Unlike civilians, military children were always seen to be disciplined and tough. With that Gerald had to endure this setback, and try to keep up with what is expected of him.
With Ellen on his side now, it was Ellen who keeps talking to him and of course Jennifer who thinks she is a love expert. Ellen was about the same height with Joanna but she was no Joanna. She wore her hair short around shoulder’s length. She has a light brown skin. Her lips are surprisingly pinkish, her eyelashes are to die for. Ever since Joanna left, Ellen has been tagging with Gerald all the time now specially after school. Being a military child both of them could and slightly bend the rules a bit, because the usual arresting officers usually are familiar with the officers surnames and even children. Even with the dusk till dawn curfew still in effect, Ellen would go to Gerald’s house. Ellen’s family live at what is called the PC Hills, its somewhere in between Gerald’s house and Joanna’s.
Ellen has an older sister, two years older than her. She looks a bit like Ellen, only taller her color is like that of Joanna, surprisingly she does look more like Joanna at first glance or at some strange angle. Her name is Marianette or Marian for short. She notices that her younger sister has been going out somewhere after classes and this did alarm her, and made her suspicious. She finds out of her rendezvous with Gerald, which made her really suspicious because its a guy. All the while Ellen was just interested with Gerald and his family because their parents are officers in the Armed Forces, for Ellen it was like having a brother, since both of them were girls. The same thing with Gerald, it was him and his younger brother only; Jason, they do not have a female sibling.
Classes were dismissed earlier than usual which was around 5 PM regularly, but this was like a new normal for the country, Martial Law. There is also this thing called a dusk till dawn curfew. Classes were compressed and they were let go by sometimes around 2:30 PM or 3 PM. On one afternoon, Marian caught up with the two.
“Hey, you guys going somewhere?” Marian, on Ellen.
Ellen turned, “Oh hey, I am heading out to Gerald’s, for some school work.”
“You mind if I tag along?”
“Gerald, this is my older sister Marian, Marian, Gerald”
Ellen looks at Gerald, and Gerald being the host, answers, “Sure why not.”
So all four of them hopped in to Gerald’s jeep, Gerald sat shotgun, while Ellen, Marian and Jason sat at the back, Gerald’s driver’s name is Rolly.
“Hey Manong Rolly, lets go, I think I have visitors now.” Orders Gerald, as Rolly, slightly turns his head over his shoulders and looked at the passengers. And he smiled a fiendish smile on Gerald.
In Rolly’s mind he is saying, Gerald you are such a dog.
Gerald stares back at him with a confused look and gestures with his hands palms up and raised shoulders. With that they left school for Gerald’s home.
When they arrive at Gerald’s home Marian found out that all of her assumptions were totally wrong, all Ellen did was school work, mostly talk about mundane stuff, and she has a nagging sensation that Gerald is only allowing her to talk because of his personal own reasons or he is just a good guy, apart from that Gerald does not even really show any serious intention of listening to her at all. All he does is yank his head up and down like a bobble head doll, as Marian observes. But a skeptic, she feels she should come here that often as Ellen does.
“So Ellen, you come here often.”
“Yeah, dad picks me up after work.”
“So, this is where you are always, no wonder you and dad always come home later than I. So can I come here tomorrow.”
“Why not? The more the merrier I suppose.” Replies Gerald.
It was this moment that Gerald started to loosen up, dreadful thought of not seeing Joanna anymore seems to have passed, perhaps simply because of Marian. For Gerald Marian was like a ghost or a twin, a doppelganger. But not quite he thinks. Marian was more of a control freak, compared to Ellen and Joanna. Her voice is a bit on the Contralto side but a little bit of the Mezzo-soprano. Which at times would sound like a bedroom voice of a young lady. And that clicked with Gerald, he finds it cute.
Two years later
When Marian started going to college, she still manages to go to Gerald’s house and meet up with her sister, but in reality he was now more interested with Gerald. Ellen noticed that for a year now, she has been holding Gerald’s hand a lot of times. It was at this time that she was starting to boss everyone, well of the two at least. Ellen does not like her sister that much specially of her controlling nature, but she has to abide with the rules that they were brought up with, the elder one is the boss. One time, while Marian was still at school, and would arrive probably around 5 PM. Ellen opens up to Gerald.
“Gerald? You seemed to be doing a lot of Marian’s bidding lately.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you went to prom with her.”
“She was graduating, from high school, I couldn’t turn her down.”
“You took her to the dance last year again.”
“She missed what high school was like.”
“So who are you going out with this year?”
Gerald, feeling insecure of his answers now, “…not so sure where you are going with, it, at?”
“She already has a costume laid out for you right?”
“She cares for how I look… she cares for me I guess.”
“Cares, or you are his lap dog puppy.”
“Maybe she likes me, I like her too you know. Maybe she does care about me.”
To Ellen, it was like being the third wheel now.
“Okay, I guess I can’t come here anymore, I feel awkward.” Ellen left Gerald’s home and took a cab to his dad’s office, this cab was cheaper it was one of those small minica that ply without a taxi meter, its best when the distance is short.
Growing up a military child, was great, but sometimes it comes with the military discipline brought into the family, and both of them Marian and Gerald were no strangers. This was the time that the PC was feared by people, and when your dad is an officer for the dreaded PC, albeit a commander of Zone III. You would not get any suitors this way. The PC does all the arrest for President Marcos rounding up suspected communist, and some officers use this as a way to make money, and gain power. You would not dare cross a constabulary, let alone the daughter of an officer. So it was between and within military families that each military children could go out with, and not feel scared, threatened, or feel that people are afraid of them. This was exactly how Marian feels. If Marian is controlling Gerald, telling him what to do, this was of course was the view of Ellen. But not of Gerald’s, he sees this as compassion and perhaps even attraction and love, and in a way Marian cares more about him, than Ellen.
From this point Ellen does not come to Gerald’s house together with him, but only when their dad picks her sister up. Marian and Gerald were like an item but not their yet.
It was around late October, when Gerald’s father died after being ambushed down in Mindanao. They said it was an accident, they said it was the Communist guerrillas. Colonel Claudio Borja, Gerald’s dad was a stern disciplinarian and a stickler for the rules. Rumor has it that he was shot by his own man or men, while on patrol up the mountains of Mindanao. The accounts are still sketchy even until today. His dad’s death brought his family down, not financially though, because his mother owned large tracts of farm land in Western Visayas, and income from the rice farm were enough, even without the money from his dad’s salary, they’d be okay. But it was because their dad cared for them that much that they would miss him. Gerald could not go to school after this, they were in disbelief, in denial. Colonels don’t get ambushed, was their thought. They were all grief stricken. As they say, grief comes in waves, crashing on you. The first one is like being hit at by a typhoon or even a whirlwind a tornado, tossing your house up and crashing your house to the ground and smashing it into smithereens. The next is seeing what is left, those are the most difficult part seeing the remnants of your house, and how do you put them back up again. And in grief these are the memories, the photos you are reminded of them each day, those are the hardest part, letting go. To a soldier dying was part of the job. So each family must move on. But to Gerald, this was all too sudden and for him Colonel’s do not get ambushed.
Both Ellen and Marian went to the wake of Gerald’s dad. The wake was at Gerald’s home, Marian was there most of the time since her school was out for the semester break. While Ellen comes after school, she goes home by five.
On the third night of the wake, something really troubled Gerald. For some reasons all of the memories from his childhood together with his dad, to his almost girlfriend Joanna, came and was overwhelming him. He didn’t feel like eating, he just cried on the corner of the living room. So Marian, talked to Gerald’s mother, who was busy attending to the visitors, military wives have prepared themselves for the inevitable, and has no time for grieving.
“Excuse me ma’am, Gerald’s not eating.”
“He’ll grow out of it. Just let him be.”
“But he’s crying there, it’d be best if I take him to his room and maybe he could cry there, or maybe it will take his mind off, if he does not see his dad’s coffin.”
Papina Borja y Señeres, Gerald’s mother, she had an almost Romanesque nose, her color was brown a little darker than Ellen’s skin tone. In some angle she’d be like an Arab or a Yemenite Jew. Upon hearing the suggestion from Marian; she agrees. She admires her for her common sense and prudence. And wished that someday, her son will find someone like her, but not her Marian, but like herself.
“Good thinking Marian, please do take him to his room, get his mind off things, of grief, Jason seems to be okay with the relatives… drinking.”
Marian brought some drinks to Gerald’s room and food, and the drinks of the alcohol kind, after having prepared all of that she sat beside Gerald.
“Gerry, be a darling and brush yourself up. You can cry at your room.” Marian, puts her arm around Gerald, and puts her head on his shoulder.
Gerald, saw that there were a lot of people, and felt that they too need to see his dad, before he is laid to rest. So he had to let them pay respects, all his whimpering will only bother them. So he gets up and snuffles he tries to control. While Marian took him by his arms, and they walk to his room.
She led Gerald to his bed, she turns around and locks his room, with her inside. She turned the table lamp on and the main lights off and took the plate with food on it and offers to feed Gerald the food she brought from the dining room. Gerald reluctantly eats.
“Gerald, please eat. Do it for your dad.”
Gerald was about to cry again. And Marian saw her mistake and immediately changed the subject.
“Or do it for yourself, for me, for us, let me take care of you now, let me feed you. Please be strong for me.”
With that, the word care, reality snapped back. It was like a confirmation of what she said to her sister, Ellen.
Ellen was wrong, I was right, her sister cares for me. Gerald’s thoughts, affirming his theory.
He then started to eat, as Marian feeds her like a mother feeds her babies, careful, with care, and with love. Gerald feels a sense of warmth. At one point, he held his hands up and tries to take the plate and the spoon from Marian, he couldn’t take all that feeding and food since his mouth is full. But Marian insisted.
“I said let me feed you.”
This was one of the controlling side of Marian, one that Ellen tried to warn Gerald. As he finishes up his food, Marian gave him some beverages and some water. She did bring some extra food in for sumsuman. As Gerald was about to stand up.
“Gerald, lets just stay here for awhile and let them be outside. Going out will only make you sad. Please stay here for awhile.” Marian gesturing with her palm on the bed, and patting it.
Gerald decides to sit down with her as Marian grabs a couple of pillows for them to lie down with. She made Gerald lay on the two pillows she piled up and she lay down on her side beside him and rested her head on his chests, and curls up almost like in a fetal position, then she massages his chest.
Marian never had a boyfriend because of her dad’s job. No one even dared to try and ask her out. She’s been with Gerald a lot of times and he never asked her out. She wonders why, perhaps she needs to push him, or perhaps it is out of finesse and respect for her younger sister. Or maybe that bitch of a sister said something to Gerald and he had to back off. She was quite good at mind games and picking other peoples brain. So she starts to ask questions and carefully treading.
“All the time my sister was here with you, what did you guys do?”
“Well, we talk, well she talks a lot. Huh… she talked on a lot of things I can’t even remember what she said.”
“Do you like her?”
“Well, yeah? Its like she’s one of the guys.”
“I mean do you like like her?”
“Not so sure where you are going at, but, she’s like a sister to me.”
“Am I like a sister to you?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never been like this close, close to her like how you are close to me now.”
This was when Gerald felt his heart racing, am I really liking her, like love her. Was a question racing in his mind.
She continues to massage his chest and moving her hands down caressing him. Which aroused Gerald. Sensing this, she carefully gets up.
“Where are you going?” Asks Gerald.
“I smuggled some Añejo in, I’ve never had alcohol before, they say it builds up your nerves and makes you open up and brave.”
Gerald if you only knew, I just do not have the nerve for the next steps in my life.
“It also makes you forget your problems.”
“Yeah right what happens after that, your problems, cannot be forgotten, it’ll just put it on hold,” retorted Gerald jokingly.
“So, put it on hold for me?”
She had brought two glasses and a pocket sized rum well she actually brought two, the strength was 80 proof. She poured one for her and for him, and ice too.
Of course its alcohol, and it really contorts your face, specially if its your first time. It even does the same to seasoned alcohol drinkers, specially when its 80 proof. Marian drank three times more than Gerald, she seems a bit woozy, and she didn’t eat a lot.
“Has it occurred to you, well let me change it, do you think my sister is beautiful?”
That question kind of put Gerald aback, he never really thought about it.
“I have never really thought about it, that much.”
“So do you think she is beautiful now?”
Gerald trying to be polite, “well now that you mentioned it, she is attractive in a way.”
“So you are attracted to her?”
“I don’t know? I guess she is beautiful in a way.”
“So she is beautiful to you?”
“Do you like her?”
“Well, we are classmates and all of that, we get a long. Yeah, so what is there not to like?”
“So do you think, I am pretty?”
Without much hesitation, Gerald’s mouth just opened up as if by instinct, “yes, you are, you are beautiful to me.”
Marianette’s thoughts are racing, Marian Marian, slow down a bit, I think this is a score…
“Do you like me?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“I mean do you like me? But not like me, like you like my sister?”
"You are like a goddess to me, when you walk by me, time seems to stop, and I look up, you are shining radiance on me, blessing me, with a pretty smile"
Maybe he was drunk, he was suddenly a poet, hardly, the alcohol only helped his digestion.
That was how I feel whenever Joanna walks by me not her, but it seems she is somewhat like her. Gerald mind racing again after he said that to Marian.
Marian surprised at Gerald’s answer, she would have perhaps have another brain ticking question, but she is buzzed and could not think of one, buzzed from her exhaustion in trying to keep him afloat. “What…”
“I mean, have you ever kissed someone, I mean like me, I mean would you want to kiss me”
“I have never kissed anyone, maybe dad, mom…” Gerald sarcastically answers.
While Gerald is in bed lying, Marian who is beside him, turned toward him and kissed his lips.
“I, I have never kissed anyone but you, Gerald.”
Marian is wearing a light or mint green dress that was of the 60s era, about the mini skirt range of length. Probably a hand me down from her mom. She’s not exactly the fashionista type, but prefers to wear something easier to move with.
Marian stood up in front of Gerald, her face lit up, like in a prophetic manner of what Gerald said, her face was like radiating light, but more like reflected by the lamp light on the study table. She kissed Gerald again.
Gerald liked her kissing, he holds her shoulders and gently pulls her back in. “Kiss me more”
They both laughed at what happened to both of them. It was weird at how things suddenly turned around for both of them. One moment they were sad, now they are happy, happy at finally finding each other.
“I’m a little tired, you were quite heavy to handle there for a while, I thought I’d never get you settled here.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that. I just realized it’s taxing if you cry that much. Heavy on the chest, the massage did well, thanks. I wouldn’t know what would have happened, if you had not been around then.” He smiles at Marian and her back at him. “I love you Marian.”
“I did well tonight… you are mine now.”
“You know it would have been best if you had vicks when you massaged my chest.”
Marian, playfully punched him on his arm, like an older sister would. “Don’t push it.”
Marian’s last words, before she slept, were signs of what Ellen warned of, of her sister. She is manipulative and controlling.
They kept on kissing, and held on to each other, it was here then that Gerald felt relaxed, and slept like a baby. Marian, her insecurities were all but gone, she has affirmed that Gerald loves him and her him. They both slept well. The alcohol did not help at all, it did nothing. These were the simpler times in the Philippines, people were still more reserved in their actions, there was no need for anything else to prove they love each other. Their words were their bond. The young ones still had the finesse, and respect for each other. They both scored that night and gained motes in their eyes the next day, it was a night that both will remember.
One scarred on a death of a love one, only to be healed by another love.
…At the darkest moment comes the light.