I winced as my mom called me by my first name. I never really liked being called that, but I have a theory that it gives her some weird assurance.
Miguel helped me down the car as my two brothers followed my mom by two steps. They were my welcome committee, and what they seriously lacked was a banner with the words “Welcome Home, JJ” or something like that. I smiled at the thought as my mom crushed me in a hug, forgetting that I have a big tummy to show for.
“I miss you so much,” she whispered, and I told her that I missed her just the same. When she released me, my youngest brother, Lewis, hugged me as well, and my eighteen-year-old of a brother, Edward, just gave me a small smile with a curt nod as an acknowledgment. Either he’s mad at me for missing his birthday, or he just plainly couldn’t get over the awkwardness of brother-sister intimacy.
“I got you something for your birthday that I know I missed,” I told him, and Miguel disappeared into the car’s backseat and fished a paper bag. He had helped me pick this one up. Well, it’s a no-brainer of a gift, actually, for a basketball-loving fan, but he partly financed for this gift.
My brother opened the bag and he gaped at the sight of the gift. He took out the original LeBron James jersey, and Miguel insisted on completing it with a Cleveland Cavaliers cap. “Wow,” I heard Edward say breathlessly. “Thanks,” he said, finally looking at me.
“Thank him too,” I said, cocking my head towards Miguel’s direction. That was probably the first time that they sincerely noticed him, and my mom’s face suddenly went formal.
“So you are Miguel,” she said, her voice heavy. I sighed. I hadn’t counted on Mom being this hard on Miguel as well. Miguel walked over and made mano to my mother, and shook hands—albeit awkwardly—with my two brothers.
“Yes, Ma’am. I am Miguel Santillan, the father of the babies that your daughter is carrying,” Miguel said, and I noticed he also turned formal. “Where’s Dad?” I asked, distracting my mom as she gave Miguel the head-to-foot sweep.
I followed her, while Miguel hung back, signaling that I’ll call him when everything’s as okay as it might get for him to talk to my father.
“Santillan,” I heard my mother mutter as we walked into the house. “She’s the son of Luisa Santillan, yes,” I quipped, and her eyes widened in shock. Like me, she is a fan of the great chef. “Miguel took after his mom,” she observed, and I nodded. “Miguel is a mean cook too,” I told her, and we finally reached the living room where my father is watching television—or at least pretending to be.
“Dad,” I said, and he didn’t look at me. I nodded to my mom, and she pulled my brothers off to the kitchen. I walked over and blocked my dad’s view of the television, and he glared at me. “You come up here to Baguio after how many months and your purpose is to interrupt my favorite show,” he said grudgingly. I smiled. “Dad, you don’t watch The Simpsons,” I informed him, and I turned off the television. I sat in front of him, and I saw his eyes travel from my face to my belly.
“I remember when I was sixteen. You told me you’ll have a hard time letting me go, but you said you have to, since it’s all part of my growing up,” I began to say, and Dad didn’t speak. “You said you eventually would have to give me up to someone who can and will take care of me, and that you just have to be sure he’ll love me no matter what,” I continued.
“Dad, Miguel cares for me and he loves me. I know you had probably wanted a traditional way of giving me up and letting me go—I assure you I also would have wanted that—but that’s not the way this panned out. I love Miguel, and he loves me. We’re starting a family even though you think it’s not yet time. I’m a grown up now, Dad. You have to let me go eventually.”
Dad finally looked at me, and I reached out. He allowed me to hold his hands. “This guy,” he said roughly, “is here, right?” I nodded. “I want to talk to him,” Dad said, and I stood up to get Miguel.
“Is he mad or something?” Miguel asked, sounding a bit nervous.
“I am not so sure, but he’s relatively calm when I did a monologue.” I gave him a push once we reached the living room and left Miguel and Dad to talk, moving just a few feet away behind the divider to eavesdrop.
“Do you love my only daughter?” I heard my Dad say, and boy, does this sound like a confession.
“Yes, sir,” Miguel replied. “I promise to take care of her and our babies—”
Miguel nervously chuckled. “She’s carrying twins, sir. We got lucky.”
Silence. I was prepared to check if they had started to strangle each other when Miguel spoke. “I love your daughter, sir, and everything that comes along with her. How she pouts when she gets irritated, mad, or deprived of what she wants. How she can’t cook. How she obsesses with basketball and baseball players. Everything about her just drives me crazy. I know I still have a lot to learn about her, but I’d like you to know I appreciate her to bits and love your little girl for everything she is and everything she’s not.”
I smiled at Miguel’s speech, but felt a bit anxious as I waited for my father’s reply.
“Boy, you take care of my baby girl. You’re dead once you hurt her, you hear me?” I heard Dad say and nearly jumped in relief. I entered the living room once more and saw my dad hugging Miguel.
“Whew,” Miguel mouthed, and I saw beads of sweat lining his forehead, and I knew he was dead nervous. Dad turned to me and gave me a hug as well. “Tell me if he hurts you,” he warned, and I laughed. I kissed him on the cheek and whispered to his ear, “I love you, Dad.”
Edward popped his head into the room. “Okay, now that the drama is over, can we eat? My stomach’s grumbling,” he said, and I nodded. Miguel placed his arm over my shoulder as we followed my father to the kitchen.
“Whew,” he whispered, as he kissed me on the forehead.
I heaved a sigh of relief of my own.