HOMEBOUND: Before Ever After

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Chapter Four

January 10, 2018

Before Midnight


I was driving my 2015 Volvo XC60 SUV with my parents in the backseat. Today, January 31, 2015, was the inauguration of our new hospital here in Brooklyn. It’s been two days since I left the Philippines but it seems like I've been away for years. Two days without my wife is pure hell. I miss her so badly. I did not tell her that I’ll be home tomorrow because I want to surprise her. I'm sure she will be very happy to see me again. I can’t wait to hug her and kiss her when I get back.

“You miss your wife?” mom asked. When I looked at the rearview mirror, both my parents were smiling at me and I also did in return.

“Badly mom.”

“Your mom and I are really happy that you found someone that will always be there to support you in everything, someone to back you up in times of trouble, and most importantly, someone who loves you deeply,” Dad said patting me on the back.

“Mikhail, palagi mong tatandaan na kahit ano man ang mangyari ngayon at sa hinaharap ay nandito lang kami ng Dad mo na palaging naka suporta at nakabantay sayo. Huwag na huwag mong kakalimutan ang Panginoon, magpasalamat ka sa lahat ng ibinigay niya sayo, mabuti man o hindi. Palagi mo ring isipin ang pagmamahalan ninyo ng asawa mo.”

I turned around and saw them holding each other's hands, they were crying, a red liquid flowing down their face, their arms, and moments later the car is overflowing with blood. Time stopped, and I just found myself lying on the cold cement road, trying to reach for the house a few blocks away. An image of a woman came to view before darkness consumed me.

I was sweating profusely when I came back to my senses. I've been having bad dreams since I woke up from a coma. But it stopped when I talked with someone in the hospital. She always comes into my room to check my progress but one day she just stopped visiting and those bad dreams that I thought I got over with, reappeared. Dreams that kept on hunting me. But this one is different from all the others. No conversations with an unknown woman, no guns. I used to dream about, me, and my parents being held captive by armed people. There were guns and ammunition's everywhere and usually, a woman will come and save us. It was like I am a prince being saved by a princess. And then I will wake up to the sound of my alarm clock, telling me to get ready for work. But I don't have my alarm clock now, instead, something small and soft hit me hard.

I roamed my eyes trying to figure out where I was. The whole room is decorated with superheroes. Its wall is covered with murals carefully done with artistry. Seem’s like the whole room is an art museum. I turned to my right and smiled, there I saw who the little hand belongs to. It’s Pavel, my son. He is sleeping soundly with his head in my arms. His small arm wrapped around me. He’s a perfect clone of me. He’s an angel.

I gently pulled my arm from under his head and got up from the bed. I slowly opened the door trying not to disturb him and headed to the kitchen to get something that could calm my nerves.

I was rummaging through the fridge when I heard footsteps coming towards me. I stopped and turned around to see a woman, standing just a few steps away from me, smiling.

“Want some tea?” she said holding a tea bag in front of her. Grinning.

***

Nag iinat akong bumaba ng kotse, halos dalawang oras din ang biyahe mula sa farm pabalik dito sa estate. Sa halip kasi na sa helipad ako ng gusali ng SPIN bumaba ay sa kalapit na airport na lang ako nagpahatid, madaling araw na kasi kaya ayaw ko nang maistorbo ang mga tao sa estate. Pinahatid ko na lang kanina doon sa airport ang kotse ko kay Tatay Noel.

Dito na ko dumeretso sa lake cabin kasi dito na kami mananatili ni Pavel ngayong nandito na ang kanyang ama. Maingat kong binuksan ang main door tsaka pumasok na sa cabin. Malapit na ko sa kwarto ni Pavel ng may marinig akong mahinang ungol. Dahan dahan akong sumilip sa maliit na siwang ng pinto. Napangiti ako ng masilayan ko ang lalaking matagal ko ng hinihintay pero napawi din yun noong makita ko yung takot sa kaniyang mukha. Mabilis akong nagtago ng makita ko ang paglibot ng kanyang paningin sa buong silid.

He must be having those dreams again. I heaved a sigh and decided to get him something that could calm his nerves. And I know exactly what it is.

Mabilis kong tinungo ang kusina at binuksan ang refrigerator pero wala doon ang hinahanap ko. Naghanap din ako sa cupboard at hanging cabinet pero wala rin, kaya naman tinungo ko ang mini-library na katabi lang ng masters bedroom.

Binuksan ko ang mini fridge at doon bumungad sakin ang hinahanap ko. Palabas na ako ng libary ng may marinig akong kaluskos mula sa kusina. I tiptoed to the kitchen only to be welcomed by a demigod. He’s wearing his usual grey sweatpants and a white v-neck shirt. Frustration is evident on his face. But a smile slowly crept in when he saw what I was holding.

“Want some tea?” I said while holding a teabag in front of me. Grinning.

He slowly nodded while closing the fridge. I went to the cupboard to get two cups and filled them with hot water. I peeled the tea bags off of their packaging and dipped them in the cup. I could feel his eyes following my every move. When the tea was ready, I heaved a deep sigh to calm myself before facing him.

I smiled and took a seat across from him handing him his cup.

“Sorry for the tea. But a few weeks from now we will be able to have fresh ones, from the farm.” He just nodded but said nothing.

“Kamusta ka na?” I started after a few moments of silence.

Sino ‘tong babaeng to?”

Napangiti ako sa emosyong pinapakita niya. Magkahalong inis, galit, pagtataka at konting pagkatuwa. Same old Mikhail I know. Maaaring hindi niya namalayan, but he’s thinking out loud again and that made me burst into laughter. But I stopped the moment I saw his piercing olive-green eyes.

“I ah...you were thinking out loud so i-“

“Who are you?!” mahina pero may diin niyang tanong sa akin.

“I'm doing fine Mikhail, thank you.” I sarcastically said changing the topic. “It’s been what? Four… five years since I last saw you and you never changed one bit, you’re still the same person I used to know.” Nakangiti kong sabi sa kanya pero wala pa ring pinagbago ang mukha niya. Mataman niya lang akong tinitigan. Halatang naiinis siya sa paglihis ko ng usapan namin.

“Did you had a great time at the party? Lola Amy called me this afternoon and said that she’s very happy to see you, and the staff at the orphanage said that you participated in the parlor games. I guess you made everyone so happy today.” And that includes me. I stopped taking a sip of my tea. He’s still looking at me intently. Nakakatuwa talagang inisin ang taong ito. Not yet Mikhail. Let me have a little fun. Naalala ko tuloy yung araw na sinagot ko siya.

Naglalakad ako papuntang office ng Daddy ni Mikhail kasi sabi niya may ibibigay daw siya sakin at sabay na lang daw kaming umuwi ngayon, gabi na kasi kaya ihahatid na niya ako sa bahay. Magkapareho kasi kami ng duty hours ngayon at 11 pm ang out naming dalawa. Paakyat na ko ng third floor ng may mahulog na petal sa harap ko. Tumingin ako sa taas pero wala namang tao. Marahil ay nadala lamang ng hangin ang petal na yun, kaya ipinagpatuloy ko na lang ang paglalakad ko. Pero nang muli akong humakbang ay may nahulog muling petal. Hindi ko na lang pinansin yun at dumeretso na sa paglalakad pero patuloy pa rin ang paglaglag ng mga rose petals hanggang sa marating ko ang pinakahuling baitang ng hagdan. Bahagya akong nagulat sa nakita ko. Buong hallway ng third floor ay puno ng mga rose petals. Parang ayoko tuloy pumunta sa office kasi sayang naman kung tatapakan ko yung mga petals na to. Kaya sa bawat paghakbang ko ay siya ring hawi ko sa mga bulaklak. Sino kaya ang may pakana ng nito? Kung sino man ang nag effort na gawin to ay saludo ako sa kanya. Ilang rose kaya ang ginamit niya para dito? Siguro mga isang libo mahigit para mapuno niya ang ganito kalawak na hallway. Magkano kaya yung ginastos niya dito? Napailing na lamang ako sa mga tanong sa isipan ko. Marahil mahal na mahal niya ang taong pinag aalayan niya nito.

Ilang hakbang lamang ay narating ko na ang pakay ko. Tatlong beses akong kumatok bago ko binuksan ang pinto. Bumungad sakin ang nakangiting Mikhail. Nakatayo siya sa gitna ng maraming rose petals. Buong opisina ay napapalamutian ng ibat ibang kulay ng rosas. Napangiti ako sa nakita ko. Siya pala ang may pakana ng mga rosas na iningatan kong huwag maapakan.

“Hey.” He nervously smiled at me.

“Hi.” Ginantihan ko naman siya ng isang matamis na ngiti. At tinungo ang swivel chair sa likuran niya. “So, anong ibibigay mo sakin?” inosente kong tanong. Bahagyang kumunot ang noo niya sa sinabi ko. Akala marahil niya ay hindi ko alam kung anong pinaplano niya. Sa klase ng ngiti niya kanina ay halatang may binabalak siyang itanong sakin. Kaya umakto na lang ako na parang wala akong alam. Not yet Mikhail. Let me have a little fun.

Tumungo siya sakin at inabot ang bulaklak na hawak niya. Kinuha ko naman yun at kinandong. “Ito na yun?”

He sighed and kneeled before me. “You know how much I love you right?” I nodded and he continued. “and you feel the same way right?” I nodded for the second time. He gently smiled and kissed me on the forehead. “so, what's your answer?”

I looked at him, confused. “answer to what?”

“Haven't you seen that?” he said turning around and pointed at something on the ground.

Of course, I saw it. Yun ang pinakaunang nakita ko kanina nung pumasok ako. Three words were formed on the floor using rose petals. It says “BE MY WIFE?”. Pero siyempre nangibabaw yung kapilyuhan ko kaya kunwari hindi ko nakita.

“Why? What's on the floor?”

He heaved a very deep sigh and stood with his hands in his pocket. Mariin niya kong tinitigan at walang pasabing binuhat ako patungo sa pinto. Binaba niya ko at pinaharap sa mga letra.

“Now, what do you see?” halata sa boses niya na naiinis na siya sa ginagawa ko.

“I can see roses, of different colors.” Muli siyang napabuntong hininga at napatakip ng mukha. Gosh, he looks pissed of. Napaangat siya ng tingin sakin ng bigla akong tumawa ng malakas. Napatigil lang ako nang mahina niyang pinitik yung tenga ko.

“You should've seen your face. You are so cute and I love you for that.” Lumapit ako sa kanya at pinulupot ang mga kamay ko sa leeg niya. I smiled and gave him the answer that his been waiting for. “Yes.”

He genuinely smiled and gave me a breathtaking kiss.

I bit my lower lip with that memory. That was our first kiss. Hindi ko namalayang napapangiti na pala ko. Napukaw ako mula sa pag iisip ng marinig ko siyang magsalita.

“So? Sino ka ba talaga?” inis niyang sabi.

Napalunok ako sa tinging ginawad niya sa akin. His mere presence gave me chills but I am not someone who will easily back down. So I looked at him straight in the eyes with the same intensity and gave him the answer that he's been waiting for. “I'm Ivana... Ivana Perez Alexeev. Pavel’s mother and I guess… your soon-to-be ex-wife.” I said with a shrug.

Ilang segundo siyang natahimik dahil sa sinabi ko kaya tumayo ako at tinungo ang lababo. Pinatong ko dun ang tasang ginamit ko at humarap sa kanya.

“Iwan mo na lang dito sa lababo ang tasa mo at bukas ko na lang yan huhugasan. Kung may mga tanong ka, bukas ko na lang sasagutin ang mga yan. Marahil ay pagod ka na, at ako rin. Pasensya ka na at dalawa lang yung kwarto dito sa cabin kaya dun ka na matulog sa kwarto ko. Malinis na yun,at hindi naman yun mahirap hanapin kasi katabi lang naman yun ng kwarto ni Pavel.”

Ilang sandali akong naghintay na umangat ang tingin niya pero wala pa rin kaya unti unti akong naglakad palabas ng kusina. Malapit na ko sa pinto ng magsalita siya.

“Ikaw?” napalingon ako sa kanya at nagtama ang aming mga mata. Bumilis ang tibok ng puso ko sa nangyari. It's been so long since the last time I felt this way. Happiness is slowly building up inside me with what he said.

“I’ll be at Pavel’s room.” He nodded and that gave me the hint that its time to go.

“Good night Mikhail.” I said and turned to leave. Happy anniversary.

He said something but I was too far to hear it.

Tonight he showed me that he cared. He may not remember me, but that one word gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, his heart still remembers that it once loved me. Tomorrow will be a tough day I guess…

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