by Lucille de Mesa
This year’s Fictory is for a cause. We donate P100 to a chosen beneficiary for every fic submitted this July. Participate here if you can. You may also submit a story anytime of the year. Enjoy this one!
Prompt: Reincarnation is definitely real, and everyone is born with a message in their mind from their past life.
“Forgive and forget”
That was Gertrude’s motto ever since she was a child. She didn’t think twice writing this down in all the slam books she had to accomplish when she was in elementary school. This was her mantra every single day.
“Giiirrrll! I told you he isn’t worth waiting for anymore!” Veronica mumbled as she engulfed a big serving of samgyupsal wrapped in a lettuce as big as the palm of her hands.
The topic of their monthly besties meeting was Gertrude and her boyfriend Fredrick. Lately she had doubts about their 10 year-long relationship and wanted to know what her childhood best friend thought about it. It was clear she wasn’t as supportive as when they first dated.
“But, you know, forgive and forget,” Gertrude answered confidently. “I do think it’s partly my fault. I was busy with my thesis that semester. I was graduating and I really wanted to graduate with Latin honors. I gave him more time once I stepped down that stage with that shiny medal on my neck.” She paused. “But I guess it’s never enough for him anymore.”
“Girl, he has been cheating on you for eight years of the 10 years you’ve been together!” Veronica had to shout this out under the sound of a Kpop song. “Maybe it’s time you ditch the guy and stop it with that motto of yours. It doesn’t apply now that we are older.”
Gertrude sat at the back of the bus. She wanted to have more space to herself as the bus traversed the expressway. Her weekends were spent far from the city and in her hometown. This week her mother asked her to stay at their ancestral house. Her grandmother wanted to organize their bodega.
Just as the bus passed the tollway she dozed off…
“Aking mahal, I have to take this responsibility, our country needs us,” Diego said calmly as he held Cleofa’s hand.
“Mahal ko. I’m scared. I don’t want you to go,” she answered.
As she said this a man in a uniform knocked at their door. Diego didn’t say anything anymore. He grabbed a small bag of his possessions and never looked back as he walked away from his home.
Gertrude woke up just in time for her stop. “That was a weird dream. I should write that down in my journal,” she thought to herself as she stepped out of the bus.
“O, apo ko! Did you eat dinner?” This is always her grandmother’s greeting.
“Opo,” was all she could say as she kissed her grandmother’s hand.
“You look very tired. You should rest. I already asked Luning to prepare your mother’s bedroom for you to sleep in.” Lola Maria started to climb up the stairs to the entrance of the house.
“Thank you, Lola.” was all she could whisper under her breath.
She was awakened by a loud bang of what seemed to be wooden boards being slammed on the ground. Gertrude opened the sliding Capiz window to look out and she saw that Lola Maria already started clearing out the bodega with Luning. She looked at the clock and it said it was already 10:00 am. She grabbed her toiletry bag and hurriedly went down to the outdoor sink to brush her teeth.
“Look what I found!” Luning said in excitement as she held up a beat out leather bound notebook. “It’s not damaged.” as she flipped through the pages. “Look at this, Trudie. You must read this! It’s your great grandpa’s diary.”
Gertrude raised her eyebrows. “Great grandpa?” she asked and looked at Lola Maria.
“Ah, the diary,” Lola said as Luning handed it to her.
“He survived the death march but died of a broken heart,” was all Lola Maria could say as she flipped through the pages.
“A broken heart?”
“You really do look like her.” Lola Maria held out a picture that was in between the pages of the notebook. “Cleofa.”
The woman in the photo was beside a man who she assumed was Diego. But what caught her attention was the face of the lady—it was exactly like Gertrude’s.
“It’s a long but documented story.” was all Lola Maria could say as she handed Trudie the diary as if telling her to read it and that she was tired to tell this part of the family history.
January 1, 1944
Happy New Year, self.
As what the Americans would say “New year, new you.”
I am missing you, my Cleofa, but I know you are happier already. It is my fault.
I should have not left you waiting for me. I should have gone home as soon as the war ended but crazy me had to mess around with the woman who took care of me. I cannot even look at my daughter’s face. I left her with Salvacion.
I know you can never forgive me.
I know Paco will give you a better and happier life.
This is all my fault.
That was the first entry of the diary. Gertrude flipped through the pages and settled with a long entry that talked about Maria, which she assumed was her grandmother.
“So he was my great grandfather… but who was this Cleofa that he kept mentioning?” she asked her mother.
December 14, 1970
I feel like I am also near my end.
I found out about your illness and I wanted to go to you, but Maria told me that it was not a good idea. I wish I could have talked to you before you left.
I want to be with you soon. I do not think I can live in this world knowing you are not here anymore.
In our next life, I hope you have forgiven and forgot about everything I have done wrong.
“Anak. Cleofa was your great grandfather’s first love. He left her because the government wanted him to serve in the military during World War II. But grandpa Diego, just like any man, had his weakness and brought home Lola Maria as a souvenir of this weakness. Cleofa could not forgive him for this and left him for another man named Paco. Your great grandpa didn’t marry. As what your lola would say, he died of a broken heart.”
Gertrude flipped to the next page of the journal but it was already blank. “Ma. When did great grandpa Diego die?”
“December 1970,” her mother shouted from the kitchen as she prepared their lunch.
“Forgive and forget” was all she could say under her breath. Everything felt like it was all in place. The Diary came at the right time. A time where she was almost in the same situation as Cleofa. They were not related but she felt the connection with her. She felt like she was given a sign. A sign she badly needed.
“Hey, babe!” Fredrick kissed her on the cheeks and held her hands but she moved her hands out of the way.
“We need to talk.” She sat on one of the benches at the park she chose to meet at. “I know what you have been doing lately.”
“What am I doing?” Fredrick sat next to her acting innocent about what was about to transpire.
“I know you have been cheating on me and I would like to end this now. I forgive you and I don’t think we should be seeing each other anymore.” She said this without taking a pause. She stood up and walked as fast as she could away from Fredrick. She never felt as free as she felt. She never looked back at him. It is like a weight was lifted out of her chest and just like Cleofa, she also deserved a better man than another Diego in her life.
Forgive and forget. It still flashed in her mind as she felt the newfound freedom she just claimed for herself. ☁️
Anything to share? :)