Reality v. Fantasy
The next morning nothing quite happened as it had been planned. Everyone slept in late. Ricca and Janna were up first, though they didn't know that immediately. They went to Mary's room. It was empty. She was gone. They quietly knocked on the master bedroom door. There was no response. They opened the door. Three souls were sprawled upon the bed, and were quite soundly asleep.
The two girls quietly backed out of the room and went to the kitchen. There they heated up the rice and the chicken for breakfast, following which they washed up. Somewhere in that process, their mother joined them and then, finally, the two stragglers appeared. When all had assembled at the table, it was Ana Fe who called the family meeting to order.
[In English — and Joshua noted that her English improved as she relaxed more with him] Last night many things changed. Joshua, you had us all. You did things to me and Mary. You turned our hearts to you. You have them. We do not need the two weeks. We do not want to be away for weeks. You are ours now. Same as we yours. And with a big grin, We not allow you leave us.
Mary was in complete agreement and indicated so via raised eyebrows to Janna and Ricca. The two younger ones were in the dark as to what had transpired, but they were happy to hear of the change in attitude from Mary and their mother.
Joshua was normally a cautious man. He had thought he would need at least a couple of weeks to be sure, but now he felt caution would be a mistake. I agree with you. What do you see happening now?
Janna and Ricca must go to school. Please give them money for travel. They can get to school with Jeepney and tricycle. They need ₱50 each for transportation and ₱80 for lunch. They meet us at the old place after school today for the rest of our things. Mary and I quit our jobs today. The allowance you say you give to us and my brother. It must start now.
Joshua handed three ₱50 notes each, to Ricca and Janna. The two girls scurried off to get to school — late though they be.
Ana Fe, I accept what you say as the way it will be. There are some things that I need and if you are going to be with me in the mornings, I need to explain to you that I am in desperate need of some coffee right now. Then a big grin spread across his face before he got control and replaced it with a straight faced...And I agree to providing the allowance starting now. When was the last time you gave your brother his money?
So he doesn't need cash until November 1st. He will get that.
[In Cebuano] Mother we both have money that we can use for the rest of the month. We do not need Joshua's money for us. We only need it for Joshua and this place.
[In English] Mary you must speak in English now. You are right. We have money already for the rest of normal month. But to take care of our Joshua and this place we need help.
Joshua removed his wallet from the front pocket of his slacks, where he kept it when in the Philippines. Here are fifty thousand pesos. You two are responsible for our apartment. Of course, I want you to be careful with the money, but purchase what we need as we need it. I will arrange for you to stay here after I leave to the USA to file the paperwork. I will then come back and stay here with you until the visas come through. So we might as well settle in here.
I need to go back. I must talk to brother's wife first and then brother. Maybe I go this afternoon. Then maybe we take my brother's family to restaurant for dinner. We get the rest of our stuff before we come back here. Mary bring you. OK? Oh.. and Mahal, you need get Philippine cell phone. Then we can call and text you! Mary helps you with that OK?
Agreed. Now where can I get a cup of coffee — real coffee — not that damned instant Nescafe!
Joshua had to settle for Nescafe that morning, but was promised that they would rectify the situation by the next day. Ana Fe and Mary launched off to formally resign from their positions. They returned in time to all go out to a local Turo Turo1 for lunch. Joshua had eaten Filipino food before and, while he was no expert, he had no problems finding enough to eat that day.
After lunch, Ana Fe left to see her sister-in-law. Mary and Joshua took a jeepney to Gaisano Country Mall. There they located a cell phone, a Smart Cellular2 SIM, a ₱1000 load for the phone and a coffee maker. In the supermarket downstairs, they found coffee filters and ground coffee. There was no table cream, but they were able to purchase fresh milk. They also purchased eggs and noodles and so much else that they needed a taxi to bring it all back to the apartment.
Mary confided in Joshua that she had never in her life spent so much money. It was scary. Was he sure he could afford this. When would he run out of money? Joshua took the girl's concern seriously.
Mary had a background in basic bookkeeping so, for the rest of the afternoon, with the use of his laptop and Excel, he showed Mary the sources of his income and the monthly demands on those funds. He also showed her his savings accounts and other investments he had built up. Since all he had shown her was in dollars, he then converted it all to Pesos so that she could get a sense of the difference between what they had spent and what they had to work with.
It took over two hours, but by the end, Mary knew a number of things. Everything Joshua had said he would do, he could do for as long as would ever be needed. That included paying for schooling, taking care of Ricardo's family — a tiny sum based on his finances, and all else that they might experience. He wasn't as rich as Pacquiao3 but they would be OK. The next thing she learned was that he treated her with respect and trust. Now she would have to prove to him that she deserved that from him. The last thing, and the thing that surprised her the most, was that he told her he would be expecting her to help him manage the finances for the family. She had done that for the last few years for her mother, but for some reason he had chosen her to do that with him, even though it was clear that he was quite capable of doing it himself.
Joshua was able to do it all on his own, but when Mary raised her concern, Joshua instantly knew a good thing when he saw it. It was clear that she had grasped everything. She could help him in two ways. As she knew the reality of the finances she could tamp down outrageous requests from others and hers would be another pair of eyes watching over the store to make sure things didn't go missing. He sensed that he had been right when he explained it all to her. She took it in and actually understood it. He had a financial comrade. She had a conservative streak that was beneficial.
Ana Fe had no idea how much Ricardo actually needed. Mary did know. She knew how much of what they paid to him covered the additional cost of having them there. While Joshua would send the ₱5,500 a month to Ricardo's family, Mary estimated that he really was short only ₱2,000 a month. Mary also disclosed that she had opened up a savings account and was making more than she had led her mother to believe. It was her version of the family safety net. She figured that, at some point, and for some reason, the world would come crashing down on them and they would need money. She had intended to be the magician and pull the rabbit out of the hat. That alone taught Joshua an important lesson about his new family.
Joshua asked Mary if she would like to pursue a degree in accounting and set herself up in an accounting practice. Mary was incredulous. Was such a thing possible? He assured her it was. Then and there, Joshua gained not only the allegiance of the girl, he gained something far greater. Mary had someone who cared not only for a warm body at night and someone who might produce children, but a mate who wanted her to pursue her dreams. That was something she had not thought possible. Her Joshua had proven that all her previous assumptions about him were wrong. From that moment on, in Mary's eyes, her Joshua could do no wrong.
Mary's cell chimed and displayed Ana Fe's SMS text message. They would need to leave from the apartment for a restaurant at 6:30pm.
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It had been a difficult afternoon for Ana Fe. When she walked into the apartment, Analen was clearly distraught. The fact that Ana Fe had a gift of a candy bar for her didn't help Analen's mood in the least.
[Translated from the Cebuano]
Analen, everything is going to be OK, I promise you.
Ate, how can you say that? What has happened? Where did you stay last night? How did you afford the beauty parlor for all of you? Where did you get those clothes you wore last night and today? Why aren't you at work?
First I will tell you that even though we will no longer be living here, I will give you and Ricardo ₱5,500 each month forever. I will never walk away from helping you and your family. And in the future, I will be able to send you balikbayan boxes too. I have found a man. He is taking me, and the girls, to the USA. We are staying with him now.
How can you be sure about this man, Ate?
I can be sure. That is all I can tell you. You will meet him tonight. We are all going out for supper to the restaurant, Spice Fusion, in the Town Center Mall. I have the money for the taxi for all of us in both directions. Ricca and Janna will come here after school, and we will meet Mary and Joshua at the apartment and then we will all go to the restaurant. So you do not need to cook anything tonight. And yes, Mary and I have quit our jobs. That is why I can be here now. If you need help with the kids during the day for a few months, either Mary or I can come here and help. Ricca and Janna need to stay in school. To answer the question about how I afford all this, Joshua has been providing me money. Before he got here he gave me ₱25,000 and now he gave us an extra ₱50,000 to take care of the new apartment, our food and anything that comes up. Analen you know I made only ₱96,000 a year. The ₱75,000 didn't include the rent on the three bedroom apartment which he already paid. We are really OK and so are you. You will have the money we were providing without as many people here.
Analen was far from sanguine. The discussion went on for a long time. Analen was furious that both Ana Fe and Mary had summarily quit their jobs. She was panicked that the money flow that was promised would end and end badly. There was little Ana Fe was able to do to assuage Analen's upset. At one point Analen literally screamed in Cebuano, Show me the money! To which Ana Fe, who had been very careful with every Peso Joshua had provided, displayed ₱35,000 on the kitchen table.
Analen smirked and said, Where's the rest of the ₱50,000?
Mary has ₱25,000. The rest was spent on clothing and the beauty parlor.
Analen was quieted down, if not mollified. The discussion, at that point, if not desultory, was at least less animated. The two women were cooperating with each other, if not completely happily. Ana Fe was bagging things up that needed to go to the new apartment. Analen was cleaning, sweeping and wiping down prior to reclaiming the space for her family.
That was a weird feeling for Analen. For the first time in her marriage to Ricardo, she would have an apartment that wasn't shared with others. It was exciting and frightening. She hoped things worked out for Ana Fe, but she knew that, time and time again, the trusting hearts of sweet Filipinas had been ripped to shreds by untrustworthy men, both foreign and domestic.
So it was with some real experience that Analen feared for the loss of everything — for all of them — now that Ana Fe and Mary had quit their employment.
The mood lightened considerably when the schoolgirls returned to the apartment late that afternoon. Ricca ran up to Analen and launched herself into her aunt's arms, giggling all the way. Analen almost fell over in the airborne assault. Catastrophe was narrowly avoided as peals of laughter rang out in those rooms.
Has Mother told you, Auntie?
Told me what, little one?
Yes she has. Do you like him?
He is the greatest! He's nice to all of us. Even Mary likes him!
Well, then, I guess he must be OK.
Oh yes, Auntie, he is.
Janna, do you agree with your sister?
Yes, Auntie. Joshua is a very good man.
What am I to do without you girls helping me?
Analen tried to keep the smile on her face as she got hugs from both girls. Then they all got busy packing up. By the time Ricardo got home, the job was done. He got instructions to take a quick shower and get ready to go out for supper. Before he could ask a question or complain that they could not afford such silliness, he got one of those looks from two women that told men, all over the world, to shut it and get with the program. Ricardo, being no slouch, got the message and into the shower forthwith.
It took two taxis to carry Ricardo, Analen, Ana Fe, Janna, Ricca and the two little ones, plus six large plastic sacks of stuff, to the apartment in Banilad. On the way, Analen filled her husband in on the day's events and information. Analen presented it without any spin. She wanted to believe it would work, and was fearful it would not.
Ricardo said nothing at all. He did nothing at all except to look out of the windows of a taxi that he could not afford. He would meet this Joshua and make up his own mind. Women were unreliable when it came to reading the qualities of a man.
The ride to the apartment in Banilad, only 12km away, at this time of night took 45 minutes. As they approached, Ana Fe sent Mary an SMS message to meet them outside and help get the bags inside. It was dark when the taxis rolled up to the apartment complex.
Ana Fe called out to Mary, What's the fare there?
Mary asked the driver and called back to her mother. The fares were the same. That was good news. Some taxi drivers had hacked their meters to overcharge customers. It was getting to be a real problem. Comparing fares gave reasonable assurance that these meters had not been altered.
Mary then paid the driver who had carried Ricardo's family, while Ana Fe took care of her taxi fare. Both asked their respective drivers a question and then gave each other a thumbs up. The bags were removed from the trunks of the two taxis and hauled into the apartment, where Joshua waited. Each bag was hauled in by another person.
Janna walked in first and winked, wiggled her butt at him and disappeared into the bedroom. Next came Ricca with a smile that would not stop, asking with a giggle, Did you have a good day, Mahal? before disappearing into the same bedroom. Next came Mary and Ana Fe, both of whom deposited their bags in the living room area and circled back to Analen and Ricardo, who had the last bags, with the toddlers following like little ducklings.
Ana Fe announced to all that, We will greet each other at the restaurant, as the taxis were waiting for them outside.
They were a party of nine now. Joshua sat in the front seat of a taxi with his four females in the back. Ricardo's family rode together, Ricardo also in the front seat of a taxi. When they all exited, Mary ran forward to pay the fare on the other taxi while Joshua paid for his. This was extravagance to Analen and Ricardo. They had never been part of such a thing. But Ana Fe and her girls seemed to be taking it as normal. How could that be?
On the street in front of the restaurant, the greetings began.
Ricardo was shy, but determined to take the measure of his sister's new man. Ricardo was a foot shorter than was Joshua, probably eighty pounds lighter, and thirty years younger. His English was not so good, but that wasn't going to stop him. Ricardo walked right up to Joshua. Joshua stuck out a hand and said, It's good to meet you Ricardo.
Ricardo was a little taken aback. How do you give someone the 3rd degree when they are being nice?
You be good to my sister? You not leave and hurt them?
Is your sister a good and honest woman?
Ricardo was not used to this type of man. He had taken a question and asked a question in return. It was an insulting question. How could he... ah, yes, then Ricardo could see the man's point. Both were flying a little blind, each trusting the other, neither could know for sure. Ricardo lost his anger and looked at Joshua in the eye.
Yes, Sir Joshua, my sister is a good woman who will be good to you all your life.
And I will do better than to not leave and not hurt. I will be good to her, take care of her, help the three girls, send money to you each month and always be honest to your sister. Is that enough?
You need to go to our parents. They must meet you.
I will do that in the next seven days. When it is done, is that enough?
Yes, Sir Joshua. And Ricardo meant that 'yes.' There was something about this man. This was a man who did as he said. No more would be said about this.
Good. Now let's eat.
The food was good and, with the noticeable exception of Analen, all had a good time. The food was plentiful but no one seemed to pay much attention to it. In some ways, even though Ana Fe and the girls would all be in Cebu City for a while longer, this was a goodbye party as much as an engagement celebration. It was the end of one era and the beginning of a new one.
At the end, after dinner and after Ricardo's family had been loaded into a taxi with money for the fare, Joshua's girls were all a little sad and quiet. If the ties that bind had not been broken, they had been greatly loosened and new ties needed to be formed.
Joshua was also doing a little reflecting. He had set out to get a couple of young girls to be his bed mates. What he actually got was a family, with all the complexities, plus relatives living a couple of steps away from grinding poverty. He was happy with his girls, but the dream had vanished and the reality of his actions had set in. He would have four pussies to fuck, from a youthful wife down to a young teenager, but these were four individuals with their own dreams, hopes, needs and goals.
From now on, he would be pulled along in foreign currents. There was no sense fighting the waters and winds in which he found himself. He had chosen to tack against the wind and in this direction. He had chosen a crew from remote seas. He might be the captain of this ship, but he wasn't so sure of who really would own the ship or what cargo would be brought aboard. He had made the commitments, now he had to live up to them.
These were his women, but conversely, he was their man. Their only man. Each of them would have a hand on the tiller. He guessed that, so long as he kept them off the shoals, he would have done his job. And, like a kept man aboard this ship of females, he would get his regular dram of pussy. In truth, it was all for which he had asked.
What was the saying? “Be careful about what you wish for, for you just might get it.”
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