Wolfish

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Fianella is not intimidated by the enigmatic Piolo Banderine. But if only she knew his secret.

Submitted: October 04, 2014

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Submitted: October 04, 2014

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Wolfish

I ate a rather large pickle. I stole it from the kitchen board when I thought no one was looking. Viola hit my hand with a spatula.

That, my dear Fianella is for the party, she exclaimed.

I didn’t mind her jabbering and kept on munching the pickle. It tasted sour and sweet in my mouth. I pretended to give it a blow job and Viola tossed me a carrot. I’ve given men blow jobs before. Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I didn’t let myself in on the fun. I’ve had my own share of backstabbers too because I will do it to any guy who’d want me. After the last one, though, I decided enough. I felt sick of what I was doing to myself and realized this was what was making me fat, this cycle of boys, men who never really stayed. Deep inside I knew, I was shy and liked to burrow in a nice shack somewhere with a book on weekends.

So I decided to let Viola persuade me to take this dead end job, enough to pay for community college and get a teaching degree. I was a maid for the Banderine Mansion. Hell, I didn’t even know who Banderine was. I felt I didn’t have to. I just had to get my work done, take my classes on weekends off and in a year’s time I’d be teaching kids literature on the elementary level. I loved the idea, I even knew which school I wanted to teach in. it was this little Montessori school in the valley by the woods. I didn’t know I liked teaching kids until I tutored my sister’s only son. He was really hyper but I spoke to him about poems in a slow hushed voice and it seemed to calm him down. I felt good about that.

Viola opened a can of soda and offered me a sip.

So, do you think we’ll see our mysterious boss tonight? I asked taking a sip and then moving on where I’d left off which was dicing the carrot. I myself really didn’t care but they were excited in seeing Mr. Piolo Banderine in the flesh. There was something about him and tonight there was to be a party so I supposed everyone was going to see him.

They say he was still young, in his early thirties and had acquired his wealth from his family. They say he was the sole owner of the Banderine Holdings and this mansion was only the tip of the iceberg proving his wealth.

There were mysterious women who would come and go at night. So we wondered if he was good looking. Well, tonight we can have a look-see.

So far we were having soufflé, chocolate fountains, caviar, tons of champagne and other delicious oodles of stuff I couldn’t help divining later on. We could have the left overs and stuff I guess. I was more interested in the food than in Banderine himself.

Viola and I both looked at the clock and realized it was sundown and we had to hurry up and get dressed in our fancy maid’s uniforms that was tight on my chest and accented my curvy derriere.

So there we were tonight in our lacy uniforms serving champagne and caviar. Everyone who was anyone in our town was there including the parish priest.

There was Mrs Faringham whose son I messed with in the back of his car one night just because he dared me to give him one and also because he was a Faringham: rich, popular and smart. It was one of those stupid things a fat girl would take the crumbs for. But no more Fianellla, I told myself. I was going to do something with my life.

There was Mr.Pickering with his family which included the Pickering sisters all tightly dressed in pink as though life were forever a prom ball and they were forever prom queens. I hated them. To me they were monsters of the powder room where their true colors came to light just as soon as the door closed and they could chit chat about who was wearing hideously what and who came with who. After graduation I was just glad to get away from school and from the Pickering sisters but I guessed you’d have to get away from the town altogether just to avoid them. They laughed and preened as the guys eyeballed them from afar.

I spotted my Science professor and rumor has it that Mr. Banderine was quite close with the professor who came to town with a degree from a prestigious university. He seemed very learned but not such a cool professor. He mumbled to himself while lecturing, indifferent to his students. Here he was though, surrounded by his loyal listeners as he started to expound on one of his theories in metaphysics to which the parish priest frowned upon.

I felt the wind beneath my short skirt and I felt I ought to close the verandah door since draft was coming in..I turned around and a tall man was smoking a slim gold rimmed cigarette in the verandah. He was very elegantly poised as though he were a man detached for being so perfect. I stared at his silhouette limned by the moonlight. There was an animal grace to his movements as he puffed his cigarette with an old world style that was entirely his. He looked young and yet tired.  A gold bracelet was bracketed on his wrist. It seemed to weigh his smoking down a bit. He turned a quarter to his left and found me, admiring him openly.  Surprisingly, he laughed and I wondered if my thoughts were transparent? Was he laughing at me? Could he smell it on me? And what was I feeling? Something like relish.

I turned around, left him and closed the verandah door behind me. I tried to go on with my duties but instead. I went to the kitchen to placate myself with food. I had to eat or drink something. I opened the refrigerator door, found a pint of mango ice cream and was about to gorge on it when, upon searching for a spoon, I saw him instead eating the ice cream with such delicacy. And I was holding a mango. How could that be when I was holding the ice cream nearlier?

“Hello” he greeted with a derisive half smile. He was not to give anything away.

He was seated by the kitchen island  and was tipping the spoon of ice cream to his tongue. Here, let me, he said and stood  up to reach for the mango from my hand. He pealed it in a spiral manner leaving the bottom like a piece of cone to keep my hands dry. I licked the mango like an ice cream cone. It tasted delicious .

“I had it exported from Guimarras. Its an island in the Philippines. Maybe we could go there someday and eat lots of mangoes. I’m sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m Piolo Banderine. He offered his hand and I shook it with the empty hand.

“ Um Fianellalla Darlough. I am so sorry. I should have known it was you, sir. It was very forward of me to let you um peel my mango. “I said in my usual awlward way, returning to my position as a maid.

“And now your mango is dripping in your hand. “ he teased and wiped the juice of the mango from my fingers with a tissue paper. I was too mesmerized to speak.

“I better get back.” he decided. “ My guests might think I have abandoned them for a tempting time with the lovely Ms.Darlough.”

“Mr. Banderine.” I acknowledged like a half curtsy of some sort and he passed by like the wind that blew in the verandah.

I went back to the main area of the house where the guests were gathered conversing with one another. I saw Viola and sidled next to her whispering” I met Banderine.”

“What?” she asked unable to hear above the din of the voices.

“I said I met Banderine.”

“What!” This time she heard me right and almost dropped her tray. I looked about for Piolo Banderine but he was lost in the crowd. And so I told Viola of my strange encounter with the owner of the mansion. She almost shrieked with delight at the irony of it all.

***

That night I could not sleep. I wondered which part of the house he was in and who he was with. I decided to give up trying to sleep and go over to the verandah.

The verandah was a long extended marbled terrace with shrubs along the side. There were iron seats there with giant cushions which were taken inside during the rains but was placed there tonight because it was a warm evening. Cigarette butts were everywhere and the head servant had allowed us to leave the night’s trash for the meantime.

I slid the verandah door aside and walked into the warm balmy evening. I was wearing my nightgown. It was an embarrassing pink flanell gown with teddy bears printed on it.  I sat on one of the chairs and longed for a cigarette.

There was a full moon and from afar I heard the howling of a wolf. Wolves were familiar to us in this part of the State. They were in the woods so we were careful not to be lost in there without something to protect ourselves.

The mansion was near the woods and from afar I could see it. A familiar figure was approaching as though from the woods itself. Banderine walked with the assured grace of an animal. Muscle stippled his every move and he came over to me.

“Sir.” I sat stiffly before him like an army soldier before her superior.

“At ease” he was teasing me again but it really eased the tension I felt for him. He offered me a cigarette and I accepted it. He lit it for me and I inhaled the heady aroma of its exotic smell. He must be well travelled to acquire everything he wanted in life.He was young, exceedingly handsome and very interesting. I wanted to learn the trick of the mango switch .How could he have switched the ice cream to a mango. He must be very clever or I must have been dreaming everything up nearly until tonight.

I have never, in my life heard of someone whose name was Fianella. It must feel strange for you. He went on. Talk about strange, I thought.

“It’s a derivative from my grandmother’s name Fanny and a piano.”

“Oh really now. That is an even stranger thing to think about.” He mused.

“Your mango is delicious..”

“I have an island in Guimarras. It has a small cove and a plantation of mangoes. They send it to me in crates. You must taste the dried mangoes we have. Sun dried like slivers of gold. It tastes exactly that, like golden food from the gods. And the fish, crabs, lobsters. You must come with me there one day. The food is delicious and the view is divine. Fine white sands like baby powder’s milk, limestones ,cliffs in ragged formations, trees, flowers…”

Fianella’s eyes began to water. It must be wonderful to be able to do that. But would he really take her there to his own private island. And if she did won’t they think she’s some kind of  slut for going with him. And why her? She hadn’t slipped a pound since she got sick which was ages ago. What did he think, she’d look good in a bikini, how about without a bikini. A barrel would be more like it.

He seemed to know what she was thinking but was too much of a gentleman to traverse her thoughts of insecurity.

He approached her and she could see him clearly now without a cloud of nervousness. His hair was grey by the temples. His eyes was a shifting color of marigold and black and his nose was upturned seemingly the focal point of his face. It was a nose that could get annoyed by the wrong smell or it could hold on to something for the longest while because it pleased him.

“You have never seen more than this town Fianella. Give yourself a chance. There is more to the world than the Faringhams, the Pickerings or even Sunday’s church service. Come with me. “  

“Why? You don’t even know me?”

“I do. You want to teach kids at the valley. You’re here to work for college and teach poetry, am I right?”

“Maybe, yeah,” I continued to smoke more amazed than harassed at this invasion of my privacy.

“And you like to eat.”

I laughed and we bumped our fists together as though we were two bros bonding.

“And what’s in it for you Mr –who-has-everything?”

“The company of a unique and lovely lady.”

“So when do we go?” I asked not really being serious but just daring him to bring me along to that island of golden mangoes.

“Tonight.”

***

A black limousine brought us to the tarmac where a plane waited for us He was wearing rough denims and a white polo that accentuated his tanned arms. We are Hispanics, we used to own land in the Philippines but time turned its back on us within good reason. The Filipinos deserve their independence. I just wanted to go back and experience it all again. The beauty and bounty of the islands there. Our family migrated to the New World and built an empire one after another, on lumber, oil and coconuts. We dealt with futures, trading and went on from there..

We entered the plane with its hushed padding. Piolo dwarfed everything around him and he settled on a seat by the window taking in the night outside. I fell into step behind him, shy at the presence of so much luxury. There was a bar at the far end, thick carpeting and a large movie screen.

“Please sit.” Piolo invited and so I sat before him. I wore a striped blue tee over white shorts and brown sandals.

“Brandy?”

“No, I don’t drink”

“May I offer you anything else? A Cuban cigar maybe?”

“No” I laughed and simply took out my cool menthols ready to light and smoke it when he reached out and lit my cigarette. When he settled down again he was considering me.

“I like that you are beginning to relax with me.”

“How did you do that? The ice cream trick? And how do you manage to move past me without my knowing it. You move so fast it surpasses all known laws of physics. Are you for real, I mean,” I was already gasping.” What am I doing here? Is this a dream, are you just hypnotizing me? I’ve heard of those things and I can honestly believe that but not…”

“Not what?” he raised his chin defiantly.

“I can’t breathe, wait, let me out of here.” I cried clutching the arm rests

Piolo stood up and rubbed my thick shoulders. He really did seem concerned.

“Its ok Fianella” he whispered.” Just consider all of this a little bit of magic. He pulled a coin from behind my ears and I shrieked then laughed. It was all so crazy.

“That’s my girl” he went back to his seat, buckeld up and I felt the plane tilt up at an angle. Soon we were on air.

Inside my mind I fumbled for an explanation. He had been with beautiful women. I did not consider myself a beautiful woman but he was adamant I come along. Did his kind eat people or something ? Now that would be more likely. I was plum and juicy and he was mysterious and most likely to have a terribly dark secret. If only I knew what this secret was.

Noticing I was silently contemplating the dark clouds outside the window, he offered a game of chess.” 

“Alright” That I could handle. I was good at chess. But my nephew was even better. I taught him and all of a sudden he knew better than I.

Piolo’s moves were different, well veiled, no telltale signs of what he would do next. They were swift, merciless and cunning.

I don’t remember when the game ended and I fell asleep, not even aware of who won the game. He had offered me brandy and I took a sip and another til I fell asleep. I was stirred to wake when the sun began to glaze my face. My tongue felt thick inside my mouth and I was embarrassed I might have even drooled. I looked at him. He was asleep. Even asleep his masculine presence was so potent and real I wanted to touch him.

He seemed like a young kid showing off his toys. He had little bristles on his chin and he smelt slightly of liquor.

Through the window I could see grids of green rice plantations lined by banana trees. There were people wearing large straw hats

“They’re called buri hats. The sun shines on their backs otherwise.”

“Oh but they’re so cute, they look like they have  little huts on their backs. Its beautiful here. So much sun. “It was always raining where we lived in the States. To be transported to another country just like that made me feel a bit dazed, as though I were Dorothy in Oz.

“What time is it?” I continued. It was half past eight and we were treated to a breakfast of rolls, eggs and jam before we landed on the tarmac. It was a smaller tarmac this time. One where there was only a shed for awaiting passengers. His plane was elegant and shiny beneath the rippling sun and I had no idea it was such a beautiful aircraft broad daylight.

We loaded our things on a solid jeep. It was hot and humid outside but there was aircondition in the jeep. It was a classic green jeep and he had some bodyguards in the front seats to keep us company.

We were quiet and busy luxuriating in the view when the blue sea came into sight. The sand bar was white but mottled with sharp white rocks; it would have been difficult to swim in it. A boat was docked which was sleek and white. I couldn’t help  stare at it for it was gorgeously built, with a massive prow. Inside the bunk there were amenities such as a bar and a crescent shaped sofa with lots of blue decorative pillows. I loved the color of scheme of it all and I swooned.

“Fianella, come up.” He invited. From below the deck I emerged into the most marvelous view I had ever seen. Before me were the rocks of Guimarras Island. We passed by white beaches with tall coconut trees swaying in the balmy wind. The sun was high and I could see my legs were beginning to darken with a brilliant tan. I wondered what Banderine wanted from me to have rought me to all this beautiful grandeur. He hasn’t made any move towards her and she respected that he respected her by doing that.

The boat was swift and purposeful. It was strong, majestic as it glided past the rock formations and beaches. Finally we approached a cove and the boat began to slow down. The people in the boat were in a commotion with the ropes and a steel plank was led towards the white sand. It was a small cove and the shallow waters were a brilliant aquamarine green. With my lucky backpack on my shoulder we unloaded towards the house. It was a house that was left unpainted and it felt clean and scrubbed. The doors were smooth and sanded, the cement walls were fresh and free from any toxic surface paint. I loved the look and feel of it .I could hear wind chimes through the silence. And the sound of birds. It surrounded me, I felt as though I were in an arboretum. It was a place of peace so unlike the grandeur of the mansion. Here he seemed so much himself, I almost blushed.

“I had this house built when I was a little of over twenty and fresh out of grad school. Just a few furnitures, really,As you can see everything is fresh and clean. Why don’t you tidy up.There are rooms upstairs. Choose one and when you come down we’ll have a nice lunch ofpaella. I’m sure you’d like it.”

Gingerly, I stepped upstairs and found the first room good enough for me. I didn’t want to pry into the other rooms. I was suddenly tired and fell asleep.

When I woke up there was a white cotton dress beside me on the bed. It had a delicate embroidery of small blue flowers on the front bodice I pulled off my shirt and shorts and a took a shower before donning the dress. I looked out through the window. It was night time! By the shore,I spotted Piolo watching the phalanx of moonlight . He was seated on a beach chair drinking a bottle of beer. He must have been there since sundown.

In my white dress I walked over and sat down beside him on the sand. He reached out his hand and I held it for awhile. I kissed his hand because I wanted to.

“Thank you, thank you for this.” I said thinking there was nothing else to say but gratitude from a girl who had nothing and was given so much for the day. He stood up and raise me up as well. Then he kissed me on the lips and walked inside the house. I stayed on the reposing chair for awhile contemplating the view, finishing his bottle of beer. Then I walked back into the house.

We ate the paella he had offered for lunch.Nonethless it was still delicious and I loved its crusty rice and various seafoods embedded in it. He narrated some light banter about his life in grad school, his buds and how he enjoyed business so much. I talked of my enjoyment in reading poetry to my nephew and how he seemed to like it too.

“I taught him rhyme, meter, the different figures of speech and picked on them like flowers on the fields, enjoying making up different sentences with various metaphors or similes. It’s really fun for him. “

“And you, how have you been? Why don’t you be a writer and write your own version of what’s a fun metaphor.”

“ Yeah I should go on and do that. I mean practice what you preach, right?”

A loud silence ensued. It was clamoring and awkward.

“ Piolo. Why did you bring me here?

“Let’s go for a swim.”

The night was bright despite a little crescent moon standing in the sky like a window to another dimension. He undressed before me on the sand and I could see he had hair all over his chest. I followed him and undressed too. There were no mirrors for me to look at my blubbering body but it didn’t seem to matter to him and he was the only mirror I needed to feel good about myself.

We swam into the dark, warm ocean and kissed. His mouth felt like a thunder in its urgency and I could almost feel he needed me. I was fast falling into the depths of emotion and I felt I had no control over how I felt. I wanted him so much, it ached.

Again, like the confusion between the ice cream and the mango I was in the water and suddenly in between cool sheets asleep. Tenderly asleep with nothing more to dream of but where I was.

I slept til early dawn when I flet as if no one was in the house. But there already was an array of various breads and rice cakes on the dining room table, arranged by unseen hands.I took a croissant, bit into it and drank some water. There was so much beauty in the island my appetite was appeased just by being there.

All my life I’ve lived impoverished of beauty, kindness and caring.. My father was a busy salesman who was always on the road and would come home with his routine gift of gingerbread cookies. My mother played black jack all day with the neighbors and I had to take care of their kids. Dear Fianella, always the one to be relied upon to wash the dishes and  clean their trash. I wasn’t even aware there could be more. Now I wondered how I could go back to my old , grubby, cold and infinitely dreary life. Viola made me happy and I wished I could share these gifts with her.

I met him again later on. He was naked the waist up and was absolutely secure with his body. He had a little boat which we rode to roam about the island cove. Are you aware that in this island there is the legend of itimnasu.

“What is that?’

“He is a legend that here in the island. About a selfish rich Spanish clan who would whip their mango plantation farmers like dogs they thought they were. One night the gods of the native folks put a curse on this family. Every full moon of the fourth month the eldest son would turn into a black wolf and roam about in search of love from whomever would accept him as he is.’

“As he is?”

“Yes, as he is.”

He rowed the boat in a smooth calm manner and she became bitterly cold and afraid. What was he talking about. The waters were getting dark and deep. Its color was now a deep green and she imagined falling into its depths and drowning from desire to die at that very moment because she couldn’t bear to part from the happiness she had previously felt . Was he now about to take it away from her. Was he after all some kind of sick, perverted rich idle man who would was now to take retribution.

“Deep inside that wolf is a man, who needs love and acceptance. Nothing more. “ she replied not to appease him but for him to understand that she had read her fairy tale stories well and that she knew fear, in children would make them resilient and compassionate.

“You would not be afraid of him?”

“If it’s been years, he must have learned his lesson well.”

After awhile we docked and ate mangoes by the shoreline. They were sweet and flavorful. I peeled it the way he taught me which was to peel the top like a spiral and leave the bottom part intact. We tasted each other’s mango when we kissed. And then it was time to say goodbye.

I held his hand in the jeep before befre loading the plane. I could still smell the mango on him as I slept on his shoulder when we fell asleep.

***

Viola threw a spatula at me.

“What is with you and spatulas?” I grimaced

“Tell me about it.”

“I told you we went to his farm somewhere north. Cows, geese, pigs…Jeez.”

“You were gone a whole 24 hours.

“Were you worried?”

“Damn right I was worried. I wouldn’t know what to tell your parents if something happened to you.”

“I thought you liked Banderine.”

“I find him very attractive but I don’t know if I can trust him with my life. Remember there’s something secretive and mysterious about him I wouldn’t know if I’d like to find out.”

“He’s ok. I mean. I’m ok now right.”

“Did you do it with him?”

“No. Hell no.Viola and don’t tell a word to anyone I was with him.”

“My lips are sealed. I told them you went back to mommy because someone broke your heart.”

“Who, Josh Fartingham?.”

“ Let’s just say they all thought you stole a whole pie and brought it back to your parents.Is that ok?

“ Fine, whatever.” I replied and threw back the spatula at her.

***

Days tunred into weeks and weeks turned into months without seeing Piolo Banderine in his big mansion. Then a day came when Viola pulled me from where I was crouching trying to sweep something under a huge sofa.

“What is it?”

“Its Banderine, he’s on TV. “ I got up and dusted myself but before I could do anything she had pulled my arm and was rushing me to the helper’s lounge where there was a Tv on top of a closet. There was Banderine with a blonde model. I was not blonde, my hair was auburn brown. I was shaking like a leaf. How could he do this to me? But I had at least expected that he would do something like this Who was I , really? Just the servant girl whom he met at his mansion. Perhaps he was even snickering behind the backs of the Faringhams and the Pickerings about how he seduced this clunky girl in his backyard. All sorts of thoughts passed through my head and I felt the ground shift beneath my feet. I got dizzy and fell to the floor.

When I woke up I was in our bunk bed and Viola was busy putting a cloth on my forehead.

“You have a slight fever Fianella and you fainted. I think you should keep lying down in bed.”

“Oh Viola, I wish I never met him. “

“That’s not true and you know it. Men are just you know, fickle.”

“I’m not even going to ask why. I guess, I’m just nobody. I was given crumbs. Worst I feel like a total slut.”

“But you didn’t do it with him, did you?”

“No,” I replied recalling.” And I’m glad I didn’t.”

For the next few days we would interminably see him again on TV with the blonde model dancing, moving about town. Billionaire Banderine in the arms of Model Winsome Dove., the headlines cried.

I pushed through with my studies. We didn’t see the famous couple on the mansion and we thought they might be staying somewhere else. Reports said they were lodging at a hotel and I almost couldn’t concentrate on my studies. But I did and I finish going to community college. There I met Jason Bricks who was nice, warm and who was on the heavy side just like me. I liked that in him.

Jason and I would go to the convenient stores and sip bubblegum soda and French kiss on the hood of his car. I wasn’t teaching yet so there was no reputation to break yet. And even if I were to teach I’d still keep my Jason. It didn’t seem wrong to me to have a relationship while teaching. What was wrong was for me to have gotten involved with someone totally out of my league. Damnit!

We ate burgers like there was no tomorrow. We liked the same country songs though we didn’t share my love for classical music and Froufrou. But I could still smell the briny air tangled on my hair. Piolo’s hungry mouth exploring every bit of me.

Finally we graduated from college and I didn’t have to work for the Banderine mansion anymore. I stood outside the ivy covered gate and looked at it fondly. I had good memories here. Nobody hurt me like they did in high school where I was the school frump. On my last day my colleagues baked me cakes and pies which we ended up throwing at each other playing toss. Viola gave me a teary goodbye and a napkin with the Banderine crest on it. I could have said I didn’t want mementoes of the lace but it wasn’t true. I truly was happy here. I had loved and fallen in this place. I just had to grow up and realize I couldn’t have more. Maybe I should just be grateful for what it was. An affair. Crumbs.

I applied at the school I had always wanted to teach in:the Montessori school. I learnt the Montessori method real fast and I could see there was a difference in how they taught. I was to teach when school started and I was filled with a new sense of purpose and excitement. This was all new to me, but I was also so proud of myself that I did it. I had achieved my dream through my own hard work.

I visited my nephew and brought him a toy boat. We would it up and its little propellers made it go round and round the small plastic pool he had at my sister’s backyard.  My sister was so proud of me that I was about to teach come spring. I mused this was what Jason and I would have someday, a nice little house with a cute little plastic pool for the kids on our backyard where I’d plant flowers and carrots and all kinds of stuff. I sat by their table in their dinette and held little Tommy on my lap while waiting for his snack. My sister Marjorie placed a bowl of mango ice cream on the table. I fed him the mango ice cream and stared past the window with its chintz yellow curtains.

“Are you ok?” Marjorie asked” You can have some if you like.”

“Yes, I think I’ll have a bowl of mango ice cream.”

Marjorie looked at her doubtfully and handed her a bowl.

I decided to live in a house by the woods. A shack, really, almost like those homes where hermits live only I got it cleaned up. Jaosn laughed at her choice of dwelling. He thought I’d raise spiders in my hair, grow strange plants that would crawl about the house and fill it up until there was no more space to move into. It was near school and I liked the coolness of the trees that abounded about it. I felt safe in it somehow considering it was far off the grid of town.

I got a fuzzy brown sofa from the thrift store and thought of getting a dog later on. I’ve always wanted a dog although I didn’t know how to raise one. But I knew I’d know how. Instincts for animals made me decide that. I filled my new house with books that I loved and couldn’t part with. My parents helped me bring them over to my new home and with a few plants my house was all set.

One night, Jason and I had dinner in town at a fancy restaurant where Jason worked as a valet. He had saved up for this night so it was kind of special.. We were joking around when Faringham passed by our table.

“If it isn’t the lovely Ms. Darlough and um who do we have here?.” He mockingly scratched his chin with undisguised amusement.

“Get lost Faringham” I pushed him away from the table

“ Whoah. Don’t be a stranger. “

“Hey man the lady said cool it.”

“She’s hot isn’t she?” Faringham kept on

A young woman walked over to their table and hooked her arm about Faringham . It was Sarah Pickering, the youngest of the Pickering sisters.

“ C’mon ,just get over it., Let’s go.”

“Not until Ive been properly introduced.” He answered back and hooted, like a wolf.

Jason stood up. “ Hey man what is your problem. I said move on.”

I stood up and tried to wedge my way between the two men.

“Is there a problem?” a familiar voice spoke from behind us. We turned around , It was was Banderine, immaculately dressed in a suit as usual. He was alone. His jaw was raw with anger.

“You sleep with everyone in town is that it, Fianella?” Jason confronted me and everyone in the restaurant was all ears, especially with Banderine around.

Banderine made a swift blow to his paunch and he staggered back. Faringham snickered with absolute delight and was about to leave when Banderine tripped him solidly with the leg of the wooden chair and it on his back. Sarah screamed and ran out of the restaurant.

“My apologies. Please place all damages on my tab. Thank you.”

“You can’t just do that” I cried.”. Jason! Jason! Are you alright.”

“ Leave him.He’s a scumbag” Piolo dismissed Jason summarily and pulled me out of the restaurant.

He had brought a nondescript car. He was driving alone and he ordered me to climb in.

“Get in Fianella or do I have to carry you?.”

I didn’t answer back but got in all the same because I didn’t want any more scenes.

“What the hell did you do that for? He’s my boyfriend.”

He made some kind of smirk as he drove at to speed through the empty winding road.

“Let me out. I hate you. Let me out!”

“Shut up and listen. I have something to tell you.”

“ Oh yeah, what. That you—“ she was cut short from saying more when he stopped the car and kissed her .

I wanted to surrender but something in me knew I deserved more. He overwhelmed  me and I had given something up I could never forgive him for having spurned me,after all.I had fallen in love. Loving was a luxurious notion for a girl of my physical size. I felt humiliated and was drowning in truth of who I was, who I could never be and who he was. Who he was.

“ I want something too.Fianella. I want you. I want you. “ he was screaming now,  “ But I want you to want me as I am. As I am.”

I looked at him for the first time. What was he talking about? He was crying . There were tears sluicing down his cheeks.

“ I beg you, listen to me.” He held her hands “I beg you to watch me.”

I was confused. He was begging me. He was begging me?

“ What is it Piolo, are you hurt?  Are you ill? Tell me” I parried his urgency. He opened the door of his car, walked out and stood before her inside the car. He suddenly bended over. His clothes ripped and his spine cracked in revelation. I could now see the  bones striped on his back. He stood uprigjt and there was fur, lots of fur which grew on his chest . Then he howled, the cry of a lonely, piteous animal, and ran into the woods.

 My eyes would not blink. I stared into the road ahead, empty but for the car’s beam of light with mottles of left over fur .

He was a big, black creature. A wolf. He would hide beneath the night and find other wolves. He would continue to love her as I loved him..I would look for him in the woods. He would be there. I would recognize him for his huge gait. He would be hungry and eat something. I would deny that he was a creature to be pitied. He was not reduced. I simply missed him. His flesh. I went out of the car in search of him, now, prowling in the woods.

  “Piolo” I called out and in an instant he was beside me , panting, like a large black dog. “ There, there, are you hungry? C’mon, come with me. I’ll give you something to eat. “

I, woman and wolf both walked to the car. I drove, all the while stroking his black fur .I drove back to my cottage in the woods. I opened a can of corned beef and dropped the contents on a plate which I placed before him. He dropped on his heel and lapped at the food. I sat beside him and began to cry. The wolf lapped at  my tears too and hugged the animal in him. He walked about in circles inside her cottage then settled in my brown couch and fell asleep. I felt him shiver. I got a blanket and covered him. I fell asleep next to him and when I woke he was gone from my side. I crossed over  to the window. He was still a wolf and he was howling at the moon, begging for mercy. An age old curse he had nothing to do with. Itimnasu. The legend of the cursed la lobo. And then it was his human shadow cursing the moon, clawing at the night like a lost soul condemned to roam the earth with the curse on his spine. I dared not look at him like this. I crouched behind the door and was wrecked by sobs. I covered my ears unable to tear the sound of his howl from my mind.  I stood up, finally, got the blanket, opened the door and ran towards him. I covered his naked form and led him inside.

“I’m so sorry” he cried in a warped voice. “I’m so sorry Fianella. I am sorry for loving you.”

“Hush, hush” I rocked him in my arms

***

“Until when?” I asked

“Until I am loved”

***

 I do love you.

***

Before the child, before the beast there was the mother who gave her child a crucifix to ward off the curse. She loved to sing the psalms to him. On Sundays mother and child would go about the various churches in search of old stones. She was very fey and sickly. When she fell ill,  her father came home from the East and took over the care of his son. But the mother died and the child witnessed his own transformation. It began nights. He would feel an itch that began in his chest and spread over to his neck and arms. It was terrible itchiness. Fur began to grown everywhere at moments within a year. His father tried bringing him to doctors but they could not do a thing about it. Sadly the father had to tell his son one day about the legend of the itimnasu and how his mother tried so hard to ward it off.

Only true love could remove the curse. It was then he understood he had to find a woman who would love him as he loved her.

***

The next day we packed some lunch and went about visiting churches. I was intrigued by his vast knowledge of the saints. There were saints who bilocated and had come to the natives bearing the gifts of spirituality even before the missionaries came to their domain.  There were saints who gave up their lives for their faith, to secure their faith, in love on earth and in heaven. There were saints who loved animals and gave them comfort.

We visited his mother’s grave and it gave him a sense of who he was, like a cycle of faith that was now being being  brought into full circle. I embraced him as we placed some stones of love on her mother’s grave  It was a loving gesture which I really could not believe he was capable of. This towering, powerful man was a mess, an illogical tide going to and fro to nowhere until I came along. I still could not believe the big role I was playing in his life. It was such a big responsibility and yet I loved him so fear was naturally innate in the relationship. I feared losing him again, I feared he might not love me as much and the curse would continue. I feared for a child unborn yet and was about to become part of the same cycle of fate unless I stopped it the way his mother tried to stop it before unfortunately dying. I feared loving him. Period.

***

I’ve always wanted a strong woman and I could sense that in you ever since that day in the verandah. This town is a microcosm of what life is in the whole world which is why I stayed. I wanted to know the dyanmics of society by studying it from afar. Little did I know I would be part of this world. I have travelled the world so many times and still I come home and find you here. Isn’t that ironic.

***

 We went back to my house in the woods and he furtively entered as if fearing the beast might still be there. In that way he still seemed to be like a child. I led his hand and brought him inside the house. I was going to bake him some bread, I decided. And heat some soup. He wore clothes of the handyman who had been the former inhabitant of the house. He looked so different from the Banderine we were all too familiar with. He was humbled and wanted only bread.

***

I closed the curtains and let him sleep but he pulled me towards him and kissed my mouth. I clutched his hair and kissed him with the ardor I have always held inside me. I pulled off his shirt , kissed him there where a whorl of hair separated from the tangle below. I pulled off his pants. I need not wait for him to return what I needed for he entered me with a groan that was more animal than human inside my flesh, my mouth, his sound..

I warmed his chest with my tongue . I wanted him to know what he would need, what he would love , what he would miss when he turned again so that he would come back, human and firm inside me.. Why do old movies always tell us more of lovemaking. I had watched enough to know this is where I would pour it all, Black and white images, the rain of static after I’ve slept past the local viewing time, on the couch with a bowl of soup on my table.

 He entered me again sharing the hurt, telling me a story of how he needed to be reassured he was not alone when he turned. I could hear the drumbeat of his temples, his eyes, almost turning yellow and I feared he would turn. The drumbeat of the natives raced inside my head, their anger, their unholy war against the Spaniards, their black magic. I was speaking to them , telling them he was not at fault, that they have repented, that this was mine, this man who could love, opening gently his fate to a woman who never knew why herself. Never knew why life had been so cruel. He crushed my bossom with his mouth, finding every nipple like lush fruits he could freely partake of.

Like the sea we undulated in a tide of warmth  for I was fluid in my vulva. Open now and closing and opening allowing him free passage. My inner walls were filled with brimful fire, natives banging their  bronze gongs with wooden mallets calling his name, la lobo, banderine, bandera, the band of brothers who had pillaged their fields and raped their women, begotten nameless children, turned their wooden gods into ashes.

The sea swept blood on the sand as they fought for their families, their religion, their beliefs, their land. I looked deep into his eyes and I could see the child who knew nothing, A mother who begged their gods to spare her son.

We made love but it was a war inside him, I felt, a war long, misunderstood. I could talk to them through his eyes. He was mine. Forgive his ancestors. I asked, as though they could be forgiven.

My mouth opened to release the steam, the rustle of sheets. I bled. He raised his head and looked deep into my eyes. I, too, had kept my secret well.

***

 We watched old movies on TV because I did not have cable. I was nestled in the masculine aroma of his chest, burnished by the sun of the islands. We were resting on the couch, waiting for the mushroom soup to boil  and for the bread to rise in my little oven. Now, I wondered if he were to leave again. As though he knew what I was thinking he talked of her, the blonde woman draped on his arm on nights I spent studying for exams, wandering away from him because it hurt too much.

“An absolute bore.”

“…and you’re not?” I teased

“ After all this, I am still an absolute bore to you?” he teased back but there was a gravity in his words.

“Do not hurt me Piolo. I will be the mother of your child. And with our child I will do everything I can to undo the curse on your family. I need you to be a father to our child for that is how you will  hurt me. I f you do not care for him.

 I would dearly want have lots of children with you.my darling Fianella.”

The soup bubbled over but he had once again shifted. He gave her the pleasure of his essence. His manhood was taut and firm. Now he was masterful  relishing every moment he was inside me. I met him at every thrust and felt as though there was a cocoon unfolding deep inside her that he touched with every motion.

***

Soon it was night again and we decided to find a church so that he would not turn. We went to a little church decked with old stones to be surrounded by memories of his mother’s love as well as mine. He reeled me in and kissed me among the stones. We prayed together following the words in Latin etched on stone wall. The stones were unfamiliar but we were comforted. I took some and brought them home with me.

We were grateful that the night turned out to be  uneventful and we looked at the brilliant moon reminiscing our swim at Guiimarras Island where I had first fallen for him. I looked at him and I knew he would take me again. I was wet and could have sworn I would get pregnant if we kept on being together everyday like this. He will not turn anymore. I had brought closure to the curse because I had spoken to the gods of the love this man was capable of.

***

We were married after all in the island where I found my lover.

It was a small church made of stones from the beach sand. They were white and meshed with eggs. The church was a solid bastion from the tide and typhoons.

I wore a lime green dress that curved low in my bossom to reveal  my cleavage full and proud like the prow of a ship. I was pregnant by that time. But we didn’t marry because I was with child. We just decided to emerge from our small shack one day where he had kept the days prowling, restless to move on and bring me everywhere. He just said it. Marry me, Fianella. Make me happy. Give me a child. I knew then with those words what it would feel to have a happy child and I was. I began to realize I was.

Viola, the whole retinue of helpers in the Banderine mansion were guests and I was dressed on a full moonlight with a wreath of flowers.

A Visayan priest protected our vows with a simple ceremony sung in the Visayan dialect which we could not understand but which we tried to decipher back in our house by the sea cove. 

Viola caught the wild flowers I held during the ceremony.  Banderine wore a simple Sinamay garb that rippled with the sea wind and I kissed him when the Visayan priest ended the ceremony. I wanted to cry and I did. I traced a tear which had fallen from my eyes. It was a tear that surprised me. I was full of hormonal emotions. Another son was whom I held inside me, I knew like a promised prayer.

I ran to the sea that night shorn of all clothes and Piolo ran after me and kissed me while the green jade sea swirled about us to bind us in our first night as man and wife. I was now a mother and wife. I was a child when I worked at the Bandnerine Mansion and now I was a full woman , curves, bossom derrier and all that I had shunned but for which I was now thankful for.

***

The baby just slipped through me for I was very , very wet with emotions and sensual energy when I gave birth. The child, my son, our son was perfect. He held a perpetual smile on his puckering lips  Piolo held his son and finally felt how it was to be a man who could love and sculpt human form from that love.

I gave birth in a hospital inI Manila because if we were to go home to town a whole paparazzi would come over and mayhem would ensue.

We brought our child to every island we could find, winding here and there getting lost in a mottle of green. I was full of milk and I just poured all of me to my child. I ate a lot of wild mangoes and vegetables which we bought in abundance upon docking at each port.

“I love you dear Ttimothy.” I whispered into my son’s tiiny ear.

***r

A year later I had another and we thought it was time to settle down and go back to the mansion. The next child was a girl. A beautiful serene child .

Timothy loved to play with the earth on the gardens of the mansion. Piolo was busy making preparations for our next child. He was refurbishing the whole mansion and wanted to have a grand party for the christening of our child. He thought it wasn’t right to hide his beautiful bride, wife and mother to this children any longer. The whole household was busy shifting furnitures as each room was being renovated. A whole new retinue of helpers were hired to supplement the older ones for the party.

I was very excited myself. Although there were already hints of paparazzi invading our privacy. I was caught in a swimsuit lounging by the pool playing with my son and baby daughter. It was not very flattering and I almost choked with tears at the meanness of it all. But I  myself taken inside the mansion, all in my glourious full curves and bouncing bossom.still bountiful with milk. It circulated in the press and even went viral. Soon, I was being interviewed for being a model for big women who need not lose weight but just had to be comfortable with the way they were.

I developed a sense of style on my own and had some wonderful loose clothes done in various colors that flattered my sense of direction which was Eastern in flavor. Rich saris from India , silk suits from Tawi Tawi, I was rollicking with laughter . I was having fun. Here’s ana eyeful for you, I thought of all the mean paparazzi I had initially gotten.

Finally the day of the christening took place. I wore a wild purple dress the color of orchids in full bloom. Piolo could not tear his eyes off me . The Pickerings were there in their pale faded fashion style and the Faringhams still paying court to the Pickering but now with a big chip on their shoulder because nothing could compare to our events.They had planned on having the wedding of the year. It wasn’t going to happen.

That night Piolo and I had a good laugh at how the day unfolded. He had meant to show off his new family and he did with a successful turn.

It was days after that when I saw him wearing a suit again and was  conferring with a guest Japanese delegate that I felt bothered. It had something to do with their silk exports There was a problem and he needed to go there by himself. I didn’t want to be the clingy wife that I had fought so hard not to become so  on the day he left I just embraced him.

“ Come back to me safe and sound.” I reiterated.

“ Yes, my love. Stay here with the children and take good care of them. I’ll be back in no time at all.”

There really was nothing to be worried about but still, I worried.

Days later a large ty phoon overwhelmed Japan and a tsunami entered their floodgates  wreaking havoc to their nuclear powerplants. For days I did not have contact with Piolo. I was angry. I shouldn’t be, but I was angry at him for leaving us with no word as was to how he was now.But I could have sworn he was alive somewhere. He had the instincts of a wolf. He would survive.

I took the childrene to mass everyday and there were deep sympathies from our neighbors including sincere ones from the Pickerings and Faringhams. The parish priest especially prayed for his return.

In the mansion I found myself in a sort of daze. I would lie awake at night wondering exactly where he was. Later, I found out I could feel his presence. I closed my eyes and I could see him as a wolf in deep shelter at a cave. If only I could go there and find him myself, I thought but there were no transports to Japan. The devastation was too big. We gave a large donation for the victims as I was the acting chairman now in my husband’s absence.

Finally I knew what to do. I brought the nanny and my children to my old cottage by the woods. I also brought with me the stones given to Piolo by his mother and some more we had collected through the years. They were stones of resiliency. He would come back to me. I placed them on the ledge of the window and looked out to where I had seen him then, undressed and vulnerable to the forces that plagued him. Now these very forces would be the one to save him. He had transformed as a wolf so that he could survive. He would come back.

***

I slept a fitful sleep that night but was woken up by a commotion outside. I slipped into my robe and looked out the window. It was an army jeep and my heart skipped a beat. Then the familiar figure of a man got out. Tall, emaciated but infinitely mine, he came back. Piolo Banderine rushed to my arms.

“ I told you I’d come back.”

“ I knew you would” I replied and I kissed him full on the lips.

Timothy ran to his father and I watched him kiss his son then his daughter. He had promised me once he would always be there for his family so that the curse would not continue and he was being true to his word.

What happened? I think you know Mrs Banderine. Somehow I got wound up in the Philippines in my effrots to get out of Japan alive. I’m wet as a dog.

“ I’m sure you are. Mr.Banderine.” and we both laughed.

The following day we returned back to the mansion and as he promised, Piolo conducted all business from his home thereafter.

&


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