“Okay lang ba talaga sa inyo na kayo muna ang magbantay sa dalawa?” Mama looked at Callum and I.
“You don’t have to worry about anything. Kami na ang bahala kay Arthur at Ronnie. Just try to enjor yourselves.” Callum assured her as he stood next to me. Dad was waiting for her at the door with their suitcases, he carries Arthur in his arms while Ronnie stood next to him. The three were saying goodbye to each other and the boy was showering Dad with kisses.
“Thank you, Callum.” She smiled and then turned her gaze to me. “Drey honey, take care of them, okay? Huwag mong pababayaan ang mga kapatid mo. Please be patient with them.”
I quietly nodded my head. She then kissed me on the cheek and went to join Dad with Arthur and Ronnie. Sumunod kami ni Callum.
“Basta Dad, don’t forget to buy me something nice.” Ronnie said, throwing her arms around Dad’s neck.
“Of course, makakalimutan ko ba ang baby girl namin.” Dad kissed her on the side of her head. “Just don’t give your Ate Drey and yur Kuya Callum a hard time and don’t do anything stupid.”
“Do I look like someone who’d do something stupid?” She said, looking exasperated.
“Yes.” Dad flatly answered.
“We’re going to be late for our flight. We need to go.” Sabi ni Mama.
“Bye, Mama!” Arthur held his arms out to her.
“Oh, you! Come here. Give Mama a hug and kisses!” She pulled the boy in her arms and kissed him. Arthur gave Mama a tight hug and kissed her all over the face.
“I’m going to miss you and Daddy. How many mornings will you be gone?” the boy asked.
“Mm… fourteen mornings.” Mama answered.
“That’s a lot of mornings!” He exclaimed, his eyes widening. “When you went to the US you were only gone for three mornings.”
“That’s because Daddy and I has to take a vacation. Daddy needs to relax or else, he’ll be sick.” Mama explained.
“Why can’t we go?” He pouted.
“Because you have school. If you come with us you’d have to miss a lot of school days. You don’t want that, do you?” Mama said as she held Arthur in one arm and used her free hand to brushed he fingers through his hair.
He shook his head, his lips still pouting.
“Bibilhan ka na lang naming ng mararaming toys. Kayo ni Cookie.” Dad told him before kissing him on the forehead.
“And when they get home meron ng bagong baby.” Ronnie added.
“Ronnie…” Ma scolded.
“I’m just kidding.” Ronnie said before wrapping her arms around Mama’s waist. “I’ll miss you, Mama. May birth control at condom ba kayong dala?”
“Phoenix did you hear what your daughter said?” Mama’s eyes widened in horrification.
“Young lady, san mo natutunan yan?” The lines of his face formed into a deep frown.
“Ma, Dad, we had sex ed in high school. It’s not like I’m five!” She rolled her eyes.
“If I found out you are sleeping with a boy…” Dad’s eyes narrowed into a slit. “I will castrate that boy in front of you.
“Relax, ang puso mo.” Ronnie playfully massaged Dad’s shoulders and laughed. “Don’t worry Dad. I’m as chaste as a nun.”
“Dad, Ma let’s go. You’re going to be late for your flight. Baka ma traffic pa tayo.” Kuya Miggy came in from the front door and lifted some of their luggages.
“Miggy, bantayan mo din ang mga kapatid mo, take care of them.” Mama reminded.
“Yes, Ma. You and Dad enjoy yourselfves. You don’t have to worry about anything.” Sabi ni Kuya
“Drey, huwag na huwag mong papalabasin ng gabi si Ronnie. Six o’clock dapat nasa bahay nay an. Pag wala pa rin, itawag mo sa akin. Do not, under any circumstances, let her leave by herself, palaging nakakalusot yan sa securities.” Dad told me before wrapping an arm around me and giving me a kiss on the forehead.
“Yes, Dad.” I answered, hugging him back.
Callum helped carry the luggages to Kuya Miggy’s car while Mama and Dad were saying goodbye to us. They promised they’d call when they get to Monaco where they’d be spending their vacation. After loading the car with luggage, Ma and Dad got in and we watched as Kuya Miggy drove the car away.
I watched as Callum and Arthur played in the living room. Callum chased after Arthur as he jumped from one couch to the other, he caught the little boy in his arms and started tickling him. I felt so lucky having callum as my husband. I could safely say that I made the right decision to marry him. Hindi lang ako ang tinanggap niya ng buong buo pati na rin ang nagging bunga sa nangyari sa akin noon.
I see how much the two had grown fond of each other. Their bond was undeniable and I couldsee how deeply Callum cared for the little boy. Mas nagging magulang pa nga si Callum kay Arthur kumapara sa akin. I had never hugged Arthur. I had never laughed with him. I had never kissed him. I had never even held him in my arms. All I ever showed to him was coldness and hostility.
I didn’t want Arthur. I never wanted him. My rapists were out there somewhere, roaming free, while I was stuck with the living memory of them. There was a grief and anger like I’d never felt before, wanting to find those men. Bakit ako ang kailangan na habang-buhay na magbayad sa kahayupang ginawa nila sa akin? I saw Arthur nothing but as a living breathing memory of the assault
But the more I got to be with him, the more I see him as a child. Not a bad memory. He was full of hugs and giggles and he makes the house light up with happiness. I tried to stay away from him because ther is still this fear na kapag tinanggap ko siya parang tinanggap ko na rin ang nangyari sa akin. Gusto kong magbayad ang mga demonyong iyon sa ginawa nila sa akin. I didn’t want to but I could feel my maternal instinct overpowering the hatred that I felt. Whether I admit it or not, my heart was slowly softening to him.
“Love…” Callum lifted his head up to me and smiled. “What are you doing there?”
I blinked, snapping away my thoughts. “Dinner’s ready.”
Arthur threw away hi arms on Callum’s neck and buried hi tiny face into his broad chest. Callum looked down at him as he cowered and stroked the little boy’s hair.
“What’s wrong?” Callum gently asked. “Are you afraid of Ate Drey?”
He slowly nodded his head and then peeked a little. When he saw me looking at him , he buried his face back into Callum’s chest.
“Why?” He asked.
“Hindi kami bati. She doesn’t like me. Sabi ni Cookie nice siya pero kay Cookie lang siya nice, sa akin hindi.” His voice shook with tears and the corners of his lips tugged downwards.
“That’s not true at all.” Callum said.
“Gusto ko lang naman maging friends pero nagalit siya sa akin kasi na break ko ang clock niya. I said sorry pero ni hurt niya ako. Sabi niya wag na daw akong lalapit sa kanya.” Sumbong ng bata.
“Nabigla lang si Ate Drey. She won’t do it again, will you? Callum lifted his gaze up to me.
I slowly shook my head, feeling the lump forming in my throat. My heart constricted when I heard what he told to Callum. Sa sobrang galit ko nakalimutan kong isa lang siyang bata. He was just like Cookie and any other kid. He wasn’t a monster like his father. He was innocent and pure and a sweet little child.
“See.” He said to the boy. “She’s not going to hurt you.”
The boy hesistantly lifted his gaze at me then he hugged Callum a little tighter. I could see genuine fear in his innocent eyes as he looked at me.
“Do you think Dr. Callum will let anyone hurt you?” He gently asked.
Arthur shook his head, still unsmiling.
“I promise I won’t let anyone hurt you.” He kissed the side of the boy’s head.
I tooked a deep breath hoping it would lighten the heaviness in my chest. “Nagluto ng baked mac. Sabi ni Ronnie favorite mo daw yun.”
“Nagluto si Ate Drey ng favorite mo. Do you want to eat?” Malambing na tanong ni Callum.
“Okay.” He answered, almost in a whisper.
“All that playing must’ve made you hungry, huh?” Callum tried to lift the mood back up.
“A little.” He answered.
“Just a little?” He playfully pinched his nose.
“Really? Then I guess you’re not hungry enough for Ate Drey’s baked mac?” Callum cocked his brows.
“Maybe a little more than a little.” The boy said.
Callum laughed and carried him in his arms. “Come on, let’s have sinner. I don’t wan’t you to get more hungry a little more than a little.”
He walked up to me with Arthur in his one arm while he clung to him. They were so comfortable with each other and their closeness was all too real. Callum wrapped his other arm around the small of my back and kissed me on the forehead. I turned my head to see Arthur looking at me, when I caught him looking at me, he immediately turned away and rested his chin on Callum’s shoulder. Isighed as I didn’t know how to approach him.
“I’m sure Ate Drey’s baked mac tastes good, don’t you think so?” He asked Arthur, trying to ease the child to get more comfortable around me.
“Yeah…” The answered, his voice soft.
We headed to the dining room Ronnie already seated and was digging into the food. Callum set Arthur down next to his seat and gave him a plate full of baked mac. We all ate together but my attention was on my husband and the little boy. Callum helped Arthur with his food and fed him just like how Mama always did.
“Wow. You ate the whole thing!” Sabi ni Callum when Arthur took his last bite. “Was it good?”
Arthur let out a cheeky smile and lifted his hand to give him a thumbs up as he chewed his food.
“What do you have to say to Ate Drey? She was the one who made the baked mac for you.” Sabi ni Callum habang pinupunasan ang gilid ng labi ni Arthur.
Arthur swallowed and the looked at me. He looked back up at Callum with hesitationin his eyes. Callum raised his brows, encouraging him.
“Thank you Ate Drey.” He quietly said and then looked away.
“You’re welcome.” I answered.
Pagkatapos kumain ay nagyaya ulit si Arthur na maglaro ulit sila ni Callum. My husband happily obliged and took him to the living room.
“Ang sweet ni Kuya Callum kay Arthur. They look so cute together. Para silang mag-ama.” Ronnie said as she watched them leave the room.
I answered with a smile.
“I’m sorry Ate.” She bit her bottom lip, realizing what she said.
“It’s okay. I already told Callum about Arthur. Alam na niya.” I sighed.
“Really? What did he say? How did he react?” she curiously asked.
“Naramdaman niya na daw nung una pa lang. he told me I didn’t need to hide anything from him and that I should treat Arthur right.”
Ronnie let out a slight smile. “I’m glad you found the right guy for you Ate. Hndi lang ikaw ang minahal niya pati na din si Arthur. I’m sure he’ll be a great Dad someday.”
“I know.” I nodded my head back as smile began to break across my face.
“Are you planning to have a baby together?”She asked.
“Not at the moment.. isa pa, I don’t think I’ll be a good Mom.” My eyes lowered to the ground as tears stung my eyes. “Hindi ko pa nahahawakan si Arthur. The first time I ever really held him, nasaktan ko siya. Ni hindi nga niya alam na ko ang tunay niyang ina.”
“Ate hindi madali ang napagdaanan mo. It’s hard to accept something that came from a horrible experience. It’s something that no woman should ever go through. I admire you a lot, Ate. More than you’ll ever know. Ikaw ang inspirasyon ko para ipaglaban ang karapatan ng mga kababaihan. Kung alam lang ni Arthur ang pinagdadaanan mo maiintidihan ka niya. You’ve always been a wonderful Ate to me and I know you’ll be the best mother to your future kids.” Ronnie’s eyes were soft filled with so much emotions.
“Ronnie, you don’t know how much those words mean to me.” My eyes were glazed with tears as I hugged her.
After hanging out with Ronnie doing our hair and nails together just like how we used to. I checked up on Arthur and Callum. Kanina ko pa kasi hindi naririnig ang dalawa. Usually when the two are together there’s always noise. It was unusually quiet when Ronnie and I got out of her room after having some girl time.
I saw light coming from Arthur’s bedroom and I slowly pulled the doors lever to his room to open it. I saw Callum siiting on the armchair next to Arthur’s bed as he silently watched the sleeping boy. He turned his head to me with eyes hooded with sleep.
“Hey…” He smiled and held his hand out to me. I took it and he pulled me to sit on his lap. He then rested his chin on my shoulder.
“He’s sound asleep now.” Sabi ni Callum habang nakaingin kay Arthur. My eyes averted to the little boy. He was hugging the Curious George stuffed toy that I gave to him. I couldn’t help but feel a swelling in my heart when my eyes caught it.
“Did you give that to him?” I asked.
“Yeah…” Callum said.
“He likes you a lot.” I commented.
“I love him. He’s a precious little boy.” He said and kissed my shoulder. “Thank you, Audrey.”
“For reaching out to him. He’ll warm up to you again, don’t worry.”
“Callum ako nga dapat magpasalamat. Thank you for loving ang taking care of Arthur. Sa akin siya nanggaling pero hindi ko siya naalagaan.”
“You don’t have to thank me. I’m your husband. What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is yours.” He nuzzled his nose into my neck. I couldn’t asked for a better husband than
Callum. He was even more than what I ever prayed and hoped for.
“What’s he like? Ano ba ang favorite color niya? Ano’ng favorite tv show niya? Favorite books? Anong madalas niyang ginagawa?” I asked, staring at Arthur.
“He’s a charming little man. It’s not hard to love him Audrey. He’s very sweet and pure. He’s favorite color is blue because it remind him of the sky. He likes to watched Bob the Builder and he laughs a lot when I read him captain Underpants to him so I try not to read it to him as a bedtime story because he wouldn’t be able to sleep. When I first asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up he told me he wants to be a builder like Bob or maybe a zookeeper so he could have his own George but now he wants to be a musician. He loves learning how to play the guitar and all the music I sing to him.”
My lips etched a sad smile. My husband knew more about my son than myself. For a moment, the room fell silent.
“He looks so much like you, love. Look at him.” He whispered to my ear.
I studied his face for a few moment. He look slightly like Mama and Ronnie with his dark hair. He also had lips the same as mine. I was so fixed to the idea that he was the child of my rapist and not mine.
“He’s beautiful.” I sat on the edge of his bed and couldn’t help brushing my fingers through his hair. Tears started sliding down my cheeks. This was the first time I really felt hiw skin against my palm. He was so warm and soft. I had a sudden epiphany. I knew right then that he was brought to me for a purpose. Hindi siya isang parusa sa akin kung di isang magandang regalo. This wasn’t the life I planned but somehow, this was the life I intended to have. And now, I was ready to embrce it.
I held his little hand and buried my face in it. I held him and just quietly cried. He shifted and moved a little but he didn’t wake up. I felt Callum’s hand on my back as he rubbed it, trying to comfort me. I turned my head and looked at Callum who fought the tears that was threatening to fall from his eyes.
“Thank you.” I silently said.