”
“Dada, no!” Cookie frowned. “I don’t want to be the next top model. I’m going to be a Paw Patrol.”
“Ah akala ko gusto mong maging next top model kasi nakita ko kayo ni Mymy na nanonood nun.” Coco teased.
“I was waiting for Mymy to finish watching so that I could watch Paw Patrol.” He explained.
Arthur came running out from inside the house, holding the guitar Callum gave to him. It was his now. It still had the stick figure drawing of him and Callum engraved on it. Ang gitarang iyon ang alaala niya sa Dr. Daddy niya at sa mga pangarap nilang dalawa.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give it up for our incredible mushishan… the one and only… Arthur Cordova Francois!” Ronnie said.
Everyone clapped and cheered for Arthur and he laughed. Dad grabbed a chair for him and he began strumming his strings. Still out of tune but still, it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard.
“Twinkle, twinkle, little star…” He began to sing.
Nang matapos siya ay muling nagpalakpakan ang mga tao. I ran up to him and like a proud mother would do, I gave him a hug and kisses.
“You were so good!” Sabi ko sa kanya.
“That’s for you, Mommy.” He let out a wide smile. “I don’t ever want you to feel sad so when you feel sad I’ll sing you a song.”
“Thank you, baby.” I hugged him. “Mommy is so proud of you.”
I hadn’t been feeling good for the past few days. Madalas akong nahihilo at naduduwal. I was familiar with the symptoms because it was the same when I was carrying Arthur. And Callum and I did plan to have a baby before any of those happened. Pinlano namin na gumawa ng sarili namin The Beatles.
Nagpasama ako kay Ronnie at sinama din namin si Arthur na magpa-check up sa OB. I hadn’t been on the pill since going back here in the Philippines. Hindi malabo ang iniisip kong dahilan kung bakit ako nagkakaganito.
“Congratulations, Mrs. Francois. You are six weeks pregnant.” The doctor happily announced.
“OMG, Ate!” Ronnie squealed.
“What is it?” Arthur furrowed his brows. “What is pregnant?”
I turned my head to him, teary eyed and with a huge smile on my face. “You’re going to be a Kuya. Hindi ba yun yung gusto mo? You’re going to have a baby sibling.”
“Really?” His eyes widened with amusement. “Where’s the baby?”
“It’s still in my tummy.” I answered.
“Madadagdagan na ang memeber ng Arthur’s band, baby.” Ronnie kissed him.
“Yeheeeey!” Arthur jumped up and down.
Masaya ako. Masayang-masaya ako. This baby was made out of love. Kahit hindi maganda ang nangyari sa amin ni Callum, may maganda itong nabuo. May magandang alaala siyang iniwan sa maikling panahon na naging mag-asawa kami.
Arthur was one of the many reasons why I was excited for my future. I wanted to watch him grow into a wonderful young man. Ngayon madadagdagan ang rason kong iyon. Callum would no longer be a part of my life but his memories would always stay with me. His memories will leave on through our children.
Pagkagaling namin sa doktor ay binisita namin si Callum sa puntod niya. It was the first time I’d ever visited it. The first time I had the strength to really do so. We gave him a proper burial. There it was, his name, etched on the black marble stone. I bought him flowers and lit a candle for him. I offered a silent prayer to him.
“Lumaya ka na dahil nakalaya na din ako sa mga bangungot ko. I’m setting you free. I forgive you. I forgive you not only for me but for our children. Cal, I’m six weeks pregnant. We’re going to have our second baby. I try to set you apart from my husband and the person who you were before. Gusto kong sa isip at puso ko maalala kita bilang ama ng mga anak ko at asawa ko. That’s all I ever want to remember you by. Maybe in some other life and in a different world we will meet again. I know we will. Maybe then we can start anew. We can build the life we’ve dreamt of having. I wish things could’ve been different but this is what we had. I love you, Callum. Yung Callum na nakilala at pinakasalan ko, at ang tatay ng mga anak ko. I will always keep you in my heart.” Tears spilled from my eyes.
Arthur was running around the field with Ronnie when he came up to me and sat on my lap as I sat on a picnic cloth over the grass.
“Mommy, are you crying?” He asked.
“I just got something in my eyes.” I turned my head away.
“Sabi mo nandyan si Dr. Daddy, di ba?” He asked as he looked at Callum’s headstone.
“He’s body is in there, sleeping but his soul is playing music with John Lennon.” I explained.
“Will he ever come back?” He asked like he did a thousand of times before.
“No, he won’t. Not in this life. Wala na si Dr. Daddy pero nandito naman ang Mommy, di ba? Magkakaron ka pa ng baby brother or baby sister. May gift pang iniwan si Dr. Daddy sa atin so we wouldn’t miss him so much.” I said and took his little hands. Ipinatong ko iyon sa tiyan ko. “It’s in here. It will grow and grow until the baby in there is big enough. Kapag malaki na siya, lalabas siya at magkakaron ka na ulit ng kalaro.”
“And the baby will be a part of Arthur’s band.” Masayang sabi ni Arthur.
“Yeah…” I stroked his hair.
“We need to go now. Say bye bye to Dr. Daddy.” Sabi ko.
“Bye bye, Dr. Daddy. I love you and I miss you.” He said.
We both stood up and walked back to the car with Ronnie.
The world could sometimes look ugly but it’s a beautiful place. Sometimes it could feel like you against the whole world but in the end, it’s just you against yourself. Life doesn’t really change, it’s always been beautiful and will always stay beautiful, and it’s only a matter of loving it, accepting it the way it is, and knowing that you are not alone in everything you’re going through.
Maybe it believes in inner beauty and wants you to dig deeper and find meaning in it, find purpose behind everything, find your strength from all the things you lost, and find beauty underneath the dust.
I looked down at Arthur while he swung our hands together and I couldn’t help but smile. I had found mine. I had found the beauty from my pain and it’s in my hand. And I would never let go of this.