With the evening’s drama behind them, they put the children to bed. After Sam returned from tucking in Little Lucy, George suggested they all go to a bar he frequented in Subic City.
“Good idea, Goody-Goody,” said Marie. “I will enjoy some real alcohol instead of what Sister Arnalita dabbed on my cheek.”
Frank looked up when Marie mentioned Goody-Goody. “Hey, I wondered where the kids heard of Goody-Goody. Chaplain Michael mentioned him at the base earlier, and it puzzled me how they could have known his nickname.”
Sister Arnalita smiled and said, “George has been helping the orphanage for many years. Marie once called him Goody-Goody in front of the children; they liked it so much they continue to call him by the name.”
“Okay,” George said, “enough old history, I’m thirsty. Let’s go. Uh oh, hang on a sec folks. We can’t take a government vehicle to a bar; we’ll have to go in Marie’s car.”
Marie smiled, but winced at the pain. “Okay, but I don’t want to drive. I am too nervous and my cheek hurts. One of you must drive.
“Frank, hand me my clutch.”
Marie rolled her eyes. “My purse, Frank.”
“Oh. Yes, ma’am.” Frank chuckled and winked at her. “So that’s a clutch. Huh.”
Sister Arnalita rose to say goodbye. A broad smile covered her sweet face and her eyes held a hint of tears. “We are so happy you could come today. Please know how much I appreciate your assistance. Sam, it was so good to see you and Little Lucy together again; I hope you will come back often. Frank, thank you again for coming today; please come back anytime.” She turned to the Chaplain. “Father Michael, are you accompanying the young people and George?”
George guffawed. “Sister, you are such a comedian. Why, I’m younger than…, well, I guess I am the oldest one here. I’d say the wisest, but you’re with us.”
“George, you bring happiness and laughs wherever you go. God bless you. Come often.”
“I will Sister, I will. Bye now.”
“Goodbye. Thank you all again.” Sister Arnalita waved as they walked to the car, then turned to Marie and took her hands. “I will see you later, Marie?”
“Yes, Sister. I won’t be long.”
“Okay. Please be careful, my dear. Stay with your friends so Edward, if he sees you again, cannot bother you. I do not wish to see you hurt.” Sister Arnalita held Marie by her elbows and looked intently at her. “Oh, Marie, my dear. I hope you will marry soon. A man like Frank, hey? Hey? I like him, and I see that you like him. Is it true you only met him yesterday?” She paused, but cut Marie her off before she could speak. “No, no, what am I saying? It is none of my business. Go, young lady. Enjoy your night out. Your bed will be ready when you return. Go now. Go!”
“Goodbye, Sister Arnalita. I will be careful. I will see you later tonight. Goodbye Father Michael,” Marie called as she ran to the car and got in.
The Father Michael was still waving to Marie when Sister Arnalita turned and saw him standing by. She had forgotten about him. “Oh, Father, I am so sorry. I am so absent-minded; Ohh, ohh, I beg you will forgive me. I am so, so sorry.” She tut-tutted and bustled around, apologetic, patting the Father’s arm as he stood amused. He caught her arm and looked down at her.
“Sister Arnalita; I would wait on you all day and night if needed while you shower your love and affection on those around you. Marie is a special woman to have you as her friend. Everyone should be so fortunate. But then, you have been this way since the war. I’m amazed that someone could have so much love to share.”
“Oh, Father Michael. You are making me cry.” Red-eyed now and sniffling, she dabbed at her eyes with a tissue, then took Father Michael’s arm and walked with him to the truck. “I guess you will not go to Subic, then?”
“No. I’ll take the truck back to the base. Frank, Sam, and George will ride back with Marie or take a jeepney.”
“Okay. Goodnight, Father. We will see you next Saturday?”
“I’ll be here with the whole gang, Sister Arnalita.”
“Thank you, Father Michael. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, dear Sister Arnalita.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
They left the orphanage behind as Sam made the turn onto National Highway and headed for Subic City. The short drive took them past White Rock Beach Resort, a nice, clean beach with decent facilities, and Marilyn’s Super Head Inn, a bar notorious among Sailors and Marines for its raunchy entertainment and particularly nasty version of the bar game, Smiles. Marie knew of its reputation but remained quiet; she would blush if anyone mentioned the place. The sudden quiet as they drove by Marilyn’s faded when George, sitting in front with Sam, piped up.
“It’s a Sailor thing.”
Marie said, “What is?”
“Why do you say that?”
“I heard you thinking.”
Marie punched his shoulder while the other two smirked.“Oh. You men are all alike. Only one thing on your mind all the time.”
Sam drove them into Subic and, following George’s directions, turned off the highway into the parking lot of the Subic Bay Hotel.
“Well, here we are.” George opened the door and climbed out of the car.
“A hotel?” Frank asked.
“The hotel shares the parking lot with Rosemarie’s Bar out back. It’s a tiny place, only a few tables and barstools inside, but the pier is what brings folks here. The view is great. Come on; this way.”
George held the door open for Marie; Sam and Frank followed. They walked along the shrub-lined path next to the hotel patio bar. Inside, couples danced to music from the jukebox; a young girl sitting at the bar laughed at an unheard joke. Her teeth flashed brilliant white as she smiled at her unseen partner.
Sitting at the end of the bar, and concealed from view by a sheer curtain, an unsmiling Edward watched the group make its way into Rosemarie’s Bar. He signaled to the bartender who reached under the bar and brought out a telephone. Edward dialed and waited.
Brilliant moonlight washed out all but the brightest stars and glistened in the glass tables on the pier. Music from the jukebox hung over the bay, muted in seeming deference to the warm, comfortable, almost sentimental atmosphere of the night. To the north, the amber and white lights of Subic Bay Shipyard shone like daylight on the massive oil tankers in dry dock for repair and overhaul. For miles in either direction, piers, illuminated by colorful strings of lights, jutted into Subic Bay, its warm saltwater sending up sea-fragrance to mix with the smell of beer and whiskey, the overdone spritzing of cheap, cloying perfume, and the pheromones of a thousand men and women colliding like pool balls in search of a pocket of quick love.
Gloria, the mama-san, greeted George with a warm smile as he ordered drinks at the bar. He came to Rosemarie’s often to get away from the hustle and bustle of Olongapo, and to relax without the constant interruption of friends from the base wanting to drink with him. Gregarious by nature, he enjoyed a night by himself once in a while. He nodded to Gloria, spoke a few words with her, then paid the tab and led the others to the pier. He found them a table with a view of the bay and the mountains across the way silhouetted against the light of the moon.
Waves lapped at the pilings, and the low hum of a passing banca boat reminded Marie of rides to Corregidor Island with Edward. She exhaled a long breath. I suppose there will always be memories. Anyway, most of the time with Edward was good; too bad he turned out to be such a bastard. Though, I never knew he possessed the capability to be violent. She shook her head and sipped her drink. I did give him a nice scar, though. She smiled as she tipped her drink in a silent salute.
Two attractive barmaids, loosely clad in shorts and tank tops, approached the table, flip-flops slapping their heels; they backed off at a look from Marie. She didn’t particularly care if the men wanted to mingle with the girls. She didn’t think they would, certainly not Frank or George, but Sam, not attached to anyone at the moment, was a different story. She wouldn’t think any less of him, she just didn’t want to be bothered with the giggling and laughing, the honey kos, or the promises of ten minutes of love.
Thankfully, Sam didn’t show any inclination to leave the group. Marie liked Sam. She had warmed to him after finding he was the one of whom Little Lucy often spoke. Marie loved the story of the three of them. She thought of the two adults who had befriended and adopted her, a childless couple who searched orphanages all over Luzon for a child to adopt. Oddly, although having known Sister Arnalita for many years, the Zambales Orphanage had been the last one they visited. Marie had known right away she wanted to go home with them. Of course, all the children knew that for themselves. No child ever gave up hope that she would be the next to be adopted. In Marie’s case, though, magic struck with the young professionals from Manila, Ray and Vita Taneo. The adoption finalized after a period of several months visiting back and forth, and Marie had gone to live in Baguio with her new parents. After six years with the sisters of Our Lady of Lourdes, Marie had a home.
Marie snapped out of her reverie. The low hum of conversation among the surrounding tables, chattering barmaids, and jukebox music reentered her consciousness. With her head in her hand she looked at Frank.
Sam and George looked at her in amusement; Frank looked concerned. The thought pleased her.
“Are you okay? You seemed far away for a moment there. Your cheek doesn’t hurt, does it?”
“Yes, it is sore and throbs a bit, but I am okay. It must be the night air, and the medicine Sister Arnalita gave to me.”
“Should you be drinking? I’m only concerned, not telling you what to do.”
“No, I know that. Thank you for your consideration. I am okay; one drink will not hurt me. I would like another, though.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. It has been a long day. I want to have my drinks, go home, go to my bed, and forget all about it.” She smiled and touched his cheek. “Except for the good parts.” He pressed his hand to hers. She liked the feel of his beard stubble; it tickled her palm and made her shiver, raising goosebumps. Their faces were close enough for his breath to waft over her. She inhaled and exhaled, a deep, long, exhale of satisfaction, pleasure and anticipation. She wished the moment would last forever. She knew she was falling in love.
“Well, all right. One more drink, and we’ll take you back to the orphanage. Maybe Sam will tuck you in.” He smiled and winked, and signaled for the waitress.
Marie remained still, head in hand, a barely visible smile on her lips, her eyes half-closed as she relaxed from the excitement, medication, and alcohol. No. I want you to tuck me in, Frank.