Pippa plopped herself down on her sofa as soon as she got home. She was very tired from the trip. It took a long time for the bus to reach Manila. By the time they entered the city, traffic was already a bit heavy. From the bus terminal, she took a taxi to her place. Next time, maybe she could just take the RORO and bring her car over. It is more convenient and faster. But as this trip was unscheduled and unplanned, she didn’t manage to do that.
Her stomach started grumbling, but Pippa was not sure if she has something to tide her over in her fridge! It was almost empty before she left. Whatever bread she had several days ago is probably very old by now. Better order some food! She called her favourite fast food’s delivery service and order a large fries, double cheese burger, a chocolate sundae and a large Coke.
Orders done, Pippa called Ethan’s number. He answered on the third ring.
“Hello Pippa!” Ethan greeted Pippa, happy to hear from her. “You made it safely home?”
“Hi Ethan, yes I did. I got caught in the traffic, pero okay lang. Next time, I will just bring my car over para hindi na ako mag-bus.” Pippa said.
“I think that’s a good idea!” Ethan said as he settled into the Montenegro’s veranda. Marianne took a nap and Manang Doray went to the resort so it was just him on the ground floor.
“So, what have you been up to since I left, aside from buying a mobile phone?” Pippa asked. “Speaking of, hindi ko pa pala natatawagan si Tristan!”
“Well, that’s about it. I had coffee while Tristan had breakfast and we chatted. Then after getting the phone and buying stuffs after, I headed back here, ate lunch with your Mum and Manang Doray. Now, I’m about to check my e-mail while at your porch. The signal here is better.”
“Oh, where’s Mom? I haven’t called her also.” Pippa asked, remembering that she promised to let her know she is home.
“She went upstairs to take a nap. But I think she is watching the telly.” Ethan smiled. “I will just tell her later that you have already rung.”
“I think so too.” Pippa smiled conspiratorially. She knows her Mom watches her favorite afternoon soap reiligiously. “Okay, just let her know please. Thanks Ethan.”
Before Pippa could say something more, her house phone rang. “Opps, sorry Ethan, I need to take this. My food delivery is here I think.”
Pippa told the reception to send the delivery guy to her unit. Then she went back to Ethan. “I’m back. I’m hungry so I ordered my fast food fix! I don’t think I have any food left in the house.”
“What will you have?” Ethan asked, suddenly, he too is craving for some unhealthy and greasy food.
“Burger, fries, chocolate sundae, Coke, the works!” Pippa replied!
“Wow, I wish I’m there eating those with you. I haven’t had my fast food fix since I moved here!” Ethan said.
“Well, you can have your fill when you make it here on Friday!” Pippa replied. “What time will you be coming? Oh, wait a second, the delivery guy is at the door. I will just get my food. Hold on, please, Ethan.”
Pippa returned after several minutes, munching fries. “Sorry, I’m eating while I’m talking to you. I will put the phone on speaker rin ha.”
“Go ahead, Pip, it is fine with me. I feel tortured though, imagining the food.” Ethan jested.
“Sorry, Ethan. I wish I can beam you over so you can share this.” Pippa said, smiling.
“Just teasing you, Pip! Go ahead and eat. I’m just teasing you. I know you must be hungry if your last meal was the one we shared this morning. I would like to be there with you, though. The house is lonesome with you.” Ethan suddenly said.
Pippa’s heart skipped a beat with that statement. “I wish you are here too, Ethan.” Pippa said softly. “Di bale, ilang days na lang. I will pick you up from the bus station. Just let me know approximately what time you will be there.”
“Sure about, Pip? I can just take a cab to your place.” Ethan offered.
“Hay naku, I will just pick you up. Huwag kang mag-aalala, okay lang. That way, hindi rin ako magwo-worry na baka mabiktima ka ng unscrupulous cabbies in the metro. Foreigner na foreigner pa naman ang hitsura mo.”
“Ha, but they don’t know I can speak Tagalog and I can shout ‘saklolo’!” Ethan jested.
“Hahahaha, ‘saklolo’ talaga, Ethan. I haven’t heard that word in a while.” Pippa said laughing.
Ethan laughed with Pippa. “Okay, I will send you an SMS then, when I’m near Manila. I’ll see you Friday, Pippa. I’ll say goodbye now so you can enjoy your meal.” He sighed dramatically.
“Okay, see you. Enjoy the rest of the day!” Pippa said, laughing.
“You too! I’m looking forward to Friday!” Ethan said before he ended the call.
Pippa ate her fast food fix while Ethan on the other hand, booted his MacBook and started checking his e-mail. He had quite a lot since he has not check for two weeks or so. He went through his Inbox, most of them are just junks, anyway. He was about to compose an e-mail to Werner, his acquaintance from Belgium when he notice another mail in his Inbox. It is from his sister.
Ethan opened Ally’s mail with trepidation. Ally seldom wrote. The last letter she sent him was when he was in Indonesia.
How are you doing down there in Mindoro? I would have rung instead of sending this e-mail if you had managed to replace the mobile Mummy said you have lost in Thailand. I don’t want to be a bother to Mummy’s friend to get in touch with you. Anyway, what I will tell you is very important for a phone conversation. I’ll wait until I see you in person.
I have decided to come to the Philippines because of it, and also to have some much needed vacation. I have booked my flight and I’m leaving London on Saturday. I should be there early Sunday. Can you pick me up at the airport in Manila?
E-mail back so I know you have read this.
Take care and see you soon.
Instead of replying to his sister’s e-mail, Ethan decided to give her a call. Good thing, he had a back up of his phone book in his computer. Ethan hoped his sister has not left for work yet.
“Hello, Allison Bowman, here.” Ally said when she picked up the call. She had a pretty good idea that it is her brother because of the country code, but she was not one hundred percent sure.
“Hi Ally, Ethan here! I bought a new mobile today, would you believe of all days. How are you? How’s Mum and Dad? Have you seen them lately?” Ethan asked in rapid succession.
“Whoa, Ethan, slow down.” Ally said, happy to hear from her brother. “Welcome back to the real world, Ethan. I’m glad you got yourself a mobile again.”
“I realised I needed one after all.” Ethan said sheepishly, not admitting to his sister that the reason he got one was because of Pippa. “You are coming for a visit, Ally? Great! You said you want to talk to me about something?”
“Well, first, brother, Mummy and Daddy are both doing great. They are going on a cruise later in the month. I had dinner with them last night to tell them of my plans to travel to the Philippines!” Ally said. “About the other thing, shouldn’t it wait until we see each other as it is a long story and I need to give you something to go with it?”
“Could you tell me what’s it all about, please. The suspense is going to kill me, Ally!” Ethan insisted. “Since you said both Mum and Dad are doing great, then it could not be about them.”
“Okay, Ethan, but I would like to ask you first, how are you truly?” Ally asked.
Ethan knew what Ally was asking him. “I’m doing quite good, Ally. You don’t have to tiptoe around what happened anymore. I have dealt with Claudia and the baby’s death. You know, accepted that they are gone. But I must admit, I still blame myself. I didn’t see the signs and I felt like I have let Claudia down! But before you call, I was already thinking of heading back to England, to find answers, put everything in order and see if Claudia’s parents are better now.”
“Ethan, I’m glad that you are moving on. This is the longest you have said on the matter to me, or to Mummy. You just clammed up on us. “Ally said emotionally. “But please, know that it is not your fault. We, your family, never thought that. None of what happened was your fault. It was tragic but it was not your fault. And I think you will not have to come back to find your answers.”
“How can you say that, Ally! Maybe, if I had looked paid attention closely, gave her the attention she wanted from me, she would still be alive today!” Ethan said. “And why would I won’t need to come back? Did something happen while I was away?”
“Ethan, listen, it is not your fault. There were some aspects of Claudia’s life she hid from you. I found that out after she died. Besides, you may find all the answers you are looking for in the diary she left behind.”
“What? She had one? I cleaned our flat before I had it listed at the realty agent you recommended to me. I didn’t find anything.” Ethan said, surprised.
“Well, the new owner, who incidentally, happened to be a colleague of mine at work discovered it by accident two weeks ago while having the creaking floor boards repaired. Claudia’s diary was hidden there. Jenny gave it to me, thinking that it might be very important to you, having known what happened a bit.” Ally explained. “I didn’t open it. It is not for me to do so. I thought of giving it to her parents, but the way they treated you after she died stopped me. Besides, after having it, you can decide what to do with it. Give it to them if you want to.”
“I never thought to look there! Yes, several of the floor boards were a bit loose. I have been meaning to have them fixed but never gotten around to doing so.” Ethan said. “I will wait for your arrival then. I will be in Manila, anyway, this weekend so it jibes with my schedule.”
“You will be?” Ally asked. “ What a nice coincidence! I thought your feet are firmly planted on Mindoro’s soil. Mum’s friend told Mum.”
“Yes, well, err, I’m just visiting a friend and meeting a guy a I met for some work I could do. Which reminds me, if you have some free time, could you ask Mum for my birth papers and some other documents I might need in applying for dual citizenship!”
“You will apply for one? Do you need it? Is your British one not enough?” Ally asked, curious.
“I want to stay in the Philippines for good, Ally.” Ethan told his sister. “It would be easier if I have a dual citizenship. Besides, we are half-Filipinos naman, di ba?”
“Well, yes, you are correct. That’s one of the reasons why Mum taught us how to speak the language.” Ally said. “Okay, I will get the papers. I’ll see you on Sunday. I think you owe me a lot of stories. Now, I better get moving and go to work.”
“See you, Al. Promise, we will chat the night away. Have a good flight!” Ethan said, then ended the call. Now he needs to buy more load cards for his phone. He decided to do that, leaving a note to Marianne that he borrowed the motorbike.
While on the road, Ethan thought of what Ally had said. He was nervously anticipating reading Claudia’s last thoughts and the same time, hoping that it will contain the closure that he needed so he can completely move on. It would be good to see his sister too. He realized how he had missed her while talking to her earlier. They have always been close. In fact, it was through her, though indirectly, that he met Claudia. While Claudia is a friend of one of her very good friends, her sister was quite vocal that she didn’t like her for Ethan as there was something not right with Claudia. However, she also told him, it’s his life and that maybe, she was not being fair anyway by disliking her. Ethan thought, for sure, Ally will like Pippa. He is looking forward to introducing Pippa to her, and his sister to Pippa.
That evening, Ethan mentioned to Marianne that his sister is coming for a visit. Marianne said that Ally is also welcome to stay either in the cottage with Ethan or in the main house as there are plenty of rooms there, especially now that Pippa is back in Manila. Ethan thanked her and then told her also that he is going to Manila to meet hs Belgian friend and visit Pippa. He also told Marianne that he would be staying in Pippa’s place. When she heard this, Marianne thought, her daughter and Ethan have really gotten very, very close. She also thought that Pippa is the main reason Ethan suddenly thought of going to Manila, but she kept her counsel as her daughter is old enough to know what she is doing and she trusts Ethan.
That evening, Pippa and Ethan chatted again on the phone. Pippa told Ethan that she did manage to call Tristan and her mom. Ethan mentioned to Pippa that Ally is coming, but not about Claudia’s diary. He would like to tell her about it in person. Pippa told him they can pick up Ally from the airport, then she too can stay in her place before they travel back to Mindoro. Ethan thanked Pippa for her generous offer. Pippa assured him it is completely okay and that she looking forward to meeting his sister.
Their conversation moved on to other topics. They only realized that they have been chatting for hours when Pippa’s phone made a warning signal that its battery is almost drained. They decided to call it a night then.
“Good night Pippa.” Ethan said, very happy. “And good luck on your production meeting tomorrow.”
“Thanks a lot, Ethan. For sure, I will have a long day tomorrow. But better to finish everything before you arrive so we can spend more time together.” Pippa said.
“I’m looking forward to that. Good night. Sweet dreams!” Ethan said, smiling at the other end of the line.
“Have a good sleep, Ethan! Think happy thoughts.” Pippa said smiling.
“I will!” Ethan said, reluctant to end the call.
Pippa and Ethan finally ended the call with big smiles on their faces after several more minutes of bantering amid the warning beep of Pippa’s phone, both are very eager to see each other again in several days.