Solace Ep. 5

NYAH: I went home carrying more than usual things—a tote bag, laptop, and the lunchbox—because of the bouquet of red tulips that Joshua sent me. I was thankful, though, that Dad left his car and that I was able to drive it to work.

I realize I really needed to get a car.

I tossed the red tulips in the backseat of Dad’s car along with a couple of my bags. The laptop will seat in front—my sole passenger—as I zoomed home, wondering if Justin’s there and if he had cooked dinner already. It was the first time in three weeks that I am heading home early—early, meaning at eight in the evening—due to the countless charity overtimes (READ: not paid, ergo, thank you OTs).

Besides, Justin and I are left to tend for our two brothers for, even though our family is lucky enough to have house helps, it still is different when you’ve got family to care for you. So I have to get home to (1) ensure that Justin doesn’t bring home a woman from his normal supply of “girl friends;” (2) check if Derek and Alex have eaten dinner already and have done their homework; and (3) make sure there would be food tomorrow—because hey, everyone in the family can cook well—and that Alex and Derek are out of the house before they earn another tardy slip just like this morning (we forgot to wake them up, haha). I am the one tasked to take them to school this time, because whatever they say about teenage boys wanting to be independent, my brothers are cheesy enough to want Mom, Dad, me or Justin to take them to school for they appreciate such little efforts.

I parked Dad’s car in the garage before heading into the house, the bouquet bouncing in my arms. The greeting of a lively “Wow, tulips huh. The new roses?” as I entered shocked me, and I swirled to find Uncle Gabe seated comfortably in the living room, his long arms spread on the couch’s headrest.

“Uncle Gabe!” I squealed, rushing towards him and flopping onto his lap as if I was still six years old. He laughed, wrapping his arms around me, saying, “Yes, I can surely see that you really missed me, Nyah.” I hugged my favorite uncle tightly and then relieved him of my bags’ weight and my weight, sitting next to him. I placed my bags on the center table and the bouquet of tulips on Uncle Gabe’s lap.

“So, my favorite niece, from whom do these expensive tulips come from?”

I pouted, mumbling, “I am your only niece,” and that effectively made him laugh once more.

“From a guy I met at the party that Justin and I went to over the weekend,” I said when his laughter subsided, and then told him the story of Joshua. “Ah. Seventeen,” he said, and I nodded. I stood up, called out to Derek and Alex, and waited for them to thunder down the stairs.

“Yeah. And I don’t think I am ready to go there, Unc. He’s too young.” I turned to him again, and he looked at me, his eyes almost sad. Before I get the chance to ask him why, Alex came down the stairs, announcing, “Justin’s not here. Derek cooked dinner though. Hope you like beef casserole.”

My face fell, and I knew I have to give Justin a nasty tongue-lashing when he gets home. He was the one supposed to cook dinner tonight, and me tomorrow. “I apologize for your brother’s sheer lack of responsibility.”

“Hey. I heard that.”

I turned and Justin entered, carrying KFC takeouts—the Bucket meal that my twin brothers love. I rolled my eyes. “That your idea of cooking?” I asked irritably, as Uncle Gabe reached out and gave me a squeeze on the shoulder, telling me to back off Justin. I turned at my heel and heard Alex call Derek for a “second round” as Justin greeted Uncle Gabe with a manly hug.

“Forgive my sister. She’s PMS-ing,” I heard him say, and I grabbed a pillow on my way to the kitchen and threw it at him, hitting him squarely at the face.

“Hey!”

Uncle Gabe laughed, stopping Justin from coming after me, and said, “You guys sure you’re both 22?”

I removed my high heels and planned to go barefoot for my feet are killing me. I tossed them into the shoe rack, and headed for the kitchen to grab plates and spoons and forks. When I came back, all the good chicken parts were gone, for the boys and men had already fed on them, and I sighed. “Thank you, brothers, for leaving me mashed potatoes,” I said, passing them the kitchenware.

“Come on, sis. We’re not that bad,” Justin said, passing me the chicken breast that he saved for me. He set aside two brownies for me, too, and for that I forgive my twin. We started to eat, guy talk all around as Justin, Alex, and Derek marveled Uncle Gabe with their stories about their near girlfriends and girl friends, and talks about school, work, and everything in between.

Justin excused himself when he finished eating, saying he’d do the dishes, and Alex and Derek told me they still have homework to do. That left me and Uncle Gabe, and I winked at him. I knew my brothers wanted to give me time with my favorite uncle, who doubles as my best friend. Ever since he left for the United States ten years ago after some reason I don’t know, my only interaction with him was through chat, email, and constant blogging where he comments and tells me if I made a stupid decision or congratulate me for a job well done. He calls, yeah, but that would be just once in three months.

“What are you doing here, Unc?”

He looked at me, and then shrugged. “Well, Miguel told me they’re headed for the U.S. for the promotion of Confessions, but since I really don’t want to hear any of his crap about finding love again, I went back here,” Uncle Gabe said, and I frowned. “So you didn’t want to see Dad and Mom that’s why you went back here?” I asked, and he laughed.

“Not really,” he admitted. “Well, I have to grow up, I realized. I’m forty-two, and I want to have a life, Nyah. Something I have deprived myself of in the past twenty years or so.”

I flopped next to Uncle Gabe, opening one of the two brownies. “Tell me,” I urged.

Uncle Gabe sighed heavily, and then averted his gaze from me. “I was twenty, twenty-one. I met the love of my life, Nyah. Her name is Angela, and she was ten years older than I am,” he began, his voice solemn and grave. I didn’t speak even though I wanted to tell him that I finally figured out that this was the reason why he reacted that way when I told him about Joshua and the fact that he is younger than I am.

“But I never let that get in the way. I loved her, everything that she is—her passion for her job, her passion for all people in general, her love for her family, the way she cares for her friends, the way she laughs, cries, smiles…” Uncle’s voice faded, his eyes misting.

I reached out and held his hand, and he gave me a forced smile. “I knew she was the one, Nyah, so six months into the relationship, I asked her to marry me.” His voice cracked.

“And she said no,” I prompted when he didn’t say anything more.

“Much more is that she broke up with me after. She said no to the proposal, and she said no to me forever,” Uncle Gabe said, shaking his head. “I have tried, for five years unfailingly after that, to get her back, but she just wouldn’t. I don’t know what I did wrong, or what happened to us, but she just didn’t want me back. And then on the sixth year of wooing her, she got married… to her boss.”

“Oh, Unc,” was all I could say, and I hugged him. “I never loved any other woman after that,” he whispered, and my mind flashbacked to the night when I overheard Mom and Dad talking about Uncle Gabe—how he used to be less happy, less fun, less the life of the family, less of a person. Dad even said that Uncle Gabe stopped living after that woman broke up with him, for Uncle thought she really was the one, and he loved her dearly.

“Unc, you gotta loosen up. That’s what, twenty-two years ago? And you’re forty-two. Go get the picture that maybe—just maybe—she really is not the one. You still got plenty of time, Unc, to find the right one,” I told him, and he gave me a genuine smile. “You know, I’m thinking that maybe you should be a little less harsh,” he said, and I laughed.

We fell silent, and I bit my brownie again.

“You should give that Joshua kid a chance. That’s just a five-year age diff, Nyah,” he said quietly, and I shrugged.

“Maybe.”

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