Solace Ep. 25

FAYE: The next minutes were total pandemonium—cars screeching to avoid hitting Brandon’s car, angry honks from the other drivers who swerved to avoid crashing into us, and my and Brandon’s heavy breathing. I leaned against my seat where I received the full impact of Brandon’s wrath.

“What the hell were you thinking, Faye?” he shouted, and I fumbled for the car’s door. “I want to get out. Now,” I said, and Brandon shook his head. The car was on power lock, and before I could do anything else, he started the car and we cruised again on the road to my apartment.

“How can I explain myself to you if you want to get out?” he asked, and I stayed mum, trying to absorb everything.

I am in the car of my mystery suitor—that guy who had given me the creeps for more than two years. At first they were just flowers sent anonymously, with cryptic messages like “Stay beautiful, my darling angel” or “Smile, for it brightens up your face and my day.” And then they progressed to full-fledged handwritten love letters, where mystery suitor (hereon referred to as “MS”) would tell me how his day went and how he is excited to see me again. These letters were sent everyday without fail for almost eighteen months. I’d have them at my office desk every single day—even on weekends. I can’t even reply—I don’t even know to whom to send the replies to, don’t know to whom to address them to.

And then MS sent me a gift for my birthday: that cell phone that I sorely wanted as released by Apple. I couldn’t return it—heck, again, I don’t even know who to return it to. Christmas came and I received a plane ticket to Coron, Palawan, with a note attached to it: Have some R & R. Paid for everything: hotel, tours, etc. Pocket money’s in the envelope with your itinerary. I patted the envelope with the ticket and ten crisp 1000-peso bills fell out, along with a small sheet of paper. I remembered how shocked and scared to bits I was when I got that. Why should I take an all-expense paid trip courtesy of a person I don’t even know? Technically, MS is a full-fledged stalker. He is a non-physical contact something kind of a stalker, and he is really starting to scare me.

I didn’t take the trip, although at that time I seriously needed a stress buster. I had wondered how at that time, MS almost always knows what is going on in my life—how he knows when I go home to the province to visit my family, how he knows when I do OTs and how late I go home (usually it’s during tax season), how he knows when big events happen at Ripped and I am busy doing all the coordination in all the twenty branches (and counting). Maybe the answer is that in those two years that I was being “stalked,” Brandon was at Ripped to eat every single day, with all the chance to hear and see what is going on in my life.

The next day, after my supposed trip to Palawan, I got another note from MS, asking me why I didn’t push through with it. This time, though, things changed. He told me where I can put my reply—should it freak me out that he told me to put it at the doormat of my apartment?—and not hesitate at all to ask questions.

There’s a catch though.

There is one question I couldn’t ask: WHO ARE YOU?

I contemplated at that time for three days what is best to do with MS, but at the same time I had written some questions I certainly would love to ask MS. In the end, I decided to write to him, to tell him either to stop or to show himself because we both can’t go on living life as if it is entirely a mystery, because even in life we get some of the answers to our questions even if they come at a later time. He can’t just stay mysterious to me. I told him that if he really wanted to get to know me just like what he said in his letters, he would show up in front of me and talk to me. I didn’t ask any of my ten thousand questions (okay, I am exaggerating that) for fear of encouraging him to keep on badgering me for the next couple of years.

MS replied that he had so many choices to make in this life, and one of those choices is to not show himself to me. He said he hopes that I would understand, and after that I had never replied to him again, even though he had pleaded and begged in his succeeding letters for a reply, even if it’s just some sort of hello. The gifts continued to pour in—including a bear that was delivered on the day that MS termed as the “anniversary” of the time he had started to contact me—but other than that, MS didn’t show himself.

And then one day, on the eve of the second year of his “stalking,” he wrote me a message: “You’re right. Living life shouldn’t be a mystery all the time. I am still sticking with this decision to not let you know who I am, but I hope that in the past two years I have made you happy in any way possible. I told you of the choices I make in my life, and continuing this is an infidelity. The choice I make now, no matter how much I feel that this could have been right, is to let you go. Thank you, Faye, for letting me into your life, one-sided as this ‘relationship’ has been. I won’t ever bother you again. -B”

That’s it. All I knew of my MS was that he’s codenamed B—aside from the stories he told me through his letters. And then he sent me red tulips the next day, and then nothing followed after that.
MS was gone.

And now he is making a comeback.

I would have to admit, that the minute MS—or B—said that he wouldn’t bother me again, I got scared. You see, I got used to receiving a little something from him every day, and—as much as I hate to admit it—I look forward to what he’ll write about what had happened to his day, or whatever views he would share. He poured a part of his soul into the letters, and each day that has passed and with each letter he had sent, I felt like I knew him more and more. B had offered some sort of security—that even on a bad day, someone would cheer me up, that during one of my crappiest days, someone will be there to tell me to cool it down.

And then that security was gone, along with the other comforts he has offered.

Funny, and I feel all this for someone that I don’t even know personally—or didn’t even know was real until now that he has shown himself to me.

Brandon and I were silent the entire trip, and I could see that he was trying to cool himself off from the stunt that I had pulled off earlier. The car rolled to a stop when we reached the driveway to my apartment, and then he faced me. “You knew me as the mystery suitor—I heard the waiters at Ripped say that the flowers were from ‘MS,'” he began, and I nodded. Brandon breathed deeply, and I saw how hard this is for him. His stoic face was marked by sadness, which led me to wonder why he wants to talk about this and why he has come out in the open. We could have both gone on with our lives—me with Gabe and him with his family—without knowing this.

“The first time I saw you, the immediate thought that popped into my head was that maybe I was wrong in marrying my wife, Clarisse,” he said, and he smiled bitterly. “I fell in love with you, Faye, even though it was wrong. For two years I poured my heart and soul into all that I was sending to you. I fell in love with the illusion that you were the right woman, even if I am supposed to be happily married and I have two sons and my family is merry. Clarisse is good—I have nothing bad to say about her—but there are times when being with her felt bad… and wrong. But when I saw you, my world was at peace. Pure comfort. And I couldn’t stop at just seeing you everyday. I had to let you know me. I want you to know me but I didn’t want you to see me in the physical sense because that would just screw all things up.”

He placed his head in his hands as if washing it underwater. I saw Miguel and Gabe do that before—I wonder if it’s a Santillan thing, just like their charm (which Brandon might have lacked a bit). And then he looked up, his eyes unreadable. “And you know what made me stop? It took my youngest son, who is ten now, to make me realize my mistake. I was tucking him to bed to sleep when he asked me, ‘Dad, why aren’t you talking to Mom that much anymore? You don’t hug her that often too. Are you guys fighting?’

You should have seen how innocent his eyes looked when he asked me that. He noticed something was wrong with me and Clarisse—or there was something wrong with me and it was also affecting Clarisse. I went to my bedroom, saw that Clarisse was reading a book, and she smiled at me. It was that same smile that I fell in love with—serene, not judging, patient. I got in bed, closed her book and took her in my arms. At first she was tense, as if she was already a stranger to my touch, and then she relaxed. When she looked up at me, she was crying, and then she said, ‘Welcome back, Brandon.’

I knew at that very moment how lucky I am to have married Clarisse. She had never stopped loving me even though I had technically cheated on her by loving you. She had been patient all the time that I was withdrawn, didn’t ask any questions as to why I skipped meals for I was eating at Ripped just to see you, didn’t badger me the entire time I was at my study, composing my next letter to you. She had loved me in spite and despite of all I’ve done to her,” Brandon said, a tear escaping from his eyes. He quickly wiped it off and smiled at me.

“It was at that time I told myself to stop. I forced myself to forget you, and it was sort of easy for I wanted to make up to Clarisse. I fell in love with my wife again,” Brandon finished, and silence reigned for a minute before I spoke.

“Why are you telling me this now?” I asked.

Brandon sighed. “Because I saw you with Gabe and everything just flashed back to me?” he replied, and I raised my eyebrow in further question. Not good enough. “Faye, I want you to be happy. I want to solve another mystery in your life, no matter how late this answer is,” he explained.

“I don’t want you to feel weird towards me, please,” he added when I didn’t speak up again. I shrugged. “I’d try,” I told him. He pressed a button on his side that released the lock. He was letting me go—both literally and figuratively. “Gabe deserves a woman like you, Faye,” he said, and I smiled. I reached out, held his hand and gave it a squeeze for a quick millisecond, and then opened the door.

“Thank you, Brandon, for telling me this,” I said, and he gave me a mock salute. I was about to close the door when I remembered something. I backtracked. “You want all of the stuff you gave me back?” I asked, and he laughed. “No, Faye. They’re all yours,” Brandon said, and repeated my thanks. I closed the door and waited, watching Brandon as he drove away, tears falling from my eyes.

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