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It was a very cloudy day, so much so that it seemed more like evening rather than late morning. It was probably going to rain later, though Joy assumed many people hoped not; it wouldn’t make the festival very fun, that was for sure. The candles would go out, the performers’ makeup and dresses would be ruined, and everyone would have to carry around umbrellas.

Enjoying the dark day while she could, Joy rested in the hammock in the backyard, playing Oracion on a leaf. The Kapre sat beneath their tree, smoking his cigar and with Charlie sleeping all curled up next to him. He seemed to enjoy the music, which seemed understandable. Out of all the nice songs they included in the Pokemon movies, Oracion was by far the best in her opinion.

Since it wasn’t a very long song, she’d usually just played the tune of it over and over until she ran out of breath. The Kapre didn’t really seem to mind; it just made it seem like an endlessly long, yet lovely song.

“Joy!” Joan called through the window. Joy jumped up suddenly, the appearance of Joan’s voice scaring her half to death. “Do you wanna come to the library with me?”

“Why do you need to go to the library?” Joy asked, half-irritated at the sound of a request that Joan could easily do herself.

“I need to get a book for a book report I haven’t started yet,” Joan said. “It’s due on Wednesday.” For the love of God, Joan, Joy thought.

“You procrastinated again, didn’t you?” Joy asked. Joan procrastinated a lot, so this wasn’t something uncommon in the Gozar household.

“Yeah,” Joan admitted. She sounded a little guilty while saying this. “Please come with me. You have a really good taste in books.” Well, it’d be nice to actually go somewhere before I have to babysit Jen, Joy thought.

“Okay. Give me a sec. I’ll meet you at the door,” she conceded. Through the mesh screen on the window, Joy could see a smile spread on Joan’s face, then her silhouette disappearing from view. Joy turned to the Kapre, who’d remained silent through most of the conversation. “I’ll be back in a little while. Can you keep an eye on Charlie please?” The Kapre smiled and nodded, and she smiled back. One thing was for sure; this Kapre was definitely not evil.

Joan was standing by the door when she walked back inside the house. They said goodbye to their father, then headed out. Since their house was a decent walking distance from the downtown area, there was no need to take the car. Also, the library was a good four blocks from their street.

“By the way, you play the leaflute really nice,” Joan commented. Joy didn’t really want to show her embarrassment, but she could feel her ears heating up. She shoved her hands into her jacket pockets.

“Thanks,” she said quietly. “I didn’t even realize you were listening.” Joan smiled and giggled.

“Of course I was listening. I had nothing better to do,” she remarked.

“Except for your book report,” Joy pointed, and Joan’s smile disappeared and she replaced it with a bored expression. Just as I thought, Joy thought. Expression on point.

“It’s boring,” she whined.

“Maybe if you started it before, you’d have plenty of time to goof off,” Joy scolded.

“Well, yeah…” Joan’s cheeks turned red. “But, you know I’m not much of a reader. I’m a TV watcher.” Joy shrugged her shoulders.

“I assume a lot of people are TV watchers. But people like me are book readers, and we prefer books over film adaptations anyway.” Joan laughed at this comment.

“That’s why I’m dragging you along. Maybe you can choose a good book for me,” she joked, smiling nervously. Her cheeks looked redder than ever.

“Why didn’t your teacher assign you a book?” Joy asked.

“She said she wanted to see everyone’s taste in novels, and how well we pay attention to the story lines,” Joan explained. Joy nodded.

“Okay,” she said.

“Here, I found a good one,” Joy announced, handing a book to Joan. It was a book called When the Rainbow Goddess Wept by Cecelia Manguerra Brainard. Joy had read it once before, and enjoyed it. It was for an assignment (similar to Joan’s, but with an actual assigned book) that Miss Reyes had given her when she was thirteen. Joan looked at it with an unsure look on her face. Joy had seen this face too many times, every time she tried to convince Joan to read something.

“Uh, what’s it about?” she asked.

“Mythology and legends and war,” Joy explained. Joan shook her head.

“Sounds like something you’d be interested in, but not me,” she said. Joy blew air through her lips, exasperated.

“Joan, you’ve been rejecting every book I show you. Either choose a book or don’t,” she bit. Joan pushed her hair out of her face. “And besides, I have to be back home by noon to babysit Jen.”

“Can’t you choose something more interesting?” Joan asked.

“This is interesting.”

“Every book you read is interesting.” Joan poked at some old history biographies on the shelf. Joy shoved one of her hands into her pocket, then shoved the book into Joan’s arms.

“You’re choosing that one,” she directed. Joan opened her mouth to protest something, but Joy spoke before she got a chance. “Now while you check out that book, I’m going to poke around for some new ones. I already finished Without Seeing the Dawn.” She turned away and headed toward some other shelves to check which books seemed the most interesting. Hopefully, Joan would just suck it up and check out the book.

It looked like they had new manga books at their disposal. Parasyte, Deadman Wonderland, Black Rock Shooter: Innocent Soul. Those were ones she hadn’t read before. She picked up Black Rock Shooter, flipped through it a bit, then tucked it under one arm and looked through the novels. One caught her eye: The Bread of Salt and Other Stories. Sounded interesting.

Her hand collided with another when she went to grab it. She quickly jerked her hand away in surprise. It was a young man, somewhere around her age. Tall and slender, pale, and green-eyed. It wasn’t often to see people around with green eyes, unless they were foreigners or wearing contacts. He smiled kindly at her.

“Sorry, did you want this book?” he asked. Her voice caught in her throat, and she managed a nod of the head. “It’s all yours. I can wait.” She waited a moment before grabbing the book and setting it under her arm with Black Rock Shooter. He smiled at her again.

“I remember you. You sang at the Festival, didn’t you?” he asked. She nodded again. She must’ve had a fearful look on her face (she didn’t enjoy talking to strangers), because he chuckled. “You don’t have to be scared.” Not reason enough; she was still terrified. “So what’s your name?” Her voice was very reluctant to reappear, but she forced it.

“J-Joy…” she murmured.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Chyll,” he introduced. Chyll? Rare name, she thought. “So I take it you’ll be performing again tonight?” She nodded again. “Nice. I’ll be looking forward to it.” He waved, then turned and started looking at other books. She quickly turned and walked to the counter, checked out the books, and met with Joan outside.

“Took you long enough,” Joan complained. Joy didn’t answer; she just looked down at her feet and hugged the books tighter. Maybe she’d hug them so tightly that they’d explode in her hands. “You okay?”

“Mm-hm,” Joy said quietly.

“Something happen while you were looking?”

“No.” What could she say? If she said the truth, Joan would probably laugh.

“Hey, Joanie!” Joan quickly turned around to see the owner of that familiar voice. Marissa came trotting over, a big smile plastered to her face. Joy quietly inched behind Joan, not wanting to hear more teasings and feel more beatings from Marissa. She looked down at the sidewalk to avoid Marissa’s brown eyes.

“Oh, it’s you,” Joan groaned, shoving her hands in her pockets. She sounded annoyed. If Joan made it clear that she doesn’t want to be their friend anymore, why does they keep coming around? Joy wondered.

“Hey, wanna go shopping?” Marissa asked. “I heard they’re having a sale.” She darted one grim glance at Joy before smiling back at Joan.

“Nah, I gotta work on that book report. I haven’t started it yet,” Joan explained. You were saying just a moment ago that this book seemed stupid, Joy thought. Marissa’s smile was replaced with a look of disappoint.

“Since when have you been enthusiastic about starting your homework?” she asked. She wasn’t even looking at Joan anymore; she was glaring at Joy. Joan threw her arm in front of Joy.

“What’s with the angry look at my sister?” she asked. Joy buried her face into Joan’s shoulder.

“Haven’t you been wondering what happened to Lillabeth?” Marissa asked. Joan shrugged her shoulders.

“I haven’t really noticed.” Marissa pointed at Joy.

“She caused her to get a concussion by hitting her over the head with a tree branch. Now Lillabeth’s mother doesn’t let her hang out with me because she thinks I’m the one who did it.” Joan scoffed at that comment. Joy had to keep herself from giggling; that wasn’t at all what happened.

“Right. Joy hit her with the branch. Joy couldn’t even beat up a scarecrow,” Joan contended. “No offense, Joy.” Joy didn’t look up, just shook her head. “Besides, you mind explaining those cuts on her arms and stomach?” That comment was enough to make Joy look up. She saw those cuts from the Wak-Wak? Did she know they were from a Wak-Wak?

“What? We only struck her ba—” Marissa cut herself off, after realizing what she was gonna say.

“Busted!” Joan exclaimed, smirking. “Now, I’m gonna give you ten seconds to leave before I cut your tongue off and feed it to Charlie.” Marissa stayed where she was, opened her mouth to say something, then shut it, turned, and walked away. Joy didn’t step out behind Joan until Marissa was around the corner.

“Thank you, Joan,” she murmured, still glancing at where Marissa had gone.

“No prob, that’s what sisters are for,” Joan chirped, smiling brightly. “Now let’s hurry home. You still have to babysit Jen, right?”

“Oh, yeah. I do,” Joy acknowledged.

“Well, come on. It’s almost noon,” Joan said.

“Why do we have to be all made up for all three nights?” Joy asked. It was getting annoying, feeling her hair being tugged and twisted as it became a perfect braid. If this was how it was gonna be, she may as well just shave her head.

“Because apparently, we have to look pretty,” Dina claimed. She wasn’t even really paying attention to Joy; her focus was on her own face in the mirror, and how well she did her makeup. Joy blew air through her lips, then looked toward the window. Well, it didn’t look like it was gonna rain anymore; a few stars were poking out through the nighttime clouds. Those weren’t going to leave, but at least the festival wouldn’t be ruined by rain.

Joy looked at her reflection in the mirror. Dina had decided to have Joy’s makeup done before her hair, then started on her own face. Considering how the day went (awkward encounter with that guy, Marissa, babysitting Jen, etc.), maybe some rain wouldn’t be so bad. She’d be able to just relax. But no, there was no rain, and the festival would still go on, and she’d still have to sing.

At least the Kapre was nice enough to sit there with her and give her reassurance while she sang. But now, the thought of that guy being there and watching her; it creeped her out.

“There, all done with your hair,” Joan announced. Joy looked back at her reflection. A long, light braid. She would’ve preferred to keep her hair down. Maria didn’t have to have her hair braided. But then again, Maria’s hair was so thick and kinky-curly that it might’ve been too hard to style.

“Girls, come on. The train is leaving the station,” their father called up.

“Coming, dad!” Joan called back.

Pretty much the same as the previous night: a lot of people, playing games and winning second-placer prizes, food from stands, and meeting up with mostly Dina’s friends. It was almost like a complete relapse of the previous evening. I wish I could go home, Joy thought. She looked over and saw the backstage through the crowds of people. It looked like no one was there…at least, not yet. After checking to make sure Dina’s attention was focused elsewhere, she made her way over.

There was a chair backstage too, and she took a seat. While waiting for the inevitable performance, she watched the people walking around. There were guys with their hands around the waists of their girlfriends, kids with bags of candy and cups of flavored shaved ice, police who were making sure nothing fishy happened, and just about anyone else you’d see at a festival. Most were people around Joy’s age, just there to have fun and relax.

“Hey Joy.” That guy’s voice came from out of nowhere, and she clenched a fist, ready to punch someone’s lights out in fright. “It’s me, Chyll.” She unclenched her fist when she saw it was him.

“H-Hi,” she whispered. The shock made her lose her voice, and all she could manage was a whisper. He looked up at the stage for a moment.

“Nervous?” he asked. She shrugged. “I think you’ll do great. You did great last night.” Joy looked back toward the trees. Very faintly, she could see the Kapre’s glowing eyes hidden among the leaves.

“Thanks…” she murmured. He poked her in the shoulder, and she looked back up at him. He smiled kindly at her.

“The performers don’t have to perform for another five minutes. You wanna go get some food? Maybe play a couple games?” he asked. His tone of voice sounded kind of excited, like a small child confessing his feelings to his crush. She looked back toward where the Kapre’s glowing eyes peered through the leaves, then back up at him.

“No,” she muttered. “No thanks.” His smile disappeared, and his face dulled into a look of disappointment.

“Any particular reason why?” he asked. “You look kinda lonely sitting here by yourself.” He didn’t sound disappointed; he sounded more concerned. She shrugged.

“I’m fine.” She wasn’t looking at him anymore, just up at the sky. The few stars that were peeking out were being swallowed back up by the clouds. So maybe it is gonna rain tonight, she thought. Good. When she looked back at him, he was smiling again.

“Well, I’ll see you later then. Break a leg up there,” he said, then turned and disappeared into the crowd. She allowed a breath of relief to escape her lips. That guy creeped her out.

“Joy!” She saw this voice coming, and raised a hand politely to Ciara. She didn’t seem as nervous as she was the night before; she seemed more confident now, and was wearing her brightest smile.

“Hi,” Joy greeted.

“Are you excited to be performing again?” Ciara asked. Joy shrugged. Excited, no. Nervous, yes. No matter how many times she performed, she was still gonna be nervous when she got up on stage. If the Kapre helped her like it did the night before, then she assumed she’d be fine.

“I guess,” she whispered. Ciara smiled again, so brightly that it might count as a spotlight.

“Ever since that first performance, people have been telling me how good I am and have been wishing me luck! What about you? Same?” she asked. Joy shrugged. The only people who told her she did good so far were her father, Joan, Dina, Jake, and Chyll. She couldn’t imagine how many people told Ciara she did good. Maybe most of the people at the school, since Ciara seemed to have the look of a socialite. She wasn’t 100% sure if Ciara was a socialite, but she deemed it better not to ask.

“Pretty much,” she mumbled.

“By the way, who was that boy?” Ciara asked. Joy looked back up at her.

“Hm?” she asked.

“That boy who was talking to you,” Ciara repeated. “Who was he? Is he your boyfriend?” Joy quickly shook her head. Her, with that guy? No thanks. Not with him.

“No,” she said. Ciara blushed a little, peering into the crowd as if looking for him.

“Well, you have to admit,” she started. “He’s kinda cute.” Joy shrugged again.

“Eh,” she sighed. Yeah, sure, he was cute. But he still creeped her the hell out. And even if she did like him back, the Kapre would definitely deal with him in a brutal way. It explained it in that journal: if a well-intentioned suitor tried to court a Kapre’s beloved, it would either scare off or kill the suitor.

Sure, that seemed a bit excessive, but at this point, she didn’t really care. She was creeped out by that guy, she was cold in this dress, she was tired, and she wanted to curl up in her bed with Charlie.

“Do you know his name?” Ciara asked.

“Chyll,” Joy said. Ciara peered into the crowd again, then looked back down at Joy, still blushing.

“Do you think he’d go for me?” she asked. Joy gave her a nervous look, then shrugged again.

“I wouldn't,” she uttered. “Really.” Ciara seemed to ignore her warning and got excited again.

“If I see him, I’m gonna try and ask him out. Do I look okay right now?” She pushed her face into Joy’s, pointing to her cheeks.

“You look fine,” Joy mumbled. Ciara’s bright smile returned.

“Thanks,” she said, then took a seat on the edge of the backstage.

Once they left the festival, Joy finally allowed herself the chance to relax. When she was up on that stage performing (the Kapre being there really helped), she was scanning the crowd, looking for that boy. Before she finished her song, she spotted him in the back, next to the booth where she’d won that small teddy bear the night before. He was definitely watching her, paying no attention to anyone or anything else. It was creepy how he was just so focused on her. She didn’t want to perform tomorrow; not if he was going to be there.

“Dad?” she said as they stepped out of the car. He turned and looked at her while Joan continued to the front door. “Can I talk to you about something?”

“Yeah, sure. What is it?” he asked. Joy looked down the street for a moment, then back at her father.

“Can we talk inside? And after I’ve gotten into something more comfortable?” she asked.

“Sure. I’ll be watching TV in the sala,” he said. Joy nodded.

“Okay,” she breathed.

After washing the makeup from her face and taking her hair out of the braid, she dressed in her pajamas. Joan, who’d gotten all tuckered out from running around and having fun at the festival, had probably plopped down on her bed and fallen asleep. Joy deemed it better not to disturb her, then headed downstairs. Her father was waiting there, as promised, watching TV. From the sound of it, he was probably watching the news. He looked up at her and smiled when she entered the room.

“Hey, there you are,” he greeted, turning off the TV. “So what was it you wanted to talk about?” Joy took a seat on the far side of the couch. Charlie, who’d followed her downstairs, jumped up and curled up on her lap. She knew he wasn’t going to take her seriously, but she had to get him to believe her.

“First, I need you to promise to take me seriously,” she started. He made a “cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die” motion with his hands. “Remember when Joan and I went to the library earlier today?”

“Of course, you were going to help Joan pick out a book for her assignment,” he recalled. Joy nodded.

“Well, while we were there, I was looking around at some books. And I met this guy named Chyll,” she began. She could feel her cheeks getting hot with embarrassment. This is ridiculous, she thought. Why am I talking to dad about this? What is he going to know?

“Was he flirting with you and you want to know how to deal with it?” he asked. She quickly shook her head. Of course he was flirting with her; that was the problem.

“No. But yeah, he’s been flirting with me. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” she said. “Don’t think I’m crazy, because I’m not. I’m pretty sure he’s an engkanto.” Now those were some creatures she’d prefer to avoid. If you reciprocated an engkanto’s feelings, you were basically giving up both your life and soul. She’d also heard stories that, if you rejected them, they’d kidnap you and take you to their homes. The look on her father’s face went from understanding to subtle panic, like he heard something he hoped wouldn’t happen.

“How do you know?” he asked.

“Well, he has the vibe of one, at least from what I’ve felt. And he just seems so focused on—wait, why are you asking?” she asked. She wasn’t expecting that kind of a response from her father. The worst part was that he seemed genuinely scared.

“You remember what I told you on why you never knew your mother?” he asked. Joy blew air through her lips. So he is toying with me, she thought. I told him to take me seriously.

“Yes, you said she ran off with a lover. You explained that to me when I was twelve. You said you’d take me seriously,” she pointed.

“I am taking you seriously,” he affirmed. “Your mom didn’t run off with a lover, she was taken by one.” That stopped Joy right in her tracks. Taken?

“W-What does that have to do with this?” she asked. He shook his head, then got up.

“Stay there, I’ll be back,” he said, then walked out of the room and up the stairs. She’d never seen her father act like this before. This wasn’t the stone-faced dad she’d known her whole life. It kinda freaked her out a little.

When he came back, he was holding a photograph. He handed it to her.

It was a wedding portrait, displaying her father (he was much younger, maybe about twenty-two or twenty-three) and a woman she presumed had to be her mother. She was quite pretty, with a set of freckles over the bridge of her nose and wavy, dark-brown hair. Her eyes were brown and very sparkly.

“Is that mom?” Joy asked. He nodded. “So, what happened?”

“I knew I’d probably have to tell you at some point,” he breathed. “But I thought you’d think I was joking.” Joy looked back down at the photograph.

“Tell me please,” she said. Her father took a seat back down on the couch.

“This was around the first few months of our marriage. We lived in Manila at the time,” he began. Joy leaned back on the couch to get comfortable; it was probably going to be a long story. “We weren’t in the downtown area, we lived more in the country, just outside of Manila. Your mother liked the countryside more.

“We were torn between wanting children, I’m embarrassed to say. I wanted them, but she was a little hesitant on that. ‘I don’t know the first thing about taking care of a child,’ she’d say. I understood, and we decided to hold off for a while. Around her twenty-fifth birthday, she’d started talking about this kindly neighbor whom she relied on for many things. Getting the car started, borrowing sugar and milk, and just someone to talk to while I was at work. It started to get on my nerves, because she’d never shut up about this guy. After all, I was her husband. If she wanted milk or sugar, she could call me and I’d pick it up.

“One evening, we’d gotten into a big fight. I’d told her off for talking about this neighbor so much. She told me off for leaving her on her own for so long during the day, considering that my work hours were from eight am to five pm. She went off and slept by herself in the guest room. I didn’t bother going to get her, because I knew we both needed to blow off steam every once in a while. During the night, I was trying to come up with ways to apologize. I was thinking of getting a new job with less work hours. I didn’t like it when she was mad.

“I think it was about twelve o’ clock at night when she came back in. She sat down on my side of the bed and woke me up. She apologized for shouting and said that she was feeling much better. I told her that she didn’t have to apologize because it was my fault for making her feel lonely during the day. I told her of my plan to find a new job. She loved the idea. I think that was the only other time we truly made love, second to our honeymoon.

“A month later, she announced that she was pregnant. She didn’t seem too sure about it; hell, she was shaking when she told me. I reassured her that we’d be fine, that I’d stay by her side the whole way through.

The months just seemed to fly by. By the time she announced that the baby was coming, it only felt like maybe a couple weeks had gone by. And we rushed to the hospital for the delivery.

“I assume you know the myths about albinos. Well, when you were born, I was in complete shock. Not just the fact that we had twins, but that you were…well, albino. I don’t think we’ve ever been so quiet on a car ride. When we got home, she told me the story. After she fell asleep in the guest room that night, the neighbor had snuck in through the window. She’d confided in him that she wasn’t so sure we were working out. Then they slept together. She’d said that afterwards, she regretted the decision. She knew I was feeling jealous that she was talking about him so much. She told him to leave, and he did.

“I forgave her, and we worked together to care for you and Joan. After a while, she seemed to get the hang of it. I’ve never seen her so happy. But she started talking about how this neighbor wouldn’t leave her alone. She said he’d keep coming around when I wasn’t there, and she’d tell him to leave. She said she was scared that he would hurt you and Joan, that he would kill her for rejecting him. I comforted her, but I couldn’t help but feel like she wouldn’t feel safe unless we were far enough away from this man, far away enough to where he wouldn’t know where to look. So we made plans to move here.

“On the last night before we moved, I was downstairs watching TV. As I was reaching for the remote to turn it off and return to bed, I heard what I thought was my wife’s voice shouting, saying ‘Get out’ and ‘Stay away from me’. I assumed that neighbor had returned and was attacking her. I ran to the closet and grabbed a baseball bat, then ran upstairs. I could hear her screaming and you and Joan crying. When I opened the door, I was met with something I wasn’t expecting.

Instead of a young man, I saw this very tall creature. It looked like a tall, skinny human with white hair and glowing green eyes. It was holding my struggling wife in its arms, and was sitting on the windowsill. Before I could run to it and smack it with the bat, it jumped out the windowsill and disappeared. And her with it.”

“After she disappeared, I was in a terrible depression. We still moved here; I had no choice, the people already bought the house. You girls were about three at the time. I hadn’t gotten over it until one day. You girls were playing in the sala, and you started crying because Joan had taken one of your toys. It was like it woke me up; I knew that I couldn’t just sit around and be sad. It didn’t help anything or anyone to be sad.” He was now crying. Joy picked up Charlie and set him on a pillow, then moved over and hugged her father. He gave her one of those one-armed hugs.

“So, did you ever try to find her?” she asked.

“Of course. But I found out that she must’ve been taken by an engkanto from Mrs. Dilan. She said that, at this point, it would’ve been impossible to get her back,” he explained. He turned to look at her. “I want you to avoid that boy as much as possible. Don’t even look at him.”

“Well, he was at the festival. Can I stay home tomorrow?” she asked.

“Yes, you can. I’ll call the people in charge of the festival tomorrow. I know they have strict rules about the performers, but maybe I can convince them to let Joan take your place in singing,” he assured. “Anything to keep you safe.”

“Thanks, dad,” Joy said. He smiled at her.

“Why don’t you head off to bed,” he suggested, kissing her on the temple.

“Good night,” she yawned. She patted her thigh, which told Charlie to follow, and headed upstairs.

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