11/23 Chapter 20
“Love is war and to feel is to die in battle.”
Riona Jayne Blanco was a bomb; silent, and unnoticed. But when the time was up, or if she was exposed and triggered, everyone around her will be wounded from the outburst—die, even. Jhing knew it very well, of course. She was the bomb. The ticking was inside her, and the trigger would always be him.
That man she must call Tatay.
If she was the one who planted the bomb inside her, he gave the bomb to be planted.
No one deserved to be involved with the explosion. No one deserved to be hurt, wounded, or die with her, especially the guy who would do his best to make the ticking bomb stop— but couldn’t— and how she wished he could.
“Jhing?” his voice from the other side was low and soft.
He had been knocking on her door for a while but Jhing didn’t move a single muscle.
“Jhing . . .”
Jhing looked up at the ceiling and saw a hook. A year ago, she was tempted to put a rope there and tie the end around her neck. Her trigger was hearing her Tatay outside that night telling her Nanay 'Can you shut up! Our children are so stupid is because you keep tolerating their mistakes! just because Jhing wanted to write for a living.
Now that the surrounding was silent, no shouts or cries, just the beating of her heart; Jhing got tempted again.
But of course, she couldn’t do it.
She was too scared to feel the burning pain.
“Jhing, sorry…” said the voice outside.
He didn't dare increase the volume of his voice because her Dad was sleeping in the living room. She heard her Nanay’s voice saying, 'Leave her alone for a while,' but Miko didn’t stop. He kept on knocking and calling her name.
Jhing was a black hole, sucking all the happiness away.
Shame on Miko who wanted to be sucked into Jhing’s black hole. Shame on Jhing for letting Miko’s happiness be drained by her own stupid black hole.
Jhing closed her eyes to hide her tears. She didn’t mean to shout at Miko, and she was sure Miko was blaming himself for the outburst. He kept saying sorry which was hurting her.
Every sorry from him felt like a knife stabbing her heart.
Another knock before Letlet’s voice was heard. “Kuya, the door doesn't have a lock,
she said. “You can come in.”
“Oh seriously?” Silence. “Thanks.”
Jhing heard Miko enter the room. Fuck that door. She forgot about the fact that they haven't fixed the lock yet because they didn't have enough money. Blame that stupid hospital bill! The room is also not hers alone. Her siblings sleep in the same bedroom, but they were afraid of Jhing so they didn't enter inside.
“Jhing?” Miko called.
Jhing stayed still on the bed. She was curled up like a baby with her blanket. She wanted to sleep but her mind was drowning from her dark thoughts.
She felt the bed sink in as Miko sat on the bed. His touch on her arm, even though there was a blanket in between them, made her heart a lot heavier.
“A while ago,” Miko started. Jhing forced her eyes to remain closed. “I'm really sorry. I thought—ah, shit. Sorry. Sorry…”
Jhing wanted to shout stop saying sorry! but her lips couldn’t move.
They were silent for a few minutes.
Jhing heard her heartbeat crashing.
Jhing heard Miko’s heavy breathing.
When Miko stood up, the bed felt lighter—but it only made Jhing's heart feel as if she was holding the world. She overheard the door closing before daring to open her eyes. Tears started to fall after the room became empty and dark; like what she was feeling. She bit her lips to control the emotions and closed her eyes once again.
Too tired to think, she drifted to sleep.
She only waked up when an earthshaking knock almost shook the door.
Her ears hurt after hearing the familiar voice of her Tatay. “JHING!”
It was the only voice that scared the fuck out of her.
“Don't make me enter the room!” he shouted.
Jhing further firmly closed her eyes as she tries to get his voice out of her mind. She didn't want to hear his voice… but was there any choice? The big knocks made Jhing wince.
“Eat your meal! You have a visitor here, aren't you embarrassed of yourself!?"
Jhing sat up. Her head was swirling. She wanted to cry from anger because of his Tatay, and from embarrassment, because Miko can see and hear everything that was happening.
“Jhing!” The door blasted open which made everyone grimaced. “Are you going to continue being dramatic here? Come out and eat!"
Then he left the room.
Jhing's breathing stopped. Every beat of her heart hurt. She almost fell on the floor when she stood up because every step she takes hurts her, but she continued walking towards the dining room. She saw her Nanay preparing the food, her siblings and Miko who looked at her, and her Tatay in the living room, watching TV.
Miko followed Jhing with his eyes until she sat on her seat before they started eating their meals. No one spoke for the first 5 minutes until her Nanay asked Yel something, which Undoy commented to. Letlet also started asking her Kuya Enteng about her assignment— and so, the talk and noise started.
Miko was more silent than usual but still joined the conversation. He kept asking Jhing about random stuff but all Jhing could do was to grunt and nod while looking away from everyone.
Before Jhing could stand up and get away from everyone before she could explode, her Tatay went to the dining area. He dropped an envelope on the table in front of her.
“Payment for hospital bills,” he said.
Just like before, her Tatay only started eating after everyone else were done with their meals as if he wasn’t a part of the family, as if he didn’t want to be with them, or eat with them, talk to them, ask them how their day, month or year was— just like any good father would do to his children.
But he wasn’t the best father; everyone knew that.
Jhing ignored the envelope and stood up. But before she could walk away from everyone, from him, he started talking once again.
“Are you not going to take the money?”
She shook her head, like the stubborn kid she was and went back to the room to leave everyone, even Miko, in the living room.
Jhing, once again, lay down on the bed and curled up in her blanket. She stayed like that for a long time—drifting in and out of sleep until she felt her siblings' presence around her, sleeping soundly. She also heard her Mom's voice talking to Miko outside the room.
“I'm sorry, we don't have any more beds for you to sleep on. Are you okay here?"
“I am! Don't worry po.” Jhing could hear his smile. “Thank you! Goodnight po.”
After a while, only her siblings’ snores and shifting of movements are all she can hear. Jhing who was now wide awake stared at the blankness of darkness. She was tired of talking. She also didn't want to stand and go outside. She only wants to home in Manila—ran away, just like what she did before, but she was too tired of everything.
Jhing forced herself to distract herself by thinking about editing, just like what she had done for a year.
- Formula: simple + short = powerful
- Avoid explaining every action, dialogue, thoughts, and scenes. Do not underestimate the readers. They're not dumb.
- When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the unnecessary details that are not the story f —
Her thoughts were ruined by her Tatay’s loud voice from the other room. It was so clear it felt like he was shouting it straight to her ears. “Your daughter is slapping me on the face of the fact that she can earn money from writing! What, she's not going to accept my money? She doesn't need me anymore?"
Jhing clutched her blanket. She tried not to let the tears fall, but it was too late. Her tears were like waterfall despite the fact that her eyes were closed. She wanted to fall asleep so she can stop the voices reaching her ears, but her mind didn't give her peace.
“They might hear you…”
“Who cares,” his voice was angry, and Jhing was sure how he looked like; reddened face and burning eyes.
She was also sure he would punch something to release his frustration. Good thing Undoy was nowhere near him— but her Nanay was.
“So they can understand that they're only our children while I'm the Father."
Jhing wanted to punch him in the face and shout fuck you over and over again. Her whole being is shaking from anger, but all she could do was curl in her bed and let the fucking tears fall.
Of course, she was freaking angry. She hated him with passion for not doing the best job as a father for her and her siblings, and a husband for her Nanay. She was disgusted at him when he cried and pleaded to accept him again after they learned about the other family.
Well, fuck him for letting Jhing believe that he was a reborn man because he returned to the stupid ass he was again after a few weeks. Even now she was fucking afraid— scared to death, like the little girl she was back then. That little girl when his monster of a father poured hot water at her just because her little hands couldn’t hold the big plate that shattered on the floor.
The burn on her thigh healed years ago for fuck’s sake, but the scar was still there like a reminder to Jhing that that man—that fucking man she must call Tatay was a part of her shattered self.
Of her blood and flesh.
Jhing was angry with her Nanay for being kind, understanding, and too optimistic that it made her stupid for accepting him again and again and again. Jhing hated her siblings for not fighting back after every physical and verbal attack they got from that man. Jhing was even disgusted to donate blood for his blood might spread to the world.
Jhing was afraid of herself. She was afraid that she couldn’t change their situation and that a few years after, everything will be the same. And she was scared he might get into her too much… which was already happening to her and the effects were more explosive than she had ever imagined.
Her stay in Manila was a breath of fresh air. Working distracted her from this nightmare. She went home this time thinking she could breathe because her Tatay was not supposed to be here, but there he was, in the other room, with her Nanay.
So much for a breath of fresh air.
She was suffocating.
As the night deepened, Jhing went out of the room and decided to go out of the house. Her feet lead her in their backyard. She stared at the dark surroundings and remembered the way she screamed at Miko. Jhing felt a pang in her chest— she didn’t mean to— everything happened too fast. All emotions her emotions exploded.
Jhing didn't turn around when she heard the door opened and closed from behind. She could clearly feel Miko’s presence which made her heart ache.
They stood there as silence covered them and the breathing was getting hard again. It was a simple inhale and exhales, but how can something be simple if every move was hurting her—dragging the process?
“The wind in the province is really different from the city,” His voice made Jhing winced. She missed their happy times. “You are lucky ah. Unlike you, I don't have a fresh air to go back home to. I was born in Manila since '89."
Miko started talking while Jhing listened quietly.
“Jhing?” Miko nudged her after sharing countless of stories. Since the beginning, Jhing merely stared at nowhere.
He sighed. “Are you okay?”
No was what she wanted to answer.
The smile on Miko’s face gradually faded.
He held Jhing's shoulders to turn her and let them face each other. He even lowered his head to meet Jhing's gaze but Jhing closed her eyes to avoid getting caught.
“Sorry…” Miko said with a soft voice.
“I was wrong for pranking you a while ago. I only wanted to know what you'll do if I…shit.” Miko heaved a sigh and slapped his forehead. “Fuck, how selfish of me! I shouldn't have done that! I'm so childish… bwisit.”
The second Jhing opened her eyes, she saw Miko's pair was closed while his hand was scratching his head. She wanted to hold him but it felt like her touch was fatal and he’ll die with her if she did.
She saw his heavy breathing when he said, “Was it Bee?” He looked at Jhing with a sad smile. “Was she the reason why you left? Or is there something else?"
Jhing wanted to cry because her heart was crushing her inside but she stood still, albeit wobbling. She made an effort to stand up because she doesn't want to let Miko see her weakness.
Miko laughed, but Jhing heard the opposite of happiness from it. “It's so difficult to guess what you're thinking at times… but every time I see you smile, I couldn't imagine myself leaving."
I’m sorry. . . her head and heart wanted to shout over and over again, but her lips wouldn’t move. Her voice, yet again, wouldn’t like to be heard.
“Jhing…” Miko held her hand. Both their hands were cold.
Jhing looked at Miko whose eyes were only hers.
“Tell me everything,” he pleaded as his hold tightened around her. “I'm gonna help you. I will do anything for you.”
Jhing also wanted to hold Miko's hand closer to her and never let go. She wanted to tell him to please, save me but her lips were too stubborn. As for her eyes, she wished Miko could understand the glistening of it.
I can't do this anymore, she wanted to say.
Miko… help me.
But she couldn’t.
She got out from his comforting hands. Miko doesn't deserve Jhing who was drowning in pain. She was a mess—a hurricane that’ll crash everything on her way even if she didn’t want to… even if she cared.
If only there's a block in real life… .to save people from her, the monster.
She had no right to taint him.
But Miko held her again. She wanted to yell let me go before it gets worse! but again, her lips didn’t like cooperating with everything she wanted to say. Miko tightened his hold on her as if his life was on the line. If she could feel the pain with his grip - it was her fault.
“Tell me what's happening,” he said. His soft voice made Jhing more frustrated to herself. “What are you thinking right now? Tell me, Jhing. I'm here for you."
Her mind was empty…
Her emotions were empty….
She was empty.
She wanted everything to be empty.
They stared at each other.
The heart was again, trying to get out of her system, pleading her to stop the pain. Miko’s eyes sparkled from the light post at the side, but it was kind of blurry on Jhing’s sight that was preventing the tears from falling.
When the thunder roared and the lightning sparked, Miko’s gaze went down from her eyes to her nose… and stopped at her lips.
Her heart skipped a bit.
Jhing stared at Miko who was staring at her lips. She was shivering from cold and anxiety. She wanted to run when his face went nearer as her heartbeat roared just like the thunder.
If she closed her eyes— will everything be alright?
If she let him kiss her— will the monster inside stop?
If she fell too deep— will she let him drown with her?
Her thoughts were spinning as she felt his breath on her lips, nearer by the second.
Jhing closed her eyes and let Miko hold her tighter.
The inside of her brain whispered take the wheel, Melchizedek Jesus Crux. I'm tired.
But like usual, every time she wanted to give up— the universe objects— the rain rejects.
Before Miko's lips can touch Jhing's, the heavy rain fell hard on them stopping them from their movements. The magic sparked, but even before it can burn, it already vanished. Jhing quickly went inside their home without minding Miko who was still outside.
She only stopped abruptly when her Tatay, exiting the room, slammed the door shut behind him. Jhing wanted to hide but he already saw her. Jhing's heart was crying for help, crying for someone to get her away from him, she wanted to scream and stop herself from acting strong—but Miko was still outside.
No one… she must not depend on no one but herself.
“Why are you outside? Do you want to get sick?" His low-angry tone was the only voice that can make her want to cry in pain.
No response from her. She wanted to ignore him and directly walk into the bedroom just to get away from the man, but she was too late.
The battle began.
Her vs him; her emotions vs her everything.
“Why are you still awake?” he asked. “Go to sleep!”
Jhing felt his hand on her skin so she jerked away and looked at her Tatay. She preferred the dark so she will not be able to his expression—but darkness was scary as fuck too.
“Are you mad?” His voice made her wince. “I'm your Father. I'm the one who named you. You shouldn't do that to me. You don't have the right to get angry, remember that."
That's right. If only I can throw this anger and fear of you, I would've already. Unfortunately, you're my Dad. I'm only your child. But in the end, I'm also a human. I have feelings! Emotions!
Those were the lines that kept on repeating inside her head. The string of thoughts that became her mantra for the past years, but she couldn’t say a word.
If you can remove my emotions right now, kindly do so. Her mind said. You're my Tatay, right? You can do whatever you fucking want!
“You're seriously not going to talk?”
“That man…” He kept on going. “That Miko. Is he your boyfriend? Are you going to leave our family now? Is he going to take care of you?"
JUST FUCKING SHUT UP.
SHUT UP AND GET AWAY FROM ME.
“You're going to leave my side?” He moved closer which made Jhing wanted to run but she was unable to move. The glistening of her Tatay’s eyes made her question Tatay? Tears? but his clenched fist made her grunt.
Jhing thought he was going to punch her… but nothing happened.
Her Tatay heavily breathed in and out before coughing hard. In the end, he walked away to drink water before returning to the living room to watch TV.
Miko, from the outside, went straight to the washroom. He was dripping wet. Her Tatay ignored him. While Jhing, on the other hand, went back to her bed and curled inside her blanket. She saw Undoy’s opened eyes where tears were falling from it while looking at her.
Jhing wanted to scream. To go home! But her own home ruined her. It made her want to destroy everything and herself in the process.
Jhing wanted to disappear.
Like a bomb exploded.
A single boom!
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