I Just Can't Say Goodbye

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Jia couldn't stop her tears as they both recalled their experiences.  Back then,  she had been crying for many nights until she would fall asleep with an aching heart. Her life had been so empty and lonely for many days until the days turned to months, and the months turned to years...

"Koko, what happened then when you left? She asked while  stiffling her sobs.

"We still stayed in Palawan for two years until our adoption was finalized. "

He went ahead while everyone fixed their eyes on him. His story was so moving and interesting.

"I finished my bachelor's degree  in Biology and completed my advance studies in the US before I got a work in a biochemistry lab. When mom and dad decide to move back to Palawan for their retiring age,  I got a work in the research lab. That was how I came to know Sir and Madamme. "  Dr. Aijohn then looked at Mr. & Mrs. Ybañez with a grateful smile.

"Then Rex and Arvin decided to do their studies in Cebu so that's how it came that we bought a house here.
And besides,  we also grow some species in Busay for experimentation. So I go back and forth to Cebu and Palawan every now and then. "

"Then, why does your name become Aijohn and why do you become handsome?" She wondered.

Aijohn had a sun - burnt skin before and a sea - urchin - like hair. He  also looked like a walking skeleton due to his extremely thin figure.

"When mom and dad process our adoption,  they gave us  new names.
And for that second question,  it is,  perhaps, because we already eat good food. " He laughed, amused by her question.

Jia was satisfied and she nodded.

"Anna,  I went back to our place but you were not there anymore. Nobody  knew where you moved. Since then,  I did not go back anymore. How's Tatay Samuel and Nanay Rina, by the way? "

Anna felt amused about it. He really did come back for her.  She wondered if he still remembered his promise to marry her. However,  they were still young at that time and the words of the kids coudn't be relied.

"They lived closer to the town at the place of my uncle. Jim built them a house there. The place is much better  than in our barrio because it is accessible to the city and health care facilities. And besides,  living in a slope is no longer good for their age. "

"I still want to visit our place again. Can we go there together?"

All of a sudden,  Aijohn's face became sullen. "Is there any news about mama? "

Jia did not reply right away. She stared at him and tried to see if there was hatred in his eyes.

"Have you forgiven her? "

Aijohn smiled. "I never hated her. All these time,  I  just want to know why she left us. "

Jia took a deep sigh before she continued. "She did not leave you. "

"What?  Then,  where did she go? "He looked at her with unbelieving eyes.

Rex stared at her also,  waiting for her answer.

"She was imprisoned by your father, out of his jealousy,  in the building where he worked. It still took many days after his death before she was found out by a guard."

Rex and Aijohn's eyes widened. The news was too horrifying.

"How did she survive? "

"Your father left her few kilos of rice and canned goods  the day before the typhoon. There was also a kerosene stove. To make it last longer,  she only cooked once a day."

Aijohn shook his head. "I'm glad that our new parents  were missionaries who taught us about forgiveness. They prayed for us everyday and every night that we may be able to forgive and forget. They wanted us to grow up without resentment. "

They were silent for a while as everyone was in deep thought of how evil their father was. He lingered on his jealousy rather than thinking about his small children being left beside the creek without food.

Finally,  Jia broke the silence after few minutes.

"I'm so happy for you, Koko.   I never expected that the one who assisted me in your house was Monggos himself. I could have hugged him tight."

Aijohn and Rex laughed. "I just couldn't imagine how he would react to his old name. " Rex said.

"Anna,  it would be fine with me if you'd go on calling me with my old name. I,  myself,  would also be awkward to call you Jia. We were being used to it for years. But as for my siblings,  please call them by their new name." Aijohn said with a big smile,  still amused by the thought of it.

Just then,  the door opened. A woman in her fifties walked in. Jim summoned for her to come when Aijohn revealed himself. He knew about the story of that great friendship and he also knew about Ate Nita's greatest wound.  It was the loss of her children.

She looked around and her eyes lit up when she saw Jian. She badly missed her pet already. It had almost been a week since she last saw him. She eagerly walked towards him but she was met halfway by two tall men.

She stopped and glared at them, upset that they blocked her way.

Aijohn and Rex stared at her. 
She was clean and dressed with nice and expensive clothes.  Those worn - out look and shabby appearance was now gone. There may be fine lines in her forehead which told the number of years she had  survived,  but it spread on top of glowing skin. Her total aura completely concealed those cruel and bitter years she had endured.  And her calm and peaceful countenance could tell that she was now happy with her life. Her innate beauty and charms still stood out even in her golden years.

"Ma... "

Aijohn looked straight and unblinking at her,  making her look back at him closely. Her browse knitted and in the next second,  her face lit up.

"Koko!!! " She instantly hugged him and her tears followed like the waters in the creek beside their shack.

Marilyn Lucero

Edited: 28.08.2019

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