Author's note: These chapters are NOT stand-alones...The story starts here.
Chapter 4: Shades
Tonight it is John and Susan. I have my fingers crossed.
Susan puts her spoon down, takes a deep breath and says, 'Nene, this supper is wonderful. Itís every bit as good as Jasmine told me last nightís dinner was. She also told me to consider Howard to be Ďtaken.í I donít quite understand all of this but it is clear that Howard is not going to be available. Jass has already put the word out and I will confirm it. Your Howard is yours and yours alone now.
Thank you Ate.
ß ß ß
The supper part went as well tonight as we could have hoped. My good friends will not pry and will assist me in establishing that I am not on the market. Nene and I have space to live our life. We can relax the next few days as there are no more parties. Not much more for me to say now. I just want to enjoy my life.
ß ß ß
Last I wrote anything here it was day nine. Today is day two hundred and forty eight. So I guess I need to get this all up to date. There is, in truth, little to tell. Nene and I are happy. Life has been good. There have been no real surprises. We see John, Susan, Bill and Jass at least once a month. Nene goes shopping with the girls on occasion and they seem to get along even with the huge age difference. She is just their little sister in that way from what I can see.
Nene continues to go alone to Florís grave once a week to place flowers. I am humbled by this.
The only surprise for some, was no surprise to Nene, who had every reason to know. It had to do with her appearance. As the months wore on, she got lighter and lighter. Now I want to go on record here and say I do not care for myself. All colors are beautiful. I clearly fell for Nene when she was dark. But I also know how important it is to Filipinas. Nene had never mentioned it, which I thought odd. But she is actually very light skinned; lighter than either Susan or Jasmine. That caused a bump! As the truth of it sunk in to Jass, she began to understand Neneís original comment about me saving her life. Jass and Susan must have compared notes and decided to have a sit down with Nene. I was not there, it was just the three females, but this is what Nene told me Jass said to her. I will put it into Ďdialogí but it is really hearsay.
Jasmine said to me, 'When we first met you, you were really dark skinned. But you were wearing an off the shoulder dress. If it had been from sun, we should have seen lines. Neither Susan nor I saw any. We both assumed you were naturally dark. Clearly, you are not. You are as light as anyone I know. You said Howard saved your life. I took that as a bit of an exaggeration. Now I am not sure. I think you need to tell us. How did you meet Howard? And Nene, we have kept your secrets and protected you. You need to tell us the truth.'
That is what was asked. Nene said, she told them about her life. About how bad it had gotten, by the time she banged on my window that day. She told them about being naked under the sun, about being without food, or shelter, or anything, and how you saved me. We all cried after that. They asked me what you did and I told them about you feeding me and washing me and giving me clothing to wear and not touching me for sex or anything.† I told them about how you love Flor. I told them I was afraid you would send me away if you found a woman. I told them you said you would not send me away but I did not feel safe. You then said you will tell your friends you are taken even though we did not have sex. Then I tell them how I make you have sex with me. I tell them everything Howard. Are you angry with me?
No Nene, I am not angry.
Shortly after Nene related this, we were invited over to John and Susanís. That was not unusual. We go back and forth with suppers. However when we arrived, Jasmine and Bill were there. That was a bit unusual. The next thing that happened was very unusual. Both men came up and shook my hand and then both woman came up and kissed me on the cheek.
Bill, Whatís this about?
Last year when Nene said you had saved her life, I donít think any of us took her literally. We just thought it was the excessive description of a teenage girl. We didnít know and you never said as much. You seemed happy and so we were just happy for you. What you did, well Howard, I can tell you that Flor would have been proud of you. We are all proud of you.
Well I donít think Iím much of a saint. So can we all just keep this to ourselves so I donít get jailed for having sex with a minor?
The six of us have gotten even closer since that night. They now call Nene, my wife. I guess she is.
One other thing that just happened yesterday and was the reason I decided to update this thing. Nene and I were down by Gaisano Mall. We were walking between that mall and the street that KCC is on. I guess we were busy in conversation when a young female approached us begging for a peso or two. Nene looked up and she gasped.
How you know me?
Nene? No you are not Nene? Nene I know is poor like me. Who are you really? How you know my name?
Nita, truly I am Nene. You see this man right here? He saved me. I am his now and lucky in life. Where is your son, your baby?
Dead, they dead. You really Nene?
Oh Nita, I am so sorry. Howard, please Howard, is your heart big enough to save one more?