The story so far:
Chloe knew of the shame that she had brought into her new family, but at that time only Chris and she knew of it, while Lori suspected it. The buzz of her expecting soon spread like wildfire throughout the grape vine of the family; for nothing stayed a secret for long with these people, they all loved to gossip. As congratulations and best wishes poured in, Peter’s chest puffed out with pride at his accomplishment; at the same time Chloe seemed to withdraw more into her-self becoming silent, brooding and moody. Everyone attested her changes due to the hormones going crazy within her body due to her pregnancy; when if the truth be told it was due to her doubt of whom the true father of her unborn child was.
It was only right that Chris would catch her alone one day and question her about things, and with tears in her eyes she confessed to him that the child could be his or it could be that of Peter. While Chris seemed okay with knowing that if the child was his that Peter would claim it as his own, Chloe felt horrible that Chris might be missing out on one of the best things to ever happen to someone, becoming a parent, taking responsibility and taking an active role in the child’s life. With gentle reassurances Chloe calmed enough to compose her-self just as Peter came home; as a look passed between him and his brother, Chloe held her breath. But as the two greeted each other as if nothing was amiss she moved to the kitchen to put the kettle on for coffee.
The days seemed to pass quickly and in a blur, as preparations were made for the coming child, everyone hoped that she would be the one to break the growing trend of granddaughters being born to the family. They all hoped that her foreign blood would allow for a grandson to finally be born; of course all this pressure was being laid upon Chloe, making her feel as if a great weight was added to her shoulder. When in fact the burden was the knowledge that she had been unfaithful, she had willingly committed adultery and now she must bear the marks of sin with a child that could very well be a bastard child and not that of her husband.
Eventually snapping she packed a small satchel of clothes, and wrote her husband a letter; informing him and his family that she was a shameful and sinful woman, one who was no longer fit to be a part of his family. She never disclosed what it was that she had done so horribly wrong, just explained that she could no longer bear the cheerful excitement of his family, and therefore it was best if she just disappeared. Leaving the note where he would easily find it, she sent their usual text to his cell phone; that text read … I love you so very much my loving husband always and forever. Mwah! Mwah! Mwah!
It was true, Chloe did love him very much, but she was still confused about his brother’s confessions and her own feelings towards him. Yes she loved him, but in a way that a sister loved a brother, but that did not stop the lustful desire that had risen within her on the ferry that fateful night that changed her life. He had opened her eyes to a world that her husband had once shown her, a world that they had shared the year they married; but that had all changed so drastically since then. Even she couldn’t pinpoint what when wrong; she just knew that it was not normal for a wife to be left to her own devices as much as she had been, nor was it right to hide one away as if she was a dirty little secret.
As his response text came ringing through on her cell phone, so did the knock come at the door. Knowing that to be her ride, she quickly read Peter’s reply … I love you so much to my loving wife, always and forever. Mwah, mwah, mwah. As the tears welled in her eyes again, she set the phone next to the note, she would not need it where she was going, and opening the door she nodded to the taxi driver as he moved to open the door for her. Locking everything up behind her, one would assume that she was just going to the Gaisano and would be home again; never would their nosey neighbors suspect that she had clothing in her satchel and that she would not return.
Having enlisted the help of a trusted friend, another ‘Kano’ living in the Philippines with his wife, she took the taxi to the Gaisano as planned. Once there she would walk through one entrance and move about the stores as if window shopping; then before leaving she would stop in the market to buy a couple of drinks, something for her lunch, and a snack for later. Then as planned she would exit the Gaisano from the other entrance where her friend would have another Taxi waiting for her; Chloe was not sure where she would end up at, she just knew that he had promised her a safe place where she could have her baby and not have to worry about her husband and his family should they look for her.
Confident that the driver knew what his instructions were she sat in the backseat and watched the world pass by as they zipped through the streets of the city heading out towards the Province, sighing softly she set to eating her lunch, sharing half with the driver as is common courtesy in the country that she was living in. Once full he informed her it would be a few hours before they arrived at their destination; of course she didn’t ask any questions and he didn’t offer up any more information, which is how she wanted it to be. She wanted to be kept in the dark about the route taken, that way if later questioned she could honestly say that she didn’t know anything.
Leaning back in the seat she closed her eyes and rested the few hours it took to get to where the driver was instructed to deliver her; when the motion of the car stopped she opened her eyes, rubbed the sleep from them and spotted another taxi waiting for her. With a thank you to the one driver she grabbed her satchel and moved to the new vehicle; this happened a few more times before she found herself deposited in a remote village somewhere; yet she was not certain which village or exactly where she was. As a kindly old Lola came to her side, she was given a toothy grin as the gray haired lady spoke in broken English. “Kano said expect white woman to come today. He said care of her every need.”
With that Chloe simply nodded her head and let the old woman take her hand and pull her along; of course the other villagers were curious as to who this stranger was as they all stared at her. She couldn’t stop the smile that tipped her lips as she heard the old woman tutting at those staring and she was certain she heard the word ‘ate’ drop a time or two. Ate meant sister therefore she was being introduced to the villagers as her friend’s sister, which was okay for they didn’t know any different and they didn’t need to know more information.
Under the care of the kindly old grandma, the days passed, although they weren’t easy at first; it was hard to go to sleep at night and wake the next morning without Peter beside her. In the remote village that she was hiding out in, they had little to no contact with the outside world, therefore it was not known if Peter and his family were looking for her, or if they figured good riddance to bad rubbish. After the first couple of months Chloe had stopped crying herself to sleep and somewhere along those several weeks she found an inner peace growing just as surely as her unborn child was growing. As her belly began to show a small swell of a baby bump, she was coming to learn the language and the people of the village. To them she was Zoey, sister to Tom and Mari; but to her they were her new family; they openly accepted her new identity as if it was truth, therefore she soon began to believe it herself.
Life seemed easier when she could pretend to be someone else, and let Lola Junee take care of her; thankfully she had been through 12 children of her own and about half a dozen grandchildren, which reassured her that when the time came for her own birth things would go smoothly. Learning the ways to be a proper woman, wife and mother; Junee trained Chloe as if she was one of her own daughters and while she didn’t know the full story behind why she was with them, she didn’t ask any questions. Once harmony had been found, a new peace was slowly creeping into Chloe’s life, sure she thought about Peter and Chris and how they were doing, but the pain of the memories was next to nothing anymore.
Finally the time came that her child was ready to be born into this world, this was a time when her true test of her training would come into play. Following Lola Junee’s stern yet loving orders she somehow managed to make it through the labor pains; even if it did take more than 24 hours before a perfectly healthy child was born. As her baby was laid upon her chest tears slipped from her eyes as she noted that she had born a son, and after checking all his fingers and toes, she guided his mouth to her milky breast, helping him to latch onto a swollen teat. Looking to Lola through her tears she didn’t miss the surprise on the old woman’s face at the realization that her son was only half white; but as much as the kind grandma wanted to ask, she kept quiet and didn’t press Chloe for any information.
Junee had seen the thin gold band on the white woman’s finger, so she assumed she was married, but perhaps she was widowed, Tom and Mari never said and she had learned long ago to never ask questions that one might not want to hear the answers for. Instead she took this young woman under her wing and opened her heart and her home to her and she would do the same for her young son. Leaving mother and child to bond, she did not miss the looks upon the new mother’s face, and she wasn’t sure what was going through her head. With a light touch to Chloe’s forehead she gave her a toothy smile of pride before praising her; then turning away she cleaned up the birth mess and exited the room.
Naming her new son Declan, Chloe wasn’t sure whom he looked like more, then again her husband’s family all looked alike therefore it would not be easy to tell whom the father was just by looking at her son. With a silent vow she swore to herself that once Declan was old enough, she would explain everything about his past, and she could only hope that he would never come t hate her for what she had done. In addition to learning his father’s cultures she would teach him of her own culture, that way he would have both worlds in one; for she didn’t want him to miss out on anything in this life. Promising to be a better person now that she had a child who depended on her, she rested with the knowledge that it was time to seek solace in finding her way and her religion, for the coming years would test her faith and her mettle, and she needed to be prepared for anything.
A couple of weeks after Declan’s birth, Tom and Mari came to the remote village, not only to congratulate her on the new baby, but also to take part in the Christening ceremony as his new God-parents, and they brought word of Peter and his family. Not wanting to spoil the moments together they enjoyed the Christening of not only Declan but also of Chloe, for she had asked to be reborn again, taking up the Mormon religion, as it was more open and forgiving then any of the other Catholic or Protestant faiths were. During the feasting and celebrating Tom informed Chloe that they needed to speak on the morrow about Peter, but not to worry about it for the joys of being a new woman and mother should shine the brightest.
The festivities finally wound down until everyone left to find their own homes and their own beds, feeding Declan for the night she kisses his soft forehead before tucking him into the cradle that Lola Junee’s eldest son Westlee had given to her; it had been used by his wife Mafe throughout all of their children and they wanted her to have it for her son. Chloe then laid in bed trying to rest, yet the knowledge that Tom and Mari knew something of Peter only made her night that much more restless; then again she had suspected that they had known something or heard something, yet true to form they would come out with it when the time was right. Several hours later she fell into a restless sleep where she relived that night on the ferry with Chris, instead of dreaming about Peter, it was his brother that came to mind.
With the crowing of the rooster, Chloe opened her eyes as Declan was beginning to mewl in his cradle; changing and feeding him she wrapped him securely into the sling she carried across her chest. Moving about, starting her day she made breakfast for Lola and herself, and then asking Junee if she would watch over Declan for a few hours, she explained that she needed to talk with Tom and Mari before they left to head back home again. Promising to return by the time Declan grew hungry again, she kissed Lola Junee on her weathered and wrinkled cheek before heading out of the house. Finding Tom and Mari sipping their coffee on the front of the Nipa Hut that belonged to them when they visited, she accepted a cup of the sweetened brew as she sat down across from the two. When Mari came to sit at her side, she knew that what they had to say would not be easy to take in, and she was thankful for the intuitiveness of Mari to offer her comfort even if she only sat by her side and nothing more.
With what looked to be regret in Tom’s eyes, he began to speak. “It seems that after all this time Peter has given up his searching for you Chloe. After you disappeared and no one could say exactly where you went, it was assumed that the Rebels had kidnapped you. They figured that instead of asking for a ransom as is their normal way of doing things, they kept you as their slave.”
He stopped when he saw the look crossing Chloe’s face and shaking his head, Mari spoke up. “It is true, Peter did try to find you, had your face and name all over the news, but even then it was a less then hopeful search. You know where you all lived at; it’s a hot spot for kidnappings.” With that she lightly patted Chloe’s hand as Tom started to speak again.
“He has filed for an annulment and it was granted a couple of weeks ago. The judge claimed that it was only fitting since there was little to no hope of you ever being returned or recovered.” At that Tom paused, looking uncertain on if he should continue, yet as he looked to Mari and she nodded at him, he sighed softly as if losing the war. “He has also filed for a new marriage license, seems he took up a relationship with a past girlfriend of his.”
With that Mari wrapped her arms around Chloe and pulled her into her side. They didn’t know how she would react to such news, although his filing for a new marriage was quite sudden and surprising after just getting his old one annulled. Chloe sat rigid in Mari’s embrace, her gaze locked upon her coffee which was the same hue as Peter’s skin, sure the news hurt, in fact cut her to the core; but she chose to hide the true affect it had upon her. Finally she looked up at her two friends and gave a strained smile.
“Thank you very much for the information, but truth be told, I expected something like this. I had found proof of his still corresponding with his ex, Rachel, the entire time we were married. After the way I have brought shame to his family, it is best that they move on with their lives and I move on with mine. I have found new meaning to my life and now I am not just living for myself but also for Declan. We will prevail.”
With that she gave Mari a half hug, taking a drink of her lukewarm coffee. The rest of the morning was spent catching up on other current events happening around the Nation and around the world; so much has happened since she left the only home she had known since her arrival. Once they were done catching up, Tom and Mari promised to visit again soon, and with a hug goodbye Mari whispered to Chloe, "Chris has not given up searching.” Without any more explanations they both left the village and Chloe headed back to Declan and Lola, her mind a jumbled mess of what she had found out and what had been revealed to her. Peter was moving on without any regrets and Chris was still hanging on, searching for her. What would all of this hold for the futures of herself, Declan and even for Lola Junee and the village? Only time would reveal that answer as it passed.