Aware of the stares being thrown at her, Summer Verity Savatella kept her chin up amidst the scrutinizing murmurs of the crowd. Indeed, what was supposed to be a preparation for her most glorious day turned out to be a mock but paying any attention to their ignorant opinions and mindless criticisms would not benefit her either. She knows she deserves their attention, perhaps not for what’s obviously the cause of their curiosity now, but she deserves acknowledgment for her intelligence that everyone seemed to have forgotten about or simply chose to set aside. What was that saying? When I am right, no one remembers but when I am wrong, no one forgets? Besides, she’s used to being stared at. She’s used to being measured from head to toe by self-proclaimed critics and hearing speculative remarks that she’d most certainly had her nose done, or her waist trimmed, or her skin peeled. She knows and had always been praised of her physical attributes that deserved adoration rather than mere flattery. She’s well aware of her beauty and the huge round bump on her belly didn’t affect it in any way.
When her name was called, she stepped up gracefully onto the stage and ever so poised walked over to the center to reach for the dummy-diploma that would be handed. The teacher who was standing-in for the administrators of their school for the rehearsal paused and stared at her face, then to her apparent pregnancy. She’s nearly half-way and there was no way that she can hide her blown up belly beneath any type of garment. Knowing that she’d be standing in front of everyone that day to be gaped at, she chose to wear a most flattering lime-green three-fourth sleeved empire-cut dress that would sure to emphasize her stomach as it flows silkily over her bump and then edge an inch below her knees. Her breasts had considerably sized up that she couldn’t be modest about the neckline much as she tried. As for the rest, she didn’t bother much. On her feet she wore a pair of strappy sandals and her long hair she simply pulled up in a tight pony tail which she bound with a ribbon of the same shade as her dress. It wasn’t her best effort, but she was presentable. Surely these seagulls wouldn’t be able to say anything about her appearance apart from her increased waistline measurement.
The female teacher who was shorter than herself by what seemed like a couple of feet at most and was round as a bagel with annoyingly frizzy short hair which made her look like she had been electrocuted except for her meaty chunks that still proved her soggy, didn’t show any intention to budge her heavy arms even after Summer had reached for the rolled-up paper with her left hand and presented her right hand for a handshake. Summer impatiently cleared her throat and the frizz-head teacher looked at her face again wearing an obvious dumb-struck and rude reaction.
“Congratulations.” The teacher managed to say in constrict formal tone. The smile on the teacher’s chubby face was forced justified by that insufferable look of sympathy on her absurdly huge doe-eyes which, for Summer, was worse than a million mocking glares.
“Thank you.” Summer had to force herself not to sound sarcastic. By the look the teacher gave her and the uncomfortable flush on her stocky cheeks, anyone could conclude that her congratulations meant more than just for graduating. If it had been sincere well-wishes, she would have gladly accepted. But she did not appreciate being looked at as if her condition was something to be sorry about.
After a quick handshake Summer moved on, just as gracefully as she had climbed up to be the center of everyone’s denigration to get that rotten piece of paper while ignoring the impertinent being’s sigh of being freed from a very uncomfortable situation. How rude! How despicably infuriating! But she had to keep her calm. A cool smile she gave to the other stand-ins whose hands she shook as hastily yet as regally, her steps ever dignified and majestic and her royal bearing she kept faultless until she shook the last hand she had to and got down from the wretched stage. Head held high as a queen’s, she showed everyone that she would never let anyone look down on her no matter how or what they thought her mistakes had been.
She would accept their scorn the way she had accepted her parents’ disappointment, but she would never accept pity. She accepts the fact that she is an unmarried nineteen year old pregnant girl led astray by lust and disillusioned by love, but she will never accept anyone questioning her established reputation as someone gifted with capabilities just because of a single misjudgment she had made. She admits to being young and impulsive, yes, but not stupid.
Everyone expected and wanted her to get married, but she didn’t. Her boyfriend, the last one, the father of her child, the donor--- that last one sounded most appropriate--- was not someone that she had ever seen herself being with. Yes, Arthur Rose Echeverria would have really made a good catch, handsome, smart, athletic, well-mannered and rich. But also for that very same reason of him being so close to perfection that Summer protested against her parents’ wishes of her getting married to avoid scandal. Scandals would die down once a new one erupts, but if she had gotten married and regretted that decision, it would be very hard to take back. Someday, people will get tired of talking about her and some would even forget, but marriage would mean a lifelong commitment that she wouldn’t be willing to give to someone she isn’t even in love with.
Besides, even if her parents demanded, there was no assurance that a wedding would be accepted in Arthur’s part. They barely even knew each other. She didn’t even tell him her real name during those two weeks that they were together in the island and all they had were phone calls after she left for home which she abruptly ended the very first month she knew that she was expecting. She never thought about making him responsible for her own reckless actions.
She wanted to get away, and she found something else during her escape. She found Arthur Rose Echeverria, the young owner of a resort near where she stayed and who was as intoxicating and charming as his name suggested. Rose… how sweetly his mother must have thought when she named him.
She was heartbroken and vulnerable when she met Arthur, and she was attracted to him instantly, the way a bee or a butterfly would have been attracted to a splendid flower. She easily got over her heartbreak because of him and she wouldn’t deny that she liked him, or liked the way he was and the way he granted her physical gratification. But that wasn’t love. It was just lust, and it had been wildly satisfied. It was good while it lasted, but now she has to focus on more important matters. She will raise her child and look forward to a bright future; a future which she’d build herself. No matter what other people may think or say, she will rise above them all.
“Are you sure you don’t want to accept my proposition? I know my name isn’t as affluent as Echeverria or as prominent as Avellaneda, but I could give your child a name, Summer.” Roger del Castillo tilted his handsome head to throw Summer a pair of curious eyes and a little persuasive smile. He watched her with steady eyes as she struggled to reach for the stubborn zipper at the back of her elegantly simple pink dress. After being amused enough at the look of his dear pregnant friend, he walked over to her and turned her back on him to slide the zipper up.
“And what do you plan to do with a wife, Roger? A child I could very well guess, especially a male one, you could continue your legacy without having to plant a seed, but I fear to even picture what you expect me to be.” Summer turned to him and gestured her thanks-for-helping-with-the-dress with a soft pat on his shoulder. She walked over to her dresser and sat in front of the mirror to stare at her pale face.
“I love you, Summer Verity. No matter how I am, you know I mean it when I say that I would take care of you.”
“Which you’ve always proved in the past and until now, Roger. I love you too.” Summer smiled at him through the mirror before picking up her hairbrush which she luxuriously ran through her long locks. “But I don’t need you to take care of me that way. I know you just want to help me get away from the scandal and---“, she paused when she saw the sudden grave seriousness on his face through the reflection, her own smile wavered off.
“Think about it. It would be hard for your child to grow up without a father and tougher for you to raise one on your own.” He slowly walked up behind her and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, staring at her with complete sincerity through the mirror. “I am serious, Summer. I’ll give your child a name, and I will take care of you both.”
Summer felt the tears sting her eyes from beneath her eyelids, but she managed to stop them from completely showing. She gave a slight smile, shifted her head and gave the hand that rested on her left shoulder a soft kiss. “I don’t want you to sacrifice anything for me, Roger. You don’t have to marry me. As long as you’re always beside me, it would be enough.”
Roger slid his hand and stooped down to wrap Summer in his arms. That was all he had to do to make her completely lose her strength in keeping her tears at bay. Roger kissed the first drop of tear away before it rolled down her cheeks, but it was only followed by a gallon more. He turned Summer to him and held her tight and he felt her cling to him like a child, sobbing all the pain that she had held back.
“It’s ok, Summer. I’m here. I’m always here for you and I always will be.”
Summer had tried hard enough not to show anything, but her friend’s sincerity made her lose all of her resolve. She didn’t cry when Robert Avellaneda cheated on her. She didn’t cry when she found out she was pregnant with Arthur Rose Echeverria’s child. She didn’t cry when she spoke to her parents about her condition and she managed to hold herself up despite their harsh words. Only now had she let herself sink and weaken, in front of her most trusted and only friend.
Roger del Castillo Jr. is her father’s godchild and they grew up together. He is the only son of Dr. Roger del Castillo Sr. who became a widower before his son turned six. Roger’s father never remarried and kept busy with his work, he was also too busy to look after a child apparently. During those times, Roger and Summer’s friendship grew strong, he was closer to her than her real brother who was ten years her senior. They were in high school when Roger confessed what Summer had already guessed for so long: he’s gay, and they kept that secret along with many other secrets within their strong bond of friendship. He is the only person who knew about Summer’s secret escapade and all about Arthur. He is also the one person despite Robert and Summer who knows the real reason why they broke up. It was only Summer who knew about his first love with an older guy who was their professor. It was also Summer who comforted him whenever he got his heartbroken. They had always been together through anything as they wish for each other’s happiness. And to think that he was very willing to sacrifice his whole life for her, Summer just couldn’t let that be.
“Here’s the information you asked for.”
Arthur felt Janice’s reluctance in handing him the folder which contained the data that he had asked--- or almost begged for. He pulled it away from her grasp quickly before she changed her mind and tucked it under his arms on the table.
“You know that I can get sued for this.”
“You know that I will never put you in trouble. Thank you for this, Janice.” Arthur smiled and hoped that he had persuaded her enough to just move on quickly about the matter, but she still voiced out her curiosity.
“What do you want with this girl, Arthur? I never would have expected you to think about a girl this much. You’ve always been jumping on and off tourists. I wonder what made you change.” Janice gave up trying retrieving the folder and just sunk back on her chair taking her glass of daiquiri with her. She kept her eyes on him indicating that she was waiting for an answer and she had already taken a couple of sips before he did.
“I don’t know. She’s just different. I was taken aback by her. She wasn’t anything like the other tourists who came here with mutual deals of gratifying their lustful tropical illusions. I even feel like I’ve corrupted her. She seemed like she was melting in my arms when I held her. And when I kissed her--- she---” Arthur paused and recalled her pretty face. The way she looked so radiant and in blinding shine before the big red sunset. “She was a virgin.” Arthur’s last statement made him remember the first moment he took the pale skinned princess in his arms. He grabbed his glass of whiskey and gulped it up forcing away the image of her authentic innocent blush.
Janice fell silent, but she needed to lighten up the awkward mood somehow. “She’s nineteen. You’re glad that she’s of legal age?” Janice held in the forced nervous laughter but was unable to restrain the chuckle that escaped her throat. “So it was more than just a summer fling for the notorious Casanova? Well, it would have been double-positive if it was…”
Arthur didn’t get what she was trying to say and she understood his ignorance. She leaned over the table and tapped the folder with her index finger which Arthur guarded vigilantly with his elbow, and then quickly slumped back on her chair with a grin. With caution, Arthur slowly moved his elbow to open the folder containing Summer’s information acquired from the records she left at Janice’s resort.
“Summer Verity Salvatella.” Arthur read her name with a sigh, and somehow, saying her name made his heart jump. She told him her name was Maria and he felt uncomfortable about it since that was his mother’s name. Is it just relief that the girl whose been running through his mind doesn’t really have the same name as the woman who had abandoned him that made him feel light inside?
“What are you going to do now?” Janice asked with anticipation as if she didn’t know. She had never seen her younger cousin look so dumb because of a girl and she took that it might actually be a good thing to end his carefree whoring days.
“I’m going to find her.” He answered with such determination and such a stupid boyish grin. It was like he was back to being eight having his first crush rather than a 25 year-old guy who had built his name in business all on his own abilities and whose womanizing skills are known throughout the island.