When I saw Jessica, I knew I fell in love again. It’s not that she was a stranger to me. We were in love, a very long time ago. She was sixteen, and I was seventeen. But just like any real love story, ours didn’t have a happy ending because life happened.
I knew she wanted to marry me, but I had to go to law school in Manila. Leaving Dumaguete behind, the town where I lived most of my life, was as difficult as leaving her. I told her I will come back, and when I did, she was gone.
She went on to marry someone else. My heart broke, vowing to never speak to her again. I did well in my career. My salary was six digits and even goes to seven digits, bought a big house, and a Lamborghini. With my success, it was ironic that I still didn’t have a girlfriend. I had a few dates with several women, but I just couldn’t love them the way I loved Jessica.
On a typical Tuesday morning, a woman was throwing tantrums at the public assistance desk at our law firm, which I was one of the partners. They couldn’t handle her, so they called for me instead.
The first thing I saw was her eyes. The radiance didn’t betray me. Her hair was cut short, and a few wrinkles were forming beneath her eyes. But she was still beautiful from the last time I remembered her. Jessica.
She recognized me too.
She stopped throwing tantrums and prepared to leave when I caught her right before she could get out of the firm.
I knew I should get angry at her, but I couldn’t. I wanted to hold her, to kiss her, and to ask her to be with me. But I know I shouldn’t. “What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I’m here to just ask to sue my husband,” she answered.
“Why?” I asked.
“He’s been abusing me,” she shrugged, “but I guess no one would help me here. I’ll just go somewhere else.”
Whatever came over me in that moment, I held her. I said, “Why don’t you come to my house, and we’ll talk about it?”
She was perplexed, but trusting me fully since then, she obliged.
When we reached my house, she did not comment on how fancy it was. I ordered the maid to prepare her some dinner before we started talking. She did not touch her food, and instead, just drank coffee. She had always loved coffee.
“How are you, Eric?” She asked.
“I’m really cool with my life,” I answered. “Tell me, how you’ve been? I thought I’ll never see you again.”
She laughed, and that’s when our conversation started. We talked about the people in high school, my life in Manila, the places I’ve travelled, and the girls I dated, but we never talked about us. When she raised her arm, I saw the bruises. I knew how it happened.
“Jessica, why didn’t you wait for me?”
She just kept quiet. “You don’t need to do this, Eric.” She stood up, “I have to go home.”
“No,” I reasoned, “You are not going home. You are staying here.”
“Because I will take on the case of your abuse pro bono. I know this will seem weird, but I need to help you, Jes. We were friends. And those bruises. You don’t deserve it.”
Then she started crying. I held her in my arms, and I cried with her. She fell asleep, and I carried her to the guest room where I watched over her the whole night. I was determined to sue her husband, the bastard who hurt the only woman I loved.
I left her still sleeping the next day to go to work. I asked three paralegals to take care of medical documents that will summon her husband to court. When I went home, I saw her cooking with the maid, laughing while watching TV. I was so happy to see her smile. I missed her so much that I almost forgot the doctor with me.
The exams showed that her bruises were from several punches. When she took her shirt off, it was even more horrifying. I saw a map of violence in scratches and deep scars all over her back, like an animal beaten every day by her cruel monster. I punched a wall, vowing to God that I will send this monster to hell.
That night, she was crying by the pool. I embraced her. It hurts to see her like that. But I had to ask so many questions in my mind.
“Why? Why didn’t you wait for me, Jes? Your life could have been so different with me,” I told her.
“Because I was raped, Eric,” she sobbed. “I was forced to marry Peter when my parents found out I was pregnant. I married him, but he was always drunk. He blamed me for how his life turned out. He beat me until I had abortion. The beating never stopped. I waited for you before that, but I was so embarrassed to face you again.”
He bit his lip. He told her, “I will never let anything happen to you again.”
She lightened a bit. We had a week together. We watched movies, went biking, I brought her clothes, and even visited an art museum. I knew I loved her again, but I just needed to process the annulment papers with her husband before I could marry her.
That week was my happiest. Peter was summoned to court, and he denied allegations.
I talked to him in private and offered him that he doesn’t need to go through trial if he will agree to sign the annulment papers and to never see Jessica again.
He agreed. He didn’t look that intimidating.
I was so relieved.
When I went home with a big smile, the cook was crying and trembling. I couldn’t see Jessica around, so I know that there must be something wrong. “She’s gone,” the cook cried louder.
I ran upstairs and saw the most gruesome scene in front of me. Jessica on the bed was left lifeless. The window was broken from of forced entry. She was put to death by a pillow. I didn’t know what to do. I tried to resuscitate her, but she was gone for good.
I cried so much while holding her. My Jessica. I had a week with her, wishing it could have been for the rest of our lives. We could have had kids. I cursed the world for taking her away from me.
And I asked myself, what if I promised to marry her before I left? What if we actually married, so that no one could have married her? What if I looked for her instead? What if? What if?
Jessica could have been my wife. She could have been happier. We could have been together, and now she’s gone, leaving me for good.
I glanced around my house. How is a palace now without the queen?
Featured image from Skittles-And-Zombies