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I slowly opened one of my eyes when I felt like I somebody was snooping on my thighs, squinting in attempt to sharpen the blurred images before me. The room was silent apart from my heavy breathing.
I glanced around and took in the isolated, white-schemed hospital bedroom. The st.i.tches on my hands were the ones that I saw first. I tsk-ed and cursed to myself.
I’m here in the place which I hate the most. I do not know how I got to this hospital or who brought me here. I shut my eyes, trying to remember what exactly happened, but I can't remember anything, except for the darkness that I saw before I pa.s.sed out.
I lowered my gaze and I saw a familiar lady in an olive-green dress, fixing the white sheet covering half of my body. I closed my eyes tightly for a while, and then opened them again just to make sure it’s really her. She turned her eyes on me and I saw her gentle face. And I was right.
“Leila…” I called in a very low voice, almost like a whisper, but just enough to get her attention. I want to hug her! I really miss her! We barely see each other since the issue of arranged marriage within our families has been a matter of contention. But she has always been there for me when I needed her the most - just like now.
She smiled, came close to me, and then touched my face. “Oh, how are you feeling? Are you still alive?” I also smiled back at her. She didn't change – she still talks like a boss. With the tone of her voice, it's as if I'm obligated to answer her question.
But I wasn't able to speak immediately. I took a feel of myself first. My head was aching, but the pain on my left shoulder and arm were more overbearing. Even if they were covered by a bandage, I know they're swollen. I can feel the pain from within.
“I'm feeling okay, except for the pain on my shoulder.” I lied. Because the truth is, I’m not yet okay. My body still feels heavy. Though I think she's convinced by my response because she didn't ask further questions. Then, I looked around the whole room - n.o.body else is here except for my cousin and I.
“Where’s Allen?” I asked her. I can't help but feel sad. I want to see him right now, as I am in great pain both physically and emotionally. But why is he not beside me? Why is Leila here and not him?
Leila rolled her eyes while her hands were on her waist, as if she was saying ‘why did you still ask‘.
“Do you really want me to answer your question?” She shook her head. “I’m sure he's flirting with some other women again. That’s what he always does right?” She fiercely said, then walked away from me. She headed to the table not far away from the bed and started to place there the fruits and some other food from the brown paper bag.
I'm used to Leila's lashing out when it comes to Allen. For some reason, she's not in good vibrations with my husband. She doesn't want Allen for me and that feeling grew stronger when she knew about me being a battered wife. She planned to confront Allen for a couple of times already, but she just cannot. My cousin is on the lie low and she is afraid that someone might catch her.
“Just kidding, Vannie.” She muttered, getting back what she just said. “Actually, I do not know where he is. When I came back, he's already gone. Such a crazy man! I told him that I will just be buying something… That a.s.shole! He made me your babysitter now! Is that even right, Vannie? I don't really understand what your husband wants in his life!" She ranted.
I just avoided her eyes. I can't do anything, that's how my husband really is, especially now that he has grown much angrier at me. He certainly doesn't plan on taking care of me. “Is he really the one who brought me here?” I asked, hoping that her answer would be 'yes'. I want to know that my husband did not just desolate me in spite of what I did. She pulled a chair towards the side of my bed and sat there.
“Yes.” She answered. Then my lips drew a smile. I knew it. I knew that he can't withstand me being in a troublesome situation no matter what. “Earlier at dawn, he called me.” She continued. “He's so stupid, as he sounded like he's in so much panic! I was tempted to hang up the telephone, but he mentioned your name and told me that you're here. Of course, I can't just turn my back on you!"
“What did your husband do to you again?” The tone of her voice suddenly changed. A while ago, she was still calm and teasing, but now she's putting on a brave front. “I have been asking that guy since this morning, but still, he doesn't give me any answer.” She added. “He walked out several times today. I’m sure it's his fault why you look like that, isn't it?” She pointed at my shoulder that's wrapped around by a bandage.
“Oh, Vanessa! The nerve of that man to hurt my cousin! He doesn't seem like a man! And you? You are so stubborn! I told you to break up with him! You won't win an award for being a martyr, Vannie!” I couldn't do anything but sigh. In fact, I just put on all of her words in one ear then let them out on the other. I'm really tired of hearing her lectures all over again. Those are the only things she keeps on telling me whenever we're together. They just don't help. She does not say the things I want to hear.
“You know I can't do that.” I answered. “I’m not as brave as you are.” "You can't because you love him?" I nodded. “Yeah, you love him, but you two are not happy together. So, what's the point?! I feel sorry for the both of you!” She put her hair into a slovenly mess as if she was losing patience. “Why do both of you have to torture yourselves like that? You two should just break up! If you really want it, you can annul your marriage with him in just a snap! You have lots of money! Don't tell me, your husband doesn't want to break up with you? Cause I won't believe that. What is he – both jealous and possessive?" I tried not to mind what she said. I heard those things from her before and her lecture won't help. I don't think annulment is the right solution to have our lives fixed. I know to myself that the day will come when the two of us will be fine again – we'll be right how we used to be. One day, he will learn to forgive me, and love me. “Allen is mad at me.”
It beats me, but those words just came out of my mouth. Maybe because they can't get out of my head. I seem like a young girl complaining about something to my cousin, but she just gave me a blank look. Well what do I expect? Maybe she has already gotten fed up of my drama, too.
“Allen? Still Allen? Seriously?! You almost died, but it's still him you're worried about! I’ll throw your husband in Pasig River!” She wailed, which I just ignored.
“I broke Allen’s trust once again. I don't know if he can still forgive me. He's raging in anger, Leila. I can see it in his eyes last night. If only he has the heart to listen, I can really explain everything to him. I know that I did wrong, I shouldn't have hidden things from him. But I can make him understand why Zian and I met. I had no other choice. I was caught between a rock and a hard place."
"It's because your husband has a narrow mind! He doesn't want to listen! He's annoying! Yeah, we all know that it is your fault because you had an affair with Zian, and what's worse is that something happened between the two of you. But my G.o.d, Vannie! That was almost a year ago! I've been to a lot of part time jobs since, but you two were still stuck on the same issue! Why can't he just move on and continue life and just forget about what happened?! He has so much hatred as if he's been perfect! He makes mistakes too, right?! If I were you, I followed Zian in New York before!"
I sighed. I feel like all the burden of all the world’s grief are on my shoulders. “You know the whole thing, Lei, and that’s not easy to forget, at least for his part. If you just saw his reaction before when he saw us… I thought he was going to kill us.”
She shook her head as if she did not know what else was there to say. “I don't know. I don't think I could ever understand your husband. I really have no clue about what’s going on his mind. Since the very beginning, I already knew that he has an att.i.tude problem. He's a sick man! G.o.d! It's really a blessing in disguise that I didn't agree to marry him!"
I closed my eyes and gave my mind a rest. The way she said the last few lines, it made me realize how complicated my life is.
In fact, it was Leila who was supposed to marry Allen and not me. One of us had to marry the heir of Fajardo’s just to save the hotels owned by my family. And because she’s the oldest among us and our cousins, she was chosen to do it. But Leila’s tough in nature. She rebelled and fled to Paris so she would never tie the knot with Allen.
Aside from the fact that she does not want Allen, she does not want to get married. Leila is an eager lady. She has a lot of goals and she wants to achieve them first. She feels like getting married will be the biggest hindrance on reaching her dreams, so she pa.s.sed on everything unto me. She begged me to marry Allen instead, as she knew that I really liked Allen since then.
I am not regretful of my marriage. I really like Allen. I am even grateful to Leila that she ran away before and I got to take part on the responsibility that she was supposed to carry out.
My Mum was having second thoughts back then if they will still pursue our fixed marriage. They thought I was too young to enter a married life. I was just 22 when I married Allen and I just graduated from college. But they had no choice. They needed to do that for the sake of our business. That’s how it is in our world.
“Are you hungry?” Leila suddenly asked.
I looked at her. She was already standing up next to me, seriously slicing off the apples. I just shook my head to answer her question.
Sometimes, I can't avoid to feel jealous of my cousin. She’s free to do anything she wants. As for me? I’m here… stuck in a broken marriage and I don't know if it would still be sorted out. If I would be just as courageous as she is, I would run away and leave Allen for good. But no, I'm not. I can't bear to lose Allen; I can't bear seeing my husband with another woman.
It took long before I get to speak again. I just want to stop talking and just take a nap again, but I can feel my shoulders aching. “Leila, what did the doctor say? Am I sick?”
This is just another one of the things that I envy about her – she can bear not to take things seriously. That's probably the reason why she gets past through her own problems. She just laughs at them.
"Just kidding." She quickly interrupted. "Over fatigue. You know what? I wanted to slap the doctor's face when she said that! Over fatigue?! You're just staying at home! How come you'd have an over fatigue? Or maybe, your husband always makes you tired." She was shaking her head as if she was dismayed by the doctor's diagnosis.
I looked down on my tummy and stroked it. “I thought I was pregnant.”
That’s what I really thought. I felt like all the signs of being pregnant showed up. That's also the reason why I'm afraid to go for a checkup – because I'm really not sure about what my reaction's going to be if my predisposition proves me right. I also do not know how Allen is going to accept it. But of course, I would be happier if we are going to have kids. I think I already want to have a baby with Allen, but no, it's a false alarm.
I heard her outburst of pent-up laughter that's why my eyes suddenly turned to look at her. “Why are you laughing?” I asked with my forehead wrinkled.
“Moron! How are you going to be pregnant? You said that you are sick, right?”
I rolled my eyes, “I’m okay now.” I answered right away.
Based on how I feel, I thought I'm already okay. I had hormonal problems before and my period was irregular. Maybe that’s the reason why I was not getting pregnant during my first few months with Allen. But I took pills for 6 months as advised by my OB. I’m getting regular menstruation now, so I know I’m fine and it's possible for me to get pregnant.
"Why? Do you think that if you get pregnant, your husband will change and be kind to you?"
It took me long before I have answered. I also pondered upon what she said first. "Why not?" I responded with another question.
She tsk-ed. "So, what's that? You need to be pregnant first for your husband to treat you better? I'm sorry for the word, but that's bullsh*t! He's your husband and it's his obligation to treat you right!"
I was about to speak a reb.u.t.tal, but I stopped when the door of the room suddenly opened. Leila and I both turned our heads around at once to look at who's coming in and saw my husband.
My cousin’s eyes squinted angrily again while I turned my eyes to another direction. Instead of weeping for joy because he's here with me now, why does his arrival make my blood run cold? I know that he's still mad at me even if he's the one who brought me here in the hospital.
“Oh, well, your good husband is here. He seems done flirting with other girls.”
My eyes bulged to Leila's att.i.tude. She spoke as if Allen was not anywhere near. I'm the one who's feeling afraid for her. Her guts are really good. How could she say that with my husband around?
“Go! You two should have a talk!” She ordered us. "A conversation that's sensible, Allen, huh?!” She even pointed finger at my husband. “You, you! Ugh! If you hurt Vannie again, I will really beat you!”
Obviously, Allen would feel irate. He angrily pushed Leila's hand away, "Watch your actions, lady. Who the h.e.l.l are you to talk to me like that?"
She crossed her arms and raised her eyebrow. “Who am I? I am the one you called to stay here and watch your wife that was hospitalized because of you!"
“Leila!” I interrupted because I know that none of them would put away their egos. My husband might blow a fuse and I don't know what he can do. "Go, leave us alone first, please. We'll talk." I begged.
She did not speak anymore, reached for her bag, and came out of the room. She even sneered at Allen before she left. I can only shake my head. She's just too fearless.
I looked at Allen while his eyes followed Leila. He doesn't like the personality of my cousin. That's also the reason why he doesn't want me to meet with her. He thought that I might end up just like her – a blabbermouth. But in fact, he might have just misunderstood Leila - she's just really bold and she always wants to make a stand, especially if she knows that she's right.
I gasped for breath when Allen started walking towards me. I locked my eyes on him, but he wasn't looking at me. He was frowning as he was staring on the side of the room. I noticed his fist that was wrapped around by a bandage. Maybe he got a deep wound when he punched our mirror.
His eyes rolled heavenwards. “At last, you're awake. I'm getting bored here. I want to go home.” He said coldly as he approached the bedside.
I don't know, but I suddenly felt blue to what he said. I'm unwell and bedridden right now, but he still speaks cold-heartedly. He doesn't even think of me. He even wants to go home knowing that I'm still not feeling well. By the way he talks, I know that he's still mad at me because of what I did, and I can't blame him.
I tried to reach for his hand, but I just can't because I'm injected with an IV fluid line. It will sting if I force to straighten my arm.
"Allen, I-I'm sorry." I said to start our conversation.
I heard his deep breath, as if he's already fed up to hear all my sorry's. But then, that's the only right thing I could say at this moment.
He suddenly looked at his watch, “I’m giving you five minutes to explain…” He said, and then he sat on the chair beside my bed. He placed his elbows on both of his knees and laid his chin on the back of his intertwined fingers. He just stared straight at the walls of the room – not at me. I first sought for some fire in my belly – I am really not sure on how I should speak. Come what may. I will just let him hear my explanation and see if he accepts it or not. “Allen, Zian just forced me to meet with him. I didn't know what to do. He told me that if I won't agree to see him, he will be going to our house. I don't even know how he knew my contact number and where we live. I didn't even know he’s already back here in the country. I really don't want to go meet him that time. I just had no choice. Believe me. ” “Why didn't you just tell me? Why do you need to keep it a secret?” “Because I know that you won't allow me.” He laughed as if he was teasing. “And how would you know? You haven't even tried asking even once. You always do what you want.”
I was speechless to what he said. It's not that I don't want to ask for his permission, but I already know that he won't allow me. Besides, he doesn't really care about me, that's why I got used to not asking him first when I go out. I know he wouldn't care about what I'm doing or where I'm going. "What did the both of you do?" He asked. "We just talked." "What did you two talk about?"
I couldn't respond immediately. I know that he will ask about that, but I haven't prepared myself to answer. I am not sure on how to tell him that we talked about what happened in our past. I don't think it will sound good for him. “Allen, I tried to ask him to stop bothering me because everything about us is over, but…” My discourse was halted when he suddenly turned his head to face me and I saw that he was frowning. Then he said, "But what?" I shuddered, “He said he doesn't want to. He said he’ll take me.” I heard him curse a blue streak over and over again. I couldn't do anything but close my eyes so hard. I knew that this would be his reaction. He’ll get mad. But I want to tell him the truth this time.”I’m sorry, Allen…” I opened my eyes to look at him again and reached for his face, hoping to touch it, but he pushed my hand away and stood up. He went to the bedroom door. I thought he was going somewhere, but he did not. Instead, he placed his hands on the locked door and I could see him breathing heavily… fast… as if he was holding his anger back. I don't know what to do. I want to go near him, to calm him down, and tell him everything will be alright, but he’s so far away from me – I can't get up from the bed.
“BULLs.h.i.t! WHAT ELSE DOES HE WANT FROM YOU! WHY CAN'T HE JUST GET OUT OF OUR LIVES! HE ALREADY RUINED EVERYTHING!” He began to speak in a hard-edged voice, which scared me out of my wits. I can see his fists trembling. Maybe he can't control his hard feelings and I can't blame him. I know that he would be mad with what Zian told me. In fact, I have really inflicted on Zian to stop bothering me, but he still insists. He won't accept that I don't want him anymore. “Allen that was a year ago. Can we just forget it? Let’s move on and continue life.” I told him what Leila said to me earlier. But instead of calming down, I seem to have triggered his hatred even more.
He turned his eyes on me and looked at me fiercely. “Forget it, Vanessa?” He walked near me, with his raging eyes locked on mine. “I tried! But I can't! It’s haunting me every day, every night. I'm about to lose sanity! Every time I look at you, I can't see the woman I married. Instead, I can only see your unfaithfulness to me!”
When he said that, waters of bitterness unwillingly flowed from my eyes. It feels like my hearts was eaten out knowing that he cannot see the woman he married in me anymore, but the mistake I’ve done to him before. Until now, he is of a heavy heart, full of anger. Is one year still not enough? Sometimes, I think he’s being unfair. He's not the one with an aching heart. He sat back on the chair and wiped his face with his hands. He lifted his head up and stared into my eyes. Throughout our conversation, he managed to look straight into me only now. He looked very serious. “You do not know how much you’ve hurt me…” His voice was trembling and I can also see his eyebrows shaking. I want to hug him… tell him it's enough as I'm already here. I will not leave him alone and I will stay away from Zian.
But every time I will try, I feel like he’s avoiding it. He continued talking, and I just let him. “When I caught you on bed with him, it killed me!” His voice almost cracked down when he said that. His face still smoldered underneath his stony expression, as if he wanted to kick all the things that his eyes could fathom. I shut my eyes tightly, the reason for me to shed bitter tears all the more. I feel pangs of conscience. I feel for him – I can feel my husband's broken heart and it was all my fault! He won't suffer all of this if not because of me. I didn't know that he's plunged into a deep sorrow. We didn't have the chance to talk about it before. I guess he was avoiding it; he probably didn't want to remember. So he poured out all his anger on hurting me.
It may be the reason why our relationship is still the same – we haven't given each other the chance to talk, to disclose our feelings. “I was hurt.” He continued. “And until now… I’m still hurting. I’ve never imagined I could feel this kind of pain, and it's because of my wife. It hurts a lot… Here…" He pointed to his chest. I broke down and cried even more. My tears were running aggressively down my face. I bit my lower lip to stop my sobs, but that didn't help. Strong sobs sang the blues. I wanted to tell him, ‘I’m hurting too, Allen!‘ But I felt like I have no right to feel hurt because it's all my fault. We are both wrecked. I don't know if time can still heal us. He then grasped his hair out of frustration and anger, as if he wanted to hit his head on the wall. “I still can't believe it happened. How could you do that to me, Vanessa? Zian is my friend! You two betrayed me! Do you know that?” And he cursed again. I saw his hands balled into fists, clenched – they’re trembling. If I'm not lying down sick here, I think he might have erupted in furious state. He stood up and slammed fist down onto the next table.
I couldn't do anything else but to put my sorrow into weeps. I can't speak anymore. I don't know what to say. With all the things that he’s saying, I know I lose streak. Why is he telling me all this just now… when everything seems to be on the skids… when everything is failing? “And now that a.s.shole is back again! And he’ll take you away from me!” He turned his head and looked at me with a mixture of hatred and fear in his eyes. “How can I be sure that you won't leave me for him?” I was not able to answer him immediately. I was finalizing the answers in my mind. But before I could even speak them out, I heard loud screams coming from outside the room. Allen and I looked at the door at once when it opened. My cousin, Leila, was pulling back the man whom I didn't want to see this moment. “ZIAN!”
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