115 comments

Sad Romance Fiction

7 December 2015


My Dearest Alex,


Just so you know, I’m writing you this letter in the garden of my new home, the only one on the street with high concrete walls topped with barbed wire that stabs the still air. Part of me is trying to reassure myself that I’m safe within this enclosure. However, I know very well that not even this imposing barricade can protect me from the sea salt and coconut-scented breeze slapping me across the face at this very moment, a gentle whisper of wind that, once upon a time, kissed me as tenderly as you always had. I can’t help feeling powerless as a tempest whirls inside of me and knocks out all the air in my lungs and the words from my mouth.


I’m sorry. I know you’d want me to forget, but like a windmill, my head keeps cycling back to the day Yolanda the Thief blew everything away from me, carried you away from my arms like a leaf flying in the saline breeze from the bay.


Of course, not even the strongest typhoon gusts can destroy the stone edifice of what this day is --- or well, what it was supposed to be --- to me. Today, we would have been celebrating our second wedding anniversary, two years since we would have vowed to be the wind that powered each other’s wings. I know we probably would have clinked glasses of light, airy champagne on a beach, either on the sands of very familiar mouth of Leyte Bay we had left our footprints in a myriad of times or elsewhere. I know you really didn’t care, as long as one of your cheeks was caressed by the breeze and the other, by my lips.


 All of that has been blown off the realm of reality, of course. As much as I try to run after that bliss, I know it might as well been swept up by a cyclone. All because of Yolanda the Thief. My only hope is that wherever you are, our memories are still written in the pristine shores of your heart, that no wind of time has come and erased them.


I hope the winds of time haven’t erased the day we met, the day you breathed life into me with a smile. We were in university, then. I remember how I was walking to class, inhaling the strangely intoxicating scent of petrichor in the air and letting it fill my lungs, when my umbrella flew out of my hands and into a huff of air. It must have been quite a scene: a woman with puffs of curly hair relentlessly chasing after an amethyst-coloured hunk of cloth and wire with polka dots dancing in the wind. Suddenly, though, it disappeared from my view, and a thunderstorm of panic raged inside of me. Little did I know then that a breath away, you’d tap me on the shoulder, beam at me, and hand me back the runaway item. Even in that moment I first saw that summer breeze of a smile, I knew that I wanted to weather the storms with you for the rest of our time on Earth…a time by your side that Yolanda the Thief was all too happy to cut short.


I hope the winds of time haven’t erased the night you had me listen to your favourite song. I still recall your fragrant waves, dark as Leyte Bay at midnight, dancing in the cool breeze from the half-open window of your apartment. You beamed at me so brightly, broke into a smile of cloudless summer days where there’s moisture in the air, as you popped in your copy of Dusty Springfield’s “Dusty in Memphis” album into your player. It was just the two of us, as well as an atmosphere of anticipation, when "Windmills of Your Mind" filled the air. You encouraged me to close my eyes as we listened, to lose myself in every breath the singer took along with you. When the British crooner’s voice filled the room with her sultry voice like a musky perfume, I felt your soft hand intertwine into mine. That very moment, as love bubbled and fizzed in my blood, I knew that there was no other place I’d rather be than next to you…a warm space that Yolanda the Thief was all too happy to rob.


I hope the winds of time haven’t erased the promise I made when I boarded that plane to New York. I still see your warm brown eyes, a flood of tears flowing from them at the airport’s departure area. I remember too how it all felt as if the atmosphere was sucked dry, how with every breath I took, I felt my own watery eyes weighing me down. I stared at you in that hall and whispered, almost cried, that like General McArthur did on our island in World War II, I shall return to Tacloban, to you, after my four-year Master’s Degree programme. Meanwhile, we tried to bend with the wind of distance, didn’t we? Through a phone screen, I accompanied you countless of times to the airy mouth of Leyte Bay you’ve always held dear; every single video call, you ended by blowing me a kiss. In return, you were always with me as the frosty winter gale wrapped around my body, my breath turning into puffy white clouds. You know that by now, I would have fulfilled that vow I made, written in the concrete of my soul….a vow that Yolanda the Thief was all too happy to nullify.


I hope the winds of time haven’t erased the picture of the home we were planning to build. How can I ever forget those moments sitting on the shore with you, our feet buried in powder white sand and our lungs filled with sea breeze, as we imagined a beautiful terra cotta-coloured bungalow with huge bay windows? Out of thin air, we pictured the little family we’d build --- comprised of you, me and, perhaps, a little boy with my puffs of curls and your bubbly laughter --- racing out of a sky blue door to the beach our humble abode would be planted on. Of course, you know that eventually, we were able to save up enough to purchase a slice of land next to the bay and start on building the house. Certainly, it was no mansion, but it was to be our castle in the clouds….a home that Yolanda the Thief was all too happy to hollow out until all that inhabited it were air and termites (much like me, really).


Most of all, I hope the winds of time haven’t erased you knowing how much I love you, my darling Alex. It’s been two years since you were flown away from my embrace, and still, all I whisper in the wind is your name. My mind is still a tornado, still circles around the fact that you are not next to me in this bed, that I do not share your last name like we had planned. I know. I’m supposed to start moving on from losing you like a bird flying in the gentle summer breeze, How can I, though, when all I ever wanted was for us to stay standing together, for the days of the salty bay’s perfume to last forever, for Yolanda the Thief to have never touched you?


I just want to know that even if you’re far away from me now, our years together aren’t gone with the wind for you. Just let me know that you remember me, my Alex, that I’m set in stone in your heart as you are to me. It’s all it takes for me to be okay.


Loving you until the atmosphere turns to dust,

Your Aria

****

The folded letter to the man I’m supposed to be married to is inside an envelope with clouds printed on, my favourite citrusy perfume sprayed on it before heading to this quiet garden, where only birdsong fills the atmosphere. On me is the flowy white dress that Alex always loved on me, the one he always said made me look like the cumulus clouds we stared at every time we were on the beach. This is it; it’s time to hand it to the man who once exclaimed to the summer air how excited he was to be my intended groom.


“Happy anniversary, darling,” I whisper to the wind as I come face-to-face with my Alex.


In front of me is a marble slab the colour of the skies the day my beloved was carried away from me. I trace the inscription on it with my pinky as a wave of fresh tears flood from my eyes.


Alexander Robin Corentino

21 February 1980 - 7 November 2013

Your laughter will forever fill the air around us.


I stare at the second date on my Alex’s tombstone as bile swirls inside of me like a whirlwind. 7 November 2013, the day Super Typhoon Haiyan pummelled our island: the day I begged to come back to Tacloban to be with my fiancé but no plane would dare brave the storm, the day I had to keep my eyes glued helplessly to the television as I awaited news of who survived the tempest, the day I got a phone call from the coast guard saying they found Alex’s lifeless body floating in the storm surge, the day I wished the swell would consume me alive too.


Although, we Filipinos do not call that natural disaster that ended thousands of souls Haiyan. No, it is our way to give these gusts of destruction a local name, a moniker worthy of the worst soap opera villain, a familiar label to hate. And goddamn, I absolutely loathe the name Yolanda, especially now.


Of course, for the disaster prevention council, the meteorological agency, and the government, my darling was but a tick in their tally of 6,300 casualties of Yolanda's wrath, just another body --- found in a submerged terra cotta-coloured house, robbed of life and washed away by the tide. To them, the fact that my Alex's chuckles were as gentle as a sea breeze doesn't matter as much as the fact that he perished being swept away by a force of 315 kilometres an hour. To me, though, he is the only one, the air in my lungs and he that powers my sails.


Oh right, he was. Two years on, I still can not fathom how the love of my life was snuffed out just like that, as if he were just a candle in the wind.


“Alex, darling, I miss you so much,” I manage to sputter out, puffing with every breath. “Please tell me you’re still with me. Give me a sign. Even one out of thin…..”


I gasp as suddenly, a polka-dotted umbrella the colour of a brilliant amethyst floats across the sky and lands on the marble slab above Alex’s body. From my vantage point, it looks as if invisible arms have caught it, as if an invisible summer breeze of a smile has formed in the air.



Perhaps, the winds of time haven’t erased anything, after all.


***

Tropical Cyclone Haiyan (Philippine name: Yolanda) is the second strongest landfalling tropical cyclone on record. Reaching wind speeds of up to 315 kph., the super typhoon entered the Philippines on 7 November 2013. It is the deadliest storm in Philippine history, killing around 6,300 people, as well as the costliest with damages totaling $2.98 billion.

March 03, 2024 11:27

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115 comments

Philip Ebuluofor
14:52 Mar 09, 2024

I like the fact that followed. It's educative. Fine work.

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Alexis Araneta
15:04 Mar 09, 2024

Thank you so much, Philip. Just to give the background that Yolanda is real.

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02:56 Mar 09, 2024

I got it wrong too, Stella. Wonderful twist. Yolanda didn't seduce Alex. She was the weather system that caused his death. Brilliant use of wind/storm metaphor thoughout and it wasn't even the metaphor prompt. Thank you for the facts you included below. Shows how helpless humans are in the face of nature at one of its most furious times. Death is not easy to move on from. You illustrated this well in your moving story.

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Alexis Araneta
03:07 Mar 09, 2024

Hi, Kaitlyn ! I'm happy the twist worked for you. Like I said in previous comments, I wanted to play on the fact that in my country, we give storms and typhoons a local name. This was one of those weeks I immediately knew what to write about (unlike this week's betrayal theme. Help me. Hahahaha !). I thought since I had fun incorporating flower motifs in my fabulism week story, why don't I do the same for this story. Indeed, that is scary. The Philippines faces an average of 20 storms a year, so seeing death tolls from them (especially if ...

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Tom Skye
11:42 Mar 08, 2024

Very touching and beautifully written. Great use of wind metaphor throughout as well. We are led to believe that Yolanda was some sort of seductress, but the reveal flips this, and paints a completely different picture of each character, including Yolanda. The reveal of the typhoon was very well timed, allowing us the feel her very different pain for the latter third of the story I am often moved by the high death counts associated with natural disasters. Every single 'one' had a story and left a huge hole. And their death was ultimately...

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Alexis Araneta
12:00 Mar 08, 2024

Thank you so much, Tom. It means so much. Like I said in previous comments, when the theme was revealed, I immediately thought of writing about Super Typhoon Yolanda and playing with the fact the storm is known by a woman's name in my country. That's such a lovely way to put it: It painted a different picture of Yolanda. I'm glad the story did that for you. One of the tough parts of living in a country right next to the Pacific Ocean is precisely that: Death tolls for some of our strongest storms means those numbers could have well been ...

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Tom Skye
12:06 Mar 08, 2024

Now I am curious where you are from. I assumed you were British for some reason. :) Regarding the character flip, I think it worked for everyone. Alex went from someone morally ambiguous, or a "cheater", to a tragic victim. Narrator went from someone burned by a love triangle to someone struck and ultimately heartbroken by a natural event. Impactful stuff :)

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Alexis Araneta
12:17 Mar 08, 2024

I'm Filipino. HAHAHAHA ! But sometimes, I feel like the story ideas I have would not work in a Philippine setting (either culturally or, in the case of "May I Have a Word", geographically), so I borrow settings from cities I'm fascinated by or that I've been to. I'm glad the reveal worked for you. I was actually worried about whether or not I made Alex to irredeemable in the first part for the twist to land. I'm glad it worked.

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Karen Hope
20:54 Mar 07, 2024

I always enjoy your stories and this one is beautifully done. I love the mix of fantasy and reality and your creative and evocative descriptions. You stayed true to the theme of wind. Lovely!

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Alexis Araneta
23:12 Mar 07, 2024

Thank you so much, Karen. I'm very happy you liked it. When the theme came out, I knew I wanted to write about a storm that has taken a life. Glad you liked it !

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18:04 Mar 07, 2024

What a powerful, emotional story with such a sweet ending. Beautifully written, thanks for sharing!

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Alexis Araneta
23:10 Mar 07, 2024

Thank you so much, Brianna ! I was wondering how to end this. Then, the idea came to me...like a purple umbrella flying in the sky. Hahahaha ! Glad you liked it !

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George Beasley
15:42 Mar 07, 2024

Very beautiful! Thank you!

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Alexis Araneta
15:44 Mar 07, 2024

Thank you so much, George ! It means a lot.

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Stevie Burges
10:30 Mar 07, 2024

Lovely emotionally sad but beautiful story. Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing with us all.

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Alexis Araneta
10:37 Mar 07, 2024

Thank you so much, Stevie ! I'm happy you liked it.

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Hans B
01:29 Mar 07, 2024

Wow, brilliant and beautiful. A true longing for a lost love taken by an unexpected thief. I love how you drew out the journey, leaving the final scene with an unexpected twist. Very well done!

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Alexis Araneta
02:16 Mar 07, 2024

Thank you so much, Hans. I'm glad the twist worked out for you. Glad you liked it !

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Kailani B.
22:31 Mar 06, 2024

Poignant and well-written. "Loving you until the atmosphere turns to dust" is a great closing for a love letter. Thanks for sharing!

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Alexis Araneta
23:10 Mar 06, 2024

Thank you so much, Kailani ! As for that line, I kind of smiled when I wrote that. I love it too. Hahahaha ! Glad you liked it.

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Patrick H
14:28 Mar 06, 2024

It took me a bit to realize who or in this case, what Yolanda was although as soon as started seeing Philippines, I had a feeling. Here in the States, we see these stories on the news stations, live feeds, from YouTube etc, but sometimes, nothing really conveys the emotional impact of a disaster like this story. Very well done!

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Alexis Araneta
14:43 Mar 06, 2024

Glad the twist worked for you, Patrick. Yes, when I saw the prompt, writing a story about Yolanda immediately came to mind. I'm happy you got into the emotional journey of this story. Thanks for reading.

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Jim Gray
11:37 Mar 06, 2024

What a lovely story. The early language evokes a calmer time, maybe a soft and placid Victorian ambiance, but then the brutal modern world punches through and the soft focus lens is smashed by reality. Stunning, yet so cruel.

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Alexis Araneta
11:45 Mar 06, 2024

Thank you so much, Jim ! I love the way you put it. But yes, I wanted to make the fact that Yolanda is actually a cyclone to be a twist, so when it's revealed, perhaps, that's the brutality of it. Thanks for reading.

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LeeAnn Hively
02:51 Mar 06, 2024

I remember this event. I still think of it when I'm reading stories about cataclysmic typhoons.. That's the image I hold with me to define every other disaster of the same vein. This was a beautiful take on the prompt. Also, this is my new account because I couldn't leave this community of authors to the wayside. Even when I go long periods without posting, I enjoy reading what everyone creates.

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Alexis Araneta
02:57 Mar 06, 2024

Fortunately, I live quite far from where Yolanda hit, but one of my friends lives in Tacloban (where the entire city was submerged in the floods). Thankfully, she survived but she and her family had to live in Manila for a while as their house had to be reconstructed from scratch. I'm happy you liked the story. Also, glad you got another account !

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LeeAnn Hively
03:19 Mar 06, 2024

I can't imagine the terror to go through that. I grew up in Florida where hurricanes could be extremely scary and devastating, but never did I have the entire ocean engulf our house.

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Ana M
22:07 Mar 05, 2024

A very touching story. I like it.

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Alexis Araneta
23:07 Mar 05, 2024

Thank you so much, Ana !

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Jack Kimball
16:11 Mar 05, 2024

Super Stella. Your writing keeps growing.

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Alexis Araneta
16:11 Mar 05, 2024

Thank you so much, Jack ! I'm glad you find so. It means a lot coming from you !

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Asia W
08:33 Mar 05, 2024

Your imagery is absolutely gorgeous, Stella!!

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Alexis Araneta
08:49 Mar 05, 2024

Thank you so much, Asia ! It means a lot.

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05:03 Mar 05, 2024

Wow, Stella, this was so good! Loved the language and imagery you've used here. You've got a real gift for hitting your readers in the gut with the emotional impact.

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Alexis Araneta
05:26 Mar 05, 2024

Thank you so much, Melissa ! I'm glad you enjoyed the imagery. Also, I'm glad the twist worked for you. Thanks for reading this !

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Marty B
03:24 Mar 05, 2024

Wind can bring peace, joy and death. I liked how you incorporated all the 'winds' into this touching story of loss. 'an invisible summer breeze of a smile has formed in the air.' Great ending! Thanks!

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Alexis Araneta
04:08 Mar 05, 2024

Thank you, Marty ! I'm glad you liked the story. Yep, I thought of using wind everywhere in the story. I'm glad it worked. Thanks for reading !

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Joseph Mir
16:53 Mar 04, 2024

You truly committed to the prompt! Your attention to detail and emotion is brilliant. I loved it!

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Alexis Araneta
18:11 Mar 04, 2024

Thank you so much, Joseph ! Glad you liked the story !

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John Paul Myers
16:13 Mar 04, 2024

I sincerely love how you weave these recurring motifs in your stories, especially this one. The repeated "winds of time" and the constant reminder of winds and natural forces kept me blowing around this story with vigor. The passion for this story is clear and lends very well to the gut punch of a twist. I felt annoyed at Alex at first, for causing poor Aria so much grief, only to learn that Alex would have been with her if he could, if not for Yolanda the thief. Brilliantly done!

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Alexis Araneta
16:20 Mar 04, 2024

Thank you so much, JP ! I'm glad you appreciated the repeated wind imagery. I guess it's just something I enjoy doing in my stories, picking a central image and running with it. I'm happy the twist worked. Like I said in previous comments, I wanted to play on the fact that here in the Philippines, the storm is known by a woman's name. Glad you liked it !

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Michelle Oliver
10:05 Mar 04, 2024

There is so much passion in this story. Powerful and painful. So much comes together at the end, why the gentle breeze is a slap across the face, why Yolanda is the thief, why her Alex is an innocent party in what first appears to be an affair. Lovely, emotive writing.

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Alexis Araneta
10:26 Mar 04, 2024

Thank you so much, Michelle ! I'm very happy the emotions came through for you. Like I mentioned in a comment to Mary, I thought of making it seem like Alex left Aria for another woman because of the fact that here, we really do give storms a person's name. I wanted to make that a twist. Glad you liked it !

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