Author's note: These chapters are NOT stand-alones...The story starts here.
Chapter 35: Chess, Poker, random chance and a joker.
Some days go smoothly, others bump along without the sense of order, but rather a sense of, 'what now.' This is sure as hell one of the latter. As far as I know the talkfest continues upstairs and I am staying away from that. I think I will just sit and relax with a glass of water, and that blasted cell phone of mine lets me know I have an incoming call.
As soon as I look at the screen I know it is Mahinay. What now?
Yes Captain, what can I do for you?
Sir Ron, you can invite Judith, Czaren, Tamal, and me for supper Wednesday night!
OK that is the last fucking thing I was expecting and one of the last things I want to happen. But I can't very well tell him no. I can ask, Are we celebrating something Captain?
Yes Sir Ron. I think we are. Each of us finds our loves, di ba?
So soon Captain? You only met Tamal yesterday.
Sir Ron, do you believe in love at first sight?
Yes. I really don't but why argue?
Well that is all it took for me and that is all it took for Tamal. I went back to the Orphanage after I left the office. I took her to dinner and well, I didn't know what to do. I wanted her so much but was afraid to do anything about it. Tamal asks to borrow my phone, and calls Judith. She tells Judith, 'Captain Mahinay is going to ask you something. Tell him yes.' And she hands the phone to me! I am scared but I ask Judith if Tamal can leave the orphanage and stay with me. You know what Judith say to me?
No Captain I truly do not.
She say, 'Captain, do you love her?' I tell her, yes. She say, 'Will you take care of her and protect her?' I tell her I will. She say, 'Good. Tamal and you are a couple. She stay with you tonight. She comes back here after school tomorrow and can pick up her things then. You come get her from here.' I ask her what Czaren will think? Will she be angry with me? She tell me, Czaren hopes I fall in love with Tamal. It is easier for her. Now I am confused. I ask Judith why. She say she will let Czaren tell me. She put Czaren of the phone, she say, 'Uncle, now we both be happy. You will have Tamal and I will have my love Judith!' Sir Ron, I am amazed. I am shocked but happy too.
I imagine you are. That is an amazing thing to happen. Tamal seems like the perfect mate for you, Captain. I am happy for you.
Yes, yes. Tamal and I talk a long time that night. She say that Judith and Czaren are the same as me and Tamal. She tell me that she thinks that you, k'Ren, and three others, a Joriz, a Jonalyn and a Pearl are the same as us. I ask her are these the girls whose mothers live with Sir Ron? She say they are. She wanted to join your house, but without a mother she was excluded. That true?
Captain I never met or even knew of Tamal until the day you met her. If my girls told her that there was no way into the house they were right, but even with a mother she still would not have joined. I already have too many here. It is sort of silly, the number of females that are here.
Sir Ron, we need to talk more. We have more in common than I first thought. I think I have found a brother! Sir I have a favor, while we are in Manila, might Tamal stay in your home? I do not want her to go back to the orphanage.
Yes Captain she may.
Thank you so very much. You will make my girl very, very happy. See you at seven on Wednesday?
Seven is fine. See you then.
What in blue blazes is happening to my life? I feel like someone attached me to a Saturn 5 rocket with a bungee cord and then lit the candle. This day is completely out of control and it isn't even lunch time yet.
I don't get five paces closer to the water when I get a call from Judith.
The plan worked, Ron, it worked!
No, Judith it worked for you. It has exposed me to a huge problem I did not need and most assuredly do not want.
But Ron, he can't expose us without hurting himself.
You think so? You're a fool. He makes Tamal 'disappear,' denies any involvement with her and goes after us! What part of stupid, do you not get?
OK I can make that problem go away. Trust me.
Judith, in the USA, we have this question and answer. 'How does a used car salesman say, 'fuck you'? The answer is he tells you 'trust me!'
I'm sorry I not understand.
Yeh. What's your idea?
He can make one girl go away. How many girls is needed so that he can't make them go away?
Too many and then he draws the eyes and the attention of others. That's too dangerous.
Ron, I think it would not take too many, but I am not sure if Tamal is the right one for that.
Well you are screwed, because the guy is in love with her.
Maybe, maybe not. I call you later. Maybe Thursday?
You will see me Wednesday. Thursday I am on a ferry to Iloilo and then a plane to Manila.
Why I see you Wednesday?
Wait twenty minutes and you will see.
No, it's just not my idea. See you Wednesday. Bye.
It is just getting crazier and crazier as the minutes accumulate. Once again I start toward the water cooler. Five steps, ten steps, almost there and Ring! Damn. I don't know who this is. Who has this number that I don't know?
Yes, Sir. I need to talk to you. When we do this?
I don't know. You are living with Captain Mahinay now. I don't think that there is an easy way.
May I stay there until he comes back from Manila?
Yeh, but I thought that your stay starts Thursday night, after I leave.
No Sir, Captain need to work all night, each night, because he will be gone for so long when he leaves. I ask him if I can stay at your house. May I?
Yeh, you may.
Good. It important.
Good, I come home with your girls. Maybe we talk then?
Yeh, OK. The connection breaks and two paces later I am at the cooler. Yeh I know I can walk and talk, but the cell signals are so iffy that a step in the wrong direction and the call drops.
Is what Tamal wants to talk about, what Judith has in mind? What is the problem? The cold water slides down my throat and slakes a thirst that needed attention. I refill my glass as Emelyn comes quickly down the steps. I wish I could bound down stairs like these gals can.
Emelyn comes up to me, puts her arms around me and pulls me down for a kiss. I want to be there when it happens.
Where what happens, Emelyn?
When Sarah eats Melissa's pussy.
No, please don't tell me that she is still coming.
OK I not tell you. Bye! And she is out the door.
I turn to walk out the door and almost run into Elvie who is walking in holding a strip of paper. Ronald! This bill! Too high! We have to turn everything off.
Stop! How much is the bill?
Banelco1 charge us ₱16,846.20. My God I never see a bill like this before!
Something is wrong. We need to get an electrician in here to tell us what is consuming all the current. See if Jenny knows a good one. Elvie runs back out to the garden. A minute later Elvie walks in alone. Jenny say pay the bill this month. Next month it will be under ₱6,000. But there is one time charge of ₱3,500.
A Banelco employee will adjust the meter tomorrow. Don't ask anymore and not tell anyone.
OK. So we don't fix what's wrong, we just hack the meter?
Nothing wrong here. We just make the meter work better.
Yeh, OK. The Filipino way. Damn good thing there are no nukes here?
Nothing. Look Elvie, it looks like we have four guests Wednesday for supper at seven.
Captain Mahinay, Judith, Czaren and Tamal. Also it looks like Tamal is spending the night tonight and staying the weekend. So the twins will have to wait.
Ambiguous. Why the four are coming or why Tamal is staying?
Glass in hand I sit down at the dining table and just breathe. There is so much swirling and whipping around that I can't find center. It is like we are in free fall. How do I adjust with all that is in motion?
I pick up the phone again and call Judith, the one person I have been trying so hard to avoid.
Judith, I got a call from Tamal, do you know why?
I think so. You aren't going to like it.
Shit. That does not sound good. Why won't I like it?
Tamal thinks Mahinay is involved with human trafficking. Selling women into the sex trade.
Is she in danger?
Not right now, but she thinks that he has his eyes on a few of the younger girls. She overheard a conversation with an Immigration officer about two eleven year old girls here. This trip you are taking is forcing them to change the schedule. It will happen on Sunday, after church.
What do I do Ron?
Nothing. You do not do a thing. Do not interfere.
But the girls?
I know. I am telling you, if you value all our lives, do nothing. See you Wednesday.
Yes, I know now. He called.
Did you say anything to him?
Is it too early for a drink?
I spend most of the rest of the day, up in my rooms, just thinking, alone. Elvie serves me lunch on a tray and sits with me for a while, as I try to make sense of all of this. This is like chess. Different pieces move in different ways. Some pieces block others. Some are pawns but are pawns of others. They are not to be trusted. The biggest problem is to know who is black and who is white and if they change colors in the middle of the game.
Is an enemy a potential ally? Is an ally the real enemy? Care, and caution. Which pieces to move and when? Is a sacrifice needed to save the game? I have never been in such a position in my entire life. This is no small thing. Am I over my head? Is this a little like poker? Am I the joker, the wild card they had not counted on?
The girls must be home, because there is a knock on my door and Elvie ushers Tamal in before excusing herself.
Good evening, Po.
Good evening to you, Tamal. Come sit here. I gather you have something to tell me?
Yes, Po. At first I think Captain a very good man. I think I can do what you say and love him. Then I hear something very bad and I think you are bad too. I tell k'Ren that you are evil. She argue with me and tell me to call Judith. I do that, Po. She explain why I am with Captain. She say you not know about this. So I sorry Po.
That's understandable. Apology accepted. What have you heard?
This morning before I go to school, I hear him talk to a man he call Emmanuel. He give instructions about where they meet to put two girls on a boat. Then he call Ma'am Cortez and tell her that she should pick up two girls from the orphanage after church and bring them to a place. I hear where. Po, these are two good girls. I am worried for them.
Tamal gives me the names of the girls and other details from the call. Her memory seems to be pretty clear. I hope it is. We will all have a lot riding on this.
Tamal, what do you know about this house?
You mean what you do with the girls?
Sure, if that is what you think I mean, tell me about it.
Sir well we talk today and I think you are evil, they tell me why it can't be you. So I know now. I know you love them and never hurt them. I know you protect them. I know you refuse to allow any bad things to happen to them.
I bet you are happy you didn't get chosen to join them!
No Sir. I am now very sad. It would be good to love so many people and be part of a family. In an orphanage, people come and go. You can never love anyone because they leave you. Here no one will leave, so it OK to love. I sad because I think I will be happy with Captain. Now I afraid of him.
When do you go back to his house?
Monday night Sir.
So you will stay here until then?
I hope so, Sir.
OK, good. Go on down. I will come soon.
I am downstairs for supper a bit early and scoop up the twins, pulling them aside. They know Tamal is spending the night. It seems that the occasion is seen as an acceptable reason for the delay. They know I am leaving in two days and will be gone for four days, but are OK with waiting. Joriz tells me they have something special cooked up for me on their special night.
You girls are not in control that night.
Joriz jumps into my arms, plants a kiss on me and announces, Ron, there are always exceptions to a rule. We are it. You will see. She puts herself back on the ground and off they run.
We sit for supper but there is tension because all the young ones know there is a real and dangerous situation that Tamal has discovered. I decide that it needs to be aired to all here and ask Tamal to explain what has transpired.
The discussion is animated. It swirls around, what can we do?
I am not partaking in the discussion until I simply say that any attempt by them will get some of us or all of us killed. That stops them in their tracks. Have faith, just have faith. Now on to another matter. I understand that some of you broke a rule of this house today. Any of you want to explain why you felt that it was necessary?
Karen is going to take the heat. She probably figures that I am not going to kick her out and she is protecting the others.
It was me. I did it. Tamal think you are involved with this slavery thing. She thinks maybe we are all slaves. She going to report you. I decide, tell the truth. She going to report you for the wrong reason, maybe we tell her the truth she still report you, but maybe not.
I see. Anyone else want to comment?
Jonalyn shifts in her chair and decides she is willing to take the heat. Sir, it is me that tell k'Ren to tell Tamal it what we do. She do it, but I decide. Blame me.
All look a little nervous, and that really isn't what I was after. I needed to see how it played out and I think I see it now.
You two made the right decision. I agree. It was the best option. But that leaves us with a problem. Jenny, there is a girl at this table that needs to be adopted, even if only symbolically. How would you like a daughter?
Is there a girl at this table who needs a mother? If yes. Let her stand.
No one is standing. Joriz leans across the table and swacks Tamal on the side of the head. Get up, stupid. She is asking about you!
Tamal looks at Jenny, at me, at all of us, and then ever so slowly, she stands.
Child, are you looking at your mother or are you just looking at a crazy lady?
At my mother, Po?
Are you sure, child? Are you sure you see your mother?
Yes, Po. Yes. I am sure now. You are my mother.
Good because I wasn't sure you remembered me. Sit down daughter. Ronald, have you met my daughter? All daughters stay here, do they not?
Jenny, you have a wonderful daughter. And yes your daughter is required to live here. That is the rule.
Tamal turns to me. Po, I am Captain Mahinay's. I do not understand.
Faith and patience, child. Monday is a long way off and the history of the coming days has not yet been written. Patience. Now I have to tell you that for about an hour tonight, we will leave you alone as there is a meeting of the rest of the family that you cannot attend tonight. The next time we have such a meeting, I promise you that you will be invited.
And so the night for the twins is now officially to begin in one hour.