“Good morning, love.” Callum let out a gentle smile when I fluttered my eyes open. He was on his side, gently stroking Arthur’s hair as he cuddled against Callum’s broad chest and my arms were around his waist.
I let out a lazy smile and he leaned forward to give me a quick kiss on the lips. Our gaze both lowered on the precious thing right between us. He was still sound asleep, looking like the angel he was. Everything still felt surreal to me. I couldn’t believe he was beside me, my arm wrapped around his tiny waist. Never in my wildest dream had I thought this would ever happen.
I never gave him a chance. From the moment I found out that there was a life growing inside me, I wanted to get rid of it. Wala pa sya sa mundo I already rejected him. I hadn’t realized that he was as much a victim as I was. If Mama and Dad didn’t intervene I would’ve had him aborted. Wala sana sya dito sa tabi ko ngayon. I took a mental note to call them later and thank them for convincing me to keep Arthur.
Because now after a long time, I was finally at peace with myself. Arthur redeemed what they tried to destroy inside me. He was the flower that grew from the cracks in my heart. I knew at this moment that this gift, rare and beautiful, was given to me with a purpose. He had no part in any of the ugliness that surrounded his conception. He was the reward I got from all the pain I went through.
“Thanks for opening your heart to him. I know it won’t take long for him to warm up to you again.” Callum softly said.
“Callum, am I a bad mother for abandoning him? Am I a bad person?” My voice trembled as I spoke, my eyes still fixed on Arthur.
He shook his head. “I don’t want you to ever think that. You did what you thought was right for you and it’s okay. You thought Arthur would make everything more real for you, more painful. But he was the beauty that came out of it. He’s your battle scar, Audrey. He’s yours and yours alone.”
I buried my face into his hair and inhaled his scent. He smelled of baby shampoo and innocence. Callum was right. Arthur was mine. He was my baby. Just mine.
“I can’t take back the time we didn’t have together. I didn’t even have the chance to be a mother to him. Hindi ko alam kung paano ako makakabawi sa kanya.” I quietly said, my tears starting to sting the corners of my eyes.
“We have two weeks with Arthur. You can’t take time back but it’s not too late. This is your chance to be a mother to him. Hindi man n’ya malaman na ikaw ang ina n’ya, at least just make him feel your love for him. We can be a family for two weeks.” He said with hopeful pair of eyes.
“You think he would finally like me?” I asked.
“He’ll love you…” Callum gave me a warm smile.
“Oh, Cal, I can’t ask for a better husband. You’ve always been so supported from the very start. Sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve you.”
His dark eyes turned into somber hue, he lifted his hand up to gently touch my face. “Don’t say that. You and Arthur are the best thing that ever happened to me. I, too, am damaged. I know how you feel. But I also want you to know that you deserve every good thing that ever happened and will ever happen to you. I need you as much as you need me, Audrey. We’d be lying to ourselves if we say we don’t need each other, if we don’t need love to heal. We need someone to ease our sufferings and I found that someone in you. I’ve never felt a love as gentle and soothing as yours that it makes my fears, pains, and anger melt. You and Arthur have shown me a more beautiful part of life. You made my entire being feel like I’ve reached home. I don’t ever want you to think that you don’t deserve this because that’s not true at all.”
I took the hand that cupped my face to my lips and kissed it. I thank God for giving Callum to me. What we had was so intimate and raw. He’s help me heal the wounds in my heart. Without him, I wouldn’t be laying next to Arthur like this. For so long, I’ve been trying to cover the wounds but all it did was ooze out and blead through the bandages I’d put and it continued to stain my life. He was the one who gave me the courage and strength to stick my hand inside the wound and pull the core of the pain that held me back from my son. With them beside me, I found my solace.
“Daddy? Mama? “ Arthur lifted his head up with one-third of his eyes opened. He rubbed his eyes with his fists.
“Hey, good morning, little guy.” Callum gave him a kiss on the side of the head.
“Dr. Callum?” He said.
“Your Daddy and Mama’s on vacation, remember? Ate Drey and I will take care of you while their gone. We can call them later.” Callum gently told him.
“How many mornings till I get to see them again?” He buried his face back into Callum’s chest.
“What do you want for breakfast, Arthur?” I asked, hoping he’d finally speak to me.
He shyly turned his head to look at me and then hid into Callum again. “Um, I want waffles and sausage.”
“Are you talking to my chest?” Callum chuckled. “Look at Ate Drey and tell her what you want. She’s the one who’s going to make our breakfast for us.”
Arthur slowly turned his head to me and looked at me. “Ate Drey, I want waffles and sausage.”
My heart welled up with unexplainable happiness when he said my name. It felt like it wanted to leap from my chest. I couldn’t help the smile from cracking on my lips. “Anything for you. Bababa lang ako. You and Dr. Callum go get ready for school okay? I’m going to make you the best waffle ever.”
He hesitantly nodded his head. I took a quick shower and went down to cook their breakfast for them while Callum was getting him ready for school. Kuya Miggy came over to check up on us and have breakfast with us. We dropped the kids off to school after our breakfast.
The door to Arthur’s classroom, their teacher stood by it, while the children walked out in line. Callum and I waited for Arthur and when he saw Callum, his face immediately lit up and he ran to him. Sinalo s’ya ni Callum sa mga bisig nito at binuhat.
“What did you do today?” He asked.
“We made art.” Arthur answered.
“What kind of art?”
“Arthur grabbed his backpack from his back and unzippd it. He took out what he looked like a white paper plate and on the white were scribbly numbers around the plate in different colors and two arrows stuck in the center. There was also a drawing of a two stick figures holding hands.
“We made a clock.” Arthur proudly showed it to Callum. “My teacher said that we can never take time back so we shouldn’t waste it . We should always give it to someone we love. Now I know why Ate Drey got mad at me because Daddy gave that clock to her.”
He slowly turned his gazed at mine. There was no fear in them anymore. My breath caught in my throat at the apology in those wide eyes.
“Ate Drey, I want to give this to you. I’m sorry for breaking your clock.” He held the clock craft to me.
I felt painful sting in my heart. Ako ang may kasalanan at ito siya ngayon, humihingi ng tawad sa akin. Kung alam nyiya lang kung gaano kalaki ang kasalanan ko sa kanya. I wanted to kill him when he was still inside me and I wanted to give him away when he was still a baby. I rejected and abandoned him from the day I found out I was carrying him. I’d done so many things a mother wouldn’t do to her child and now he was the one apologizing to me.
I shook my head and I couldn’t help wrapping my arms around him. Kinuha ko siya mula kay Callum at niyakap ng mahigpit. “No, don’t apologize to me. It’s not your fault. I’m sorry, Arthur. I’m so sorry.”
My heart ached with longing and so much love, I thought it was going to burst. I buried my face into his hair and couldn’t help but cry. “Wala kang kasalanan. It was never your fault.”
“Bati na tayo Ate Drey?” He asked innocently as he looked up at me with doe-like eyes.
“Of course.” I sniffled. “I’m so sorry for everything I did to you.”
“It’s okay. Don’t cry. Why are you crying?” He lifted his tiny hands up to touch my face and wiped away my tears.
Callum let out a low laugh. I couldn’t help but laugh too despite the tears gushing out of my eyes. He was just adorably innocent. I hugged him tighter and kissed him on the cheek.
“Ate Drey’s just very happy.” Callum answered for me.
“Me too. Kasi bati na tayo.” He wrapped his arms around my neck. “I love you Ate Drey. You’re not mad at me anymore?”
I shook my head. “Hindi na. I love you, too.”
It felt so good to say that to him. I wanted to say those words to him over and over again as if it would make up for the times he hadn’t heard it from me. I wanted to hug him for as long as I could. It was like I was holding my breath all this time and finally getting to breathe again. I had never felt an emotion as pure as this.
“Ate, nandito yung mga videos at albums ni Arthur simula noong baby pa siya.” Ronnie handed me a small box. We all had our own boxes where Mama keeps all our memories. I took the blue box with his name embedded on the lid.
“Thanks, Ronnie.” I smiled.
“Ate, I’m so happy for you and Arthur.” She sincerely said. “Kahit hindi niya alam o kahit niya malaman na ikaw ang totoong Mama niya, alam naman niya na minahal mo siya. He was so happy, Ate.”
What she said melted my heart. I didn’t know it had that much impact to him.
“He’s a real sweetheart, Ronnie. Alam mo gusto ko mainggit dahil nandoon kayo sa mga importanteng parte ng buhay niya. Alam kong hindi siya nagkulang sa pagmamahal niyo pero gusto ko pa rin ibigay sa kanya ang pagmamahal na hindi ko naibigay sa kanya sa loob ng tatlong taon na wala ako sa tabi niya. I should’ve love him instead of focusing on the hate I feel for the men who abused me.”
“It’s okay, Ate. It’s not yet too late. You can make new memories with him.” She said.
I let out a warm smile despite the squeeze I felt inside my chest. That was what I intend to do. Kahit hindi man niya malaman na ako nga ang tunay na ina niya, gusto ko maalala niya ako sa magandang paraan. I wanted him to forget all the bad things I did and remember only the good things.
I walked in on Callum and Arthur playing guitar on our bed. I stood under the door frame and justwatched and listend to the two.
“Close your eyes. Have no fear. The monster’s gone. He’s on the run and your daddy’s here. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful…” Callum looked at Arthur, giving him his cue.
“Beautiful boy…” Arthur sang and giggled.
“Before you go to sleep. Say a little prayer. Every day in every way, it’s getting better and better. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful…”
“Beautiful boy.” The little boy sang together with him again.
“Out on the ocean sailing away. I can hardly wait. To see you come of age. But I guess we’ll both just have to be patient. Cause it’s a long way to go. A hard row to hoe. Yes it’s a long way to go. But in the meantime… Before you cross the street. Take my hand Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Callum wiggled his brows to him.
“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy…” They both sang.
I put the box down so I could clap. They just looked so adorable as they sang together. The two looks up at me with grins on their faces.
“Hey…” Callum said.
“Anong song yan kinakanta niyo?” I asked as I walked to the bed with the box in my hand.
“Beautiful boy by John Lemon.” Sagot ni Arthur.
“John Lennon. Not Lemon.” Callum snorted.
“I keep forgetting.” He cutely wrinkled his nose.
“It’s okay. You did great.” He playfully messed the boy’s hair and pulled him in his arms. “Are you going to sleep with me and Ate Drey again?”
“Mmhm!” He nodded his head.
“Very well then. Let’s get to bed. We have to be up early tomorrow.” Sabi ni Callum at humiga sa kama. He then lifted his eyes up to me as they laid in bed together. His eyes averted to the box I had on my lap. “What’s that?”
“Arthur’s videos and pictures.” I smiled.
“My pictures?” He turned his head to me.
“Yes, when you were a baby.” I brushed my fingers through his thick, dark hair. “Kasi wala si Ate Drey noong baby ka, di ba? I missed your birthdays, I missed three Christmas with you, I missed seeing you grow up to the smart little boy you are now.”
“In the next Christmas and my birthday, are you and Dr. Callum going to be here? Babalik ba kayo sa Amerika?” He asked, yawning.
Callum and I looked at each other. Both of us were obviously stunned. We didn’t know how to answer his question.
“We still haven’t talked about it, Arthur. Pero huwag kang mag-alala kahit umalis kami, I promise we’ll be here for your birthday and Christmas, diba Ate Drey?” Callum looked at me.
“Of course…” My voice croacked a little. Just the thought of leaving Arthur again made my insides ache. I knew leaving him would be for thebest. Ayaw kong maguluhan ang bata. I didn’t want him to know that he came from me because Iwas afraid he’d ask about his father. Ayaw kong malaman niya na demonyo ang ama niya. I never wanted him to know that he was carrying the blood of one of the men who abused me. I would always be just Ate Drey to her.
“Why don’t we just watch the videos?” Callum suggested, trying to lit up the somber mood.
“Yeah, I want to watch!” Arthur excitedly said.
I found his first video as it had a date on it. It was the day I give birth to him. He was a big baby. I remember being in labor for a whole day. I remembered hearing his cry after my fifth push. I didn’t want to see him after that. I wanted him away from me. Ni hindi ko siya nagawang tignan noon. All I knew was that he was a big baby. Yun ang sabi sa akin ng doctor at ng mga kapatid ko.
Seeing his video now made my heart ache. This was the moment I lost and could never get back. Ronnie was filming as I could hear her voice while Mama carried him in her arms. Dad stood behind Mama, cooing over him. He had rosy pink skin, cute chubby cheeks, pinkish lips and pointed nose.
‘He’s a handsome little boy.” Callum said as he brushed his fingers through Arthur’s hair as he slept on top of his chest.
“I could’ve been the one holding him that time…” May panghihinayang na sabi ko. Callum held his arm out to me and I scooted closer to him, resting my head on his chest. I looked at Arthur who slept like an angel, his face just inches from mine. I could feel his breath on my face and it smelled of milk that he’d had before he went to bed.
“What’s important right now is that he’s here with us. We’re a family now.” Callum gently said.
I wrapped my arm around Arthur and Callum and gave the little boy a kiss. The thought of it warmed my heart. We were a family. Arthur, Callum, and I. I wished it could stay like this forever.
“This is the family I never had in my childhood. I’ve always wanted this. I don’t think I can leave him, Audrey.” Callum let out a deep sigh. “My father thought I was my mother’s son from previous affair. But I knew and my mother knew that he was my real Dad. All his anger was taken out on me. I was like a human punching bag to him. My mother never intervined, my Dad rejected me and so did she. She’s just watched with cold, empty eyes whenever my Dad would hurt me. I get beaten up for the smallest things like forgetting to wash the dishes.”
“Oh, Cal…” I looked at him with pity.
“Sa’yo at kay Arthur ko lang naramdaman ang ganito. I don’t ever want to let go of this. Of him.” He said, his voice sounded desperate. Far from the rational Callum I knew. “Why don’t we just tell him that you’re his real mother and I’m his Dad. I am willing to father him.”
My eyes lowered back to the little boy. “Si Mama at Dad na ang kinilala niyang mga magulang. We can’t just come into his life and tell him that we’re his parents.”
“I only knew him for a short period of time and I already love him. He’s a special boy. He’s our boy.” He said, sorrow evident on his voice.