J. X. NULUD
Published by J.X. NULUD at
Copyright 2017 J.X. NULUD
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Although I have drawn my
emotions from my experiences, this is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the
products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious
manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual
events is purely coincidental.
“You are most quiet
tonight, what’s bothering you?” she asked him as she swirled her
mushroom soup with the spoon. The rainy September night forced
everyone to stay indoors of the usual restaurant they went to rather
than outside where the smoking tables were. The dim yellow bulbs
created a dull mood between tables – the old restaurant was
situated outside the old roundabout with a fountain at the middle
where street children would often play. From the window she could see
the fountain and the playing children.
“You know I’ve always
loved this place, no matter how many times we’ve been here, it
always feels like new.” She expressed excitedly. “I remember how
we even spent our first date here” she added. She recalled to him
how they accidentally discovered the oldest restaurant in the area.
That they both loved how rustic the building was. The wood had a
beautiful decay in it, that it’s the only building that had
character in it and that’s why they went inside only to fall in
love more in the place.
“We shared that
delicious mango crepe, remember?” she held his hand. She remembered
how the thin pastry was cooked in an old stove and how it was
prepared in front of them. The sweet scent of the freshly cut mangoes
that went with a chocolate syrup. “I bet you decided to share it
because it was too expensive, you didn’t even have a second bite
because I loved it too much!” she smiled at him as she remembered
how sweet they first met – they were five years younger, freshly
off college and he had met her through a business meeting. He had
asked her after the meeting if she wanted to go grab a coffee because
she looked all stressed and the meeting drained them. She agreed and
right from the first sip of their calming caffeine, they clicked
automatically. It was a few days after their meeting that he had
called her and asked her out for dinner.
“You picked me up late
afternoon at the train station and we went to the park, you perspired
so much.” She breaks a laughter and she got some of the attention
from the other tables. She remembers how they talked about each
other’s lives while they sat at the edge of the wave breakers of
the bay, learning their commons and differences as the sun dove into
the horizon. They walked aimlessly, more interested in knowing each
other’s interests until they stumbled upon the old restaurant.
“I had pizza and you had
pasta, but we decided to share everything anyway, I thought that was
sweet to do on our first date.” She recalled how they curiously
wanted to try each other’s food and he gladly shared with her.
“Then we took a ride home
to my house, it was way out of your way but you insisted anyway.”
Their dates became frequent
and every weekend they would meet each other and try restaurants and
other places they both haven’t been into. One of their favorite
things to do was to ride the train and go down at a random station
and explore the areas around it. They were two lost souls in a
violent world who found ease in each other’s company. He would pick
random flowers along the concrete gardens along the road to give to
her every time he visited. He was nervous because of her mother who
stared at him with such disdain, the mother didn’t like him for he
was penniless and all he could offer was solace in her daughter’s
heart. She had constant fights with her mother for this, she was
being wooed at the time by a wealthy man who inherited his father’s
fortune. He didn’t have the material wealth, but he was spirited. A
young man with big aspirations for his future.
“What do you think that
man would feed you? He does not even live in a proper home! He rents
a space here in the city, and in the province, he has nothing, not
even land!” her mother argued. They lived in a village for people
with material wealth,
only known the comforts of life – the expensive parties her
families would throw every month to keep their business ties strong
with people in power. She wore silk in her sleep, she already had
vast lands under her name and several servants at her disposal at any
time. She lived like a princess, he lived his live as a
the only thing in common with them was the beating of their hearts.
“He may be a poor man,
but he is more than the man you want me to be with. He understands my
soul, who I am, not what I am. He didn’t even know I lived here
until we had our first date!” she angrily shouted back at her
“Soon, my daughter.
You’ll realize that sooner or later he’ll just disappoint you.
You can never live among them, he is nothing but dirt to me and your
father, he’ll never be one of us.” Her mother lashed back as she
stormed out of the house and met him outside the gates.
He was a poor man, he
rented an apartment and worked as a writer in the city. He came from
the province where life was simple, where material wealth wasn’t
the most important of things but honor – Honor was all the poor can
have. He had strived hard to escape the cursed poverty in his small
town, where the lands were always dry and no irrigation existed. He
had inherited lands but he could never till the land just like the
others – the land was barren. He sold it so he could earn a little
to go to the city and worked at the docks until he was able to get a
college scholarship at one of the public schools where he studied in
the morning and worked until the wee hours of the night. A professor
took him under his wings until he was able to land a writing job at
one of the newspapers where he had an immaculate record of not taking
he was critical of corrupt officials.
“Oh how I loved to walk
with you at the ancient walls during Sunday afternoons, how simple
things were for you and me.” She mentioned a memory, which they
haven’t done for a long time. They would spend time walking above
the walls where they told each other stories about how their work
week went. They could never talk for her mother constantly checked
who she talked to at the house. Their dates were secrets and she had
to cover her face because she was a socialite and her father would
not want her to be seen with him for he was a political critic. And
he had to protect her identity by always dismissing he was dating
someone. It was a complicated relationship, one of conflict and
compromise. They could’ve easily stopped but their love for each
other was deep and they decided to risk it anyway.
“I have heard from my
friends that you’ve been seeing a journalist lately.” His father
asked curiously. “Is this the pobre
mother has been telling me about?” he added.
“Oh no, papa. This
journalist is a friend of mine for a long time, since college.” She
lied, but only to protect him. Her father was known to be furious
around suitors and critical in protecting his name. Her father hailed
from a wealthy generation of businessmen and her father now controls
“You know I will run for
office next elections, we could use this journalist pobre
You don’t have to lie to me, you want him in this house? Then he
better start freshening up my name. You do this for me, I will allow
you to date him, even let him in this home. Isn’t this what you
wanted.” Her father has laid his bargain.
“But papa, it could
damage his immaculate record. You know he won’t take this lightly.”
She questioned her father’s intentions.
“Ha! Spoken like a true
daughter of mine, I knew I had more influence on you than your
mother. That’s exactly what I need from him, his immaculate record.
He’ll do this, he loves you, and I know you’ll do this, because
you love him.” Her father replied.
“But what about mother?”
she was worried.
“Your mother will have no
say in this.” Her father assured.
In her mind was chaos, she
had to choose between a slight betrayal to her love but she also saw
it as the only way her parents would have approved of him, this was
the leverage she needed for now her love’s clean record could be of
use to her father’s campaign – a journalist’s credibility is
one powerful machine to drive votes to the upcoming elections. She
had to do it, it was the opportunity she needed.
“Do you still remember
your first time inside our house?” she gently nudged him. He had
been picked up by her father’s men the day he was to meet her
parents. She was already in the house, nervously waiting. She felt he
had him in a trap as he did not know the agreement she had struck
with her father. He cautiously entered the vehicle and stayed quiet.
He thought it would be the final time he would see the light as her
father’s guard held rifles.
He was relieved when he
finally saw her waiting at the door, clearly worried.
“Papa would like to talk
to you about something, it’s up to you to decide, I will always
have your back.” She assured him as she kissed his cheek before he
opened the big, intricately designed narra doors that led to the wide
circular hall of the mansion where a grand staircase greeted any
guest who entered and at the side, a grand piano, used during
He took the stairs up to
the veranda where her father was, he saw how big her house was, it
had a pool, a garden, and a second house which was where invited
guests would stay.
“You won’t take this
job, but you want to take my daughter away.” Her father said to
him. Her father was irate and lighted up his guitar as he paced back
“Honor? What is honor if
you can’t even feed my daughter. Remember, I only took this meeting
out of love for my daughter, because she loved and you and will stop
at nothing to have us approve of you, but right now, you are a
disappointment.” He furiously argued.
She could not hear what was
being talked about, it was almost an hour and there was nothing but
silence in the hall. She anxiously waited by the grand piano,
pressing single keys, emulating notes that echo through the hall.
“You know my powers, boy.
I could squish you like a bug if I wanted to. All you have is a
record, sooner or later you’ll find out that my daughter will find
the luxuries in life, she’s used to being served. And where would
you take her? To your barren land that no crop could even grow? You
are young, your heart desires love. But you don’t know anything
else besides love. You can’t live on love alone.” Her father
tried to win him over by showing him the realities of living.
“What are you trying to
change anyway? You can’t change anything, not while the other
journalists take money from politicians. Yes, you stand with a clean
record. But has it improved your life? No! And I’m most certainly
not giving my daughters hand to a penniless man!” her father
shouted. But below she could only hear a faint vibrato of her
And when he finally got
down, he was clearly distraught, but he smiled at her. She knew he
had agreed, but only so he could be accepted by her family. He did it
for he loved her and it was only her who could make him drop his
honor, he was willing to risk his future just to be with her.
“Remember the campaigns
when father ran for office? We had tough times there.” She
recalled. As she twirled the pasta with her fork. The basil scent
flowered into her senses as she recalled how they fought for the
first time because of the pressure of the elections. It was his first
time to join the campaign and already he was being pressured by his
bosses to avoid being seen with her father. He was trapped, he knew
it would come but what else could he do, he loved her immensely. His
columns began to read alike his comrades at work, his writings
favored her father’s projects and so-called “community projects”
to remind the constituents that her father was already helping the
community long before he had political plans. He saw this as a dirty
work, but a worthy one for finally her mother had slowly become more
tolerant to his presence around the house. She often asked him if it
was alright in his conscience of what he writes, to which he only
nods for he knew her father paid government officials so he could
remove the informal settlers along the river bank where he bought a
historic building promising to revive it but only to pay the
officials to declare it to be abandoned so he could raze the
century-old building and build a luxury condominium at the heart of
“And when father won, I
knew I had done you wrong.” She dropped her fork and downed a full
glass of red wine. Quickly as her father had won the elections, he
wanted him out of the house once again. He gave a bag full of cash as
a means of ending a business relationship.
“I have cemented by
character with the people now, we don’t need him now. Those corrupt
journalists will soon be knocking at the gates and it will be easier
for me to conduct business with these bloodsuckers.” Her father
She had been fooled, he had
been used, it had damaged his career and now his credibility is in
“I shouldn’t have let
you agree to father’s term. It was all my fault, he betrayed my
trust!” she said to him. But he could do nothing now. There was no
career for a man with a tarnished record. He must now come back to
his province and with the money he was given, he could finally till
his land to grow crops.
“I don’t care if we
live with the simplest things in life, they won’t find us there, I
told my father a different place when he asked where you’re from. I
want us to be together, I am with you, remember? You and me,
forever.” She said. He was hesitant at first, but again his heart
was in command and he gave in and they eloped to the province, across
a mountain, where his farm was. She was unknown in the small village
for it was far away and she had cut her hair and wore shabby clothes.
He disguised her as a woman who came from a poor family in the city,
but it was dismissed by the locals for she had too much of a fair
skin to come from a poor family. Her skin showed that she had not
worked under the sun and the locals admired her and promised to keep
her safe as long she stayed within the village.
“The people in your
village, they were such help to me.” She mentioned. She remembered
how he painstakingly created an irrigation that brought life to the
lands of the small town. The lands were finally wet and crops would
grow after a year. They lived a simple life, far from what she had in
the city, they worked hard for their food, she learned to farm and he
sold crops to the market. It was small business, but it was enough to
It has already been two
years since they’ve eloped and had lived a simple life. He would
sometimes see her at the top of the hill beside them where she could
watch the town center where the markets were. She often would wonder
how the city life was, she would reminisce how she had a chauffeur to
drive her wherever she wanted. How she strolled the shopping avenues
and would dress only in the finest of material. She left all that for
love, but after years of hiding from her father, and the arduous work
to put food on the table, she had become unsure. She loved him
dearly, but the province life has taken toll on her – she no longer
felt beautiful, her nape often dry from the unforgiving heat of the
sun. Her foot had blisters from working the dry fields. It was hard
to be romantic, and he wouldn’t want a child yet, because it was an
enormous responsibility for them both.
The province was a dead end
for her, she was no longer popular in the city, it is as if she were
presumed dead by her parents as she saw once in the newspaper he
brought from the town that her father had started a foundation in her
name, but she was skeptic because it was done in the time when the
elections were coming up again and her father wanted to be elected in
the congress this time.
“Remember when we started
having problems? Oh why have I been so foolish!” as she looked
blankly across the window. It was a festive Saturday in the town
center when she saw from the hill all the colorful flags that hung
all over the streets. She had asked him if they could visit the town
center, but he refused because it was dangerous for them for if
someone had recognized her, their cover would be blown. Distraught by
his decision, she watched from the hill all day, refusing to come
down. The people from her village had also asked her but she
reluctantly declined the offer.
When she finally came down
he apologized but she won’t have any of it, she refused to eat with
him for days, she had come to her senses that her life was confined
because they had eloped and her father would have his wrath over her
love if they knew where they were. She began to miss the city lights,
the city sights, and the wealth that she could have at the snap of
her fingers. She looked at herself in the mirror and she saw the
future of living in the province, trapped and without material.
She realized that she could
never live a life of simplicity. That she could never suffer with
him, because no matter what he does to till the land, it will always
become infertile. But she could never say this to him for she was
afraid of confrontations. It was midnight and only her thoughts in
front of the mirror could see her dilemma. But how could she say
this, how could she ask him to return to the city when he had already
tarnished his career and no one would take him, all he had was his
land, and his immense love for her.
In the morning when he woke
up, he cooked their usual breakfast of fried round scad and some
river spinach. He went up to the hill where she’d be in the morning
to watch the sunrise, she wasn’t there. He went down to their hut
to find it empty. He hurriedly ran to the town center thinking that
she slipped out to watch the Sunday festivities. A swarm of people
lined the streets to watch the flowery floats go by, he walked all
around town but to no avail. He stayed there all morning hoping to
see her but she was nowhere to be found. He returned home and ask
around the villagers but no one saw her leave. He went to their
bedroom to find the clothes he had given her still in the cabinet,
but there was one dress missing – the dress she wore during their
He froze and his feet gave
in as he slumped to the bamboo floor. Tears flowed, he already knew
that she was gone, that she had left him for the city. It was what he
feared the most – that he was never enough to give her everything
he had for a poor man could only offer pure love and nothing more. He
stayed on the floor the entire day until he fell asleep. The
breakfast he prepared left untouched, the rice had become hard, the
fish and vegetables stale, life was sapped out of the once simple
kingdom he and she owned. The chilly wind of the evening howled as he
woke up in total darkness, his eyes swollen from crying, he could
smell the stench from the sweat he perspired when he ran into town.
From there he slowly sat at the bed where they used to hold each
other’s soul and make love at the wee hours of the night. He looked
at the clothes she used to wear. There was nothing left to say, she
was gone, there was nothing he could do, she left him without an
explanation, without giving him reason, without remorse – like a
ghost in the night her memories haunted him, questions unanswered,
nothing to hold on to, nothing at all.
“I shouldn’t have left
you, I should have had struggled with you, I loved you, but I became
scared, I’m sorry.” She murmured as tears flowed from her eyes.
She knew she had torn him apart.
The restaurant was filled,
the rain pouring hard outside and all she could hear were the
conversations of the tables near her. A loud thunder brought her back
to her senses, she looked around and there he was, her husband –
the wealthy businessman her mother had wanted her to marry. It has
been three years since she had left the province and they had been
married for a year. Her husband sat in front of her as the vision of
her true love went away life a puff of smoke – She was struck with
reality that he wasn’t dining with him the whole time and the
conversation was all in her mind. As they dined her husband caught
her in a trance, smiling with her face turned to the window, looking
at the fountain.
“What is it, why are you
smiling?” her husband asked.
“Nothing, I just
remembered something.” She vaguely replied.