The Stories of Three Women Ch. 02

The Stories of Three Women Ch. 02


This is the second installment of a series of stories on women.

Allow me to thank chasten, norafares and SleeperyJim for keeping this wayward soul on track.

Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest typhoon recorded to make landfall. The city of Tacloban is no stranger to these super-typhoons, historical records show that even during the Spanish Colonial era, the city had already been devastated by such natural calamities.

Again, I do not know if you will "enjoy" these stories, but I do hope they will help you appreciate the innate grace, strength and beauty that all women possess.

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"A strong woman loves, forgives, walks away, lets go, tries again, and perseveres... no matter what life throws at her."

Simply Love

"She just woke up," the caretaker, Miss Vega, said softly to him as he entered the bedroom. "I'll be just outside if you need me." She closed the door.

He quickly made his way across the room and sat on the chair beside her bed and reached for the hand that lay across the covers. She opened her eyes at the touch, glanced at the hand holding hers, and angled her head to look up at his face. Even sitting down, he was still very, very tall. She smiled faintly - no surprise there - he had been a professional basketball player after all.

The man bent down and kissed the hand he was holding. Then with infinite care, he brushed the hair from her forehead. His tender touch never failed to surprise her, for he had such large hands and the power and strength in them were plain to see.

"I hope you went out for that walk I suggested this morning," her voice was barely above a whisper and he had to bend down to hear every word. "It's too beautiful a spring day to stay cooped up in here with an old lady like me."

Her husband feigned a frown. "Are you trying to get rid of me?"

She shook her head. "Of course not, but I was thinking that you might be getting tired of my company."

Once again, he gently squeezed the thin fingers he held in his grasp.

"Never," he whispered. He settled his long frame more comfortably in the chair.

"Now, what can I do for you, darlin'?"

"Could you get my glasses for me?" she whispered after a few moments. "They're over there on my dresser."

He came back with the glasses. "Perhaps you want a book with those," he said as he handed them to her.

"No, I wasn't planning on reading anything. I just need to make sure of something...oh, could you wipe them for me? They're smudged."

He gingerly wiped her bifocals with his sleeve and handed them back to her. She pulled herself up on the pillows, put the glasses on, and looked at him again.

"My God, you're tall!" she said in mock horror.

He laughed, then, that wonderful deep laugh she had fallen in love with the first time they had met - his head tilted back, his shoulders shaking, eyes closed. A full minute passed before he finally stopped. He sat down on the chair once more and reached for her hand again. It was rather small and he could see the blue veins beneath her skin.

"Tired you out?" she asked, a naughty glint in her blue eyes.

He nodded. "Way past my prime, darlin'."

"Never," she answered gently, "but there is something you could do."

"Ask away."

"I'd like a cold drink, a proper cold drink, with at least three ice cubes in it. Miss Vega is a dear, but she keeps giving me the tepid stuff."

"Now, you wait for me right here, m'lady, and I'll be right back with that proper cold drink," he kissed her gently and stood up, "I won't be long."

------

"I asked her to wait," he said a week later, as he and Miss Vega stood beside a gleaming white marble cross standing on the grass.

"Life partners often don't want their loved ones to see them go," the caretaker replied, "she didn't want you to have to witness that."

He thanked her as they shook hands. He stayed after Miss Vega left.

Then he knelt beside her grave and kissed the marble cross gently.

"I won't be long," he whispered.

Triage

Marco snuffed out his cigarette, it was his fifth that afternoon. He hadn't had a stick in eight months; but the last four days had been chaotic and the Camels had helped him get through each one of them. The strongest typhoon in recorded history had just devastated his hometown of Tacloban City, nearly obliterating it from the map.

As a Red Cross team director, he'd been in the thick of the rescue operations the first forty-eight hours after Typhoon Haiyan left, but most of what his team recovered was corpses. After loading the twenty-fifth body onto a military truck, Marco had bummed a cigarette from one of the soldiers. As he inhaled the acrid smoke, his mind raced back eight months ago, back to the time when he'd given up the Camels, back to the time when he'd first met Lea.

-----

He was conducting a Red Cross training course in the trading company where she worked and she stood out among the other women there because she was the only one who wasn't trying to get his attention.

She stayed by herself during the breaks, eating a sandwich and drinking a can of soda in the farthest corner of the hall, while the other girls gathered around him, asking repetitive questions. At the end of the course, after he'd handed all the certificates out, he approached Lea.

"Congratulations, you're my star pupil, you aced both the written and practical tests," he said softly behind her.

She turned around, a little surprised. She was gathering up her things and was about to leave. She had not wanted to take the training course but the First Aid regional office had said that it would only send a trainer over, if there were twelve people who signed up. Her department head had put Lea's name in to reach the desired dozen. By the time she found out, it was too late to do anything about it.

"Thank you," she said, hoisting her bag over her shoulder.

"Have you ever thought of volunteering? You seem to have a knack for this."

She shook her head.

"You should."

Lea didn't answer, she just stood there in front of him, her eyes unblinking, little beads of sweat running down her forehead and glistening on her bare arms; the final practical tests were very physical, lifting and carrying would-be victims away from 'danger areas'. In the end, she had just shrugged her shoulders and left.

She volunteered two weeks later; they were lovers a month after.

They had made plans of moving in together, but something always seemed to get in the way; a friend needed help or a relative was sick, or the time just was not right, Lea would say. Marco decided to be patient — he did not want to lose her — he had fallen in love and there were times when he thought she had too; but both of them never spoke the word out loud, even in the throes of exquisite love-making.

He gave her a bracelet of Red Cross pins strung together on their fifth month anniversary. He thought the gift might just help her decide to make their relationship more permanent, but when she read the note in the box, tears welled up in her eyes.

When he asked her what was wrong, she didn't give him an answer, she just pulled him close and held him.

That was a red flag — the red flag — but he was so in love with her that he decided to let it pass.

One Saturday morning, three months later, she knocked at his front door. When he opened it, she stood there with a suitcase.

For the briefest moment, Marco knew what pure joy felt like.

But Lea hadn't come to stay, she had come to say good-bye; she was going straight to the airport for a flight to Manila that very afternoon.

She was married, she said, but it hadn't been working out, so she took the temporary posting in Tacloban when she saw the office memo. She thought some time out and 800 kilometers of space between her and her husband would ease things a little. Apparently it had; Jay, her husband, had finally called her after eight months, begging her to come back.

"I love you, Marco, but you have to understand, I made a promise."

That was what set him off.

He had said such terrible things to her, had called her terrible names, but he couldn't stop, maybe because if he had stopped, he would have cried, or worse, hit her.

And even when the tears were flowing freely down her face, he still kept on.

"Keep that so it'll remind you of what you really are," was his final cruel salvo, pointing to the linked Red Cross pins on her wrist.

She was still standing there when he closed the door.

------

"Marco!" the cry brought him back to the present.

He ran to the two men coming towards him, a covered stretcher in their hands, it was obvious that they had not found a survivor, but another unfortunate soul among the countless other poor souls who had lost their lives in the wake of the strongest storm in history.

"Male or female?" Marco asked dispassionately; after days of dealing more with the dead than the living, he was numb.

"A woman," one of the men answered.

Marco nodded and signaled for them to place the stretcher down. He reached into his back pocket for the last pair of latex gloves he'd been using since last night; he pulled them on and knelt beside the dead body.

"Did she have any identification?" he asked, as he lifted the blanket.

Both men shook their heads.

"She was brought out of a row of apartments that were completely destroyed," one man said, "she probably lived on the first floor, there was no way she could have survived the storm surge."

But Marco never heard what he said — the dead woman's arm fell from under the blanket, around the wrist was a bracelet of linked Red Cross pins.

Miss Villar's Bench

The couple was seated on her bench - her bench!

She saw them as soon as she emerged from the corner of the paved walkway that was partially covered by a large molave tree.

It was, of course, a public bench, in a public park, but Miss Villar had always considered that particular bench hers, and hers alone. She'd sat on it from four in the afternoon to six in the early evening every Sunday, for nineteen years; nineteen years of Sundays would certainly earn anyone some right of ownership.

The couple on the bench was, clearly, unaware of her presence; in fact, they were unaware of anything around them. Much like the romance novels Miss Villar was secretly addicted to, the couple only had "eyes for each other." Their heads were close, the young man's lips only a breath away from his novia's ear, his arm firmly set around her shoulders, their free hands joined over her lap - certainly marks of ownership that were more visible than Miss Villar's "nineteen years of Sunday afternoons."

She straightened her back and drew herself up to her full height of not quite five feet and resolutely strode - to her bench.

"Excuse me," she said, softly, "but you are sitting on my bench."

The young man looked up, his eyes registering mild surprise; the girl, however, did not even bother to look at Miss Villar, she merely burrowed her face deeper into her boyfriend's chest.

"So we are and what of it?" his voice was slightly slurred.

"Could he possibly be drunk?" Miss Villar thought, but there was no smell of alcohol around, unless one counted the rather pungent fragrance of the girl's perfume.

"Well, if you two will leave, I can sit on my bench."

"Ma'am, there are scores of other empty benches around; surely, you can sit on any one of them," the young man replied, a smile that did not quite reach his eyes, painted on his lips.

"That is true," Miss Villar answered. "I can sit on any one of them, but I prefer to sit on this bench."

The smile was beginning to fade from the young man's face. He shifted uneasily in his seat.

"Ma'am, we were here before you came" - he looked at his watch on the arm that was on the girl's shoulders - "and what does this bench have over the other benches in the park?"

"I told you... that is my bench."

"How can it be - your bench - when it doesn't even have any name on it, unless your name is PROPERTY OF THE CITY OF MANILA." His knuckles were now showing white over his novia's shoulders.

"No, it is not, but that isn't your name, either. So, may I have my bench back now, please?"

The young man drew in a slightly pained breath.

"We are not moving from this bench, and nothing and no one can make us leave it," he answered firmly.

He drew his novia closer, lifted her face with his free hand, and kissed her quite passionately. He stole a glance at his Miss Villar and felt a slight thrill of victory at the stunned look on her face. He closed his eyes again and kissed the young girl even deeper. She sighed against his lips and snuggled her tiny frame even closer to him.

Just then, a loud clap of thunder startled everyone in the park. People started running in every direction as the wind picked up.

Umbrellas of different sizes and colors began popping open across the park, as the downpour began; huge drops began to dot the dry grey pavement of the walkways that encircled the green. The rain gathered strength quickly and soon, the whole park was enveloped in a whitewash of wetness.

"Hon, I'm cold," the girl moaned into the young man's mouth. When they opened their eyes, Miss Villar was gone.

The pair stood up, drenched from head to foot, and with their arms around each other, ran across the green field, laughing at their temerity.

Miss Villar watched them leave from behind the molave tree. She made her way to the now-empty bench - her bench - and sat, victhttps://www.ixbt.com/live/profile/novoliyo/

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orious, holding a large red umbrella over her graying head, while around her, the rain played a symphony of staccato drum beats. She smiled.

One did not just throw away nineteen years of Sundays.