Chapter 9: Father
Casey moved in with Richard after six months into the relationship, with no qualms whatsoever after Richard asked. It was fun playing house for an extended period of time, but of course there are changes. For Casey, moving in with Richard meant having a constant companion—that is, if Richard didn’t feel the need to disappear at random moments. She has to go home from work earlier than usual, now that someone is actually waiting for her at home, especially someone who is easily bored like Richard. Moving in with Richard and actually being with him meant all things to Casey—she has to learn to open up, learn to love herself more in order to love Richard, and learn to share, as it wasn’t just her in this life anymore.
She has Richard.
For Richard, Casey moving in meant those temptations to just randomly travel and move away had to be lessened. And though Casey had understood his quick mind-changing and fickleness, he could only be fickle a number of times before Casey blows off on him for not sticking to his decisions and for just leaving. And living with Casey who is a homebody is almost equal to less active nightlife, but they have certain compromises. Sometimes Casey comes along with him during his night outs; other times she’d stay with Andrea while the two Richards do their thing.
But for Richard, Casey meant so much more than a girlfriend—she was his shot at his second life.
And she was saving him in more ways than one.
Casey flopped onto the bed next to the pillows and Richard. He shook his head as he watched Casey swim through the pillows to get to him, and she lay on his lap, stretching and yawning, feeling sleepy after a quick shower. She had just came home from an overnighter—she was in the office for nearly forty hours, and she wasn’t so sure if Richard would be here if she gets home. The last time she pulled an overnighter, Richard pulled a version of his—a very long night out where he got home after two days.
“Wow, you’re here,” Richard said in mock amusement.
Casey looked up at him and tried to look sweet despite being tired. “Sorry,” she said with a wry smile, and Richard started to run his hands through her hair, removing the tangles in them. “I’m sorry,” she repeated, and Richard finally looked at her.
“Case, I told you when you moved here you should start to live a life. With me, and not your office,” he quipped, and she groaned. It is the conversation.
“Babe, overnighters happen once in a blue moon—”
“Love, it happens monthly. I think you meant full moon instead of blue moon,” he said, almost sounding frustrated. He leaned over and kissed her, and then shook his head.
“What? Kissing me is that bad already?” she asked, and Richard grinned.
“I wonder how you still look so beautiful even if you haven’t slept for more than a day.”
Casey rolled her eyes. There he goes again. Richard, without fail, has told her she’s beautiful every single day so that she won’t forget it.
“You really are good in lifting my spirits, aren’t you,’ she teased back, and Richard winked. “I missed you,” he whispered.
“Is that why you stayed to wait for me instead of doing a Houdini act of your own?”
Richard made a move that was halfway between shrugging and nodding. “Well, I wanted to be the one waiting this time around.” He brushed Casey’s cheek. “You’re always the one waiting for me, countless of times and—”
“And my boyfriend’s starting to get cheesy—not that I don’t like this version of you,” Casey cut in, yawning again. She curled in his lap, breathing in his manly, almost Christmas scent, and he continued to stroke her hair. Her eyes were already drooping to a close when a ringing jolted her back to reality.
“Ignore it, Case. Go back to sleep,” whispered Richard, his voice soothing and comforting, but Casey couldn’t. She crawled out of his arms and found her mobile phone in her bag. An unlisted international number was calling, making her frown. She turned her back to Richard.
“Hello?” she greeted the caller.
“Is this Casey Herrera?”
Casey breathed. “Who is this?” she asked. The voice sounded motherly, almost old but oddly comforting.
“This is Julieta Satari, Richard’s mother.”
Casey’s voice got caught in her throat. Richard never talked about his family. She had probed, begged, and asked a number of times but he wouldn’t budge, saying he’d rather not talk about his family. She wondered, sure, and even asked the other Richard if he knew anything about Richard’s family, but she never got anything useful.
And now this phone call.
“Is he there with you?” she asked when Casey couldn’t speak. “Yeah,” she said. “Can you leave him for a minute?” Julieta asked, so Casey stood up, motioned to Richard that she’d go out to get water, and he just nodded, albeit weirded by her just leaving the room. He immediately knew something is up as she never excuses herself to take phone calls—she shared nearly everything with Richard.
She never got to the kitchen. She went to the balcony and took a deep breath.
“There must really be a good reason for this, Mrs. Satari,” Casey said.
“How is my son, Casey?” she asked, almost wearily.
Casey frowned. “He’s doing swell, Mrs. Satari—”
“Call me Jules, Casey,” she cut in. Jules let out a shaky breath and Casey wondered what is going on. “Where did you get my number, Jules?”
She heard Jules chuckle. “Did you know the lengths I had to go through just to get to you? I had to find Cindy, and then she told me to contact this Richard—another Richard, I heard this bloke is my son’s best friend. He is nice. I told him my predicament and he said if anyone could get through Richard it would be you—aside from him, that is.”
Casey was stuck in the first part of Jules’ explanation. “You knew Cindy?” she asked, and Jules let out a heavy sigh.
“Oh yeah. She tried to patch things up between Arnold and Richard, but—”
“W—wait. Who is Arnold?”
There was an eerie silence on the other line before Jules spoke again. “Arnold is my husband. He is Richard’s father,” she said, sadness evident in her voice. “Richard never talked about us, did he?”
Casey hesitated before answering. “He hasn’t. I’m sorry, Jules.” She heard Jules heave another sigh before she spoke again. “Anyway, I called you to ask you to try and convince Richard to go here to Ohio. I really want to see my son, Casey. I haven’t seen him in ten years.” She heard the catch in Jules’ voice when he said the last part. She could almost imagine Jules weeping silently on the other line.
“I don’t have an idea what had happened between Richard and Arnold, Jules, but I’ll try and ask him to visit you guys there,” she said, not committing anything.
“Please try, Casey. I’m afraid Arnold doesn’t have that many days to wait for his son to come home.”
Casey nearly dropped her phone. “What? What do you mean, Jules?”
She heard Jules choke back a sob. “Arnold suffered a heart attack yesterday. He’s not really in his best condition, and… and…”
Casey wanted to reach out to where Jules is and give her a hug. My goodness, she thought. She hasn’t seen her son in ten years, and she’s about to lose her husband. “Jules, I promise to talk to Richard,” Casey said with conviction. “I’ll drag him there to Ohio if I have to.”
She heard Jules sob again on the other line, and Casey allowed her to weep. “Thanks, Casey. I’ll be waiting for news. Let me know right away if Richard is coming,” she said weakly.
“Keep me posted about Arnold too, Jules. I’ll do my best to get Richard there as soon as possible.”
“Get me where, Cassandra?”
Casey turned and saw Richard standing at the door of the balcony, brows furrowed, eyes intense. Her first thought was Oh shit, I’m screwed, but then her sleepless mind started working fast.
“Oh, Richard is there. I’ll call you again, Casey,” Jules said, and then she was gone. Casey pocketed her phone, approaching Richard and holding his hand. She pulled him back to the bedroom and they both sat on the edge of the bed.
Casey took a deep breath. “Rich, you have to tell me about your family,” she began, and Richard scoffed. “What? We talked about this, Casey—”
“No, Richard. We never talked about this. You need to tell me this,” she argued.
“Why? What would you gain if you knew about my family? Why now?”
She rolled her eyes and threw her hands in the air in frustration. “Because I love you, Richard, and I have to know this! Because you have a family, Rich, and I don’t. Because, Rich, your dad had a heart attack and is now in the hospital, and he needs you, Rich. He needs you to be there!” Casey said angrily. Richard stopped, shocked, unable to speak.
“Wha—How—” Richard tried to say after a few moments, but he couldn’t get a cohesive thought.
“It was your mom on the line. Don’t ask me how she got my number because I’m pretty sure it took her intense networking to get it,” Casey started to explain, leaving out the part about Cindy. “She said your dad had a heart attack and he’s not looking good and she said she needs you there.”
Richard shook his head vehemently. “Dad said he doesn’t want to see me ever again. He’d probably just die when he sees me.” Richard placed his head in his hands, feeling miserable all of a sudden.
“Rich, what happened? You have to tell me what happened.”
Richard swallowed the lump in his throat. “I can’t, Casey.”
Casey groaned. “Fine,” she said, not meaning to sound stubborn. “But it’s your dad, Rich. You can’t turn away from family—”
Richard looked up at her with a glare. “I can. I have done so for the past ten years, Cassandra.” She flinched. “Rich, please,” she pleaded, and Richard shook his head. In frustration, Casey hit Richard on the shoulder, hard enough to make him stumble back on the bed.
“What the hell did you do that for?” he said angrily, picking himself up and sitting again.
Casey smiled bitterly. “To wake you up, Rich,” she said, her voice quivering. She stood up and started to pace the room. “I never told you what happened the day of that car accident,” she said after a few minutes. Richard looked at her like What does this have to do with me and my dad? and Casey gave him a sharp look to stop him from speaking.
“I was ten. My parents and I were on our way to visit my uncle. He was throwing a party because he won as a vice-mayor. I was throwing a tantrum—I didn’t want to go. It was a grown-up thing, you see, and at a young age, I hated parties,” Casey started, and Richard just stared beyond her. “So, Papa and I argued and argued, and Mama was trying to placate me. I was crying, and I told my father I hated him for making me go to this party. I told him that I don’t want to see him again.” Casey’s voice cracked just as tears started to well up in her eyes. Richard finally focused his attention to her.
“He was… he was telling me off when it happened. A car swerved in the lane of our jeep and…” She wiped the tears streaming down her face. “The next thing I know, I wake up and I’m an orphan.” Casey smiled sadly. “The last thing I told my papa was I hate him and I didn’t want to see him again. And do you know how much I want to take it back, Rich? How many times I replayed that moment, that one moment when I just said those words? Do you know how much I wish I have another chance to tell my father that I never meant those words, and that I don’t hate him? That I love him?”
Richard reached out and pulled her to him, and she cupped his face in his hands. “Rich, you have a chance. Whatever it was that you and your father had argued, you need to fix it before it’s too late. Before he dies and you can’t take back all those horrible things that you told each other before you left Ohio. Richard, you have the chance I never get to have.”
He was crying already, and he just stared at Casey, searching for answers in her eyes. “Do this for me, Richard. You need to do this. Please just do it,” she whispered, plea in her voice.
Richard looked into her eyes and felt it. She wanted him to do this. She needed for him to do this. And it wasn’t just because he needed to do it for himself—to fix things between him and his family, especially his dad—but he needed to do it for her. He needed to do it for his girlfriend. He needed to do it for Casey.
“Book the flight. I’m going to Ohio,” he said, and Casey hugged him tightly, a huge smile on her face.
“You’d have to tell me the story, though, what happened with you and your dad,” she whispered when she released him. She kissed him lightly on the lips and sat down next him.
“Sure,” he said, more relaxed now. Richard turned to her, his eyes filled with tears but he was smiling a bit. “On the way to Ohio. You’re coming with me.”
Casey hesitated—her immediate thought was she can’t miss work—but Richard needs her like she needed him to do this.
She kissed him again on the lips and nodded. “Of course.”
“Dad never agreed to me moving to Europe and subsequently here in the Philippines. He wanted me to stay in the States. He wanted me to take over the family business—we own a textile company—but I was never interested in that.”
Casey turned to Richard. They were on their way to Columbus, Ohio, opting to take the bus. He held her hand, unconsciously playing with her fingers. “You are a free spirit, Rich. Of course you can’t be stuck in an office.”
Richard smiled sadly. “Unlike you.”
Casey smiled a bit. “I like being stuck in places.” She shrugged, and Richard cuddled closer to her. She placed her arm over his shoulder, ruffling his hair while she is at it. He needed to feel her. He was overly thankful she came with him, even though he knows it is a very busy week for her at the office and she is badly needed there.
“So we had a huge fight. He told me if I don’t stay, he doesn’t want to see me again,” he finished his short story, and Casey sighed. “I never went back. I felt like if he can’t accept me and what I want, what’s the point of going back when I know he and I would just fight about it all the time?”
He looked up at his girlfriend, wanting her to understand, and he found it on her face. She never judged him, and was always accepting when it comes to him. He doesn’t know where he can find any other woman who would do and who can do what Casey has done and is doing for him. “I’ve been a bad person—a bad boyfriend, a bad son—”
“You’ve been a good friend to Richard and Andrea, and just to correct you, you’ve been a good boyfriend,” Casey cut in.
“I don’t deserve you.”
Casey crinkled her nose. “Yeah, right. You don’t.” Richard pouted, and Casey touched his lips with her forefinger.
“Rich, I love you. And you love me. Between us, that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter who’s richer, who’s more beautiful—but for the record, it’s you—who has more friends. Between you and me, it’s just love,” she whispered, and Richard smiled, kissing her finger. “And you’re working on the son part. You’re getting to the good son zone. In just a few hours.”
“You know I won’t be able to do this without you, right?” he told her after a while. She kissed him on the temple.
“I am happy to be here to help you get through this, Rich.”
Richard intertwined his fingers with hers, and then he leaned against her, closing his eyes.
“Oh my God.”
Jules nearly fell from her seat when Richard and Casey entered Arnold’s private room. She stood up and rushed to her son, hugging him so tightly that Richard thought hugs could kill. “Mom, please… I can’t… breathe,” he managed to choke, and Jules released her son, suddenly with renewed vigor, laughing and crying at the same time.
“You’re here. I can’t believe it,” she whispered in between sobs, and Richard nodded as his mother inspected him—his face, his body, his eyes, his smile. It was like Jules was seeing her son for the first time. “And you—” Jules said, turning to Casey who expected the tight hug, “you worked. You worked.” Jules repeated those two words over and over as she cried, and once she was pacified, she kissed Casey on both cheeks.
“My son loves you,” Jules declared, and Casey winked at her. “I know that, Ma’am,” she teased, and Jules chuckled.
The melee had woken up the sleeping and resting Arnold, who opened his eyes rather slowly. Richard looked at Casey, enthusiasm immediately diffused. Casey placed a hand on his arm and gave it an encouraging squeeze.
“Arnold,” Casey heard Jules say, watching her walk over to Arnold’s side and leaning over. “Someone is here, visiting you.” Arnold frowned, raising his head a bit and looking around the small room.
And then he saw him.
Casey felt Richard stiffen, as if he was expecting his father to stand up and admonish him for the ten years lost. But Arnold’s sharp eyes softened at the sight of his son, and his tired face allowed a small smile.
“Richard,” he said again, and Casey gave her boyfriend a slight nudge. “Go,” she whispered, and Richard nodded, walking over to his father’s bedside.
“Dad,” Richard whispered when he got to his father. Jules backed off and went over to Casey, who leaned against the wall, watching the father and son tandem that looked like twins even though Arnold has graying hair and looks a bit older.
“You’re home,” Arnold whispered, and Richard just broke down. He hugged his father, sobbing, whispering he’s sorry over and over. Arnold, not used to seeing these heavy emotions from his son (and not biggie on emotions himself), patted his son awkwardly on the back.
“I’m sorry, Dad,” Richard choked. “I was stubborn.”
Arnold let out a soft chuckle. “You’re like me, son. Which is good. You went for what your heart wanted, and I can see that you’re happy. I am okay with that,” he whispered, and tears also streaming down his face.
Casey felt Jules’ soft touch on her arm and she turned to look at Richard’s mother. She gave Jules a small smile, then placed an arm over her shoulder.
“Thank you,” Jules whispered, and Casey shook her head. “It’s nothing. And it’s for Richard. I’d do anything for him.”
“Dad, I want you to meet someone,” Richard said, and he walked over to Casey and his mother, borrowed Casey, and held her hand as they went to the bed.
“Is this her?” Arnold asked, giving Casey a gentle smile. “The one who made you go home after ten years?”
Casey held out a hand which Arnold shook using his IV-ed one. “No, Dad,” Richard said. “She’s the one who saved me—more than once, if I may say so.” Casey rolled her eyes and just leaned against him.
“Casey, right?” Arnold said, and she nodded.
“You’re good for my son, and I like it.”
Richard chuckled, turning to Casey. “Do you know that you’re actually the only one who got Dad’s approval?” he said, and Casey shook her head. “I’m probably the only one you introduced to them, that is,” she replied, and Richard laughed.
“Seriously, you’re the only one Arnold likes,” Jules cut in. “And you’re the only one I personally like.”
Casey smiled. “I’m just so happy that you guys are all together now,” she just said instead, and Richard placed an arm over her shoulder.
“We are all together,” he corrected her, and Casey smiled. Maybe she now has a family after all.
Casey yawned, stretching her arms all the way up in the air before someone trapped her arms and placed them behind her back.
“Aw,” she said, laughing in spite the slight pain she felt in her arms because she knew it was Richard. Richard released her arms and hugged her from behind. “I don’t know what I’m gonna do without you,” he whispered into her ear, and Casey leaned against him.
“Oh you do,” she teased, and Richard kissed her on the temple, still serious.
“How can you change my life like that? I mean… in three years, I’ve grown so much compared to the years before that,” he asked her, and she tugged at his arms around her so he would tighten his hug.
“Is that a rhetorical question?” she asked back.
Richard groaned. “You’re not going to take me seriously, are you?”
Casey twisted to face him. “Rich,” she said patiently, “you changed my life too, in many ways. You make me happier than I ever was and you’ve given a family now. And it’s what people in relationships do—we bring out the best in each other and stick around when times are bad.”
“I love you, Cassandra.”
Casey tiptoed and gave Richard a light kiss. “Oh, I love you more.”
“No, you don’t. I love you more.”
Casey laughed. “Fine, we love each other greatly. Let’s settle for that.”
Richard nodded, pulling Casey to him and kissing her.
Click here to read Chapter 10: Marry You