As scheduled, they met at the family residence after dusk and sat together at the dining table under the low ceiling light hanging over them. The tiny crystal pendants around its main light, of which the glass shade refracted prisms on each dangling embellishment themed the room with mixed hues. Luis sat at the head of the table, while the younger brother sat by the corner, the two of them slightly facing each other while the lawyers seated side by side across. There were piles of documents atop the leather case between them, and cigarette stubs nearly overflowed in a porcelain ashtray by the cups of consumed coffee.
“Have you thought about your options, Luis?” the lead counselor began. Jojo turned to his elder for an answer. “I guess we have.” Luis’ voice has fallen tired when he responded.
“Or could we have more time to go over it? I mean we don’t have to decide right away, do we attorney?” Jojo injected worriedly.
“Inasmuch as we want to get the arrangements done for at this point, we want you to know that we completely understand how hard these things could get. Please take all the time you need but let us know as soon as you have arrived at a decision. It would be best if we get something by the end of the week, but we’ll hold it off as much as we can.”
And the rest of the exchanges were all ceremonials to make sure that everything down to the last detail was in order. After half an hour, they all stood up and shook hands except for Luis who remained silent in his seat. The younger brother showed the lawyers to the door and excused the indifference of the brother and blamed it all to exhaustion and explained further that he was not quite himself lately. He went back to the dining area after getting a pitcher of cold water from the fridge, and Luis mechanically reached for the glasses from the rack in front of him and handed one to the brother.
Frustrated, he bolts right up on his feet and walked around and turned his back to Jojo.
“I can’t believe mother would do such a thing” and mellowed down after a pause,
“I guess it can’t be helped.”
After supper, in front of the wooden dresser, he peeled off a strip of white tape from the dispenser and wrote her name on it. He then plastered it across the surface of the mirror where his reflection was, on eye level, to ensure that he won’t forget to think about her every time he stood there. Sometimes, the air in the bedroom would feel like a visit from the past. The room still smelled of dried flowers from the house altar which their mother used to keep. It has been decided that they would always keep her room locked from the housekeepers or anyone for that matter without explicit permission.
A few days had passed, it was the weekend, the brothers decided to get some air on the coast. Luis drove while Jojo was looking up to the direction of the foliage ahead with the wind on his face. The sun was always gentle after the rain he mused and reached behind him to the back seat to open the rest of the windows to let the cold breeze in. The waves were full upon their arrival to the shore. For countless years they have carved in the skirts of the land mass deep into the ocean floor. The crashes were hollow as it trembled heavily as both brothers felt minute in their presence.
“I remember how our parents have thrown their worries out here. Do you recall?” The stares of Luis fixed onto the horizon as if he has latched his gaze onto the ends of the ocean.
“I just remember how different things were, kuya. Those were just the happiest times.” Jojo replied as he stepped a few paces forward into the beach and felt the salt water drown his feet, and continued as if mimicking,
“I guess it can’t be helped.”
Just as they stood a mushroom smoke steadied its girth from the horizon up to the ends of the sky. The wild forest fire has been on for three days showing no signs of stopping.
The moon that night glared wildly red in the sky while its reflection quivered on the surface of the garden pond beneath the motionless virgin of the grotto. Its light sliced through the gaps of the wooden jalousie into the rooms of the house. The shadows crept in the corners, through the halls, and under the shed, while silhouettes shifted, and parted with each passing vehicle on the nearby street.
Photo by Biankitty