Nita was passing by Miling’s house when the latter called her. “Come over for a moment,” Miling said, waving so frantically that Nita thought the matter must be urgent.
She walked to Miling, and Miling met her at the low-rise bamboo gate. “Have you heard?” Miling asked.
Nita nearly rolled her eyes. There were a hundred news she might be interested in. “What about?”
“Our Mare Beka,” Miling said in a lowered voice. “The rumor about her is true!”
“Is it?” Nita said, edging closer to Miling. “She’s really doing something behind her husband’s back? How did you find out?”
Miling smiled. “Oh, I just knew.”
“C’mon, Mare. Don’t be a tease. Tell me what happened. Did Pare Lando catch Beka in the act?”
“Worse than that.”
“She ran away with her lover.”
“You’re kidding. How did she do that? What’s going to happen now to her children? What did Pare Lando do?”
Miling chuckled. “Easy, Mare. One question at a time. Pare Lando is still in shock, the poor man. He never saw it coming. When he woke up this morning, he just discovered Beka’s things gone. She left just like that, leaving her four young children to Pare Lando’s care.”
“Miling, are you really sure she eloped?”
“There’s no doubt about it. She left a note for her husband, asking him not to bother looking for her.”
“How did you know all these? And will you just tell me the whole story? You keep making me ask questions as if I’m a talk show host and you’re a famous actress.”
“Don’t be impatient, Nita. You’ll know everything. You can’t find a more reliable source than me because I heard the news straight from the horse’s mouth. You know that Pare Lando and my husband are very good friends. Pare Lando came here in our house after he read Beka’s letter. He told my husband and me everything.”
“Where’s Pare Lando now?”
“Out drinking somewhere. My husband’s keeping him company. I don’t know how Lando will pull through this. When he was here this morning, he kept on muttering threats against Jojo.”
“So it was Jojo Beka eloped with?”
“Who else could it be? Actually, Beka just wrote in the letter that she’s leaving Lando, she’s going somewhere very far, and she’s not coming back ever. She did not mention any man. But, Nita, we both know who Beka would run away with. She’s crazy about that skylab driver twelve years her junior. We’ve seen Jojo quite a few times go inside Beka’s house while Pare Lando’s in the farm.”
“I can’t believe this is happening.”
“You better do. It seems Jojo is also missing. His uncle, with whom he is staying here, said Jojo left too on his motorcycle at about four this morning. He probably brought Beka with him to the next province, where his family lives.”
“But, Miling, we’re not sure if Beka really left with Jojo, and even if she did, she might just have hired him. Maybe when they reached the capital town, she went on her own.”
Miling sneered. “Nita, you and I know Beka. She’s been fond of wearing sexy shorts lately. Who do you think she wants to see her legs?”
“I feel like I’m getting sick,” Nita said. “Those poor children. The eldest is just in grade three, and the youngest has just started to walk.”
“Well, you know, we can’t completely blame Beka.”
“What do you mean?”
“Pare Lando admitted that he had not been taking care of his wife’s needs, if you know what I mean.”
Nita was not able to say anything for a while. “Why would that be a problem? They’re husband and wife. They can talk about it.”
“But it can really be a problem, Mare,” Miling said. “Admit that. It’s really different now that we’re older. When my husband and I were newlyweds, we thought we would never get tired of it. We could roll in bed all day.” Miling giggled. “But now, no more touching and all that. I just hike my duster up at night and it’s over in five minutes.”
Nita chuckled, feeling heat rush up her cheek. “We’ve been talking for too long, Mare. I think I have to go home. I have a pile of laundry waiting for me.”
“You’re still so prudish, Mare. You already have two kids. Why, are you and your husband not having any trouble with you-know-what?”
“We’re doing just fine,” Nita said. “As you’ve said, it’s no longer as active as it used to be, but it’s not really a cause of worry for us.”
“Good for you,” Miling said. “Know what, I think of Mare Beka now, what it must be for her. She must be feeling like she’s in a honeymoon again. I wonder how she keeps up with Jojo in bed. You know, he’s barely out of his teens and still has so much stamina.”
“She’s surely having fun now,” Nita said. “But I don’t think it will last long. She will never have peace of mind. It’s unforgivable to cheat on your husband and turn your back on your children.”
“You’re right, Mare. Beka will have her comeuppance someday. Even if her conscience won’t eat her up, Jojo will eventually get sick of her. She will get old and Jojo will leave her for another woman, someone his age or younger.”
The two women were distressed. “Oh well, Mare,” Nita said, “I really have to go. I just went out of the house to buy a detergent bar.”
“All right,” Miling said. “I have to finish sweeping our yard too. Come back here later. I’ll tell you whatever new I will gather about Mare Beka.”
“I will,” Nita said. She walked to her home, several lots away. When she was inside, she checked herself in the mirror. It could not be denied that she was past her prime. Fine lines had started to form under her eyes, and she had gained weight after giving birth to two children and having an IUD implanted in her. However, most people would say she looked more attractive than Beka. The latter only looked younger because she blew her husband’s small income on facial creams and exfoliants.
Nita wondered why Jojo had not made a pass at her if he was open to having a relationship with an older and married woman. She had been his passenger several times, and not even once did she feel that his stare was more than friendly. Not that she would entertain his advances. She was a decent woman. She would not put her husband to shame, and she cared for her children so much, she couldn’t bear to leave them. Right now, however, Nita wished she were Beka.
She leaned on the wall and pulled up the hem of her duster. Her hand crept inside. She imagined that it was not her palm but Jojo’s, calloused from driving his skylab all day. She gasped when his middle finger found her tiny button, waking it from weeks of slumber. After some time, when she begged him, he knelt down in front of her. She stared down at his shoulders, the muscles formed, the skin dusky from being under the sun for hours. His tongue replaced his fingers, sliding along the length of her moist center, up and down, in and out.
Nita bit her lip as her back slid down the wall. With a final groan, she slumped on the floor.
mare – Filipino term of address for a female friend, usually used by adults
pare – masculine counterpart of mare
skylab – public utility motorcycle used in remote areas in Mindanao, Philippines