Bags are packed. I wished I hadn’t unpacked my stuff if this is what I was going to do. I hated moving around; I hated leaving places that I had grown to love.
I hated leaving Franco, and I hated myself for doing this to him again.
Two months. I tried. You can’t say I didn’t. And to Franco’s credit, he also tried. Those therapy sessions might have been a bitch to go through, and he did it for me. For our family. I thought it was working, but I guess Franco said it best—we were playing a charade.
And it’s time to end the game. We weren’t able to guess each other’s moves for quite some time now.
It was past midnight, and Franc still hasn’t come home. I texted his officemate, George, and he said Franc didn’t go to work today, which officially had me worried. I tried calling Franc but his phone was unattended.
We really need to get voicemails going here in the Philippines.
I dragged my suitcases to the living room and decided to wait there. The couch already looked so inviting; it was already past my bedtime. I lay there, waiting for Franc, hoping he’d arrive so I could give him my proper goodbye.
I woke up to the sound of someone repeatedly trying to get into the house, rattling the doorknob as if having a hard time figuring out how to open it. I stood up, walking over to the window near the door. I slowly peeked through the blinds to see who it was, and I saw Franco slumped against the door.
I stepped back. All my warning bells are going off. Franco’s drunk after being sober for more than six months. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t tell him that I’m leaving when he’s in this state. I don’t know if I could even engage him in anything if he’s drunk.
Hurrying, I grabbed my phone in my bag and called Yael. “Pick up, pick up, pick up,” I willed him, and he answered in the fifth ring.
“What’s wrong?” he said, sleep still evident in his voice. I did a quick calculation in my head as to how far he was from my house—fifteen minutes tops. He can have a cab driver drive like a maniac and he could reach my place in less than ten minutes.
“Franc’s drunk. He’s outside of the house, trying to get in. Help,” I whispered into the mouthpiece, and I think that effectively jolted him awake.
“Be there in five.”
I prayed to all the gods that I know of that he would get here in five.
I threw my phone onto the couch, and just as I did, the door burst open, spewing out Franc. He finally figured out how to use his keys in his drunken state.
“Ooh,” he slurred, “you’re up.” He stumbled and landed on the floor, face first. I winced, knowing that despite the carpet, it was going to bruise later on. I reached out and helped him stand up, placing his arm over my shoulder. He was almost dead weight, unable to make his limbs function because of too much booze.
“Why are you still up?” he asked, his breath foul on my face, the beer and the cigarette smoke mingling, almost making me dizzy. I didn’t speak, managing to throw him onto the couch. He lay there, burying his head into the throw pillows. I could hear him muttering something, and I just stared at this sorry state of this man that I call my husband.
I was about to go back into the bedroom, leaving him there, when he moved. He turned and opened his eyes, closing them again almost immediately due to the bright lights in the living room. He opened them slowly again, letting his eyes adjust to the light. His eyes fell on me, and a small smile crept on his face.
“You’re still here,” he whispered, amusement evident in his voice. I took a step back and his eyes followed me, and then a split-second later, I realized stepping back was a mistake because I stumbled on my bags.
Franco’s eyes flashed, darting from me to the bags and back again. “You’re leaving?” he asked, obviously awake now. Still drunk, but awake. I slowly inched my way towards the door, taking one small step at a time, but he knew what I was doing.
Franco stood up, swerving for a minute and then regaining his balance, and he blocked my path to the door. I leaned against the wall, wondering where in the world Yael is, but still whispered—against my better judgment—“Yes. I’m leaving.”
He walked up to me, close, invading my personal space. I suppressed the image of that night as it came back to my mind. This was it again, but this time I am pregnant. I hope he considers that before he hits me.
“What, you’re done playing the charade? You realize that you don’t really love me anymore?” he shouted, really getting into my face, his breath warm. He pressed his finger on my cheek, and I could feel his finger digging in my cheek. “I never got you back, Lui. I never got you back, did I?”
“Franc, please. Just calm down,” I started to beg, but I had already lost him. I tried to push him away, but he wouldn’t budge—he still was bigger than I am—and I saw it coming. I ducked just in time when the first punch hit the wall, just grazing the side of my face.
“FRANCO, PLEASE!” I screamed, able to step away but he grabbed me by the arm and slammed me back to the wall, knocking the air out of me. I tried to gulp in air, but he was just screaming, and I couldn’t understand the words because I was trying to fight him off—
“You never forgave me for what I did! Who were we kidding—”
I could feel a slap and then another one, my cheeks hurting. My eyes started to tear up, but I couldn’t run away because he was pinning me to the wall.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard Yael’s voice yelling from outside the house. He was trying the door but it wouldn’t open—did Franc lock it? Or did I lock it?
“Oh, so you called your best friend!” Franco seethed. “Yael Mabanta, always to your rescue,” he spat. He grabbed my chin, his nails digging into my jaw. “He couldn’t wait to have you, can he? He’s always waiting around.”
I just shook my head, trying to shimmy away from him, but Franco just wouldn’t stop.
“He is why you never fully loved me, Luisa. YAEL.” He said Yael’s name with so much loathing. His rage was almost palpable, and he slapped me again.
“Please stop, Franc. Stop. I’m pregnant,” I pleaded, grabbing his arm, hoping his palm wouldn’t hit my face again. I could hear Yael still trying to open the door; he was yelling my name, he was yelling for Franco to stop. But Franco wouldn’t.
He was too angry, too hurt, too drunk to even care.
“Pregnant?!” Franco said angrily, and I started to turn away when I realized what he was about to do, but I was too late.
I crumpled to the floor after his first punch landed on my tummy, the pain so intense that I was worried what will happen to the baby. He wouldn’t stop—he kicked me, my tummy, our baby, as he shouted: “Pregnant? Why did I believe you when you said this baby is mine, huh?”
I twisted and turned, so that he was hitting my back instead of my tummy, I couldn’t count the number of kicks, but I do remember there was a series of kicks that coincided with each word he was saying, one kick per word: This baby could be Yael’s for all I know.
“No!” I was shouting. “No. This baby is yours, Franc!”
He wouldn’t stop. Franco wouldn’t stop.
I curled into a ball, fetus-like, as the barrage kept on pouring on, his leg hitting me everywhere. “I loved you, Luisa. I loved you,” he was saying repeatedly.
I didn’t know how long it went, the kicks blurring into each other, until I heard Yael bursting through the door.
Took him long enough.
“Lui,” I heard him say, and at that instant, the kicks stopped. I felt Franco walk away, towards a new object of rage, and I could hear them fighting but I couldn’t see them. I stopped, trying to feel everything but my body was just numb. I couldn’t feel my tummy, so I reached down. The baby was still there, but it—he—wasn’t moving. A few minutes later, I felt him kick under my palm, so I was relieved for a moment that it was still okay. I tried to move but there was a jolt of pain, a searing one, as if it had a direct line to my brain.
I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, until I felt contractions happening. I reached further down, and when I retrieved my hand, there was blood on it.
“YAEL!” I screamed, and I heard the scuffle stop. I heard Franco groan, as if in pain, but I couldn’t care less about his pain when I’m in this state.
“You are staying away from Lui, do you hear me? For good,” Yael said, angry.
“Yael,” I managed to say another time, and I felt him move towards me, his worried face a welcome sight. I reached up and touched his face, a cut lip and a split cheek, and he saw it immediately.
“Lui,” Yael said, his voice wavering, and I shook my head.
“The baby,” I exhaled, and then I blacked out.