"Papa, papa, papa…!"
"Where are you…!"
"Please help me…!"
Antonio couldn't sleep at all. Something was definitely bothering him. He couldn't tell what but Maria's voice rang in his ears that very same moment. He sighed heavily and sat up, rubbing his temples with his fingers. This wasn't the first time it happened. Most of the time it always turned out to be nothing. Maria always assured him of that every time he felt like he sprung to her rescue. He had to remember now that she wasn't a child anymore. She could live her own life without him, she was finally independent.
But these cries of help wouldn't stop. He didn't understand why they kept coming. Was it because he couldn't accept her independence? Or were delusions just rising up to his head telling him that she would forever be a child in his eyes?
He couldn't stop worrying. Swearing in Spanish, Antonio jumped right out of bed and dressed up immediately, racing for her home.
Something was definitely up.
There Maria was again—hidden under her sheets. The thunders wouldn't stop rumbling. The rain poured heavier by the minute. Storms were always common in the Philippines but these were one of those rampaging typhoons where she couldn't just take it anymore. How she hated herself for it; a tropical country not able to handle these things? Antonio would be ashamed if he heard of that.
"Papa…" she whispered helplessly, curling herself up in bed. She would never call for him. Never. Even if she wanted to, she couldn't. Not when the electricity was cut off after getting damaged by the storm. It was past midnight and the rain continued to pour. She couldn't sleep at all. It was too strong, too vicious; it was more than she could take. Tears began to form on her eyes, trickling down her cheek one by one. The walls of her pride began to break little by little—to the brink that all she wanted to do was find him in front of her room, reaching out for—
"Maria!" A voice rang through her ears. That same voice. That same sweet voice she had been dying to hear all this time but was too afraid to admit it. Antonio was right there. Barging himself into her home, he had ran towards her room almost as though he knew she would be right there.
"Papa…!" She cried out almost immediately, throwing the blanket away, her arms outstretched towards him. Biting back a sob, she buried herself in his arms, clinging to him for dear life. Nothing ever felt so good.
"Hush now, mi hija…" Antonio sighed heavily in relief, tightening his hold around her. He closed his eyes and stroked his hair lovingly, pulling her closer as much as possible.
"Make it stop, make it stop..." she whimpered quietly as though in a trance, pulling her arms away to cover her ears in an attempt to silence the roars of thunder. She felt like a child again. But she no longer cared. Not when Antonio was finally here. "Please, please, p-please…" she falls to her feet, pulling him down too as she begged blindly, her tears streaming down her cheeks which were flushed pink.
Her fingers were shaking. Her whole body was trembling in fear. Her eyes were shut and she was all curled up like a child.
…Antonio had never seen a sight so beautiful in his eyes.
He had never seen her so vulnerable, so helpless, so innocent. His own heart clenched. He had always wanted to see her look this honest. It was far too much for him to take. Biting his lip, he pulls her hands away from her ears and replaced them with his own. Pressing a long kiss on her forehead, he shifts his legs around her, trapping her body around him. "I can only do so much, mi poco tomangito…" he whispered softly.
She braced for the loud strikes of thunder to ring her ears but she heard none of it. Antonio's large hands gently covered them, her heart skipping a beat as she felt his lips press her forehead.
Maria parts her eyes slightly a few moments after she had calmed down. She looks up and Antonio gazes back at her, a small smile forming his lips. He leans closer and brushes her tears away with feathered kisses, almost tentatively as he had not wished to scare her away.
"Don't cry anymore, mi hija…" he whispers soothingly, ignoring the continuous rumbling of the thunder. "Please don't push me away…" Antonio blinks profusely as he remembered all those years she had spent trying to gain her independence. "I'm sorry for hurting you as well," he swallows his breath, leaning his forehead against hers. "…You know I'd never mean to." his voice is tinged with a mix of hurt and sadness, trying his best to hold back his own tears. "I love you very much, Maria—more than how much you would have wanted me to..." he whispers, finally letting all his feelings out.
But it was pointless. She'd never grow to hear any of it. He sighs. It was better off this way…
Maria's eyes were shut, the trembling of her body beginning to fade. Her cheeks were more flushed than before, but at least she had calmed down after a while. Closing his own eyes, he began to hear the fading of the storm. It was finally coming to an end. The rain was quieting down and the winds stopped blowing.
"There," he resumed back to his normal façade, pulling his hands away. "It wasn't so bad now, was it?" he gave his usual grin as he twirls with her hair playfully.
Brushing the remaining tears away, Maria looked up at him and smiled a little, taking small breaths. "Do you mean that, pa…pa?" she whispers shyly, looking down at the floor.
Antonio's smile was lost. What did she mean by that…?
…He covered her ears, didn't he?