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It was already past midnight and the whole surroundings was quiet. The whole neighborhood was asleep and the lights were all turned off. The leaves of the mangroves which scattered all throughout the shoreline were stooping down, weakened by the sleeping world. The only sound which could be heard was the stiffled sobs of Alie as she peeped into the hole in one of the grids of her room.
Just few meters away from her, she could clearly see the silhoutte of a man sitting down on a bench outside her closest neighbor's house. The moon light was illuminating him as it cast its silver and golden hues all over the place. She knew he was waiting for her. She may
want to go out and sneak towards him but was held out by her fear that she would cause another trouble to her family.
Her heart was crying, no, it was profusely bleeding! She knew that before the clock would strike at four, he would be leaving ... forever.
She was debating against her urge to ran towards him and hug him for the last time but she was also pinned down by her guilt. The more she restrained herself, the more intense the pain became.
When the short hand of her watch pointed to number two, she couldn't hold back herself anymore. Just this once, just for the last time, she would go against her parents's will! The time was ticking by and further delay would shorten their time to hold each other for the last time.
She slowly got up and tiptoed towards the door, too careful not to make any sound. Come what may! If she would be caught this time, she would accept the consequence. Anyway, this would be the last time.
She walked towards the other side of the house where a bench was placed in a corner between the wall of the main body of the house and the wall of the veranda. Ajie followed her right away and pulled her towards him in a very tight embrace. No one dared to talk, their heavy emotions stuck into their throats. Even a single and careless word that may escape from their mouths, would readily tear off the floodgates of tears waiting to run off.
After a very long while of holding each other closely, Alie's shoulders moved as she broke into a silent sob. Ajie hurriedly pulled out from her embrace and lifted her chin up, drowning her sobs into his mouth. He kissed her hardly as if it would be their last, tearing more her heart apart.
"I'm sorry, I have to do this." His voice cracked as he whispered.
"But someday I will come back. I may not know when but on that day, I would make it sure that I would already be worthy to ask for your hand."
Alie wanted to protest and beg but she also knew they needed the distance to calm out the rising tension between their families.
"Remember this, If you could not wait, I would take you from whoever may own you on the day that I'd be back."
Her sobbing became louder as she could no longer contain the sense of loneliness which started to diffuse all over her grief - stricken soul.
She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him back. How could she trust his promises? He, himself, couldn't even tell when he would be coming back. And how could she survive a day without him? What if someone would come along and make him forget? Would he still remember her? Many things could even happen in just an hour, how much more in a day, in a month or in years?
"I will wait, Jie. No matter how
He pulled her closely once again as a searing pain tore his heart apart. How could he blame his foster family? How could he blame them when all he had was them?
He should be grateful to the couple who took him up and cared for him as their own son. His nanay's words, which were the emblem of their love for him, still echoed in his mind.
"Jie, go to your uncle and auntie in Cebu. Find your future there. That place is much more promising than the green fields of our home. However, it is always my ardent prayer that may you'll come across with your biological family sooner. "
He remembered himself protesting
in deep pain. "You and Tatay is my family, Nay."
"We love you, son, but you know the truth. I'll always keep on praying that may you'll be able to find them again. "
After his tears subsided as he shifted his thoughts back on her, he released her and smiled bitterly.
"I love you, Alie and I'll be keeping you in my heart forever. "
"Don't say that. Sooner, those words would just be empty promises."
"Believe me, I always keep my words."
She knew he was sincere but who could stand firm against distance and time?
Before she could answer, he sealed her lips once more and hugged her tight. Then, with one last tearful gaze as he held her close, he broke away from her and walked away without glancing back.
She watched him as he slid into his black windbreaker before he put on his backpack. And she watched him as he slowly climbed into the hill and disappeared into the dark.
The silence of the night intensified the sense of emptiness she now felt
inside. If only she could count the days...
Her thoughts flew back to the moment which brought her both the sense of thrill and fear.
"Marry me, Alie. "
He said as he held both her shoulders, his eyes piercing through the battle of conflicting emotions deep inside her. There was both reluctance and submission, something she couldn't separate for the moment.
"How can we?" she whispered, thinking about the objections she would have to fight alone.
"Why not?" he asked, a sense of frustration flickering in his eyes.
"You know that's impossible for
now." She reasoned out, hoping he would understand.
They were still too young and were still studying. Her parents would never give them their blessings. They held high hopes for her because she always brought them honors and awards every year. They believed that with her brilliance, she could make a difference in the current status they were in.