Chapter Twenty Three

“Cal…” I quietly said when he didn’t speak. He just stood there, rubbing his jaw with an absent look on his face. I could see emotions brewing in those dark eyes. Emotions I couldn’t identify. I felt like crying. I feared that he’d feel the same way I felt about myself. Kung ako hindi ko matanggap ang nangyari sa akin, siya pa kaya. The fact that I shared a DNA with my rapist was simply too much of a baggage.

“I was just waiting for you to admit it.” He said, his voice low and flat.

“You knew?”

He shrugged, his dark eyes turned cold. “I had a feeling. I’ve never heard of you talk about him, it’s always just Cookie. I’ve never once seen you held him. You treat the boy like he’s invisible when he’s around. You try to stay far away from him as possible.”

My eyes lowered in guilt. I knew I was a horrible person to the boy. I had to stay away from him to keep my sanity. He was a constant reminder of what had happened to me. He was my nightmare personified. Nananalaytay pa rin ang dugo ng demonyo niyang ama sa bata at hindi ko matanggap na ako ang nagbigay ng buhay sa kanya.

“Kahit na may pakiramdam na ako, iba pa rin ang marinig yun galing sa’yo.” He slightly shook his head.

“I’m sorry for hiding it from you. Natakot ako. It was bad enough that I’d been used by a bunch of men pero nabuntis pa ako sa kanila. I carried my rapist’s child. Nabababuyan ako sa sarili ko. I’m so isgusting.” I bit my inner cheek to keep the tears at bay.

“Maiintindihan kita kung hindi mo kayang tanggapin iyon, if you’d want to get out of this marriage… We’ll file a divorce as soon as-”

“Shh…” He cupped my face and made me look at him. “There won’t be a divorce, okay? What happened to you is never your fault. You’re not disgusting, you’re a strong woman, Audrey. And my love and admiration for you is deeper now that it has every been.”

I buried my face into his chest. He kissed my forehead and wrapped his arms around me.

“Thank you, Callum.” My voice shook.

“You don’t have to thank me for anything. Other than being your husband, I’m also your psychiatrist. I know what you’ve been through and I know it wasn’t easy. I promised to always be here for you, didn’t I?” He gently whispered, cupping my face and making me look at him. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” I answered, tears streaming down my cheeks.

“I respect how you feel about Arthur. I do understand you, Love. I really do. I know his mere existence triggers a lot of ugly memories. I know it’s not easy for you to see him or even be around him. Hindi ko sasabihin sa’yo na tanggapin mo siya o ang nangyari sa’yo. It doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not something I want to burden your shoulders with while you’re healing.” He let out a deep sigh. “You have every right to feel angry. You’ve been badly hurt and it’s okay. Feel whatever you need to feel. But please, don’t direct your anger at Arthur. Hind niya kasalanan ang nangyari sa’yo. Hindi siya ang hurting him won’t make anything better. It’ll only do worse. I’ve been abused as a child and I still carry the trauma with me. It’s not a good feeling. For so long, I questioned myself kung ako ba talaga ang may mali, kung ano bang problema sa akin, kung bakit hindi nila ako kayang mahalin. I don’t want the same thing to happen to Arthur…”

I felt an invisible weight pressing on my chest. I didn’t know what I was doing when I hurt him. Nagdilim ang paningin ko. Hindi ko siya kayang tanggapin pero hindi ko naman gustong saktan siya.

“Love, promise me you won’t do it again. You won’t ever hurt him again.” He silently said.

“I didn’t mean to hurt him. It was never my intention…” I shook my head.

He held the back of my head and kissed me on the forehead. “We’re only going to be here until Saturday. I’m not going to ask you to be nice to him or anything. If you can’t be around him, stay away from him. Just don’t make him feel anything bad.”

Bukas ng gabi ang flight namin ni Callum pabalik sa California. I kept thinking about the boy. I couldn’t get out of my mind how my fingers dug into his tiny, soft arm. He was so scared and shaking like a leaf in Callum’s arms. I felt like a monster.

Mama, Ronnie, and I decided to go out and have some quality girl time before we go back to the States. Nagpaiwan si Callum kasama sina Dad at si Kuya Miggy We we going to have a barbecue dinner later on and we left the men in charge of it.

We went to a spa salon to relax and spend time together. Ronnie was having her mani-pedi while Mama and I were getting a massage. We were in a dimly lit room that smelled of lavender and everything good. Our beds were right next to each other and we were on our stomach while the masseur massaged our backs.

“Drey…” Mama’s voice broke the solemn silence in the room.

“Yeah?” I asked.

“Yung sinabi namin sa’yo ng Dad mo, sana huwag nang malaman ng mga kapatid mo.” She said.

I didn’t understand. I still hadn’t fully absorbed what they told me that night. I couldn’t imagine Dad doing that horific act to Mama. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that he had forced himself on Mama. Dad had always been a wonderful father to us and he’d been a loving husband to our mother. We knew how much he loved Mama and he wouldn’t do anything to hurt her. I even remember that one incident when we were teenagers and Coco got expelled from his nth school. Mama was scolding him and Coco talked back to her. Galit na galit siya kay Coco noong narinig niyang sinagot niya si Mama. Dad pinned and cornered him on the wall, he told him that he’d break his teeth with his fist if he ever heard him talking back to Mama again. Sabi niya kay Coco palalampasin niya pa kung siya ang sagutin niya pero hindi si Mama. He told him he’d never let any one of us disrespect our own mother. He rarely gets angry at us and if he does, we’d usually just get a slap on the wrist. Kaya nga lumaking pasaway si Coco kasi palagi daw kinukunsinti ni Dad. Mama was the disciplinarian. That one time was the worst I’d ever seen Dad angry. He had always treated Mama like she was a precious jewel and I couldn’t believe he’d do such thing to her.

“Audrey?” Ma called me out again when I didn’t answer.

“He’s… he’s just like them, Ma. He did the same thing to you…” I swallowed.

She let out a deep sigh. “Hindi masamang tao ang Dad mo, nagkamali lang siya. Nagkamali kami pareho. Hindi siya katulad nila. He was my boyfriend at that time. Nakipaghiwalay ako sa kanya dahil sa isang misunderstanding. He turned to alcohol and… and drugs. Alam kong hindi na sikreto sa inyo ang nakaraan ng Dad niyo.”

Noong magkaaway pa sila ni Tito Axel, I’d been hearing Tito Axel say that Dad was a drug addict back in his younger years. Dad never really denied it and none of us ever had the courage to ask about his past.

“I’ve gone through the same thing as you did. Pero hindi katulad nila ang Dad mo. Nagkamali ang Dad mo pero hindi siya masama. He made up for all the mistakes he’s ever done to me. Mahal niya ako at mahal niya kayong mga anak namin.”

“I don’t know what to say, Ma…” I bit my bottom lip.

“You don’t have to say anything. I only told you about our past because I feel like that’s what you needed to know. Hindi lang ikaw ang nakaranas nito. I’m sure there are a lot of women out there who’s gone through the same thing and knows how you feel, how we feel… Sana lang huwag magbago ang tingin mo sa Dad mo dahil sa sinabi namin sa’yo. Napagbayaran niya na ang kasalanan niya.” She said.

After getting our massage and having our nails done, we decided to go to the mall to do some shopping. We’d always done this since we were little girls. This was what I had missed and would miss the most. Dad would drive us to the mall and he and our brothers would go to the arcade while waiting for Mama, Ronnie, and I.

We went inside a boutique, Ronnie and Mama were busy going through the racks and picking out clothes. Right next to the boutique was a toy store. I found myself getting out of the boutique and going to the toy store instead.

I looked through the shelves and thought of Arthur. I had never given him anything yet. Gusto ko sanang may maibigay man lang sa kanya bago ako umalis. I wanted to give him an apology present.

Palaging kinukwento sa akin ni Callum si Arthur. He had mentioned to me that Arthur loved Curious George. Minsan late na nakakabalik sa kwarto namin si Callum dahil binabasahan niya ito ng story at Curious George ang gustong-gusto nitong book. To my delight, I saw a Curious George stuffed animal. I picked it up and smiled.

“Ate!” Ronnie came up to me. “You’re just here pala. Kanina ka pa namin hinahanap.”

“What are you doing here, Drey?” Ma asked.

“Wala kasi akong makitang maganda sa boutique so I decided to go in here and look around.” Dahilan ko.

“Naghahanap ka ng gift for Cookie?” Ma asked.

“Ate, hindi magugustuhan ni Cookie yan.” She said, her eyes on the stuffed animal I was holding.

“Hindi mahilig yun sa monkeys. Gusto niya yung Paw Patrol.”

“Si Arthur, magugustuhan niya yan. He likes Curious George.” Ma smiled.

“Yes, si Art-” Ronnie paused for awhile and then smiled. “I’m sure matutuwa siya kapag may nagbigay sa kanya niyan.”

It was our last day here in the Philippines and tomorrow we’d fly back to California. I would never have to see him again. I’d just give him the stuffed animal and apologize for what I had done and it would be over.

I headed straight to the playroom with a Curious George stuffed animal in my arm as soon as we got home from shopping. They said Callum and Arthur were playing together in there. It was funny how they’d grown into each other since we came here when the child and I barely even talk. My legs shook with each step I took. I finally stopped in front of the door and I had to take a deep breath to calm my nerves. He was just a little kid. I shouldn’t be this scared but I actually was.

This wasn’t easy for me. It wasn’t easy bringing myself right where I was standing. It wasn’t easy willing myself to come face to face with the nightmare I’d been trying to run away from. But I knew I had to do this.

I slowly pushed the door open and saw his little frame, his back turned to the door. He was sitting on the lego table, abala siya sa pagbuo ng lego.

“Dr. Callum, look what I made-” He turned to me, probably hearing the door open. His eyes widened in fear, nearly toppling over his seat, when he saw me.

“Hi.” I slowly walked towards him.

“DR. CALLUM!” He ran past me and I turned my head to see Callum standing behind me.
Callum caught him in his arms and carried him. “Hey buddy, what’s wrong?”

“Dr. Callum, hindi ko naman mean ma-break yung clock niya.” Arthur buried his face into the crook of Callum’s neck. He held onto him tightly.

Callum lifted his gaze at me and asked. “What happened?”

“I… I just want to give him a toy…” I explained, feeling a clench in my chest.

“Did you hear that? She just wants to give you a toy.” Callum told him.

“I don’t want it.” He shook his head, keeping his face buried into Callum’s neck. “Make Ate Drey go away. I don’t want her to hurt me, hindi naman ako bad…”

“No, you’re not bad.” Callum ran his fingers through the little boy’s hair. “Ate Drey won’t hurt you.”

My arms fell to my sides, the stuffed toy dangling on my right arm. My throat constricted. He was scared of me now. He couldn’t even look at me. I didn’t know what I was feeling but it certainly didn’t feel good.

“I won’t hurt you. May sorry gift ako sa’yo…” I said in a low tone, blinking away the sting in the corners of my eyes. Dahan-dahan akong lumapit sa kanila.

He peaked a little and then hugged Callum tighter. “I want to get out of here! I want to go to Mama and Daddy!”

“Okay, okay… I’ll take you to your Mama and Dad.” Callum said in a soothing tone.

I tightly shut my eyes and let out a deep huff, trying to release the tightening in my chest. The kid doesn’t want to be around me. He had obviously been traumatized. This should be a good thing, right? Mapuputol na ang koneksyon namin sa isa’t-isa. He wouldn’t pester me anymore. I could live my life as if he never existed.

After collecting myself, I went out the backyard where everyone were. We had a nice barbecue dinner together. This was the last dinner I’d have with my family before going to back to US. Arthur kept his distance from me. The kid didn’t even want to be near me. I tried to tell myself that this was a good thing. Now he’d be completely cut off from my life. He wouldn’t want anything to do with me anymore.

“Drey…” Ma came up to me as I sat alone on the table. They were all sitting on the outdoor sofa. Dad and Kuya Miggy were holding a can of beer in their hands. Arthur was sitting on Callum’s lap with the guitar. Ronnie was listening and talking to Arthur. “May problema ba?”

“Nothing…” I shook my head.

She gave me a knowing look. Of course, she was our mother. She knew when something’s bothering us.

“I tried to apologize to him. Natatakot siya sa akin, Ma.” I swallowed.

Mama’s face fell. “Your Dad and I or anyone in this family have never hurt him or even shout at him. Drey, he just wanted you to like him. Alam mo bang excited na excited siya noong binili namin sa grocery yung bulaklak na ibibigay niya dapat sa’yo. Inipon niya yun sa baon niya. Sabi niya pag nakita mo yung roses, bati na daw kayo. Matalinong bata si Arthur, marunong siyang makiramdam. Nagulat lang siguro siya sa naging reaksyon mo.”

“Ma, hindi ko sinasadya yung ginawa ko. Nabigla lang ako.”

“I understand that.” She nodded her head and tucked some loose strands of my hair behind my ear. “Sinusubukan ko naman ipaliwanag sa kanya ang lahat. Pinupunan naman namin ng Dad mo ang pagmamahal na dapat maramdaman niya. I don’t want him to grow up feeling like his missing something from his life.”

“You and Dad have raised him well. Thank you, Ma.” I threw my arms around her.

Natapos na ang dinner namin. Ihahatid daw kami nila sa airport bukas. We even video chatted with Coco who was having his honeymoon with Anais and he told me they’d come visit me in California. I felt a slight sting in my heart. I’d be leaving my family again and I knew for sure that I’d miss them. Masaya din ako kasi mas nakilala nila si ang asawa ko at kahit paano madali nilang natanggap si Callum sa pamilya namin. Gusto nila si Callum dahil kay Arthur, the boy and him were just inseperable. Dad even told him he’d be a good father someday.

Callum took Arthur to his bedroom and I stood outside his room and just listened to them.

“But who would teach me how to play guitar?” Arthur asked.

“I still will. We can talk over the phone.”

“Over Mama’s iPad?” He asked.

“Yes. We can video chat.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

“Do you really have to leave, Dr. Callum?”

“I have to. I’m a doctor there, I have patients waiting for me.” Callum explained.

“I’ll miss you, Dr…”

“I’ll miss you too, buddy.” I could hear the squeak in his voice.

“Babalik ka pa ba dito, Dr?” The little boy asked.

“Maybe in the future.” He said. “Can I get lots of kisses and a huge bear hug?”

“Mwah. Mwah. Mwah!”

I don’t knowI felt heaviness in my chest as I listened to their conversation. I wasn’t supposed to feel this pero naiingit ako sa closeness nila ng asawa ko. We never had a moment like tha together.

“I’m so proud of you.” Callum slipped into the covers and wrapped an arm around me. His head bent down to give me a kiss on the shoulder.

“For what?” I asked, shifting to face him.

He looked at me with a smile in his dark eyes. “For reaching out to him. I know it isn’t easy but you did anyway.”

“He doesn’t like me anymore.”

“He’s just scared of you. Bata pa siya and if you try, he’ll eventually warm up to you again. He’s a nice kid.”

“Mukhang malapit ang loob mo sa kanya.” I commented, brushing my fingers through his dark hair.

Callum let out a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “He’s not hard to love. In fact, it’s the easiest thing to do. You know I’ve had a very rough childhood. Nakikita ko sa kanya ang sarili ko. I, too, begged for my Dad’s love and approval. No matter how much it hurt, I strived for his validation.”

“Cal, ganon ba talaga ako kasama sa kanya?” I asked, feeling my heart sinking.

“What you went through and is still going through is not easy. Healing is a very long and painful process. Nobody can tell you, not even me as your psychiatrist, how you should heal. Hindi ka masama, you’re just very hurt.” He pressed a kiss on my lips.

“I just can’t wait to go back to our normal lives. I’m so emotionally exhausted. I’m so glad this will be over soon.” I let out a tired huff as I cuddled tighter to him.

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