Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A Strained Parting.

Episode for Jan 25, 2005, Tuesday. As soon as the awful deed was done, Gabriel’s reason returned to him, and with it came the grim realization of what had happened. Then loyal Terong arrived at the scene. The servant saw the bloody corpse lying on the grass and recognized Tata. He knew without asking who had slain her. “What did you do to Tata?” he cried. But before his master could answer, they heard the voice of another girl calling out to the victim. It was Pamela. “Hurry,” Terong advised. “Somebody’s coming! They mustn’t find you here!” But terror had frozen Gabriel’s limbs; he could not tear his eyes away from the girl he had just killed. The last thing he could remember, he had shouted to her to run away. Then Terong grabbed him by the arm and led him away before Pamela could see them. She screamed in horror at the sight of the dead Tata, whom she had seen alive only a few minutes earlier. From a safe hiding place, Gabriel stared at the scene in dumb silence. Rumor would spread fast. Soon, everyone would know… and soon, he would probably kill again. Alwina’s house was about to gain a new resident. And very soon after that, another would leave. But she did not know this yet. Pagaspas and Lawiswis went home bringing their new friend with them. “We have a new playmate!” they happily reported to Alwina and Lourdes. “His name is Niwalum and he is alone. Can’t we let him stay with us?” Then the Sugo hugged her adopted mother from behind and made the same appeal. She saw no harm in doing so, and Lourdes put no resistance to the idea. “Why not?” she said cheerfully. “If he’s alone and has no relatives, he can stay with us! What is his name, by the way?” “Niwalum,” the children said. “Niwalum,” Alwina and Lourdes chorused. “Such a strange name!” All three youngsters cheered now that Niwalum had been accepted into the family-fold. But the laughter was short-lived, and quite soon, tears would be flooding in the boy’s new home. Before anything else, Alwina made it her business to clean their new resident up. He did not smell good, of course. But he was so charming and lovable that she did not mind caring for him. For sure, she preferred Niwalum to the other new resident. “Don’t you have any relatives at all?” she asked as she wiped his dirty arms with a wet cloth. “No uncle or aunt? No brother or sister?” “None, none, Alwina,” the boy told her. “You keep saying nothing and no one,” she sighed, and observed that her basin of water was now empty. “Now I have no more water either. Let me go fetch some water.” A few seconds after she had done, Niwalum turned to the basin and pointed his fingers at it. At once, the container was refilled. “Hey!” he called out to Alwina. “Why should you go get water from the well when there’s still some left here?” So Alwina came back and examined the basin. “Huh?” she muttered to herself. “But I was sure…. never mind. I guess I was mistaken.” Niwalum smiled, and patiently let himself by washed again. Men and women – it mattered not whether they had wings or horns or cat-paws or none of these. The ways of courtship were fundamentally the same among the different species in Avila, at least, between lowlanders and the Mulawin. Pleasant talk, flattering compliments, stolen glances with hidden messages in them, and so on. Thoughtful little gestures spoke volumes about how each felt about the other. And whenever the admirer procured a smile from his beloved, it felt like the sun shining on him for an eternity. I would have to be a better writer to describe it, but to go on with the story… “You must be a good warrior,” Aramis told his new friend, “and very beautiful too.” Aviona replied smiling, “You don’t have to be beautiful to be a good soldier.” “You’re wrong. If I happened to be your enemy, and I saw such a beautiful opponent, I would surrender.” Her cheeks turned a rosy pink. “You’re playing with me now,” she said. But she sure liked it, and she smiled to herself. Habagat and Dakila were strode together on the grassy plains of Avila and talked about Gabriel. Aguiluz was eavesdropping on them, though he could not tell for sure who they were discussing. “Terong and Gabriel have not been seen for days,” said Bagwis’ younger brother. “That is good,” said Dakila. “It could be that he hates himself for what he is now, and wants to go away.” “But Alwina will not believe you if you tell her.” Aguiluz pricked his ears, straining to catch every word. “It seems to be Gabriel they’re talking about,” he said to himself. “I have to find out his secret. I have to prove that he intends to do her harm.” He sought an audience with Dakila soon afterwards, but Laab informed him, “He has attended a meeting of the High Council to discuss what our next move should be. He will be there for a while. Use this time to look for the fruit.” But Aguiluz was unyielding. As heavily as guilt weighed upon him, he was less concerned with finding the fruit than with proving Gabriel a villain who planned to kill Alwina. He was not the only one determined to find Gabriel; so were the Ravena. Savannah, the inexperienced flyer, came tumbling down to earth with a solid thud. She started whining, and Rasmus began cackling with glee. “You complain too much, Savannah,” he told her. ‘Don’t mock me, Rasmus. We’re equals now!” Ravenum scolded them, “Stop your bickering! If you keep acting like that, it would be better for me to go on alone.” Rasmus sobered up, and said, “Father, if you don’t mind me asking about my brother… he grew up as an ordinary mortal. Didn’t he notice that he was different?” And his father explained, “I’ve watched Gabriel all his life. I knew that, come his seventh birthday, his wings would sprout. I waited long for that day so that I could have my revenge against the Montenegro clan. One day, Gisela saw Gabriel’s ugatpak. Fearing he would be feared and shunned by the townspeople, she took it off. As a result, Gabriel lost his ability to walk. His mother thought he had been stricken by polio, but this was only an effect of the ugatpak’s loss. “I pitied Gabriel,” he went on. “He was only a victim of circumstances. Thankfully, the green binhi that Alwina gave him when he drowned was so powerful. It not only revived him, it also let him walk again. When I met Gabriel on the way to Avila, I was able to re-attach his ugatpak to his back again. Then his powers re-emerged. And at the same time that the Sugo reached the Mulawin tree, Gabriel transformation as a Ravena was fulfilled.” Niwalum could look at a situation, see a problem, and fix it as he wished. He noticed that the citizens of Avila lacked any form of entertainment, so he gathered them – Musang, Mulawin, Perico, human – around him and amused them with funny stories. Gus and Wis found him preoccupied in this business and called out to him. “I’m done,” Niwalum said to the crowd. “Go home now!” The crowd laughed with pleasure. “More tomorrow!” they told him. Niwalum turned to his friends. “So this is what you’ve been doing!” they said, and the boy obediently returned home with them. The two children then told him about the missing fruit of the Mulawin tree. Niwalum was completely silent on this. “I wonder what the fruit looks like,” Wis said to herself. “An apple, maybe? An orange? Grapes?” Niwalum looked up and said nothing. Elsewhere in the house, things were not as pleasant. Lourdes overheard Veronica attempting to start a conversation with her daughter. As usual, Alwina gave her the cold shoulder. Lourdes had seen the same thing happen over and over on a daily basis. How long must this go on? Then it dawned on her to do the only thing that she could do, for Veronica, for Alwina, for Bagwis… and for herself. What was the use of lingering in a place where she was not needed? Bagwis and Veronica had each other now, and it was their family, not hers. Alwina needed her, or thought she did. But her true mother was here now and still awaiting acceptance. Lourdes packed her things into a bag before she could change her mind. “You can’t be doing this!” Veronica said. “Bagwis, tell her not to go.” But Lourdes had had enough of it all. She turned and looked at her friend. That poor, innocent soul who had suffered so much; and yet through her, Lourdes was suffering too. They were the truest of friends, yet fate had woven their lives in such a manner that each stood in the way of the other’s happiness. It must not go on like this, Lourdes thought. It must end. “You’re Alwina’s mother, not me,” she told Veronica. “But for as long as I am here, she will love me and not you. It’s best that I leave.” Bagwis had now arrived beside Veronica. “Lourdes, no one is asking you to do this,” he said. “I know that. It’s the right thing to do.” She picked up her bag and made for the door, but Bagwis tried to stop her. Then Lourdes raised her powerful voice at him: “Don’t try to stop me! Don’t make it harder for me, Bagwis! I’m not needed here anymore. There’s your beloved Veronica! You don’t need me now she’s here! There’s no more room in your heart for me!” A dead silence fell on Bagwis. “What do you mean by that?” Oh, for someone with hawk’s eyes, he was so blind! So Lourdes confessed her love for him. “I’ve always loved you. Even when we first met, I couldn’t deny it to myself. I dared to hope that someday you would love me, even though I was just a mere mortal and you a Mulawin. “But all those hopes were dashed when you met Veronica. It hurt me when you told me you were in love a woman, yes an ordinary person, but not me. It was Veronica, my friend. You said that to my face. I never thought I would get hurt like that again, but here it is.” Bagwis listened in stunned silence. Veronica could only look down on the floor, with hand on her mouth. So Lourdes resumed packing. “I feel this is the last time we will ever see each other,” she told Bagwis. “You have your family now.” A few minutes later, Veronica hugged her friend for the last time. Bagwis looked on awkwardly. “I will always remember your great sacrifice, Lourdes,” he told her. Only Lourdes knew if those words of his meant anything to her. Far away, Alwina pondered on the things Lourdes had said to her during one of their recent conversations. “I don’t blame Gabriel if he’s hurt by what’s going on. I know what it’s like to love someone who won’t love you in return… A heart that loves… sooner or later will want to run away from the truth.” What did she mean by that? Alwina wondered. Was Mother trying to tell me something? A vague fear seized the Sugo, a fear, not about Gabriel or Aguiluz or the Mulawin tree, but the woman she loved as her mother. The only mother there was in her heart. Swift as the wind, the fleet-footed warrior headed for home. Bagwis and Veronica were outside the house. She ignored them and called out to Lourdes. Then Alwina spied her in the distance, walking away with her belongings. She’s leaving! Oh, my God, why is she leaving? Forgetting everything else in the world, Alwina sprinted after her, crying, “Mother! Don’t leave me!” She was tugging at Lourdes like a little girl. Lourdes hardly looked back – she wasn’t looking back now – and said, “I’m not your mother. There is your mother. Go to her. I’m leaving now. You don’t need me anymore. And don’t you dare follow me! Let go of me! Bagwis, keep her off me!” Bagwis alighted beside his daughter and gently pried her off Lourdes. “Let her go,” he said. Alwina struggled in his arms, crying and wailing. She was still crying for Lourdes long after the latter disappeared from view.
 

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