Chapter 30: Safe Haven
“Por favor, cariño! Slow down!”
Snickering to myself, I pushed the horse to run faster. Cool wind lapped on my face. Trees and golden leaves zoomed in on my vision as we jumped over fences and trunks of trees. I heard an explenetive from the man behind me before I heard him urged his horse to catch up to mine. The steady hooves of my majestic horse picked up its speed as he felt the closeness of the man hounding us.
“Ava please! I said slow down!”
Cracking a laughter, I looked behind me and grinned at the worried frown on his face. He flashed me a grim and annoyed expression. Winking at him, I looked backed on the road and gleamed at a trunk of tree in the distance.
Eyes squinting in concentration, hands gripping the reins, and back hunched forward, I guided my horse over the tree trunk and gracefully landed on the other side.
My jaw dropped at the beautiful sight before me. Miles and miles of blue water stretched before me. The salty and crisp wind was proof that I wasn’t imagining things.
There really was an actual sea before me! Glancing back at the man who was wildly looking for me, he glared at me before turning his attention to the sea. His eyes widened then it fell on me again before he shook his head and galloped beside me.
“I told you to slow down.” He glared at me before he softened his features and shook his head “Must you always not listen to me? You’ll turn me into a grandfather soon.”
Rolling my eyes at him, I pouted and grinned “You wanted me to gallop like a turtle.”
“Because this is your first time riding!” He vehemently responded “Please cariño, what if you broke your neck or fell of your horse?”
I giggled before leaning to kiss him on the cheek “Stop worrying Iñigo. I’m a fast learner as you can tell.”
“I truly can.” He drawled and sighed.
“Hush, I know how to prefectly ride a beast.” I said, wantonly grinning at him as I raked my hands on his chest. Pulling back as I saw his eyes darkened, I urged my horse to go down the path towards the beach “Come on I want to go to the beach.”
He shook his head before leading me down the trail towards the beach.
True enough, Iñigo toured me in their hacienda. We visited the vineyard where I saw his employees pick and manage the grapes for the wine. I was amazed at their efficiency in running the winery.
But what I truly loved the most was the stables and the horses. They had cattles to feed and grow. The moment I saw the horses, I begged Iñigo to teach me.
He was a great teacher and I was a fast learner. Before the sun can set, I was already running with him worriedly tailing behind me.
Stopping at a nearby tree house, my eyebrows rose as we dismounted our horses. We tied our horses on the tree and looked back at the old yet sturdy tree house.
“You never told me you had a tree house in front of a beach.” I asked him, eyeing the tree house that almost looked worn.
Iñigo’s eyes were filled with nostalgia as he gazed back up at the trew house before turning to me with a small smile on his lips “I never had the chance to tell you of my safe haven. I used to come here whenever Mama and Papa fought.”
Looking back at the house, he gripped the stairs and began to climb up “I’ll go and get some blankets so we can lie on the beach.”
Turning his back on me, I watched him go upstairs and enter his tree house. I let him wander for a few more minutes. I knew how significant this place for him. If this was his safe haven back when he was a kid then this place showed his pain he masked when he was a kid.
Turning towards the beach, I walked towards the serene place and stood a few meters before the water. My mind felt at peace as I breathed the salty air and closed my eyes. I understand why he loved this place to think.
I felt his presence behind me before I turned towards him. He already had placed the fabric on the beach. He had a relaxed feel to his stance that I walked towards him.
A small smile was on his lips as we took our seat and let the calming waves lap before us. Nobody spoke. We were just letting the silent lap of the waves calm our senses.
It was Iñigo who first broke the silence.
“I was 8 when they started to fight.” Iñigo started, his eyes straight on the ocean and his hands clasped in between his knees “It was mostly petty stuff about business. Papa had always wanted to start his own company and not manage the hacienda. He was an ambitious Greek man who wanted to make a name for himself.”
Pausing, he looked down before continuing “I thought they’ll talk it out but when I started to here rumours about Papa’s infidelity, it broke Mama’s heart. She began to date other men as well to spite him. Things spiralled from then on. For years, they lived in one roof while having someone else in their life. Eventually, I asked them to formally separate and Papa took me with him.”
“You never came home?” I asked him.
He shook his head. “Why?” I urged him on. Why would he not come for years? Does he despise his Mama?
“The manor houses the worst memories I had with them. I never wanted to come home, only for the memories to resurface.” I immediately felt guilty “I also hated how Mama used to parade his men.”
“Did coming home brought back those memories?” I shylt asked him.
Turning towards me, he stared at me for a few second before shaking his head “A bit, but you also added new ones to it.”
“Is it a bad thing?”
“No.” He shook his head, smiling at me “You actually made me realize that I should stop running away from home just because it held bitter memories. We can always make new ones to chase those bad ones.”
I smiled, knowing I didn’t ruined this trip. “I’m glad.” Turning towards the water, I sighed “You knew we were heading towards this place. Is it okay to you?”
He shrugged, “I always come here alone. Its always been me and the waters. It’s nice having someone around.”
“I’m glad.” I softly told him “Thanks for showing me this place and not kicking me out.”
He heartily laughed at my joke. “It has been a while since I last visited the beach.”
“When was your last?” He asked leaning towards me until our shoulders were touching. Cropping my knee up, I leaned my chin on the top of my knees and hugged my legs together.
“Before my parents died. It was my 15th birthday and I asked them to throw me a beach party than having it in out home.” I smiled as I remembered the smiling faces of my parents “Daddy fried some barbeque while Mom repeatedly took pictures of Addie and us. Those were really fun days.”
“You never came to the beach after their death?” He softly asked, his blue eyes stilling me with their beauty.
Looking away, I focused my gaze on the sand and shook my head. “I never had the time. I had bills to pay and a sister to take care of.”
“It must be hard.”
“It was. But I had to take care of my sister.” I told him headstrong.
“How about you?”
“What do you mean?” I asked him.
“Who took care of you?” He asked and my chest tightened as I got slammed with the question.
“Me.” I told him. “We didn’t have any close relatives to run into. Besides I didn’t want to bother anyone with our problems.”
“What kind of problems? You were only 15 back then Ava.” He frustratingly asked, shaking his head. “Someone should have taken care of you both.”
“We were fine on our own and we persevered.” I told him, giving him a smile “Besides, Addie’s hospital bills were a headache for anyone wanting to adopt us. I also never liked getting into the system and have us separated. The money our parents’ left us was enough to pay for our tuition fees but it wasn’t enough to cover Addie’s hospital bills.”
“What hospital bills?” He asked.
“Addie has lupus. We found out about it when I was 14. She had to undergo a kidnet transplant and Mom was the donor. Thankfully, the doctors preserved my Mom’s kidney so we were able to undergo surgery after the funeral.”
“I wish I was there.” He whispered “You can tell me more if you want to.”
“The surgery and the treatments plus other medications she had to take took a toll on us that I had to work 2 jobs to provide for us.” I told him “I worked at a diner, did someone else’s school work, and eventually went into business. I realized I was good with it that by the time I went to college, I knew what I wanted to take.”
“You graduated with honors and started your multi million business.”
“Damn right I did!” I said fist in the air.
“I’m proud of you Ava.” He told me, sliding his arms on my waist and nuzzling my neck “I wish I could have got in touch with you.”
“You had to manage your business and you were busy with other stuff.” Like pursuing your ex-wife, I bitterly thought. “I was fine on my own. I didn’t had time to cry because all I was rhinking was surviving.”
His jaw clenched and he looked away. His lips were tight before letting out a breathe.
He sighed before planting a kiss on my shoulder and turning me around to face him. His eyes were full of emotion as he cupped my cheek and rubbed his thumb, “I hate knowing you had to go through the pain by yourself. It doesn’t sit well with me. Just know that I care for you, deeply and promise you that you’ll have someone when you needed to run to. I’ll always be here for you.”
I considered myself as a positive and vibrant person. I never liked to dwell on sad things but I would be lying if I tell you I never had my saddest days. because I had. I had them almost everyday for the past 10 years when I’m alone with my thoughts.
I was just good at hiding them. Or perhaps nobody really asked. Some did but I felt more comfortable talking to Iñigo about it.
Perhaps its because we both knew pain that it was easy to understand the other.
“Do you promise?” I asked, showing him my pinky. He surprised me by locking his finger with mine.
Eyes widening at the beat, my breathe hitched for a moment before a smile lifted on my lips. I didn’t know it was possible to love him even more.
Holding my hand with his, he said “Come. A storm must be coming.”
Nodding, I stood and he folded the blanket. Then we walked hand in hand as we let the serene place echo our promises.