Honey Ko (Sweetheart), Book 2, Chapter 10: Marie Taneo

My pulse raced as Frank walked away. I wanted to call him back, tell him I wanted to know him too, but I couldn’t. I was too proud to be the weak one. Too independent to seem dependent. I had been wrong about one thing, though. He wasn’t unlike other Sailors. He was unlike any man I had ever known. He was confident, but not aware of his confidence. He was strong, attractive, and smelled good. I took pleasure from his parting words: “Unlike any woman I’ve known.”

I had not expected things to turn out the way they had. I was completely indifferent to the men who came to Rufadora. But Frank was different. He walked with such self-assurance. He did not leer at the girls or brag tirelessly. He did not have the slouching, ingratiating manner men assumed when asking to buy me a drink when all they wanted was to bed me. He didn’t make me feel like a piece of momentary pleasure or a substitute mother trailing apron strings halfway around the world for a lonely boy.

Frank had not come to see the barmaids, and I had enjoyed his company. Any desire I had felt to be with a man had flown after Edward cheated on me. Now, for it to return when a man like Frank came into my life, I realized how lonely I had been without a man to love. What had I been thinking, though, to serve him? I caught myself wiping the table with a napkin. I would, indeed, make a good barmaid.

I hoped I wasn’t about to experience another affair that would end up hurting me. I barely knew Frank, but oh, how I wanted to see him again. I loved his mellow voice; he could read me a bedtime story any time. And I liked the way he looked, just tall enough not to tower over me; I imagined resting my head against his shoulder. Were his shoulders bony knobs or broad enough to lean on? I loved the way his shirt tightened over his chest when he moved. He wasn’t brawny or muscled, but fit. Very fit. Frank stirred something in me that I had not felt for so long. The way he looked at me melted my heart, and his voice warmed me in a wholly unexpected manner. I had known him only a few hours, and already I wished he would ask me to marry him.

Edward and Frank were similar in the way they leaned on the table and stirred their fingers in the water rings. I hoped Frank would be nothing like him. I did not want to ruin another pair of stilettos.

Edward. That bastard. I gave him everything and would have given more had there been anything left to give. I had placed my heart in his smooth hands with the long fingers and manicured nails. He held my heart, touched it, caressed it. Edward. Tall and dark, coal-black hair and penetrating eyes. He looked like a ghost in certain light. I could not have worshipped him more had he wore a white robe and halo. His touch seared my skin and made me tremble.

I had loved it when Edward’s fingers played along my spine and I shivered, and he expressed concern that he had hurt me, and I shook my head. I longed for him to keep touching me that way so I could feel the warmth and strength of his spirit through his fingertips. How could a man caress a woman with a touch so gentle yet so passionate along her entire body as to make her think of a wisp of breath flowing along her skin, raising goosebumps and laying them down again like a sigh of wind across blades of grass? Gentle was not the right word; Edward’s caress was less a touch than a feeling. A feeling as of a dream passing along my body, so that I could not be sure I had felt anything, but knew I had felt something. Something that trickled through my skin, spread within me, enveloped me, and soothed me until I could think of nothing but that it should never stop, and when it stopped, a sadness and a hope that it would start again. I shivered. God, his touch had felt so good.

We had loved passionately, or at least I had, until that Grace turned his head. Grace, who came out of nowhere, wiggled her ass at Edward, aroused him with her breasts, and charmed him with her bedroom eyes. He had soiled my own bed with Grace. He had fallen for her without a glance at me. I found them together after returning home early from a weekend visit to the orphanage. I expected to find Edward in bed and wanted to surprise him. And so, I had. I cried out in anger and flung my shoe at him, a stiletto. I had good aim and left a long gash above his right eye. I told them both to get out, changed the locks, and sent all of Edward’s belongings to the charity house. I had not seen him since. I had loved him like no other. The pain of his betrayal went so deep. However, that belonged in the past. As far as I knew, he still managed his father’s construction firm miles away in Baguio.

Baguio: good. Maybe his car will plunge down a mountainside and catch fire, and he will burn to death. I stopped seeing men after Edward. They were all the same. Profess love to a woman until fresh meat became available. I came to Olongapo to be near the orphanage and to forget Edward. I had left job, family, and possessions to help Aunt Helen out as manager of Rufadora. I wanted to cleanse myself of the past and make a fresh start. I achieved all I wanted except forgetting Edward. He couldn’t let go and had me watched. I hated the constant suspicion, the constant fear of confrontation. The scar I left on his face had enraged him, and he vowed retribution. I constantly looked over my shoulder. Maybe that was his retribution, his revenge. He could afford to pay thugs to make me nervous.

The door swung open and Amy looked in. Marie, a man is looking for you in the bar. He says his name is Edward. Amy’s eyes grew wide and she whispered. He is so handsome. I froze. That was all I needed. Amy, do not tell him you have seen me. Tell him I have gone home. Do you understand? Will you do that for me? Amy nodded and left, confused but happy to help me.

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