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ISBN 9781370271580



www.rlmendoza.com



Copyright © R. L. Mendoza 2017

THE PREGNANT BRIDE


Asia witnessed the suicide of a woman. Leon was the father of the son in the woman’s womb.


The man was so mad, he made Asia the replacement.


Everything should be done artificially but he didn’t know how to resist her innocent charms.


They were married and together they faced the dangers to their lives.


They discovered a love so deep and so encompassing, it was immeasurable.


Follow the saga of Leon and Asia on Velafonte Island.



CHAPTER ONE:


BEFORE going to work, Asia peeped at her sisters’ room. It was her room, too, but the two girls hogged the double bed.


Actually, the room was separated by two plastic drawers. The door was a curtain to give a flimsy privacy.


She transferred to the living room. Somehow, she learned to fit her long form on the two-seater sofa.


When their father was at home, which was rarely, she was delegated to the floor. She would spread a thin blanket on the hard surface.


She didn’t mind. They were family, after all. And she was happy. Really…


They were living in a three-storey old house. It was built in the 1930’s. The toilet and bath was a community-type, where they had to share with occupants of three other rooms in their floor.


She didn’t want to see the hardships. She wanted to see the bright side of her life. Her sisters’ bright future. They were her responsibilities.


Asia earned enough to pay the rent of their room and for their everyday needs.


Her sisters, Sari and Lilac, were still sleeping. They were twelve and thirteen, respectively.


It was a Saturday so they didn’t have to wake up. They would start to stir by afternoon.


Asia scribbled a note: ‘Two eggs and a chicken noodles. Newly cooked rice. Enjoy your lunch! Will bring dinner. A. =)’


She was nineteen and she stopped going to school at eleven years of age. Her late mother had been ill and she needed to work at an early age.


She was a dishwasher, a market runner, and a service crew rolled into one. The carinderia’s owner paid her a paltry paycheck but their food was free so she was content.


Her mother died when she was sixteen. After five years of looking over someone, it had become a habit hard to break.


Asia was alone. She had no one. She was not interested in boys. And the boys were not interested with a girl who dressed like a nun.


So when two girls came knocking on her door, and introduced themselves as her illegitimate sisters, Asia welcomed them with open arms.


They were nine and ten then. Sari and Lilac were two frightened girls. Drawing courage from each other.


But not anymore, now that they had Asia.


She welcomed the double responsibilities. Her siblings were still minors. And they must finish their studies.


Thankfully, Asia was tall and managed to appear twenty-five when she applied for work at seventeen. It was a janitorial job. Her working experience was more than enough.


They were deployed to condominiums every morning.


“Faster! We’re late!” Enteng, the driver, shouted at them. “My Gawd! It’s f---ing traffic again!”


Asia sat silently. After two years at work, she was used to the driver’s coarse language.


“Enteng is a jerk! He always shouts obscenities!” Aunt Martha, who went to church every Sunday, complained under her breath.


Asia just smiled. She was very thin but sturdy. Her body was trained to do hard work.


“Asia, you’re assigned to the rooftop. Jon and Dick, you’re on the 23rd and 24th floors’ comfort rooms.”


The two men groaned and grumbled but said nothing.


“Be sure, you’re finished at five to twelve. Or Enteng the Jerk will behead you!”


“Yes, ma’am!” They answered as one.


“Leave no speck of dust and every thing shiny! Understand?” Aunt Martha was like a sargeant when she spouted orders.


“Yes, ma’am!”


“Alright. Off you go!”


This was just a routine pep talk, done every morning.


They rode the elevator. The building had twenty-eight floors. Asia was the last passenger. She went to the roof deck, the twenty-ninth floor.


The roof deck had a club house and two comfort rooms. There was also a garden with pergolas dotting on strategic point. It had a wide sweeping space but the trash consisted of only fallen leaves.


There were four large garbage can in the corners. She would have them emptied once she finished cleaning.


She reached the corner with the ledge. There was only one occupant. A woman. She had expensive-looking white shawl and a royal blue dress.


Asia didn’t mind the woman. She continued clearing the floor with the mop.


When she raised her eyes again, the woman was on the building’s edge.


“Oh my God! Oh my God!” she said repeatedly. She was galvanized to run. “Miss, please, don’t move.”


“I want to die!” The woman shouted shrilly. “I want to die now!” Her screams were hysterical.


Asia cried. “Don’t jump, please. I’ll call for help!”


“No one can help. Hu hu hu! No one! Do you hear? No. One.”


Asia had come nearer to the woman. “Please. Please, calm down, miss,” she pleaded. “Take my hand.”


Her voice was trembling. Her hands were icy. Her knees were knocking at each other.


“No!” The woman shook her head, taking a step backwards.


It was like in a slow-motion movie. She reached out a hand.


And managed to hold the woman’s hand.


Asia’s hand was slippery due to sweat but her grip was like death.


“Not you. I can’t let you die. Not again…” She said the words like a prayer.


The woman started struggling. “Let me go! You moron! Let go! Let gooo!”


Asia felt her tendons ripped from her bones before she felt her grip started to loosen. When her arm started to go numb, she was crying with dread.


Feet pounded on the rooftop’s floor.


Asia heard a man’s voice.


“What happened? What happened? Woman, answer me!” A hand shook her.


“She—she jumped… I told her not to jump…” She gulped air before she started to cry once more.


Somebody gave her water to drink. The tears had stopped but she was just staring at space. She huddled inside a blanket. She was picture of shock.


People were starting to thicken. Others looked over the ledge of the building. Police had arrived. And reporters.


“Come with me,” said a male voice.


A hard hand held her bad arm. Asia flinched violently. It was hurting.


“Sorry.” He held her other arm. “Come with me, miss. We need to talk privately.”


Asia came with him obediently.


They went to a roomful of monitors.


“These are cctvs. We watched the whole scene.”


She had seen the slow-motion movie inside her mind again.


“No! No!” she moaned, clapping her hands against her ears. She closed her eyes tightly.


Something hard and cold was pushed to her lips. She was forced to swallow the fiery liquid.


After coughing many times, she was even weaker but more alert.


Her captor was a tall man and wearing eyeglasses. The other men just sat there staring at the monitors.


“Unfortunately, our cctvs have no sound. Tell us, what did she say before she jumped?”


“No one can help… No one…” Asia whispered.


“When she was about to fall? She seemed screaming.”


“Let me go… let go…” Her whisper was a thread-like sound.


“Come, we will let you rest.” He didn’t wait for her response. He just held her in the arm once again and pulled her.


They went a few rooms down the corridor and opened the last one. It had white walls, white narrow beds, and the woman was wearing white.


Asia found herself sitting on one of the beds. The woman was tightening the bind on her shoulder and bad arm.


“Wear this sling all the time. You must not put pressure to this injured shoulder.”


“They just wanted to know the last moments of the woman…” Asia slurred, as though hallucinating.


The nurse gave her painkiller.


“My job assignment… My evening job…” She said the words incoherently.


“Yes. Someone will take over for you. Don’t worry,” said the nurse unflappably.


Don’t… worry…


When Asia opened her eyes, she was inside a dim room. She was lying on a large bed. She was no longer in the clinic.


She tried to sit up.


“Careful,” warned an authoritative male voice.


She turned towards the direction of the voice. It was in the darkened corner of the room.


“Who are you?” Her eyes blinked. The only light was coming from a lampshade beside the bed.


“I’m Leon Velafonte.”


She waited for more.


“I’m involved with the woman who died this morning.”


There was something sinister in the quality of that voice. She could imagine the owner of that voice. Unknowingly, she frantically moved away from the voice.


He would be someone hard and unyielding. Cold and unfeeling.


The shadowy figure stood up. He was so tall. His shoulders were broad but his hips were slim.


His face was still hidden in the darkness.


“I have your sisters. Sari and Lilac…?”


“W-what?” Asia couldn’t believe her ears. She was shocked to hear their names from his lips. “Where are they? Did you hurt them?”


“Not yet. It will be up to you.” He said menacingly.


“W-what? What should I do?”


Who is this man? She asked herself.


“If you want to discuss it, follow me.”


Asia scrambled off the bed. She didn’t notice her lack of clothes. The bra and panties were all-white and old-fashioned. They were made of cotton and covered more of her private parts.


“Wait! Wait for me!” she shouted huskily. Her head was woozy.


He walked away fast.


She had an impression of antique furniture everywhere. Inside the bedroom where she woke up, and outside where a small sitting room faltered her steps. It was dimmer here.


She felt the softness of the carpet on her bare feet but she had no time to wear her shoes.


The man had left her!


Her sisters… How did he know their names?


She was being eaten with anxiety. She kept walking.


The corridor was a maze. It branched to several doors. The lights were blazing.


She lifted her good arm and half-covered her face.


She saw him disappearing into a door.


She ran faster and noiselessly. Her gait was ungainly because of the sling on her arm. She reached the room. It was dark here, except for the television.


Her eyes trained on him. She still couldn’t see his face.


“W-where are they? What did you do to them?” She was breathing heavily.


His hand indicated the television.


She looked at it. And realized that it was a monitor.


Her sisters were peacefully sleeping in a strange room. Then a shadow moved. A woman who wore a maid’s uniform. She tucked the blanket on Sari’s side. She went to Lilac’s and touched the long curly hair.


Asia couldn’t believe her eyes. They had kidnapped them!


“What do you want?” she asked shakily. “We have no money.”


“I don’t need your money.”


The statement didn’t give her comfort.


“But you have a debt that needs repayment.”


“What debt?” Her voice trembled very badly.


“I lost a son. You give me a son.”


A son…!



CHAPTER TWO:


“H-HOW…?” Asia realized it was a foolish question.


“You will provide the son that I’ve lost.”


“But—”


“Let me finish.”


He indicated that she should take a seat. Her legs wobbled.


“In return, you will receive rewards. Your sisters will have better education. And you will be paid a large sum of money.”


Leon Velafonte mentioned a seven-digit figure.


Asia’s mouth opened wide.


“You will lend your body for nine months. I will take away the baby. And you shall be free.”


Silence, while she digest the shocking offer.


“If—if I refuse…?”


“You and your sisters will go back to where you belong.” He spoke slowly as though he was speaking to a slow-wit. His voice as dark as the shadowy room.


“And you will be facing charges—for killing the woman and her unborn child.”


It was not an offer! It was blackmail!


Asia suffered another shock.


“But—but she jumped… I saw the cctv… They recorded the scene…” she said haltingly. Her teeth were chattering.


“I have the cctv. I will never show it. So it’s your word against mine, Asia Cruz.”


He even knew her name. Why not? He knew the names of her sisters.


“So what is it to be? Yes or no?” The soft-spoken words echoed inside the shadowed room.


Asia embraced her body. It was suddenly cold. Her tongue remained glued at the roof of her mouth. She didn’t know what to say or think.


The man took off his blazer and hung it on her shoulder. His body warmth surrounded her.


“I will leave you tonight.” He seemed victorious.


“Let’s continue this discussion in the morning.


Asia was left alone, staring into space.


Why her? She was just a janitress. She was too thin for her height. Her hair was unkempt. Her face was so ordinary, although her skin was clear.


She was just nineteen going twenty… Though she looked matured for her age. She was also matured beyond her years.


She had no plans to marry. She didn’t feel the urge to have a relationship. She was focusing all her energies to the two girls. She wanted them to have a good education.


Maybe this was her destiny. It was also an offer of a lifetime. Never mind the blackmail element…


‘An eye for an eye,’ she thought wearily.


Asia didn’t sleep a wink. She remained in her seat until morning.


By six o’ clock, a maid bustled around. Switching off the blank monitor and pulling the curtain rods so the glorious view of the garden and sky was in full view, and smiled at Asia.


Asia smiled back tremulously.


“You must be Miss Asia. Come with me.” The smiling maid brought her back to the room.


The bed was already made. The curtains were drawn to the sides, revealing a double glass doors, which were currently open.


“Let’s wrap your shoulder and arm with plastic.”


The blazer was removed from her shoulder. It was folded and laid down in a chair.


“While you’re taking a shower, I’ll have your clothes ready.”


Asia savored the shower. It was the first time she spent several minutes of standing under the rain of lukewarm water.


She shampooed her hair twice. For the first time, the long strands felt squeaky clean. She also soaped her whole body twice. She scrubbed the soles of her feet.


When she was done, the young maid was waiting for her patiently. Her protective plastic wrap was removed with care. She was offered a towel to dry herself.


She had spent a half hour in the bathroom. This was the first time she had seen herself in a large mirror. She was a bit ashamed because her hair was frizzy. Her hands and feet were grubby.


“Thank you,” Asia said gratefully.


“Come, sit here. Let’s comb your hair.”


Her hair was long but it had different layers. She cut it with the kitchen scissors. It was thick though and a bit curly.


It was the first time that someone combed her hair. The black tresses looked shiny after being brushed many times.


“Thank you,” Asia said once again. She was awed with her reflection at the mirror. She had never looked presentable.


She donned clothes that were clearly not hers. The underwear made her blush. Just tiny slips of silk.


“Where’s my uniform?” Asia asked although the dress was not bad. It had spaghetti straps and a full skirt.


“It had to be cut from the shoulder. The arm’s sling is in the way.” The maid explained courteously. “Come outside, your breakfast is ready.”


Asia was overwhelmed with so many food.


“Won’t you join me?” she said when the maid started towards the room. “Um, may I know your name?”


“I’m Cely. I already had breakfast.” Cely said with a smile.


Asia looked at the variety of food before her. She didn’t know the breads in the basket. There was orange juice in the pitcher. And coffee in the elaborate kettle.


She poured coffee on the thin porcelain cup. After lifting the lids from small jars, she found the cubed sugar. She put two of them, then poured milk. She stirred and tasted.


Asia grimaced on the first sip. She found it very strong but reviving. She pulled a bread from the basket and dunked it to the gray liquid like she always did.


I’d like to see my sisters, she told herself as she finished the bread and the coffee.


Asia stood up to look for Cely. She started when she saw a man lounging on the door. They looked at each other.


A man at around forty stood there. Tall, proud, and at the prime of his life. He was staring at her as if he knew her.


Somehow, Asia knew who she was looking at. His shape seemed familiar.


Leon Velafonte was not good-looking but his jaw and chin had character. His mouth was firm. His eyes deep and dark as sin.


His high brow was hidden with a stray lock of hair but it was clearly intelligent. His shoulders were broader and muscular in broad daylight.


His muscled arms and chest were not sinister to Asia. They offered a haven of safety, which was absurd.


Don’t be daft! she scolded herself. Leon Velafonte was an enemy.


An enemy with such goodies to offer, if she danced to his tune.


“I want to see my sisters.” Asia said defiantly. She was showing a hard front but inside she was a mass of quivering jelly.


A hand indicated the garden below.


She looked down cautiously. A swimming pool was right below. Two girls were happily swimming around, wearing colorful swim suits. An elderly woman sat nearby. There was a table full of food and drinks.


Sari and Lilac seemed near yet so apart from her. But they seemed happy and being taken care of.


“Satisfied?”


It was the first word he had spoken. He didn’t wait for her reply.


“Have you decided?”


As if he didn’t know yet! Asia was between a sea and a cliff.


She nodded, silently wishing that she could shake her head. She bit her under lip. She could never say ‘no’ to such a very good offer. That was the truth.


He had straightened, turning towards the outer door. He expected her to follow. He was loose-limbed. He didn’t look a gangster but looks didn’t say much.


Her father looked like an angel when not drunk…


She remained wary of him.


They went to a different room. This place looked like a library. With shelves of books that covered one wall and a large desk dominating the other side. It was overflowing with lots of papers. In the midst reside an open laptop.


“Take a seat.”


Asia chose the one farthest from him, which was about two meters away.


“Well?” A brow quirked at her. Wanting a verbal answer.


“Yes.” She firmly thought of her two sisters. “My sisters will have someone with them all the time?” She wanted to be sure.


“Yes, of course.”


Somehow, she trusted his words.


Leon moved around the desk. He opened a drawer and took out the contents.


“Here is the contract for our agreement. There is a gag order, too.” There were three sets of the two documents.


Upon her blank expression, he offered an explanation.


“Meaning you cannot talk to anyone about the agreement, especially to the press.”


She automatically shook her head. She would be terrified to talk to reporters.


“Read it while we wait for my attorney.”


It was written in English. She didn’t understand most of the legal jargon.


Instead, she looked for the conditions that he mentioned last night.


The education for the two girls, Sari and Lilac, would be secured.


And there was the seven-figure amount to be paid to her at the end of the contract.


She still couldn’t believe it. She had to count the figures many times.


In exchange, her body would be used as a vessel to his child. She would be unavailable to anybody while his son grew inside her womb.


The terms, ‘artificial insemination’, somehow soothed her fears.


“Why me?” Her question met silence.


“You give me a son. I will give you back your freedom.” His eyes glinted.


“I didn’t kill her!” she whispered despairingly. “I was just an unfortunate witness…”


“Who knows? You have no proof.” That sinister tone entered his voice once again.


She was silenced. She just stared at him in shock.


“Just accept your fate, Asia Cruz.”


“What if the baby’s a girl?” she mumbled. Her wide eyes were restless.


“Our agreement is a son. If it is a girl, we make another one until you got it right!”


“Oh my God!” She exclaimed in disbelief.


She had vision of herself being barefoot and pregnant, with a brood of young girls following her.


She bowed her head to her hands and burst into tears.


Leon left her crying.



CHAPTER THREE:


ASIA was silent when the attorney arrived. She had time to pull herself together. No one would help her but herself.


She listened silently to the explanation of the contract word for word. When she was asked to sign all pages, she did without uttering a protest. She had done the signatures painstakingly. With her right arm in sling, she needed time.


In her mind, she was signing for the security of her sisters. Also, for herself. Now that she had a chance to think more. It had become a reality.


“A physician will give you an executive general check-up.”


The attorney was a woman who had clearly taken a dislike of her at first sight.


Atty. Brenda Brillo was around forty years old but looked younger due to expensive clothes. She was also petite and her voice was like a young girl.


Asia was awed by her. She admired her profession. A woman who practiced the law.


The physician was a fifty year-old woman. After an hour of physical examination, Asia was declared healthy.


Her teeth were counted, complete and all clean. At work, they were required to have their teeth examined. Her sight was also normal. Her hearing and her throat showed no sign of injury.


“You are a healthy young lady, except for your injured shoulder—which is healing nicely.” The doctor changed the bind and sling. “You’re on the thin side. I’ll prescribe some vitamins for you.”


It was nearing one o’clock when the two women finished their visit.


Leon Velafonte did not appear again.


Cely fetched her. She was served lunch at the balcony of her room.


She was outwardly calm. She refused to dwell on her problems. She observed her surroundings. She tried to guess their whereabouts.


The air was clean. It lacked the smell of pollution. The noise was almost none. But that was all. She still couldn’t tell where were they. She was always a city dweller.


Asia looked over the swimming pool. It was empty. Sari and Lilac were probably having their lunch now. Or a quiet afternoon.


In the small room she rented, the three of them would spend a Sunday afternoon quietly folding clothes and ironing the uniforms they would wear for the week ahead.


“Cely, may I see my sisters?” she asked hesitantly.


“Wait here. I will ask Sir Leon.”


Asia’s hope ran high. Cely seemed agreeable.


Leon Velafonte appeared a few minutes after Cely departed. He was holding a brown envelope.


“Here’s your copy.” He handed her the envelope. “You shall see your sisters.”


“Oh, thank you!” she said in a rush.


He held up a hand. Stopping her.


“Here’s the story. You will tell your sisters that you’re going abroad and Tia Moring will look after them.”


“Where—”


“I am Moring.” Tia Moring was standing nearby. Cely was with her.


“She’s Cely’s mother, by the way.” Leon added absently. “Cely will come with you.”


“Where will we go?” was all Asia managed to ask.


“You will see,” he said brusquely. “Cely?”


“All the luggage are ready, sir.” Cely said respectfully.


“You will introduce Tia Moring as a relative.” He was already walking as he talked. His mind seemed already somewhere else.


Asia saw her sisters quietly sitting and watching television.


“Sari! Lilac!” she called out to them. All the love she felt for the two evident in her voice.


They were like a bunch of puppies when they saw her.


“We missed you, sis! Where have you been? What happened to your arm?”


They cried and laughed and showed concern for her at the same time.


“Whoa! One question at a time. I’m going abroad and I had an accident.”


“What? You’re leaving us!” Lilac exclaimed.


“Who’ll look after us? Where will we live?” Sari lamented.


“You’ll be living here. Tia Moring will take care of you.”


“Lola Moring?”


“She said this wasn’t her house.”


Asia’s eyes asked for Tia Moring’s help.


“My house is at the back. This is my employer’s home. I just let you sleep here last night because your rooms aren’t ready yet.”


“Rooms?” Sari and Lilac repeated at the top of their voices.


“I have a room of my own, Lola Moring?” Sari asked. Her mind not on her sister, Asia, anymore.


“Me, too, Lola?” Lilac made sure, ungrammatically.


“Yes, both of you have a room of their own. Now, say goodbye to your sister. She will not be seeing you for a while.”


The two youngsters were clearly in a hurry to see their rooms. Asia embraced each one of them very tightly.


“Goodbye, sister. Call us!”


“Be good, Sari, Lilac…” She sniffed. Her eyes begun to water.


“We will be good!” Then the two were running towards the house that Tia Moring had indicated.


“They will be in good hands. Don’t worry, Miss Asia,” Cely touched her hand. “Come, the car is waiting.”


Asia bit her lip to stem the flow of tears from her eyes. The two girls were with her for three years only. For them, this was a new chapter in their lives.


Cely surreptitiously handed her a handkerchief. She blew her nose and stopped crying.


Asia was facing a new chapter in her life, too. And she needed all her courage to face the challenges.


She saw Leon again. They did speak but she got the impression that he knew her. He kept on staring at her. She wondered how.


He nodded his head and they departed.


The driver/bodyguard and Cely were silent during the long journey. Asia seated at the back all by herself.


She was dozing. She felt exhaustion from the lack of sleep last night.


Her dreams were a jumble. One minute, she saw the suicide again. She even heard the imagined crack of the crashing bones on the pavement.


Then, her dying mother wanted to commit suicide. She was holding out a hand, reaching for her.


“No, mother! Don’t die!”


“Goodbye, Asia!” Her mother stepped off the building’s ledge.


“No! Nooo!”


“Miss Asia! Miss Asia,” Cely’s voice penetrated her nightmare. “You’re having a bad dream? Are you alright?”


“Yes… I’m… alright…” Asia said brokenly. Her cheeks were wet once again.


The suv stopped. Cely went to the back and comforted her, brushing her hair and humming softly.


Asia fell asleep once again. It was a deep sleep.


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