The rain fell just too heavily and too sudden that Lisa could not tell if she did see what she thought she saw. She remembered seeing banners pinned on the trees outside as they entered the building earlier and knew that she could have imagined those to be something else. There was another flash of lightning followed by thunder and Lisa knew that it could be another one of the freak weather disturbances that she and Nestie had been seeing more frequently lately.
“Toto, you have to stay calm,” said the nurse to the old man. She had come to the old man’s assistance when she found him to be distressed. “It’s just the rain. It will be over soon.”
Lisa walked over to Nestie who was looking at the nurse as she tried to calm Toto. The two friends wanted to help the old man, but knew that the nurse would be able to do a better job.
The nurse turned to Lisa and Nestie and gave them a smile. “He’s always like this during thunderstorms. Crying like a child.”
The gates to the Adobe House opened slowly to allow the van to enter the grounds. There were soft knocks on the van’s window that made Lisa look at the person making the sound. She saw a young woman outside the van offering her garlands of sanaria. After a short pause, Lisa decided to lower the window and bought several garlands from the young woman. The young woman beamed, briefly showing her white but misaligned teeth. She thanked Lisa before walking off to find other buyers of her sanaria garlands. The sweet smell of the fresh garlands filled the van as it drove inside the Adobe House grounds. Lisa took a deep breath and was quickly reminded of her time as a young girl in Cardena. She remembered that there used to be plenty of sanaria growing wildly in nearby vacant lots and she and Celie would compete on who could pick the most. The flowers were brought to the kitchen were the kitchen maids would take some of their time to turn them into garlands. Sanaria leaves that did
“Is that you, Lisa love?” came Celie’s drowsy voice as Lisa entered the guest room. The lights were off and Lisa could only tell from the dark shape over the bed that her cousin was already lying down as if ready to sleep. “Yes, Celie,” said Lisa, looking at her cousin. “It seems too early for you to be sleeping. Would you mind if I turn on the lights?” Lisa switched on the lights and saw that her cousin was in bed with her blankets drawn up to her neck. There was a soft moan from Celie. “Oh, sorry. Is the light too bright?” asked Lisa. “N-no,” came Celie’s reply. “Keep the lights on.” Lisa was about to walk towards her bed when she noticed Celie’s face. Celie’s face was ashen and her lips were pale. “You look pale, Celie. Are you sick?” asked Lisa worriedly. “No. I’m alright, Lisa. Don’t mind me. I just feel tired, that’s all,” came Celie’s reply. “Sorry to hear that,” said Lisa. She nevertheless went towards Celie and
Lisa lay in bed with her blankets to her neck. Celie was right. It was a cold night. Lisa, however, could not figure out why Celie insisted on having the windows open despite the cold. Her cousin’s actions had been a bit erratic and illogical these past days, thought Lisa. She knew that her cousin tended to be unpredictable at times even when they were young. Back then, it could just be attributed to their youth; Lisa, herself, remembered doing some wild things with Celie. However, they were now grown women and very much in control of their actions. Lisa could understand Celie’s predicament of having to live under public scrutiny and always acting as a model figure for her father’s citizens, but Celie’s sudden disappearances and escape from her security detail were quite irresponsible. There was a quick snort coming from Celie’s bed and Celie moved restlessly to one side. Lisa looked at her cousin and wondered where she had gone after her photo shoot at the Home for the Elde
Lisa woke up from the sound of birds outside the window. She slowly opened her eyes and saw the room flooded with golden light. She stretched her arms and rubbed her eyes before sitting up in bed. It looked like it was going to be a good day, she thought as she looked around the brightly-lit room. Celie was still sleeping soundly so Lisa silently got off her bed and prepared to take her morning shower. It was good that Celie was able to sleep without any incident. Her cousin needed to have a good night’s rest if she were to look great for her birthday party. After taking her shower and putting on her usual comfortable clothes of jeans and a cotton shirt, Lisa noiselessly left the room. She then walked to Nestie’s room and knocked on the door. “Come in, Lisa,” came Nestie’s voice and Lisa twisted the door knob. “How was your sleep last night, Nes?” asked Lisa. Nestie had already changed and was combing his hair. “Very well. Thank you,” replied Nestie.
Upon alighting from the tricycle, Nestie saw the ocean and the tall cliffs that surrounded a wide beach. They were a short distance from the sandy coast where several boats were docked. Out on the sea were numerous islets that rose from the water like the backs of turtles or upturned boats. Several of the islands were connected to each other like a pearl necklace, the sea between them becoming labyrinthine for boats to navigate through. Fortunately, the islets also served a purpose in protecting the moored boats on the small beach where Lisa and Nestie were standing as well as the inner islets in the archipelago from the strong currents and big waves coming from the open ocean. “Do you like what you’re seeing so far, Nestie?” asked Lisa who had just paid the tricycle driver and stood beside Nestie to admire the scenery. “I’ve seen so many coasts in my life, but this is still breathtaking!” remarked Nestie, drinking in the scene before him. They were on top of a cliff
The boat glided over the water, leaving ripples in its wake. The boatman jumped aboard and started the engine, steering the boat towards one of the many islets that dotted the sea. Nestie turned his head and looked at the cliff that they had just descended. He swallowed hard before saying to Lisa. “I can’t believe we descended from that,” he said. “Are we going back the same way?” Lisa smiled as she saw the expression on Nestie’s face. Her friend took the front seat on the boat while she sat behind him. “Do you want to?” Lisa asked. “I don’t know if I can make it,” Nestie replied. Then, he added. “Maybe I can, but you will have to pull me up.” Lisa laughed at Nestie and pinched his back. “Ow! What was that for?” asked Nestie, rubbing his back which Lisa had just pinched. “For being so adorable!” Lisa answered. “Look ahead of you and enjoy the scenery. Don’t you think the islets and the rock formations look stunning?” Nestie loo
The water was clear and Lisa had not trouble seeing the cave opening just ahead. Before swimming through the opening, she took a quick look behind her and saw Nestie just behind her. Lisa gave Nestie a quick wave and shot through the opening of the cave with broad strokes of her arms and legs. Lisa swam to the surface and was quickly amazed at what she saw. The sun shining through the opening of the grotto made the water luminous, turning it from emerald to a glowing neon. She looked at her hands from under the water and saw the fine bubbles on her skin turning her hands into silver. She looked up at the ceiling and saw the ripples in the water reflected on the high dome of the grotto, giving the cavern an otherworldly appearance. The stalactites hanging from the ceiling glinted in the green light and looked like numerous fingers reaching for the water below. Nestie’s head bobbed out of the water and he quickly wiped the water from his face with his hands. Lisa watch