“Ma’am Drey, sinugod sa ospital si sir Nick kaninang madaling-araw.” Iyon agad ang sumalubong sa akin pagkababa ko. I just finished taking a shower and I went down to have breakfast with my family only to find the dining room empty.
“A-ano’ng nangyari kay Dad?” I asked, faltering.
“Ma’am, di ko din alam. Basta nagmamadali silang umalis kanina. Ang alam ko lang nagpadrive sila kay Mang Oscar papunta sa ER. Hinihintay ko nga itong si Mang Oscar na umuwi, sandali lang kami nakapag-usap kaya di ko siya masyadong na chika. Bumaba kasi agad si Ronnie tapos nung nalaman niya, nagpahatid agad sa hospital. Kaalis lang nila.”
“Hey.” Callum grabbed me by the waist from behind. “Where’s everyone?”
“Dad’s in the hospital.” I quietly said.
“Why? What happened?” He asked in a worried tone.
“I still don’t know. We need to go to the hospital.” I urgently said.
“What about Arthur?” Tanong ni Callum.
“Ay sir, ako na ang bahala kay Arthur. Mamaya pa ang gising nun, ako na lang magpapakain.”
We went to the garage and Callum drove one of Dad and Coco’s car collections to the hospital they were at. I couldn’t contact Mama, her phone just kept ringing but nobody was picking up. She’d probably left it in their room. We got to the hospital in less than twenty minutes and I headed straight to the reception counter.
I asked for Dad and the receptionist searched his name and found that he was checked into a suite. Callum and I went to the suite and a cry from inside the room made me pause.
“Dad, please hold on. Kumapit ka. Huwag kang bibitaw. Kailangan ka pa namin. Maliit pa si Arthur, he needs you. We all need you. Dad, huwag mo kaming iwan.” Ronnie was wailing inside the room.
My knees suddenly went weak. I felt like my legs would give way. I almost didn’t want to see what was on the other side of the door. Ano bang nangyari sa kanya? He was fine last night. Umiinom at nagtatawanan pa nga sila ni Callum at ni Kuya Miggy.
I gathered all the strength I had in my body and I pushed the door open.
“DAD!” Mangiyak-ngiyak na ako. I was expecting to see him unwell, I’d already imagined the worst scenario but what I saw shocked me to the core.
“Dad, kaya mo ‘to. Don’t give up. Makakayanan mo yan, malalampasan mo din yan.” Ronnie tugged on his blanket.
Dad was on the hospital bed, his upper body reclined, while he flipped through the channels on the tv with a remote control. Ma was sitting on the edge of Dad’s bed, peeling off an orange. Kuya Miggy was sitting on the couch, his attention on the phone he had in his hand. Everyone was going about their businesses, completely ignoring Ronnie.
“Ronnie, will you shut up for a second? You’re giving me a migraine.” Kuya Miggy shook his head.
“Bakit ba? Pinalalakas ko lang loob ni Dad.” She scowled.
“Dad, akala ko kung ano ng nangyari sa’yo.” I hugged him, relief washed over me.
“I’m okay.” He said, rubbing my back.
“Ano bang nangyari sa’yo?” I asked.
“Your Dad woke up in the middle of the night with chest pain.” Mama explained.
“Oh, Dad…” I felt even more worried. “What did the doctor say?”
“It’s nothing serious. Huwag kang mag-alala. You’re forgetting something.” Dad smiled, playfully pinching my nose as if I was a little girl again.
“What?” I pouted.
“I’m Superman.” He chuckled gingerly. He used to joke about him being Superman when we were little and he got hospitalized.
“Dad naman…” I rested my head on his check. “You scared me.”
“He’s in perfectly good health. Nag ECG at heart MRI na siya, sabi ng doktor niya normal naman daw ang resulta.” Sabi ni Mama.
“Then why are you wailing like a cow?” I shot a glare at Ronnie.
“You know your sister. Ronnie will always be… well, Ronnie.” Dad shrugged.
“Dad needs encouragement.” Dahilan ni Ronnie.
“He needs peace of mind and we all need you to shut up.” Kuya Miggy flatly said. “Dad’s not going to die. He’s just very stressed out and you’re not making it better by wailing like a deranged cow.”
Ronnie made a face.
“Yan kasing Dad mo, masyadong workaholic.” Mama shook her head. “I keep telling him to slow down but he won’t listen to me.”
“Dad, ako na ang bahala sa business natin. Why don’t you and Mama take a vacation? Para naman makapag-unwind kayo” Kuya Miggy suggested
“That doesn’t sound like a bad idea.” Dad looked at Ma with glimmer in his eyes and a playful smile on his lips.
“You need that, babe.” Ma let out a gentle smile.
“Where are we going to go?” Ronnie eagerly asked.
“Hindi ba may pasok ka pa, Ronnie?” I asked. “Let Mama and Dad spend some time together.”
“Yung mga bata pala. Who’s going to take care of them while they’re gone?” Ma sounded worried.
“I’ll temporarily move back to our house.” Sabi naman ni Kuya.
“Migs, you’re going to have a hard time. Hindi mo pwedeng pagsabayin ang pagpapatakbo ng negosyo at pag-aalaga sa mga kapatid mo.” Dad said, disappointment evident in his voice. “Magbakasyon na lang tayo kapag break na ni Arthur at ni Ronnie sa school.”
“Ilang buwan pa yun, Dad. Isama mo na lang kami.” Ronnie batted her lashes.
“We can extend our stay. Kami na ang bahala kay Ronnie at Arthur.” Callum suddenly spoke.
I turned my head and looked at Callum. He stood beside the door with hands casually tucked inside his pockets. Callum raised his brows and shrugged his shoulders.
Nagpalit-palit ng tingin sa amin dalawa si Mama bago siya nagsalita. “If it’s not too much trouble…”
I let out an exhale and turned my head to Mama and Dad. They looked at me as if waiting for my answer. They really wanted this and Dad needs this. I didn’t have the heart to say no to parents who had dedicated their lives raising and taking care of us.
“Well, you badly need that vacation. Kami na ang bahala sa kanila.” I said with resignation.
“Thank you, Drey.” Ma smiled.
“Dad, Ma, si Arthur na ang last na baby sa bahay ah. Baka pagbalik niyo may baby number six na.” Ronnie teased.
Dad’s doctor released him that very same day. He was adviced to take some rest and to try to avoid stress as it could possibly lead to a more serious illness if he doesn’t.
“Dr. Callum!” Arthur greeted my husband with a hug when we came in. Sinalo ni Callum ang bata sa mga braso niya. “Akala ko nasa sky ka na!”
“We’ll be staying here for a little longer.” Callum said with a huge smile on his face.
“Really?” The little boy’s eyes glowed with happiness.
“Yes. Matutuloy na natin yung guitar lesson mo.” Sabi ni Callum.
Dad and Mama walked in and Arthur asked to be put down. He saw me staring at him, and he instantly cowered in fear, running as fast as he could past me and go to Mama and Dad. Dad wrapped his arms around Arthur and kissed him on the cheek.
“Daddy, Mama, where have you been?” Arthur asked.
“Daddy had to go to the hospital.” Mama answered.
“Why? What happened to you? Did you get sick?” The little boy worriedly asked as he looked at Dad.
“Daddy’s fine now. Chineck lang ako ng doctor.” He explained.
“I hope you’re okay now, Daddy…” He leaned his head against Dad’s chest. “I don’t ever want you to get sick. Or Mama, or Kuya Miggy, or Kuya Coco, or Ate Ronnie…”
“Aw, you’re such a sweet little thing.” Ronnie pinched his pink cheeks.
Kuya Miggy playfully messed with his dark hair and bent down to give him a kiss on the side of his head. “Take care of Dad, okay?”
“Okay!” Arthur gave him a thumbs up.
“Dad, Ma, I really need to go. Baka malate kami sa appointment…” He pulled his sleeve up and looked at his wrist watch.
“Drive carefully, okay?” Mama reminded like she always does.
“Dito ka na magdinner mamaya.” Dad said.
“Okay, Dad. Get well soon. Relax ka lang.” Kuya Miggy patted him on the shoulder. “Ako na din bahala sa pagbook ng trip niyo. I’ll see you later.”
Kuya Miggy said goodbye to us and left.
“Nagbreakfast na ba ang baby namin?” Dad turned his attention back to Arthur.
“Mmhm! I had waffles and orange juice and a banana!” He cheerfully answered.
“Mama and Daddy are going away for vacation. Hindi tayo kasama at baka pagbalik nila may bagong baby na naman tayo. Hindi na ikaw yung bunso.” Ronnie said.
“Ronnie…” Mama rolled her eyes and sighed.
“Bakit hindi kami kasama?” The boy pouted.
“Because you and Ate Ronnie have to go to school. Pero bibilhan kita ng maraming candies at chocolates.” Dad told him.
“Sino gagawa ng baon ko pag wala si Mama? Saka sino tutulong sa homeworks ko? Sino magpapaligo sa akin? Sino maghahatid sa akin to school?” He asked.
“Kami muna.” Callum answered and then wrapped an arm around the small of my back, pulling me to him. “Ate Drey and I will take care of you while your Mama and Daddy are away.”
His gaze landed at me and then he threw his arms around Dad’s neck and buried his face, he shook his head. “I don’t want.”
“Bakit? I thought you like Dr. Callum?” Mama asked, raking her fingers through his hair.
“Just Dr. Callum…” He murmured, barely audible.
I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach when I heard what he said. It was a horrible feeling. I wish I could turn back time and undo the trauma I had inflicted on him. He used to always try to be close to me and all I ever did was ignore and push him away. Now he couldn’t even look at me.
I tried to tell myself that this was a good thing. I didn’t want to get attached to the child of the man who abused me. We were only going to be here for a short span of time. Hindi ko naman kailangan maging malapit sa kanya. Nandyan naman si Kuya Miggy, si Ronnie, si Callum. My plan was to stay as far as possible away from him and wait until Mama and Dad comes back from their vacation.
I exhaled a deep breath. “I’m just going to go upstairs and unpack our things…” I turned and walked up to our bedroom.
In less than five minutes, the door opened as I unpacked our things from the luggage and Callum went in.
“Audrey, I’m sure he didn’t mean what he said.” Sabi ni Callum.
“I don’t care if he doesn’t like me. I never wanted him…” I said, taking our clothes out from the luggage and walking to the closet to put it in. “We’re only going to be here for awhile and then when Mama and Dad comes back, we’ll go back to California.”
“Audrey.” He stood in front of me blocking my way.
“Cal, I’m unpacking our things.” I tried to push him away but he didn’t budge.
“I know you want to reach out to him. What’s stopping you? What are you scared of?” He gently asked.
“That he’d be just like his father! Ayaw makita ang kahit katiting na bahid ng hayop na ama niya sa kanya! He is the child of one of the men who abused me, Cal! Ano bang mahirap intindihin dun?” My fingers clenched into fists as I tried to keep my emotions under control.
“He’s not like his father. He’s loving and sweet and affectionate. I just wish you’d stop looking at him that way and see him as he really is. He’s just a little boy…” Callum gently said with sadness in his eyes. I knew he just wanted to help. I could feel the genuinity in his voice.
“He doesn’t even like me! We don’t like each other! It’s better this way. I don’t want to hurt him more.”
“Is that really the memory you want to carve into his young mind? Kung pagpapatuloy mo ang trato mong ganito sa kanya, lalaki siyang may sama ng loob sa’yo. I just hope you don’t leave him with nothing but bad memories.” Cal placed his hands on my hips and let out an exhausted sigh.
“You don’t understand…”
“I understand more than you think I do. I see so much of myself in him, Audrey. Naramdaman ko ang mga nararamdaman niya ngayon. I love you and I understand and respect what you’re going through and I know it’s hard. But the child is hurting too. Someday he’s going to grow up and remember how you treated him.”
“I don’t know what to do, Cal.” I quietly admitted, my eyes fixed to the ground.
“This is what I’m here for. We’ll work on this together. If you let me, I will help you.” He pulled me against his body and kissed my forehead.
I didn’t know if this was going to work. I didn’t know if I could look at him and not think of all the disgusting things that was done to me. I didn’t know if I could stand next to him without feeling dirty. I didn’t know but I wanted to try to open my heart for him. Gusto ko siyang makilala bilang siya, hindi bilang bunga ng kahayupan sa akin. And I trust that Callum could help me with this.