I sat there on the bench, staring at my giddy self in the mirror, too elated to contain my grin, knowing that in an hour, I’ll be marrying the love of my life. I met Kyle when I was in high school. He was the jock, I was the nerd - horn-rimmed glasses, dorky clothes, even dorkier braces trying to contain my front teeth on the verge of jutting out of my mouth. Needless to say, I was a nobody until I left for college. I haven’t been home for two years, the memory of living with childish taunting and painful experiences too much for me. But when my father died in the summer of my sophomore year, I had no choice but to come home.
Long story short, I was the ugly duckling and when my best friend Ella introduced me to some high school classmates, their eyes nearly jumped out of the sockets. One of those who took an intense interest in me was Kyle. Before the week of my vacation was over, Kyle kissed me for the first time and I almost melted in a puddle. We were together since then and he popped the question 6 months ago. If I could just pull the days off the calendar so our wedding would come fast, I would have.
Damn! I just spent a good 20 minutes daydreaming. I wonder where Ella and my mother were at. Who leaves the bride in her suite just before her wedding? Apparently, my best friend and my mom. The makeup artist has left some 30 minutes ago when Ella, in her bright pink gown (which was hideously glaring, by the way), burst into the door barely trying to keep herself together.
“Ella! What happened? Please don’t tell me you’re having a nervous breakdown…” I tried to joke.
“Shhh! No time for jibes! Let’s go!” She practically hauled me to my feet, nearly ripping my gown in her haste.
“Whoa! Would you please slow down?” I tried to stop her. “You’re cutting my circulation!” gesturing at my wrist, almost turning blue with her grip.
“Hold your breath! Come on!” she said more emphatically dragging me behind her. I have no choice but to keep up.
Just then, I heard moaning behind a barely open door. The hairs on my nape stood, fearing the worst and hoping I was wrong. I said a little prayer as I pushed the door slowly.
And then I stood there and stared. Stared at my mom and Kyle, locked in a passionate embrace, kissing each other like there’s no tomorrow. They were so into each other that they have no idea Ella and I were looking at their appalling display. I did not realize that my face was wet with tears until Ella, who recovered faster than I did, nudged me with her elbow.
“Uhm…” was all I could utter but it was enough to catch their attention.
I looked at their dishevelment. Kyle’s 3 upper buttons were open, his belt off the loop hanging haphazardly as if removed in haste. My mother was no better. Her hair was the perfect bed hair, her gown open, and hanging loosely on her shoulders. They both stared at me, dumbstruck.
Kyle recovered first, fumbling on his fly. I caught sight of the white boxers we chose for our wedding. I tried to hold myself together but my gag reflexes got the better of me. I barely made it to the nearby trash can.
“Baby”, Kyle said, trying to approach me with much trepidation in his eyes. Good, be scared of me. My mother, trying to reach behind her to zip herself finally gave up and pat her hair instead as if her hair can actually assuage the rage in me.
“Don’t”, I put my hand in front me, trying to stop him from taking another step near me.
My mother, though, is another story. She rushed to me and caught me in a bear hug, probably more to stop me from wreaking havoc with the rage in my eyes right now than to comfort me. But my rage was stronger than her, I pushed her to the side and calmly walked to the dresser where they have been doing their monstrosity just a few minutes ago.
“How long?” I asked neither of them in particular.
“What, Kyle? Have you lost your vocabulary since kissing my mom?” I turned to his direction, the coward immediately bringing up his hands in front of him, ready to catch whatever I throw at him. But I was too calm for that kind of hysterics.
“Gia…” my mom started as Ella took pity of her situation and zipped her up, effectively holding her back.
“What?” I growled at her. I looked at her and I cannot seem to remember the woman who was my mother. I remembered how she cuckolded my dad behind his back. It was actually one of the reasons I left. My dad and I had a confrontation about my mom’s affairs but he was too blinded with love to believe me. Rather than seeing him suffer, I chose the easy way. I left. Even when Kyle and I have been dating, it was mostly Kyle who visited me.
“How long has this been going on?” I asked again, hoping one of them would tell me it was a one-time thing. But the guilt in Kyle’s eyes told me otherwise.
“How could you? How could either of you? I can forgive Kyle for this but you”, I pointed at her, too much rage eating at meI cannot even bring myself to call her mom right now, “I can’t believe you! Was it not enough you had too many men when my father was still alive? How can you steal the one person I ever loved my whole life?”
“Gia, baby…” Kyle stepped toward me. “I’m sorry…”
“Just because I can forgive you doesn't mean I will marry you, Kyle”, I tried to keep my voice firm and resolute. I know that some slight groveling will get me to my knees but I have to be strong to keep my dignity. “I cannot burn that image from my head, how you kissed my … that woman like there’s no tomorrow. Like you can’t get enough of her! I can’t move past that every time you’ll try to kiss me.”
“No buts. You should have thought of this before you kissed her or had relations with her!” I was on the verge of hysterics, still surprisingly calm in the midst of all this. “I cannot imagine what you even did behind this door or her door or your door! No, Kyle, everything ends here!”
“Gia, please, whatever Kyle and I had was just a passing…” my mother started.
“Stop right there, you witch!” I whirled in her direction, nearly toppling over in my heels.
“Gia!” she tried to admonish me.
“No! I tried to respect you while my father was still alive but all of that left me as soon as I saw you swapping saliva with my fiance! He’s what, not even half your a…” I could not complete that and hurl again in the nearby wastebasket. My tears had dried up long ago but I still want to cry. My stomach helped me to relieve that tension by taking over things.
A year later, I still haven’t seen my mother since that fateful day. Kyle had tried to contact me but I blocked him from everything. That day, after I apologized to our guests, taking the blame that I cannot go ahead and marry Kyle, I burnt everything related to him and my mother. Ella was my sole line to my hometown and she dared not mention anything related to my mother or Kyle, except for one time.
I was lounging on my couch one evening after a particularly busy at the office when someone knocked on my door. I had my dinner so it could not be the delivery boy. Or boyfriend, for that matter. No, I’m not past that pain to get into another relationship.
Kyle had been my first of everything and even if I wanted to, I cannot just leave it at that. But I admit, I’m way past the rage, just questioning myself how I ever fell into that trap. Was I too frigid for him? When I looked back to how he kissed my mother, he hasn’t kissed me with that intensity. No, I cannot think of him or my mother tonight. I have to relax to get ready for another grueling day. Netflix and a glass of my favorite red are all I need now.
Another knock on the door. Yes, definitely on my door. I pushed myself off the couch, too lazy to get the door but I don’t want to disturb my neighbors.
I tried to slam the door at his face but Kyle was faster. He wedged his feet between the door so I could not close it on him.
“What do you want?” I hate myself right now. I should be angry with him, throw him out as he had thrown me away. But my voice was softer than I intended. I missed him. A lot. The pain of betrayal hasn’t caused my feelings for him to fade.
“I came so we can talk”, he said pleadingly.
“There’s nothing to talk about, Kyle”, I said, trying to push the door close. But I forgot he was a professional quarterback and he can just push me off the door if he wanted to. He always wanted to go pro but put it on hold when we decided to get married. And yes, call me a hypocrite, I kept tabs on him and found that months after our sham of a “wedding”, he signed a two-year pro contract.
“Please”, he pleaded. I don’t want to cause any more disturbance so I opened the door to him. I sighed my resignation as I pointed him to the couch and sat opposite him.
“I miss you”, he said, giving me a bouquet of my favorite pink roses. I rolled my eyes, trying to hide my surprised delight that he remembered my flowers. I tried to keep a straight face but I know I was miserably failing every time I look at his sorrowful face.
“What do you want?” I asked him, keeping my back straight and my hands folded on my lap so I won’t be tempted to reach for the flowers. He sighed and placed the flowers on the coffee table.
“Gia, I’m sorry”, he began again.
“For what?” I taunted him.
“For going behind your back with your mom.” At least he had the balls to accept it and say it to my face. I admire him for that, even if it opened the scab on my heart.
“Well…” I raised my brows to him.
“I don’t have a mom. Mothers are supposed to love their children, not steal from them!” My voice was harsher than I intended. Her deception and betrayal were too painful to let go.
“She’s dead”, he said. My ears must have exploded. Even with my hatred for her, she was still my mother.
“How?” I looked at him, trying to decide whether he was pranking me or not. The seriousness of his face was enough to tell me he was telling the truth.
“She was sick. Cancer.” He stood from the couch to kneel before me and hold my hands. At this moment, I have no strength to turn him away. Even if my mom had been the cause of so many of my pains, she was still my mother and she had loved me in the best way that she knew.
“When did she…?” I cannot finish it but Kyle told me anyway. He moved to my side and pulled me into a one-arm hug until I was leaning on his chest. And just like that, we were back to where we were before our wedding day. I was sobbing at his chest and he was comforting me. The dam broke, after a year of keeping it to myself, all the pain, and surprisingly, relief flooded through me.
“That day you found us together, she told me about her ovarian cancer. I didn’t know what happened Gia and I don’t want to free myself from the guilt but that was a one-time thing. We never went more than that. I swear, from the looks of it, it was bad but that was just how what it was. I was trying to placate her and she grabbed me and kissed me. I was too powerless to say no. I’m sorry I hurt you so much, baby, but you’re the only woman I ever loved”, Kyle whispered to me, still rubbing my back as I hiccupped into his breast.
“I don’t know, Kyle, I don’t know if I can you trust you enough after that”, I tried to push him away and he let me. I wiped my face with my sleeves, no longer thinking of what it might look to him. He had already seen everything that was ugly in me and that was probably why he fell for my mother.
“Gia, please don’t. I can feel you pulling away from me”, he pleaded again, still holding my hands. Then he told me how he convinced Ella to talk to my mom and get treatment, how he signed his pro contract to pay for my mother’s medical bills, how he and Ella buried her a week ago.
“But Ella…” I tried to remember how Ella tried to mention my mom and I cut her off, threatening to never speak to her if she tried to mention my mother again.
“Your mom tried her to swear to secrecy, said she won’t be able to bear the thought of you cursing her on her deathbed”, Kyle continued.
Then the floodgates opened again. This time, for my mom, how I allowed my pride to cut off my only living relations. And now I have none. I haven’t even forgiven my own mother and Kyle. I still have not forgiven Kyle.
“Gia, I know it’s too soon but please know that I am not giving up on you. I have waited a year to let you cool off but I’m not going anywhere. In more than a year, I will finish my contract and I’m not going back. I want us to have a new life if you can forgive me. If you can still love me even after all the pain I caused”, he was hugging me again, not that one-armed hug that he used to comfort me. It was the full hug where I was sitting on his lap, crying my heart out on his shoulder and him comforting me with his sweet whispers. I know in my heart that I still love him. Maybe not now, but a year can do a lot of things. I smiled on his shoulder, in spite of the pain in my heart.
I am grateful for how he and Ella bonded together to take care of my mother even after that betrayal. I am grateful that she was cared for, even if I was not there.
“I have one last thing to give you. I hope you find it in your heart to listen to it”, he gently pushed me off his lap so he can take a thumb drive from his pocket. He kissed the top of my head as he used to do. “I love you, Gia, I still do. After the time apart, I still do. There was no one else, only you”, he whispered as he let me settle on the couch. Then he left after giving me a tight smile.
I clutched the thumb drive to my heart. “I will not listen to this, Mom, but know that I forgive you. I’m sorry I was not there for you but I’m ready to move forward now." I whispered into the silence around me.