Back in Santa Barbara - Eight


Two more days before the passage to my world opens, and I swear I could feel a hundred different kinds of emotions. There's joy because it's home. I crave for the physical things a human being could enjoy, yet always get neglected. I wonder what Ising could be doing at this moment. She has been with me ever since I was a kid, yet how easy it was for me to leave her in an old house, to embark on my adventure. When my parents died, it was her who stood by me and supported me to get back to my feet again. 

I'm also excited not to live in fear anymore. I looking forward to chances to do what I've always wanted to do. I don't know when I lose the motivation, but somehow, along the way, it happened. I've become frail, and have stopped doing something for myself. 

At the same time, I am sad to leave too. I have made friends with creatures in the Underworld. They have become my family. I learned that like humans, they also have their vulnerabilities and emotions. They have their own struggles and history. I am sad to know that after all our adventures, with one spell, I can quickly forget our memories together, how they made me feel. Crux came in last night, and he cried in front of me. He said that in all his life, this is the first time he cried for someone, and I have touched his life more than I can imagine. "You are my only friend," were his words. I comforted him and said he still got Gordo and Fuego, and that I won’t be truly gone. I promised that I would make sure of that. That’s the whole purpose of this diary. I don’t want to give them up. 

I also feel confused because will I be the same Felicia when I go back to my world? Or will I be changed? I am scared to know that all I have learned for a year will be forgotten. I hope the future me would feel renewed, be both stubborn and naive enough to believe in my written words… 

Chris came while I was writing the diary last night. He almost caught me. I don’t want him to know that I am keeping a journal. He could stick to reading my thoughts. This notebook is personal, where I write my deepest feelings. A few days ago, I admitted my feelings for him, and he responded with the word “love”. He said he love me! Can you imagine that? I am putting him in a worst position. 

After all these, I would forget how we made love almost every day, how I would lie in his arms and fell asleep. Soon, I will be crippled without these memories. “Chris, I just want you to know that you do not need to remind me of the past once I’m back to our world. In fact, maybe you do not need to talk to me again.” 
He abruptly got up from the bed and looked at me with rage. “What are you saying? Don’t you think we can make this work?” 
“Hey, calm down. I’m sorry. It’s not about that.” I grabbed the blanket and covered my shoulder. "I don’t want things to be difficult for you. I mean, look at us. We’re entirely different entity. If we’re both human, we could have fight for this.” 
“And what’s this Felicia? Do you think we’re just playing games? That’s what people do. Not me. Not engkantos. Do you think I am not capable of loving a person forever?” 
“Can you tell me, Chris? What can we do? Pretend everything’s normal? That we are normal? You must admit that we’re not. We are not." 
“What is it with humans that can’t fight for what they want? Why can’t you fight for me? Is it because I am not human?” 
“It’s not that, Chris. I don’t think I am ready to love again in the real world.” 
“The Underworld is a real world, Felicia. Don’t forget that. What happened here is not just a crazy dream." 
“I’m sorry…” was all I could muster. Chris looked hurt, but I didn’t know what else to say. I don’t want to lead him on to this fantasy. He left me on my own, and there was nothing I could do but to wept. I wish it is easy, but who are we fooling? I had my heart broken before, which could have worked, if not because of the frailties of a human heart. My heart ached for the what-could-have-been. 

I stirred my cup filled with hot black coffee. I pushed the door open and sat by the garden. I looked at the sky filled with countless stars. It's 4:30 am and it's the darkest hour. That's what people said, it's always darkest before the dawn. Or some would say, there's a rainbow after the rain. 

How I wanted to believe it. But after all that happened, all I could say is that, it's a myth. 

After a major struggle, there are always the residues that need to be clear out. And before you were even done cleaning those tiny bits of leftovers, there is a new problem coming your way again, bigger than the last one which needs to be solved. Call me a pessimist, but I couldn't just take a blow after a blow. 

I must have stayed awake the whole night thinking about Carlotta’s call. I wished she hadn’t called and told me about the Queen's spell. What I don't know won't kill me. Now that I am aware of this fact, it’s been making me crazy. 

Our relationship has improved a lot after the Santa Barbara feast. It felt like the saint of our town had blessed us, or whatever we have between us. There were arguments about the little things, but along the way, we would solve it and learned a lot about each other. Last night we had dinner at the town, and he asked me whether I would like to complete the nine simbang gabi (nine masses). It is believed that if you complete attending the mass which is usually held in the wee hours of the morning, you are granted a wish to come true. I told him I would love to attend. And he smiled widely looking so ecstatic because this will be his first time. He never was interested before, but after witnessing the happenings in Santa Barbara, the Christmas bug had bit him. 

What Carlotta told me was a revelation. I wanted to confront him, but I don’t know how Chris would react. Was he testing our relationship all along? That if in case we didn’t go well, he would have chosen to go back as an engkanto? I was afraid to know the truth. What if he decides to leave? 

My pondering was distracted by a moving object from behind a bunch of Gumamela plants. Was it a stray cat? I stood up, putting my mug down. “Who’s there?” I called out. I shouldn’t feel scared, but I prepared myself in the case of any surprises. I picked up the heavy shovel and ready to strike back in case I needed to. There came the murmuring sounds confirming that I was not alone. I felt goosebumps all over my body. It’s not just a cat or a dog. It was something else. It looked smaller. Something not human. “Hello? Whoever you are, you better come out of the plant now. Or else, I swear you will be hurt.” The plant swayed as if someone was struggling to get out. Then I saw its pointed hat, its young and round face with pointed ears. Its short arms were flailing, trying to get out of the bush. 
“H-help me out, Felicia.” I was stunned that it knew my name. “Get me out of here.” It spoke again. I put the shovel down and held into its arms. I pulled it out easily and held it down to the ground. 
"What are you? Why do you know my name?" 
At first, it seemed surprised that I do not know who he is. "You don't remember me? Ah, I know why. It's the Queen's spell." He tidied himself up. I looked at his familiar sad face. Its shoulders, slouched. I believe I have seen him somewhere before. Perhaps in a dream? "It's Crux, Felicia. The dwarf who almost killed you." 
I realized where I had seen him before! That night in Spring City, in my room in Building 325. It was a vivid memory as if I have made it up. "What are you doing here? I thought the passage had been closed?" 
"I followed Chris when he came out. He didn't know I was there as he has become human and couldn't have sensed me. I fell asleep, and I lost him. I searched for you, but you were both gone.” 
“I’m sorry. I want so bad to remember you, and the times that we have been together but all that was left were words I have written in a notebook.” 
“It’s okay. I kind of expected this, Felicia.” 
“Also, thank you. Thank you for saving my life that night in Building 325. If it was not because of you, Garuda could have killed me right then and there.” 
“I am glad I made that decision, Felicia.” 
“You know what, I should wake Chris up. He would be happy to see you.” I motioned to the door, but he pushed it forward. 
“You don’t need to do that now. I would want to talk to you first.” 
“How about we come inside the house, and I’ll get you something to drink. You look exhausted.” 
“Sure, I’d want to have some hot chocolate?" 
“Your wish is my command.” We entered inside and walked towards the kitchen. I got the can of cocoa and poured water in a cup, while he went on about his journey to Santa Barbara. 
“When I lose you and Chris, I knew right then and there who the right person to ask - the weird witch on fourteenth floor.” 
“Carlotta?” I can’t believe that even a dwarf would think that Carlotta is weird. I laughed at the thought. “She’s quite a woman.” 
“She told me you went back to Santa Barbara. At first, she was reluctant to help me as if she does not want me to follow you at all. I squeezed her for two days before she finally gave up and printed me this map from the web showing directions to Santa Barbara. I hate her. She made it so hard for me!” I handed him the cup of hot chocolate. He inhaled the aroma, and his feature softened as if he had inhaled a relaxing drug. “I hitched rides with cars, but of course, these drivers do not know I sat at the back of their vehicle. En route I stop over in Laguna, Cavite, Makati. I can’t believe myself either. It was an adventure. I took the jeepney, but no one saw me. And I climb the Mt. Pinatubo! And now, here I am!” 
“What an adventure! I’m jealous. I’m glad you didn’t struggle to look for us.” I also refilled my cup with more coffee. With a dwarf in my house, I needed to make sure this was not just a strange dream. 
“Well, I know how to enjoy myself. But those stories of adventure is for another day. Now tell me about the engkanto living with you. Is he okay?” 
“He seemed to be used to living in the human world anyway. I feel that he’s okay. I mean he lived his life as a botanist in Spring City. He even got himself a job.” Crux looked amused. 
“Funny you humans. You say one thing, but you meant another.” 
“What do you mean? Can you read my thoughts?” 
“I can’t. Only engkantos do that. I can read expressions especially yours.” He took another sip from his cup. This time, he finished it with a loud burp. 
“Why did you follow us Crux?” I finally asked. He sighed. “Tell me why you’re here. Are you here to pick Chris up? I know about the Queen’s spell. I know that anytime from now, he can choose to go back and become an engkanto again. Are you here to help him in case he changes his mind?" 
More wrinkles formed on his worried face. He replied, “In fact I am, Felicia."

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