He careened onto the highway without saying a word in the heat of the morning. He was going so fast I had to clutch hard at his shirt. Tears started to brim on my eyes.
As he maneuvered our motorcycle through the heavy traffic, swerving left and right, making my heart leap to my throat every time he came too close to another vehicle, his shoulders and back showed his anger. They were stiff and knotted with tension.
I could not say anything. My fear of his speed, the wind against my face, and the tears already sliding down my cheeks are almost choking me to death. Every vehicle we passed by was a blur.
I tried not to hold on to him because I wanted to let him know I was hurt, too. But, I couldn’t. I don’t want to fall off the bike.
I felt him glance sideways at me. I know there are a lot of questions in his mind. I could answer all of them. But, I won’t. Not this time.
Last night was the last straw.
Sophie, our two-year-old daughter, was not feeling well. She was feverish, cranky, and fidgety. She will not let her dad put her down to sleep.
I was lying on our bed, with my eyes closed, trying to rest a bad headache away. He was holding Sophie on his lap, getting more furious by the minute. He was tired and wanted to go to sleep already. But, our little girl wouldn’t let him.
She kept on tugging at his arm, wanting him to hold her closer still. She wanted more of his attention minus the anger. If only he could have been gentler, Sophie would have calmed down a bit.
After a few minutes, he suddenly got up and dumped Sophie forcefully on the bed beside me. His every move showed his exasperation. In my surprise, I gasped his name out load and catapulted off the mattress like a spring.
Having landed on her butt, Sophie cried. She wailed as if in pain.
I admonished him for what he did, but he brushed me off and shouted at our little girl to shut up. Sophie bawled even more, her shrieks piercing the stillness of the night.
I don’t know what came over him, but he suddenly slapped our baby, his meaty palm landing smack on her left cheek.
She was momentarily stunned into silence, before she burst into fresh tears, her wails shriller and more piercing this time. A trickle of blood appeared on the corner of her mouth.
I was stupefied. For a moment, I wasn’t able to move or speak. I just stared at him, my mouth agape.
Then, all hell broke loose. I became a tigress protecting her cub. I launched at him and pummeled his chest with my small fists, while my legs kicked at his shins. I cursed at him and called him names. I told him to pack his bags and leave.
But, he just headed out of our room as if nothing happened.
I turned to Sophie and cradled her in my arms. I brought her to the kitchen and applied some ice to her cheek, which was already starting to swell.
I know I shouldn’t have done it with Sophie in tow, but I did it. I trudged to the veranda where he was sitting on a rocking chair as if everything in his world was all peachy and great. Then, in a voice as dead as the bones buried at the cemetery near our house, I told him again to leave.
I told him I did not love him anymore. His having laid a hand on our daughter was a line he should have never crossed. To hurt him as much as he hurt Sophie, I dealt him a blow I know he will never recover from. I revealed how I still love my former boyfriend and how I wished he was the father of my child.
Everything I said fell on deaf ears though or so I thought, because here I am now, holding on for dear life with the wind whistling at my ears. The ground seemed to rise up to meet the sides of my face every time he swerved too low. I could do nothing else, but to hold on tighter to him, even if I wish to push him away.
I’m afraid I will not reach my office alive. I may not see my daughter again. With so many thoughts racing through my mind, I scrunched my eyes shut.
Moments later, our motorbike stopped. I opened my eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. We were already at the parking area outside my office and he was looking at me with wary eyes.
I fixed him with my deadest stare and told him that I don’t want him near me or our daughter ever again. Then, with shaking knees, but with my head held high, I walked away.
Last night was definitely the last straw.
P.S. I wrote the first part of this story at the Cebu Lit Fest this year, during the writing workshop with New York writer Tim Tomlinson. I read what I wrote in front of the attendees of the workshop and to my surprise Tim said what I wrote was amazing.
I haven’t written short stories in a long time and what happened at the Lit Fest was an eye opener for me. I have got what it takes to write something good. I just need to believe in myself.