Frank’s sudden departure startled Marie, but she took pleasure from his parting words. She had not expected things to turn out this way. She had felt upon first seeing him that he was different from the other men who came to Maricel’s. She could not say why she felt that way, except that he walked with such self-assurance. He did not leer at the girls or brag tirelessly. He also did not have that slouching, ingratiating manner most men assumed when asking to buy her a drink when all they wanted was to fuck. He didn’t make her feel like a piece of momentary pleasure for a drunken Sailor, or a substitute mother for a lonely boy trailing apron strings halfway around the world.
However, Frank had not come to see the barmaids, and she actually enjoyed his company, despite the ninety-degree turns. She had not felt the desire to be with a man in a long time, and when she did, for the man to be someone like Frank. What had she been thinking, though, to serve him? Marie found herself absently wiping the table with a napkin. She smiled. She would make a good barmaid.
Her heart beat fast as her mind replayed the last few minutes over and over. She sat back and wondered if she were about to experience another affair that would end up hurting her like the last one. She barely knew Frank but she wanted to see him again. She liked his mellow voice; he could read her a bedtime story anytime. She liked the way he looked, just tall enough not to tower over her; she imagined resting her head against his shoulder. She wondered if his shoulders were bony knobs or broad enough to lean on. She loved the way his shirt tightened over his chest when he moved. She thought of Edward, and the similar manner in which he and Frank leaned on the table and stirred their fingers in the water rings.
Edward. That bastard. She had given him everything and would have given more had there been anything left to give. She had placed her heart in his smooth hands with the long fingers and groomed nails. He had taken her heart and touched it, caressed it. Edward. Tall, dark, coal black hair and penetrating blue eyes. He looked like a ghost in certain light. Had he wore a white robe and halo she could not have worshipped him more. His touch had seemed to sear her skin and made her tremble.
Her eyes had closed as Edward’s fingers played along her spine and she shivered, and he expressed concern that he had hurt her, and she shook her head. She had longed for him to keep touching her that way so she could feel the warmth and strength of his spirit through his fingertips. How could a man caress a woman with a touch so gentle yet so passionate along her entire body as to make her think of a wisp of breath flowing along her skin, lifting her downy hairs and laying them down again like a sigh of wind across blades of grass? Gentle was not the right word; Edward’s touch was less a touch than a feeling. A feeling as of a dream passing along her body so that she could not be sure she had felt anything but knew she had felt something. Something that trickled through her skin, spread within her, enveloped her, and soothed her until she could think of nothing but that it should never stop, and when it stopped, a sadness and a hope that it would start again. Edward felt like a dream and lifted her into the dream. She shivered at the thought of his touch. God, it had felt so good.
Edward. Goddamn him, the bastard. They had loved passionately, or at least she had, until that bitch Grace turned his head. Grace, who came out of nowhere, wiggled her ass at Edward, aroused him with her tits, and charmed him with her bedroom eyes. He had soiled Marie’s own bed with Grace. He had fallen for her without a glance at Marie. Marie found them together after she returned home early from a weekend visit to the orphanage. She expected to find Edward in bed and wanted to surprise him.
So she had. She cried out in anger and flung a shoe at him, a stiletto. She had good aim and left a long gash above his right eye. She hoped he had a scar on his perfect face. Maybe it would scare away his clients. She told them both to get out, and the next day she had the locks changed and all of Edward’s belongings sent to the charity house. She had not seen him since that night. She had loved him like no other and his betrayal hurt so much.
However, that belonged in the past. As far as she knew, he still managed his father’s construction firm miles away in Baguio.
Baguio: good. Maybe he will die when his car plunges down a mountainside and catches fire and he will burn to death. The bastard.
After Edward, she dated no men for nearly two years. She came to Olongapo to forget Edward, leaving job, family, and possessions behind in order to cleanse herself and make a fresh start. She achieved all she wanted by moving to Olongapo except forgetting Edward; he wouldn’t let go of her. She knew he had her watched and her movements reported to him. Too many unexplained cars tailing her; too many strangers watching her come and go; the same faces watching her from across the street night after night. Too many coincidences for it to be anyone but Edward. She hated the constant suspicion, the constant fear of confrontation. The scar she left on his face enraged him and he had vowed retribution. The constant looking over her shoulder. Maybe that was his retribution, his revenge. He could afford to pay thugs to make her nervous. The bastard.
She visited the sisters at the orphanage several times a week, the same sisters who had raised her after her parents died. She often stayed overnight in the same room she had grown up in until her new parents adopted her and took her to live in Manila. She had no desire to return to Manila despite the pleadings of her parents. They had liked Edward, but his betrayal of Marie crushed them. They understood she needed time to heal and forget, ‘but do you need two years, Marie?’
The door swung open and Amy looked in. She saw Marie and said, “Marie, a man looking for you in the bar. He say his name is Edward.” Amy’s eyes grew wide and she whispered, “He is so handsome.”
Marie paled and froze. “Amy. Do not tell him you have seen me. Tell him I have gone home. Do you understand? Will you do that for me?”
Amy nodded and left, confused but happy to help Marie, the woman she idolized. Marie hoped Frank would be nothing like Edward. She did not want to ruin another pair of stilettos.