I woke up once again laying on the bed of freesias. My mind went blank I had no memory of how I got there or what I did before waking up there. I felt a throbbing sensation in my chest and my cheeks were moist by my tears, tears I unconsciously shed without even knowing why. I felt the reminiscences my heart wanted to suppress, the reason why I became the person I am today. The past I yearned to forget, but deep down, never could. My mother, that man, Juliana and…
“Lai” It was that woman’s voice again.
“Hello? Are you there? Can you please explain what is going on?” I frightfully demanded
“Lai, you were right…I was lonely, I believed I could drown these feelings if I had another’s affection, I tried to act strong and be a proper role model for you, but you were always stronger then me”
Her voice interrupted me “wake up Lai!!”
“What are you?…” A bright light blinded me, followed by the sound of a car by the distance. I quickly woke up and found myself in a dark room, an intense thin beam seeped through what appeared to be a hopper window. I sprung up and tried to see outside, but the window was to high. As much as I hated to admit it, I was indeed short. There was no other way, I inhaled as much air as I could, and I yelled my guts out. I was small but loud, very loud. There were only two outcomes out of this, either it gets me killed or someone comes to help, I was expecting it to be the latter.
A shadow intersected the light that was coming from outside, out of reflex, I hid with my hands covering my mouth. Shit, shit, shit, shit… With the tip of my eye I see a dark outline peeking through the window, then slightly whispered:
“Lai? You there?”
Lucas! Oh, please merciful God tell me he’s actually here to help.
“Lucas! I’m down here!”
“Great! Can you reach the window?…scratch that, I forgot you were only 4ft tall. I’ll figure a way to get you out”
My eye twitched at the comment, “for your information I’m 5’2 and if you’re going to help me hurry up and do it already”
“Hey easy pigmy, I got the upper hand here I can choose to not help you.”
“Hey! You’re not really leaving, are you?” I was secretly glad to hear him, but I still couldn’t help feeling uneasy hearing how calm he was given the situation. He acted like a complete sociopath sometimes. “hello!? Lucas!?” Did he really leave that son of a…
A loud bang was heard from the door behind. I switched my gaze towards the door and searched around to see if I could spot something I could use for defense, but the place was extremely clean. BANG! There it was again, I squatted with my hands on my head, the fear from my younger days had cluttered my mind. I gasped heavily trying to fill my lungs, but it was useless, I couldn’t breathe normally, it was as if something was obstructing my bronchioles. I gasped again, simultaneously the door forcefully opened. I shrieked like a scared puppy and lowered my head whilst holding my knees.
“That was harder than expected…you alright munchkin? You look like a ball of dung.”
I ignored his obnoxious remark and ran to him. I hugged him as if I had known him for a long time. At that time, I didn’t even care who he was I just wanted to get out of there.
We got out of the house and inside Lucas’ car. I was still trembling, I was convinced that Tiago had something to do with Ren’s death, but why? I look at Lucas while he drove and narrow my eyes, there was still something I didn’t understand.
“How did you know I was there?” I asked suspiciously
“How could I not know?”
“Excuse me? That is not an answer”
“Then what is the answer you are looking for?”
“The truth, enough with these sketchy secrets, I want the truth”
He made an abrupt stop in the middle of the street and statically held the wheel, still concentrated on the road. My torso got pulled to the front tightening my chest to the seatbelt.
“WHAT THE FUCK! Why did you suddenly stop like that? Are you insane?”
“You want to know the truth? He coldly said to me
“Yes”, I gulped
“You think you can handle it?” he murmured
I swallowed even harder, “I’ve seen worse things”
The honk of the cars trying to pass us deafened me, the people impatiently drove by while cursing and yelling at us.
“We should move out of the way, it’s dangerous here” I nervously stated
“I thought you liked danger, being such a busy body and all”
“Forget it I’m getting off”. He stopped me before I could reach the door handle, grabbing my hand firmly
“I thought you wanted to know the truth?” He started the car again and drove off like a lunatic. I held tightly onto the car hooks and closed my eyes.
“Where are we going, can you just let me out?!”
“I’m going to tell you the truth”
“Then just tell me! What’s the point of driving god knows where?!”
“What fun it’s to just tell you, when I can show you” He looked at me still driving at maximum speed. The entire trip I remained with my eyes closed, till the car finally got to a smooth stop. I opened one eye to peek outside, then automatically opened both after seeing where we were. That damned Mirai Tunnel.
“Why are we here? What is the deal with the both of you?”
“Did he tell you the story about the painting in the living room?” he asked expressionless, “I bet he did, he tells that stupid story to everyone who visits”
“Wha…you mean Tiago?”
“Yes, genius, who else would I be talking about”
“How come everything you say makes me hate you even more? It’s a real talent you know.”
“Thanks, I take pride on that. Anyway, that painting was done by his ex-wife. He fell for her since the first day he saw her. It was more like infatuation if you ask me, but he called it love. Her mother worked as a servant in our home when we were little, so we knew her since then.”
“But what does this have to do with…”
“Are you gonna’ let me finish?
“Yes, go on” I answered with a pout
He continued with his story as I listened attentively:
My mother was a sick woman, her greed was mightier than anything. The other woman’s presence worried her for some reason. She thought our father would fall for her and abandon her without a single penny. To be honest she never really cared about my dad, all she wanted was his money. That woman came to work one day with the little lady in her hands, after her husband died. She was beautiful and our dad became obsessed with her, so he gave her the most pompous gifts, which obviously my mother didn’t like. I actually think Tiago got my mother’s madness and my father’s obsessive behavior…
“Man, get to the point” I interrupted
He rolled his eyes and sighed:
I’m getting to it…Mom hated her husband’s affection towards the other woman, and she heard that our dad was planning on asking for divorce, so she took action with her own hands. She threatened the lady with her daughter, or so I heard, so the lady quit and left the house. Years later we heard that the woman had died, though I’m not sure what was the cause, I can’t say I don’t suspect my mother, but I never knew the cause of her death. They wouldn’t tell me, and I didn’t ask because I was too young at the time. The girl was taken by her friend and then we didn’t hear from her again…
“And how does this place fit into all this?”
Patience lady…a couple of years later, we moved to the US because of my father’s business. My dad never gave up on the kid, part of the reason for moving here was because he knew she was here. He found that she was at a foster home, with her mother’s friend. He would give them money every time. Although he called himself a philanthropist, he was only caritative towards that cause.
Every time he visited the home, he took us with him, so Tiago’s infatuation proliferated, and my mother’s jealousy continued. As we got older, Tiago began to grow on her, their feelings became mutual, but there was no way mom would accept her. Either way Tiago didn’t care about mom’s opposition, so he continued to pursue her till she agreed to marry him. They were 21 when they got married, they believed that once they were married my mom would give up…she didn’t, instead, she became even more compulsive and constantly seeded ideas into my brother’s head to the point of making him delusional and dependent of someone’s attention. Those thoughts corrupted his mind and just the sight of his wife made him sick and powerless. He believed every little thing she said was a lie and everything she did was to screw him. Multiple times my mother said that leaving her was the only way for him to be happy, but every time, he refused. He didn’t want her, but he couldn’t let her go. And even after she gave bir…Even after she lost their son, he believed she was lying to him.
“She had a son?” I asked still trying to process all his words.
“She did…although he died soon after she gave birth to him”
“So was the story from the painting true? Did she find comfort in someone else’s hands? Did he kill her?”
“…yes, she looked for someone else’s help, but she was never unfaithful, if anything, she wanted to find a way to help Tiago…her body was found by this tunnel, just like Ren, but they never found any evidence that connected him to her death. All they found was a scapular she was holding tightly; the same one my father had given her mother before she died…the same one you have”
I opened my eyes widely and covered my mouth, still not believing everything I had heard.
“Lai, let me ask you something”, he continued “What do you think it’s so important about this place. Why is everything tied to this tunnel?”
“That…I don’t know…” I answered
“Don’t you remember, you’ve been here before, way before that night”
I knew in my heart that I had seen it before, but my brain kept erasing it like it kept resetting itself in order to protect me.
“You know this place well, don’t you? You played by the flower bed and secretly enjoyed your outings with the girls. You looked up to the older girls specially Juliana and you smiled brightly at those kids that came to visit every month, didn’t you Lai? Mirai Tunnel, the only way to get to the foster home, the same home you resided in for months”
My tears dripped as my past came flashing back before me. Juliana, Ren, me…we were all connected to this place, to that home. We all had that scapular for a reason, the same reason that brought me here that night, the same reason I shouldn’t forget. Ren was our foster sister, the same person who tried to protect me, while risking her life. Juliana wanted me to know, she won’t rest till I find him, till I save him. With a blank almost absent expression I muttered:
“The boy…he’s still alive”
To be continued…