A flash of lightning struck somewhere nearby, briefly lighting the dark room that had become her prison. The black iron bar glimmered with wetness from the onslaught of rain sent from the sinister heaven as it raced down her windowpane—the three windows that occupied her room in the tower that no one could get in or out of but through one staircase.
Su was trapped by a ferocious lion—a jaguar—her step-father. He meant to take everything and destroy it—leaving her with just her bones. To him, she was nothing but a thorn in his eyes, but yet he refused to ever allow her to leave for a chance of happiness or freedom.
He punished her for her father’s sin.
Another lightning struck nearby and she saw her reflection against the window. A red light glowed behind her, she read it to be 1:30 A.M.
He was waiting for her. She knew that he would wait—rain or shine—until she showed up. Guiltiness told her that he was standing in the rain, drenched like a wet dog for something that he must not have.
Daniel….I’m so sorry….
Hadn’t she always longed for escape? Escape from her step-father’s cruel words, unjust actions, and degrading insults.
She knew since a child that he was not her real father—not even close. Her own real father had died before he could marry her mother. And her mother did what she could for her daughter and remarried in hopes of securing a future for Su. Little did she know that her daughter would be treated less than a servant.
Su did not blame anyone. She didn’t blame fate, chance, or destiny. She was certain that her feelings had grown numb to the knowledge of never receiving love from a father and never receiving happiness from home. All she did was accept it and hoped that one day she could leave.
And her chance was here. With the man who sat beside her.
A breeze blew the leaves over their head as they sat on the cold stone seating situated outside the university they had attended the past four years. They were not alone, but in their own corner, under the shade hiding from the warm sun where they retreated to their own secret.
His hands reached out for her hands and pulled them towards him, resting on the table.
“Su, I’m graduating next month,” Daniel explained. “I won’t be here and I don’t know what will happen to you. I worry about you, and I would rather have you with me so I can take care of you. Remember that I promised to you since we were little that I would take you away from your family?”
“Daniel, we were only eight years old,” Su reminded him. “You don’t have to keep that promise for real. I’m just a girl. I don’t want you to be burden with me.”
“But you’re not a burden at all,” he exclaimed. “You are my best friend, Su. We could get married and get away from this place. I’ll take care of you. I’ll watch over you.”
Su gazed into his eyes and waited for a false response to tell her that he was only lying. But no where in his eyes claimed dishonesty, and she knew that there was nothing for her to fight against. He was her only escape from her prison. Marriage to him was a far better situation than being chained to the walls of her stepfather’s house.
“You really want to marry me—for me to marry you?” asked Su cautiously.
“Yes,” Daniel confirmed as he tightly held her hands. “I want you to marry me.”
Su glanced down to his hands that gripped her without letting go. He was her strength and her wall. For more than ten years, he came to her when she was not needed. He was her friend when she had none. He comforted her when she cried. Now he wanted to be her mate to take her away.
“You should ask my mother,” Su finally spoke. “I have no issue with it.”
—end of Flashback—
In his compact car that was parked at the end of the road, he sat shivering in the cold unable to move. Boxes and luggage were packed in the back seat ready to departure from there. All he had to do was wait for Su.
Daniel had told her to come at 12 midnight. But looking at his watch, it read 1:35 AM. She had not arrived yet. But he remained patient and waited. The possibility that her step-father had locked her up did not escape his mind.
At the age of eight, he moved into the house next to Su’s family’s house. His own parents were well off in wealth that they could afford that part of town. And that was when he met her. Her tears called him and taught him to care for someone other than himself. Over the years, he learned more than just care. With Su, he learned to love and worry and plan for a future with just her.
He would wait eternity to be with her. He would be her hero and rescue her.
Where are you, Su?
“You are in too much hurry,” Su’s mother stated, staring at the father and son who sat across from her in the sitting room of her husband’s house. “You might graduate this year, but Su is still in college.”
“But I will not stop her from going to school,” Daniel explained. “My father does not mind either. He would really like Su as a daughter-in-law.”
“Yes, I do,” his father agreed.
She watched between the father and son and felt the uneasy feeling of fear creeping up. If there had been a chance, she wished she could chose to not have married after her husband—her only love’s death and placed Su in this position. But here was her daughter’s chance at happiness and she would gladly give Su up to someone…some place better than here.
“I love Su, you must know,” she began slowly.
“Then you must let her leave this place,” Daniel exclaimed suddenly, at which his father glared at him to remain calm. Daniel murmured an apology and allowed her to continue.
“But does Su love you back?”
Daniel hesitated to answer. “She…said…she had no issues.”
“Daniel, Su has many weaknesses. She needs love and to learn to love in return. I haven’t been the best mother to show her this. You must understand why I am reluctant to let her leave. She might not be the woman who is right for you.”
Daniel could refute that statement, but he was interrupted with the entrance of the master of the house that he had taken upon himself to visit.
“My wife is right,” Su’s step-father claimed. “Su is not the right woman for you. A man with your status—-your father is the governor—should not put yourself down to marry such a girl.”
Daniel did not speak. He would not speak to such a man even if respect called for him to do so. The man who sat down beside Su’s mother was no less than a vicious dog guarding the bones in his house—whether bad or good.
“Let’s put it this way, you want to marry Su, right?” He began. “Why don’t you allow your father and I to discuss this? Just go wait in the parlor. I’m sure you’l be well taken care of.”
There was a reluctance in him, but his father urged him to go. And so Daniel did. But in the end, he should not have left as he realized.
While in the parlor, he met Su’s younger sister. At the time, he did not take the situation too seriously and conversed with her as acquaintances would. The servants came and served refreshment and then left them alone. Su’s sister had reach out her hands to him, sat closely beside him, and if he hadn’t been so gullible, he would have known that she was flirting with him.
When he returned home with his father, he was told that the engagement and settlement was on.
“You mean that he allowed me to marry Sutthida?” Daniel asked.
“Sutthida?” His father questioned. “Don’t you mean Suwanant?”
“Suwanant?” Daniel exclaimed in astonishment. “Why are you mentioning her? You know that the Su I always talk about is Sutthida.”
“But I thought you two were just friends. When did you and Sutthida fall in love?”
“I’ve always loved Su! But now you just got me engaged to Suwanant!”
“I’m sorry, Daniel. I didn’t know.”
It was too late now. Su would misunderstand and he was going to lose her. Daniel had to explain—and soon before she would take to her thoughts that he was lying to her.
—end of Flashback—
He never loved her, Su finally admitted to herself. If he did, he would have told her. Just one whisper, she would have moved the world to be by his side. But he never uttered a word and she only thought to herself that he loved her because he asked for marriage. No man would attach himself to anyone unless he loved her. But then again, Daniel was an honest man and he only pitied her.
A low scratch against her door made way to her mother’s quiet, creeping entrance.
“Ma, what are you doing here?” Su asked, surprised and afraid for her mother’s sake. “He would kill you if he knew that you came here. He warned everyone already that no one can come here.”
“I’m so sorry, my daughter, my child,” her mother spoke as she crept up and placed a hand on Su’s cheeks. “All I ever wanted was a father for you.”
“Why are you apologizing?” Su asked. “You did nothing wrong, but act as a worried mother. I don’t blame anyone.”
“But I blame myself,” her mother confessed. The tears glistened on her face as she caught Su’s hands. “Hurry, you must leave.”
“But ma, I can’t. I cannot leave or else he will hurt you.”
“He will not hurt me. But he will hurt you if you stay.”
Su began to cry and she shook her head to refuse. “Where am I to go? I have no one.”
“You do. You have Daniel.”
She laughed. Su laughed and cried for the pain and truth that combined to tell her that nothing could be on her side. “He does not love me, ma.”
“How do you know? Has he ever told you?”
Su just shook her head.
“Then you must ask him in person,” her mother commanded. “Tonight is your only chance. Tonight, I will redeem my sins as a mother and give you the happiness that was stolen away from you these eighteen years.”
What is the use, Su thought to herself. How could she compete against her sister—or even dare take away her sister’s happiness?
To everyone else, Su was unmoved by the knowledge of the engagement of her sister with Daniel, but alone in her room, she cried the tears that was forced out by the mocking words played out from her step-father. His verbal abuse rendered her to agree. Who was she to think that someone like Daniel—his status, his position—would stoop that low enough to want to marry her? Her sister would be a better match than she ever would.
Suwanant was perfect. Beautiful, smart, sweet, and most of all, she was her father’s daughter. Su was an orphan that was taken into custody as a mere servant that had only innocence to hold her together.
From the day she learned of her sister’s engagement to the man who had asked her own hand for marriage, Su learned to grow cold and unemotional. She guarded herself more carefully and most of all, she refused to see anyone…especially Daniel.
But living as neighbors didn’t allow her the chance of evading him for long when he caught her wondering the garden alone.
“Su, please don’t try to escape me,” he begged, trying to reach out to grab her hands.
“Go away, please,” she begged in return and kept pulling her hands away.
Her hardened emotion melted to tears with him nearby but yet so far because he did not belong to her.
“No, I won’t,” he firmly stated, and caught her arms to keep her from moving away. “You must listen to me.”
“Why should I? You said you wanted to marry me, but you get engaged to my sister! You tell me you want to protect me but you are hurting me! How could I ever believe you?”
“Su, it’s not as it looks. I did come and ask for you hand in marriage, but my father made a mistake. When your father agreed to the engagement, I was not there and he told my father that it would be Suwanant and my father thought the Su that I wanted was her. But it’s not. I want Su—Sutthida. But by then, my father had already agreed and everything was settled. But I want to marry you. You—Sutthida!”
Bursting into tears, she sobbed in weakness while he pulled her into his arms, tightly holding her against his body.
“My father refuses to end the engagement because of our family name,” Daniel informed her. “And I admit that he doesn’t think you are a governor’s wife material. But I don’t care, Su. I promised to take care of you. I promised to marry you. And I will not break any of those promises.”
“But your honor and respectability is just as important….”
“Man does not live alone on that, Su. I don’t care what happens to all that. You are more important to me. If I cannot change anyone’s mind, I will take you away without anyone’s permission. We will run away together. Just like I promised.”
Promises. He has always given her promises that never told her love. But here she was, believing every word, every sentence and claim that he was spouting out.
She would believe every word he said because she knew that she was not strong enough to disbelieve Daniel. He had always been there for her. If she didn’t believe him, who could she believe? When she pulled back, her eyes drowned into his eyes and allowed him to make her a believer.
He took her left hand in his right hand, before he reached in his pocket to take out his ring. It wasn’‘t a diamond ring. No, it was his school ring.
“My father may not give me money to buy you a ring, but this is the next best thing, Su.” He slipped it into her finger as her fingers clasped it closed. It was slightly bigger and heavier than what she was used to wearing and she feared that if she didn’t close her hand, it would fall out and disappear somewhere on the ground. “Meet me tonight, Su. Meet me at the crossroads at midnight and we will run away. I won’t wait for someone else to decide my future.”
She accepted without reluctance. With satisfaction, he smiled. He would have pulled her into his arms and told her what was in his heart, but then, Su’s sister came out and saw them. Su immediately pulled away and turned to look at the angry red glare directed at her.
“Su, I think I hear mother calling,” Suwanant told her older sister.
Sutthida left to the kitchen knowing that Suwanant had not meant her mother was truly calling her, but it was an order for Su to disappear. When she turned to look back, she saw Suwanant wrapping her arms around Daniel’s arm, hanging onto him with all the love a woman could give. Daniel only smiled and patted her arm. Su tried not to doubt what she had and held fast to the belief that Daniel wanted to marry her and not her sister.
However, several minutes later, as Su sat alone, her sister waltzed in as if she was on seventh heaven. Su tried not to care, tried not to pay attention, but at that moment, her step-father entered as well and Suwanant gladly and proudly showed off a gift to him.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Suwanant exclaimed. “Daniel must truly love me. I can’t believe he would spend so much money on our engagement ring! I can’t wait to see what the wedding ring will look like!” Walking over to Su, she shoved her left hand into Su’s face, who slowly looked up at her gleaming face before returning to the glittering pink rock on her sister’s ring finger. “Daniel may have made promises, Su, but he belongs to me. Do you think that he would choose you over me?”
“True, true, my daughter,” her step-father agreed, looking disdainfully at Su. “Who would want a pebble when they have a gem as you, Suwanant? They just step over a pebble and kick aside, but only a gem can be cherished.”
“As for your promises,” Suwanant added, “forget that they ever existed. Daniel told me everything about you. How silly of you to think that he would actually love you. And forget about meeting him tonight. He only wanted to see how gulible you are.”
“Yes! How else would I know?” Suwanant taunted and laughed. “What a silly puppy you are? I’m almost ashame to call you family—only you’re not.”
Hooking her arms with her father, she laughed and sauntered off, still admiriing the ring that sat firmly on her finger. Su glanced at her own loose ring that was barely half as beautiful and the tears dropped. Was he lying? Did he really only mean to use her?
He never did say that he loved her. She was forgetting that she was a pebble, as Suwanant claimed her to be. Who would want a pebble when they can have a gem? Isn’t that the truth?
—end of Flashback—
The black rain thundered its way down on earth and coldness surrounded him. He shivered as he pulled a blanket over him to keep him warm because he had already turned off the car, upon realizing that Su was not coming anytime soon. Almost two hours would pass and he was uncertain as to believe if Su was strong enough to run away as she always claimed to want.
Daniel continued to wait though. Dammit, he would wait until the Earth opened up and sucked him up. If he didn’t have Su, he would rather die. He meant to protect her and wherever she was, he would travel to the end of the world to watch over her.
At that moment, lights came pouring from the end of the road and Daniel was sure that it had to be Su. Getting out of the car into the rain, he crossed in front of the car and waited. Soaking wet, he began to shiver again.
The car stopped. It had to be Su.
Several moments later, the door finally opened, and Su walked out. She walked into the freezing rain with no umbrella and just tugged her jacket closer to keep warm, causing Daniel to run up to her and hugging her.
“You came,” he whispered, torn between happiness and tears.
Su pulled away and stared at him hardly. She wanted to punish him and demand an answer, but unfortunately, she grew soft and the years of friendship and love bent her to his will. Her hands came to his face, gently holding him and wiping the wet strands off his gorgeous face. A face that broke her heart with one false promise.
“Daniel…I’m sorry. Maybe this isn’t right,” she confessed, allowing the tears to mix in with the rain.
“What are you talking about?”
Su didn’t say anything. She just pulled back as hard as it was and took the ring out of her pocket. Taking Daniel’s hand, she placed it in his palm and closed his fingers over it.
“What are you doing?” Daniel asked frantically.
“I don’t know why you even ask me, Daniel, but it hurts to think that I can’t be with you. You won me, Daniel. If that was what you wanted from me, then you won. I don’t know what else I can say except that I hope things work out well for you.”
“What is this supposed to mean? Why can’t you be with me?” Grabbing her arms, he pulled her against him. “Why? Why, Su!”
She sobbed loudly and shook her head. “You were my friend, Daniel. You’re my friend! I trusted you! But seeing how my sister loves you, I can’t hurt her. I can’t hurt my mother. I’m just a girl, Daniel! You can’t ruin your life for me! Just let me go. Forget me. Forget the promises. I’m letting you go, Daniel. I’m letting you go…. Go back to Suwanant. You gave her an engagement ring. You told her things about us. Do you think that I would be foolish enough to think you still want to protect me?”
“No!” Daniel exclaimed. “I didn’t give any ring to Suwanant. And I didn’t tell her anything about us.”
“How can I believe you, Daniel, if she told me that—”
“Su, you know me better than anyone else! You know that I would never hurt you. I don’t know how Suwanant knows, but I never told her. As for the ring, it’s not mine. My father gave that to her. It is nothing to me!”
What was she to believe? Su was so confused and mixed up.
“I don’t know, Daniel,” she wept. “But maybe we just weren’t meant to be. Maybe it’s all wrong. Please…just let me go.”
Words left her lips and she turned away from him. She walked away in pain and anguish because she was letting Daniel go even if her heart loved him.
“I love you!” Daniel exclaimed, and she stopped. He rushed up to her, gripping her arms and turned her to face him. In his face, she saw the tears that came down with conviction and honesty. “I don’t want anyone else…but you…. Please believe me, Su. Please believe me enough to not leave me. I love you. I love you with all my heart!”
“No…don’t make this harder for me, Daniel,” Su wept helplessly. “Don’t make me love you anymore than I already am. I can’t stand the pain if I ever find out that you’re lying.”
“Su, I’ve always loved you ever since we were children. Do you think a man would attach himself to a marriage to a woman he wouldn’t love, Su? I love you and that’s why I asked you to marry me. I want to protect you, take care of you, and make you the happiness woman in the world. No one else matters.”
“How I want to believe you, Daniel,” Su uttered, as her hand reached out to cup his cheek that ran wet with the rain.
Taking her hand from his face, he brought it to his chest…over his beating heart. “Believe me. Believe me as you once did when we were children.”
She cried…again…this time she cried with happiness and nodded. “I love you enough to believe almost anything you want me to believe Daniel. Just take me away. Take me away from here.”
“Su! Watch out!” Her mother’s voice screamed.
The words came out just as a loud bang thundered through the rain and Daniel threw his body over Su as they tumbled on the wet cement. He remained over her while his head flashed up to see what had happened, letting the water drip down over her face.
He protected her…as he promised.
An utter cry of pain winced through the rain and caused Su to roll her head to the side where she found her mother lying on her back, gripping her chest. Far beyond her, a silhouette of her step-father holding a gun with Suwanant beside him, her hands over her mouth as if in shock.
“Su…” her mother struggled to cough out.
“Ma!” Su screamed and rushed up to her mother with Daniel right behind her. Grabbing her mother’s body and cradling it against her legs, the blood seeped out from her chest onto Su. Realization caused Su to sob in anguish as she begged and pleaded for her mother to survive.
“I…was never…a good mother…to you,” she struggled to say.
“No, don’t say anything,” Su begged. “We’ll get you to a hospital! You’ll be fine!”
“Su, this is my karma,” she heavily breathed out. Reaching out to touch her daughter’s face, she wept. “But before I go…I want…to fulfill…the task of a mother…” She reached blindly for Daniel and he immediately took her hand. “Daniel…Su…is all I’ve ever had…please take care of her…Su…in my pocket…date for your wedding…my last request….”
“Ma, you’ll be at my wedding! You’ll live and be there!”
“Forgive your step-father…forgive Suwanant…she did not mean to shoot me…I’ve only loved you and your father…no one else…” She turned her eyes to her husband and slowly cried. “I’m so sorry…I never…loved you…” She turned back to her daughter and tried to smile, but pain turned it upside-down. “My daughter…my son…love one another….”
Those were her final words before her eyes closed and Su’s old life ended.
“No!” Su cried in desparate means to retain her mother, but it was too late. Her mother was gone. Her step-father killed her mother. Her step-sister had wanted to kill Su and in the process, her mother was lost. “No…no…ma…come back…”
Her cries and sob could not bring back her mother. They only brought Daniel closer to her, holding her in his arms, crying with her, comforting her…
The rain continued to fall tumultously over them and washed away the blood…the pain that stood in their path. All the while, the sound of sirens echoed through the darkness of their world that ended that chapter of their life.
The day of the wedding came quietly. No one attended. No one knew. It was only between Daniel and Sutthida. They signed the papers and made their vows alone on the wedding day that her mother had given her.
Her mother had only been in her grave freshly and as a daughter, Su should have waited. But her mother’s request for her to marry had been the final vow she made and Su would not break that.
Su and Daniel left the house and any reminder of her painful past. Her step-father was put in jail. Her step-sister inherited the house. Daniel’s father disowned him. But none of that mattered now that they were together…their future set for them already.
He was her life and soul. No one would ever meet another man as he…who loved faithfully and honestly.
In the darkness of their wedding night, a storm raged on. The ocean slammed loudly against the cliffs below them. Lightning flashed and thunder cracked overhead.
But nothing mattered. They had eyes and ears for only each other. Their touch, their body belonged to one another. His hands ran down her body…naked and exposed. And her body, in turn, gently melt against him, longing to find a haven in him…with him.
“I love you…” he whispered against her ears, laying secret kisses along her neck to the soft spot at the tip of her jawline, sending a million senses afire and her body into flames. “Only you…”
Strength and weakness beguiled her to place her tiny hands on his bare back, pulling him closer…more intimately than ever…an act of love and protection. “Only love…” she whispered in return and allowed love to speak through her body…her touch…her kisses….
“Yes…only love, Su,” he repeated and pulled her down to the bed with him as he made sweet, aching love to her as if they had no tomorrow.