written by Jerome Baquilar

Part I

"...To love is to believe beyond normal belief,
That love can move the most immovable of objects."


Thus, his latest work was complete. He applied closure to his work by affixing his signature at the bottom of the once pristine piece of paper, which now housed many a poetic phrase, more than a few scratches, scribbles, and coffee mug stains. He took a deep breath, sighed, and looked out towards the mountain sunset view from his family mansion's balcony. He then put the paper in a folder with the rest of his much treasured poetry, and reached for his notebook. Not used as a notebook, though. This notebook was used to hold his most private thoughts, his recent life's experiences. It was his diary. He quickly wrote in it, with his normally messy handwriting.

November 26, 1998:
"This day was like most others, which I've been getting pretty tired of. Woke up, went to work on the business. Had lunch, met yet another socialite rich girl brought by mom and dad, looking for an equally rich if not richer husband. Went back to work in the afternoon, and got away from it to add to my poetry collection. Here I am.

"Will this never end? I could try getting away from the madness of it all, but the magazine is still in it's infancy. Haven't reached the "black" figures yet, and may not for a while, at least. I am starting to lose hope of ever establishing the publication. The Manila media won't bite on our publicity campaigns, because they say "The content is too dull". Only the extreme literature fanatics will ever appreciate it, and there doesn't seem to be enough to go around. I have to find something intriguing, something special, some THING that will catapult "The Parchment" to the level of those celebrity gossip rags everyone seems to read. No, I won't stand for being equal, it has to be far better than the tabloid trash out there. The quality of writings demand it. I demand it.

"Right. I may as well just dream on. I try not to lose hope, but it's so hard not to."

He frowned to himself, and put his trusted pen away, together with his diary and folder. Another day of anguish in paradise.

John was the only son of a wealthy family. His father owned and operated the biggest real estate agency in the Philippines. His mother didn't need to work or do anything really, but she found potential in the clothing industry. She ended up owning a large line of local fashion clothing stores. They were, in one word, rich.

John, after graduating with a degree in English, thought of starting a magazine, having his parents to help him along, after all. The Parchment was to be a bi-weekly publication featuring writings of all types by local authors, including his own, signed under the pen name "Jeremiah". A great magazine to read in every way imaginable, after all. After more than half a year, the Parchment still had yet to come close to making a profit in any single month. Not that his parents would worry about financial problems of that scale, but they were concerned about their son's loss of confidence. He still wrote with great fervor, worked his heart out in meeting deadlines, but he always looked disheartened.
Maybe he had some void in his heart, perhaps. A void which could be filled by the right woman. When they had the time and thought to do so, they arranged for John to meet and have dates with the young women of Manila's society. He was always flattered, always accommodating when it came to females, but he never quite found the "right" one for him, it seemed. Not that he would feel depressed about it, for he had other things on his mind. Or perhaps he was lonely and didn't really take the time or attention to know that.

The Parchment started out in a Metro Manila office, near the metro's media hub, but John decided to move his operations to the "basement" when the fourth month's account figures were presented to him. So he basically had the magazine processes in his family's residence in Baguio, a healthy 6 hour drive from Manila in light traffic, which wasn't often. At least he was away from the pressure of having to be "something" while he was in Baguio, which is quite different from Manila in almost every way imaginable.

After putting his things away, John went over to his computer terminal. He checked e-mail, and found 4 messages waiting for him to read. Three of them turned out to be submissions to the Parchment for publication, he went over the submitted material briskly, and copied them to his "post" directory. Then, the last e-mail message, it came from his mother.
Sorry, we won't be coming up to Baguio this weekend. Something came up, our whole family is invited to a party at San Fabian. It's a dinner affair, you can come too if you want. Just e-mail me back ASAP if you'd like to come. 
John thought it over. Dinner party. San Fabian, Pangasinan. Sounded more than decent, to him. He always looked going out to the beach or near-the-ocean places, it calmed him, cleared his mind, made him feel at peace. He didn't like the idea of the party, though. More gossip and useless chitchat by the rich ones. Sometimes you have to give something to get something, John though, so, he decided it was worth having to go to some affair just to be near the ocean. He typed out his reply e-mail message:
hey mom, I think I'll be going there. Just reply with the address of the place and I will be there. Take care! 
The Parchment
On this Thursday evening John actually felt a bit chipper about things. In particular, about getting away from his work if even for one day, getting away from the pressure, and perhaps finding some inner peace at the type of place he usually found it. He was so excited about going down to San Fabian that he packed his most important things already: his notebook, his laptop, and his sheets of paper, one of which contained the address of the place he'd have to look for.

Though the affair he would be attending would be on Saturday night, John took the day off on Friday; he just couldn't concentrate on his work with the impending get-away the following day. How excited was he? He didn't have to write down the address of the place he'd be going to, he actually memorized the address. He did, however, take the brief moments he usually took when something was on his mind. He opened his notebook/diary and started to scribble his mind's talk anew:

November 27, 1998
"Just a half day ago I was seemingly caught in the never-ending glut that was my daily struggle. Not that I have regrets about my career decision, yet, but it has gotten quite monotonous and frustrating for me over the past few weeks.

"Now, I am excited! I am going down to San Fabian, to some person's place I've never been to before. I have been to the town before, though, and it is nothing short of peaceful beauty along the sea shore. The waters are warm, the winds cool, the atmosphere simply invigorating. I am almost certain that when I come back home, I'll be in an even better mood than I am now, which really says something. Who knows? I may even meet the girl of my dreams at that party. Ah, that just might be my optimism charged up by all my excitement.

"I can't wait to get there though!"
On Saturday, November 28, at about six o'clock in the evening, he was there. This had to be it, with all the brand-new looking cars parked around the area. Philippine high society at it's finest, or ugliest, depending on your viewpoint. Filipinos mostly regarded their vehicles as status symbols first, vehicles a distant second. John happily took note of the fact that the place was practically right on the beach. He got out of his car, familiar with it for all of the two weeks since it was purchased, and walked out to through the open gate and to the closed main entrance. His mom didn't give any hint of a dress code, so he chose to dress semi formally, which, for him, was a pair of white slacks and a black long sleeved shirt. He straightened his tie. The smell of ocean air, the sea breeze running into his face, the orange and purple haze of the setting sun, all of it made him feel very happy to be there at that point in time. He rang on the doorbell. After nearly a minute, the door finally, slowly opened. He couldn't believe his own eyes.

Part II
"Hello, good evening!" was what he heard. What his eyes then focused on was quite a sight. A tall, slim, and totally gorgeous female, apparently in her twenties, wearing a dark blue dress, stood there with a bright smile, and a gleam in her eyes. An almost, hungry gleam. Astounding beauty is one thing, but there was something about this woman, to John. That "glow" you see in a person, that beams of confidence, inner beauty, attractiveness, and possibly other things. He was momentarily at a loss for words. An even brighter smile came from her, breaking him out of his trance. "Good evening, madame". Her smile became bigger and brighter still. John's heartbeat rushed to a mad frenzy. He had hoped to meet someone like this, but not this soon! "Hi, I'm Janice Santos. Want to tell me your name?" John then introduced himself, "I'm John Flores, son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Flores". Janice then gestured to John, saying, "Okay, let me take you inside the house".

As they walked through the Santos residence, the word "house" made the place sound a lot smaller than it really was. The ceiling was about thirty feet from the floor, and the walls were so far apart from each other. Not that the place appeared full of empty space, of course. All kinds of decor and furniture, of the richest kinds, livened up the place, if if they were placed there solely for that purpose, on this night they were roughly as useful as a fifth wheel. John then turned his attention to the many finely dressed people at this party. He looked around as best he could, but he couldn't spot his parents amongst all the partying rich people. "Is this your first time to be here?", interrupted the brief period of silence between them as they were walking around. john nodded to Janice, and added, "I've seen a lot of rich houses, but nothing like this! This place is really nice". Janice thought that perhaps John was being overwhelmed by the surroundings, given the clue of his statement, and conceived a possible solution to get him used to the atmosphere of the Santos party. "Want to go for a drink at the bar?" "Okay".

The bar being fully occupied, they sat down and engaged in quite a bit of conversation over thirty minutes of time and two glasses of bubbly. After revealing a lot of information on himself, his parents, and his professional life at the moment, John then listened to Janice talk of similar topics. She was the only child of a somewhat rich filipino-american family, owning a medium sized business in the United States. Though they were more than able to financially, they couldn't come to visit their friends and family in the Philippines more than once every four or five years because of business matters. As for Janice herself, she was a Economics major, and she was set to take charge of the business once the got too old or were confident that she was capable of taking over. She didn't seem to be happy or proud, though, when she was revealing details of the silver spoon in her career life, though, John sensed. He asked if there was something wrong, or any more to the story.

"Oh, I don't know. I'm just, kind of... no make that very frustrated, helpless, to have the rest of my life planned out for me by my parents, no matter how great and wonderful that life is. You know they even have me set to marry someone already, in about eight months from now. He's from a rich family, of course, and I hate every part of it all. As in, all of my future life, so they have planned for me".
"Do you like the guy?"
"I don't. I don't like a lot of things in my life right now, to tell you the truth."
"You know all about my life right now too. I feel like we're in very similar situations, though very different as well."

Then, just one of those moments came, without much explanation for it. They looked into each other's eyes, deeper than people usually do. They stared into each others eyes. Then, it turned to a gaze at each other.

John felt so warm, all of a sudden.

Janice suddenly felt the urge to do something.

Part III
"Come up with me to my bedroom! I want to do something".

John started feeling hesitant, that all this was happening too quickly. "What do you to do in your bedroom?"

"I just have to do this now". Janice saw John's eyes giving her a strange look. Janice said, "On IRC".

John knew what that meant. He never really liked participating in online chat sessions himself, but he was aware of the existence of Internet Relay Chat. They walked up the stairs to the upper floor, and down the hall to her room. Janice opened the door, to reveal a brightly colored but somewhat bare bedroom, with the most prominent feature being a laptop computer on the bed. He noticed that a phone line cord was connected to the modem port, and that the computer was already turned on. As they walked in, Janice flung herself onto the bed, not fussing over wrinkling her dress, and started dialing for internet connection. John pulled  a nearby chair and sat on it near the bed, in clear visual range of the laptop's monitor. Having established internet connection, Janice said "I still prefer going with shell access, it's how I started out, and it's all substance, no style that way". She then connected to an IRC server channel: "#alsharem".

"Alfred is so big-headed," Janice explained, "he keeps saying how he'll have a harem with the most rich and beautiful young women of the world. Just because he's rich and 'handsome'. Right". John just listened to Janice venting, as she added one last comment: "Tonight, he's gonna have a heart attack!"

She checked for the other users presently in the channel: HaremAl, SexyLady69, Trish24, Womn4U.
<HaremAl> Hi Janice! How are things in the Philippines? 
<Trish24> Hi there, are you Alfred's fiancee? 
<SexyLady69> Hey =) 
<Janice> Go to hell, Alfred! 
<HaremAl> What? 
<Womn4U> Oooooh... 
<Womn4U> What an entrance 
<Trish24> She makes an entrance 
<Janice> Don't say "what" like you didn't read my message just now. You bastard. 
<Trish24> What's going on? 
<Womn4U> Looks like someone's getting it :P 
<HaremAl> I demand an explanation, Janice! 
<Womn4U> Just give it to em, girl! 
<Janice> I am so sick of you. To hell with your parent's arrangements, I'm outta here. Goodbye Alfred.
And with that, she powered off her laptop without even taking the time to hang up the phone connection. She then started crying to herself, not an outpour of tears, but a quiet, private sobbing. John got out of the chair and put his arms around Janice's shoulders, trying to comfort her, and listened to what she went on to say.

"I did it. My parents are probably going to hate me for it... maybe even cast me out of the family... but I did what I felt I should do, from my heart. I'm happy, believe it or not."

Janice then looked into the eyes of her concerned new friend, and smiled a smile of vain courage, in the eye of a storm. John saw a woman who desperately wanted her own life, damn the consequences, and was momentarily like a newborn deer, struggling to stay upright on her own feet having received her new life. After a couple of minutes of getting her strength and composure back, and feeling concerned over his new friend's anguish, there was a brief respite. And they talked to each other again.

"Now, I want to get on with my real life"
"What do you mean?"
"Let me tell you something. Ever since you appeared at the door, I knew you had something special. I liked you almost from the word "go". I'm still supposed to be greeting the arriving guests, but you were just too enticing for me. Hey, you should feel pretty good about that!"

John had met a lot of women in his lifetime, but never one that came onto him this strongly. Janice sensed that he seemed to be feeling uncomfortable with the situation, so she tried to soften up.

"Just talking to you makes me feel lots better about things. We're both so different, yet very much alike, when you really think about it."

John finally broke his silence. "I've been shown off so much to women, rich women, lots of girls with everything. Funny, I find myself so attracted to you, a woman with a life problem."

Then, her eyes gave him a different look, a look that John had seen before, and, he knew what it meant. His pulse raced as he knew, at that point, what would happen next.

She laid herself on the bed, and sleekly, smoothly, almost expertly slid off her dress. She gave him the sexiest stare of hunger she could give.

"Janice, you know, this seems all so perfect right now. Almost too perfect."
"C'mere, silly! You can never have things TOO perfect!"

John came over to her, and Janice pulled him up close, and then, they kissed. Then, they let their newfound love run wild, engaging in a act of sex that neither would ever forget. After it was over, Janice rushed to get her dress back on.

"What's your hurry? You have to go back to being the door woman again?"
"No, someone else has it taken care of. My parents should be coming back any time now."
"They aren't here right now?"
"No, they went to visit someone, but should be coming pretty soon."
"Ah, I guess it would be a good idea to get dressed then."
"Hey, would you like to check out the beach?"
"Right now? Why?"
"I don't know, it's kinda romantic to be on the beach at night. You want to or not?"
"Well, okay then, I guess."

They finished getting themselves back into party form, and were about to exit her bedroom. They exchanged one more "wet" kiss, and left the room, and walked down the stairs. When the reached the main floor, John spotted his parents chatting with some people near the foot of the stairway. John walked over to his parents, with Janice by his side, and greeted them.

"Hi Mom, hi Dad. I'd like you to meet Janice Santos."
"Hi there son. So, you've already met your cousin Janice."

John froze on the spot. He glanced over to Janice. She gave him a sheepish, weak smile.

"So John, how's your evening so far?"

Part IV
He looked out towards the ocean, normally a dark blue in color but massively darkened by the absence of sunlight. He had "mysteriously" disappeared from the Santos party, and drove off towards Baguio, intending to just go home. After all, so much had happened, and he wanted to get away from it all, perhaps to erase the memory of what had transpired. Then he saw an empty, peaceful patch of beach along the road, and he thought of perhaps collecting the consolation prize of his trip, some precious moments near the ocean. So, he parked the car along the road, and shed his shoes, and walked onto the beach.

Upon sitting on the still-visibly white sand, he asked himself, "Why did the girl of my dreams happen to be my cousin?" Self centered thoughts then centered upon the girl of his dreams. He thought, did she even know that I was her cousin? No conclusive answer could be had, from what he knew and observed. Perhaps she was innocent of any wrongdoing in that she wasn't aware of the fact herself. His thoughts became brighter in nature. She does have such great looks, a beautiful body, a warm and caring personality, and inner strength. What more could a man ask for? Possibly her only fault could be a lack of morality. The thoughts turned more serious, more negative again.

He then pondered the possibility of her revealing to his parents, her parents, anyone, that she had had sex with him, her cousin. He dismissed the thought, thinking that she probably wouldn't embarrass herself by saying such a thing. But then, she was waging somewhat of a silent war against her parents, and, she could possibly use their act as a means of "shocking" them into change. He didn't want that to happen, it could come back to hurt his relationship with his own parents. Such a messy situation. Quite intriguing.

Intriguing. The word kept repeating itself in his mind. A large wave hit the beach, making a loud splash that broke him from his "intriguing" trance. He focused his attention on the water, waves hitting the sand. Waves hitting hard upon the sand. Then, he thought of something so grand, so wonderful, with such great potential, he had to go through with it. He wouldn't let himself lose this opportunity for himself, being in need of a break in life.

He also had to discuss things with Janice, no matter what she was going to do. Or whatever he was going to do, for that matter. He would have to go back there to face the situation he had inadvertently gotten into, and try to make the best of it.

He got back into his car, and took a deep breath. "I have to go back there", he said to himself. "I HAVE to go back there". He took a deep breath, and started his vehicle, and drove in the direction of the Santos residence. Thirty minutes or so after he had disappeared from the party, he was at the door again. He willed himself to ring the bell once again. After about two minutes, a familiar face appeared again. She smiled the same way she did the last time he saw her.

"Good evening, John"
"Hello Janice. I'd be more than happy to go through the pleasantries, but that hardly matters. There are things we need to discuss."
"You are so right. Let me take you in. Again!"

She took his hand in hers. He felt her warmth again, when not too long ago he thought of leaving that warmth in his past. He pulled her a bit closer. He felt glad to be there, again.

Part V
Funny, John thought to himself. The party was still going strong, as he could hear, but he didn't see any of them. Perhaps Janice was taking him down a different path than before?

"Is this the same way we went through before? It doesn't seem like it."
"Of course not, silly. I just thought we'd take a stroll ocean side, so you can say what you want to say in private. This is the hallway leading to the 'backdoor', as I call it."

And when they got to Janice's "backdoor", John saw a drastically different kind of beach there. There was a swimming pool near the door, and clean, white, uncluttered sand from that point until the ocean. Obviously this patch of private beach was well maintained and cared for. They walked past the pool, and onto the sandy beach.

"Okay Janice, did you know, about, uh..."
"You mean the "cousins" thing? I tell you, I didn't know until your parents said so."
"Are you sure? I mean, are you telling me the truth?"
"Look, no matter how many times you make me say it, you either believe me or you don't."

John ponders her last statement. She has a point there, he thinks, and what choice does he have?

"Okay, I believe you. Now, what do we do now?"
"Well, I don't know, really. Is there anything we can do? It's all in the past, now. Spilled milk."
"I mean, are you going to tell anyone about what we did?"
"You flatter me, John. The thought hadn't even come to my mind to speak of it to anyone else."
"I'm sorry."
"It's okay, I understand. You have a positive relationship with your family, and you want to keep it that way. Me, well... you know."
"Yes, I do know. I wish I could do something to help you."
"You know, maybe there is something you could do for me."
"Really? What might that be?"

Janice then slid off her dress again, from where she stood. It was far different this time as compared to the time in her bedroom, being out in the open with the moonlight shining on her made it seem as different as night and day. That and the fact that this time she had no underwear on underneath her dress. John was stunned: was this what he had in mind when he had the idea pop into his head of coming back here? What was Janice thinking? Janice then walked up close to John, and started kissing him on the mouth. John broke the kiss to say, "Are you crazy? What do you think you're doing?" Janice responded, "I'm doing what I feel like doing right now, that's what." Janice looked out towards the house, and said, "Oh, is big John afraid of being seen with me like this? I know just the cure for that." And she pulled him, with all her strength, into the night-cool water of the South China Sea.

"Argh! You are really crazy, Janice! This is so cold!"
"I am crazy, John. You should have noticed that by now. And, it's not so cold, if you do this."

She pulled herself close to John, with as much of her frontside touching up against his. John felt a weird sensation, with all that cold water on him, her extremely warm body against his, and the speed at which all this was happening, again. He couldn't stop himself now. He started kissing her intensely on her mouth, then moved to do the same on her neck, and was about to move lower on her naked body when a floodlight suddenly shone on the two lovers, directed on them from the direction of the house.

Part VI
John looked at her dress in the light, remembering how the woman in it changed his life so much, at the moment at least. A dark blue in color, perhaps representing her mood, her outlook on life. He then looked at Janice, and she suddenly looked like a different person. Scared, afraid, embarrassed. Someone who desperately wished that she was still wearing the blue dress.

A strange figure approached the ocean water-drenched pair. Janice positioned herself to keep the fact that she was nude a secret to anyone looking on from the sand. A loud, angry voice broke the silence.

"Janice! What the hell do you think you're doing!?"
"Just having a night swim with my friend, Dad."
"Get out of there! Don't you know how dangerous the sea water is at night!?"
"Okay, we'll move to the pool soon."
"Go there NOW, Janice! I'm making sure you do so."

John could almost feel the breath leave Janice at that moment. Janice glanced at John, took a deep breath, and took his hand. "Let's go." She winked at John. They both walked out of the water, onto the beach, with her form and posture almost denying the fact that she had not a stitch of clothing on her body. Of course, that detail did not escape her father's attention, to his utter shock.

"What the!?"
"Look Dad, I'm an adult. Keep treating and guarding me like a child and you'll keep running into these situations."
"The hell I won't. Who's this guy?"
"He's my friend."
"What's your name, mister!?"

John suddenly felt the air leave his lungs. Lie, or tell the truth? A quick glance at Janice revealed a pair of eyebrows raised, seeming to say, "It's up to you". She was frozen where she was standing, not even having made a move to put on her dress. She was scared. John thought to himself, only one thing to do when scared: be courageous.

"My name is John Flores, sir. I am sorry to have caused this, misunderstanding. It won't happen again."

Flores. The name ran through Mr. Santos' mind. So many faces and names to keep track of when you make a living in the U.S.A. and have so many friends and relatives in the Philippines. The name sounded familiar, but nothing more than that. He'd have to ask someone else to find out for sure. Perhaps Mrs. Santos would know.

"Get dressed and get back inside, Janice. I'll let this go, but not again."
"Okay, Dad."

As her dad walked back towards the house, she hastily picked up her dress and put herself back into it. "That was pretty brave of you, John. But you should've lied, should've given him a phony name. It's only a matter of time before the shit hits the fan. For you." John took a break from unsuccessfully trying to wring his soaked outfit to straighten her dress out for her. "I'll take that chance, and do whatever it takes. For you." Janice looked into his eyes, with a dreamy gaze. Perhaps she really had found her white knight. "You don't have to, you know. You stand to lose a lot more than I would from this, I think". "Don't worry, even if my parents disown me, I still have everything I need to survive. My mind. My publishing office. And, of course, my idea."

His idea? Janice snapped out of her guy-gazing spell, and wondered, what does he mean? "Idea? John, what are you talking about?" She was dying with curiosity to know about John's mysterious "idea".

A large wave crashed onto the white sand with an audibly strong impact. John devilishly smiled at Janice.

Janice gave an even more fiendish smile back to John, as the water crept back from the sand, back in towards the dark, cold ocean.

Part VII
As their world, as they knew it, drew away from talking about John's secret "idea" and right into the reality of the moment, they both realized that one of them didn't have anything on underneath her dress, and the other was still dripping wet in his clothes. "I guess I need to go to my room to get dressed more, uh, appropriately". John didn't have to probe any further on the topic to know what manner of clothing Janice meant. "Me too, I have to change, luckily I have some extra clothes in the car". They kissed again, ever so sweetly before getting themselves ready, again, for what would be quite the dramatic evening. Janice went towards her room while John headed for the parking area where his car was.

When he got to the car, John got his extra clothes from inside his backpack. A black t-shirt, underwear, and jeans. Not quite what the rest of the party would have in mind, but then, what choice did he have? He hastily changed into his decidedly less formal clothes in the car, and got out. He walked back towards the house's door, wondering if Janice would be there to let him in. Then, he thought, was he forgetting something? The idea, of course! He ran back to the car, got his diary notebook, and turned to the very last page of the half-filled notebook. He quickly jotted down a few things, read over them, and deemed the content satisfactory. He tucked the notebook into his back pocket and made a beeline to the door.

For the third time, he rang the doorbell. And, this time, it was Mr. Santos who opened the door. John couldn't see Janice anywhere from his vantage point.

The first thing Mr. Santos noticed was that the late guest was dressed all too inappropriately. Second, he noticed that he'd met the person before. Just once.

"You! You have some nerve, boy!"

Not what he expected, for sure! John trembled on the spot, at an extreme loss for words in this situation. His heartbeat quickened...

"What do you have to say? You want to ask if you could see Janice? Well, sorry, boy, she is already spoken for. She is engaged, if you didn't already know."

...every second that passed since he saw Janice's father standing there in the doorway in front of him. What to say? He had to say something, anything, or else...


... his bright idea would go to ruins, having never been set into motion. What was there for him to lose? A lot...

"Either give me a good reason why I should let you back in, or else you should go home!"

...but there was everything in the world to gain. At least, everything that really meant something to him. One of which, he had to admit, was Janice. Now or never.

"Mr. Santos, I need to go tell my parents that I'm going home."
"Your parents are here?"

Now this was a surprise to him. A pleasant surprise, in fact. He might be able to define the familiarity of John's name.

"Give me the names of your parents."

This was exactly what John dreaded. No turning back now, though.

"Mr. and Mrs. Henry Flores"

Henry Flores. The name ran through his head, and this time, it had a somewhat clear definition. He remembered what he knew of Henry Flores: rich local real estate tycoon, married to...

"A relative! You're a god-damned relative of ours! What the hell!? How dare you, coming here and getting into incestuous acts, with my own daughter, no less! You really have some nerve coming back in here!"

John was braced for this, the storm of anger that might occur once, as Janice said, the shit hit the fan. He had the response coolly prepared.

"It's not all that is seems, sir. Just give me a chance to explain it to you, my parents, and all of them."

It's not all that is seems? But Janice admitted to doing something back in the water, didn't she? Now he was a bit confused. He wondered what John could possibly say to clear up the matter? The worst thing that could happen was him exposing himself as a cousin-screwing bastard, and that wasn't so bad. From his point of view.

It's not all that it seems. A white lie by John if there ever was one, for sure. If anything, "it's a lot more than just that" would've been more truthful, and painful. He had to let himself have a chance, though, and lying at that instant was the only way to get that chance. He always hated lying, but, strangely, he didn't have any remorse on this occasion.

"Okay, come in, boy, before I change my mind."
"Thank you, sir."

As he walked in, perhaps for the last time that night, he noticed that Janice was right there, inside, near the door.

Janice smiled that great smile of hers, upon meeting eyes with John again.

"How's it going?"
"It's okay, I guess. I had to lie to your father just to get back in."

Janice's father had walked ahead to the party area where practically everyone else was, giving John and Janice some private moments, to talk things over before John would go through with his plan.

"What did you say to him?"
"I told him that things between you and I aren't all that they seem."
"Ha! That can be said in a good and bad way, I would think!"
"Didn't think of it that way. Well, no turning back now, you're now going to see me put my plan into motion."
"You are truly killing me! Please John, you just have to tell me what it is."

John thought about it, should he tell her about it first? She wasn't quite an integral part of the idea, but she surely helped set it into motion. He figured, he owed her that much for that. So, he revealed a "condensed" version to her. After he finished, she eyes lit up, she was smiling, and said "Go for it! I'll be with you all the way!"

He instantly felt powered up, inspired, confident, upon hearing Janice's response. And happy that this woman with problems would be so enthusiastic about it. "Thanks, it really means a lot to me to hear such optimism from you, in more ways than one." He kissed her firmly on her mouth, and they both walked towards the main room, hand in hand.

It seemed, to both John and Janice, as if all eyes were focused on the two of them this time. Both were very hesitant to look up and around to confirm this fact. John asked her if there was a PA system in the room. There was, and she led him to it. When they got to it, Janice turned on the microphone for him, looked around, and quickly walked out, towards her room. This left John feeling a bit confused, because, why did the person who said she'd "be with him all the way" leave him there so suddenly? Looking around at everyone made him even more nervous, for, he was right, almost eyes had been focused on him and her. He looked around, and spotted his parents, both seemingly curious and wondering what was going on. He saw Mr. Santos, talking to a group of relatively large men, large enough in the right places to throw out some guy who would say something Mr. Santos didn't like. A tough situation, no matter how you looked at it, and regardless of however you prepare for it. He hesitated for a few seconds, feeling the pressure of the moment. "Pressure creates diamonds", he thought to himself. "Pressure creates diamonds. And pressure on parchment crumples it pretty bad." He laughed in his thoughts at that "inside joke". With some of the nervous energy released from his joke, he started to speak to everyone over the microphone, occasionally looking at the paper he wrote on.

"Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. For those of you who don't know me, I'm John Flores, owner, and head writer of The Parchment magazine. Highly touted as the best literature periodical in the country, but lagging behind mostly every other periodical in terms of sales. I could never really put my finger on why we did so poorly as a product, until tonight. Specifically, until I met my cousin, Miss Janice Santos. Simply, the most wonderful, remarkable human being I have ever met in my life. Despite family pressure as well as social and otherwise, she broke relations with her rich fiancee' earlier this evening."

He could almost feel the air go out of Mr. Santos as he continued his "speech"...

"I wondered, why would someone do that, he has money, stability, strength. Then, I realized what was often ignored in a lot of  situations, the person herself. What makes her happy, what would she like to do in life. The human element. And, I believe that's why my publication has failed miserably to this point, because, in our attempt to be literary, intelligent, artistic, we have blatantly ignored the human elements of what we write about. Feelings, objects, emotions, love, hate, we write about them all, but almost never about the people who perceive those things, set them in motion, who give life to those things. I intend to re-focus our attention, more towards people, real life stories, in general towards becoming more down-to-earth, humble, caring, and easy-to-please. In other words, a lot like Janice. In fact, you could say that I was a drying piece of parchment, and Janice was the water that changed it so that it would not wither away."

At that instant, he saw Janice walking towards him, holding a backpack. She smiled at him. He gritted his teeth. The nitty-gritty of it all was coming up. "Brace yourself, Mr. Santos", he thought to himself, as he went on.

"Or you could say that I was the sandy beach and Janice was the ocean, both meeting to get away from the hot dryness and the cold moistness. But, as on the shore, water doesn't always meet nicely and cleanly with the beach, sometimes they meet in a big, crashing, heavy wave. In other words, change doesn't always happen nice and easily, it sometimes happens with an impactful event."

Janice was now at his side. He felt at ease, and more encouraged to continue.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I would be lying to all of you to say that we didn't meet with an impact. At the time though, I didn't know who she was, she didn't know who I was. I did know, though, that I had just met the woman of my dreams, and she broke up with her fiancee' because of me, and, we fell in love with each other, and had sex, unaware of our blood relations."

Everyone seemingly gasped in unison. John noticed that his parents were talking to each other, very calmly, almost casually. Mr. Santos, though, seemed quite livid, and then some woman whispered something to him. John could almost make out a small, extremely subtle grin on his face.

"I know that I won't be able to get the story of tonight's events out to you right now, but I will someday, of course. And even if I never see her again in my life, I will always love Janice Santos, for being the most wonderful, courageous person I have ever known."

He kissed her square on the mouth, to everyone's shock. To John's surprise, though, she broke off the kiss prematurely and grabbed the microphone.

"And I will go with John, whatever he does, wherever he goes. I realize that's what I want in my life, damn the consequences. I am packed, I am leaving with him, and if Mom or Dad never want to talk to me again because of it, that's their loss. I never loved Alfred, yet you arrange my marriage to him. You make me out to be the next coming of Dad without asking me if that's what I'd truly want to be. I want to make my own life, not have it dictated to me, and I will go with perhaps the one person who can help me find out what I'd truly want, and that's John. I'm going to marry him."

They both ran out of the house and into John's car, sensing Mr. Santos' "thugs" coming after them, even though they hadn't moved from where they were standing. The two lovers then drove off into the night.

The whole place was buzzing with talk, mostly of the two cousin-lovers. Mr. Santos, visibly upset, asked his wife, "Have we been that bad to her?" Mrs. Santos replied, "Maybe we should've asked her what she wanted instead of giving her what we assumed she desired". Mrs. Santos smiled, and said, "Well, remember what I told you earlier. She doesn't know the whole truth of things. She may find out someday, though."

John's parents were also talking to each other.
"Should we tell him? I mean, it is kind of sweet, and all, but if she doesn't know, then someone has to tell him. For practicality's sake."
"No, let them find out for themselves. I think it will be better that way. Imagine, those two falling for each other, finding out they're cousins, and then running off with each other."
"And then, someday, they'll find out they're really second cousins. That would be kind of poetic, wouldn't it? John would probably like that!"

And, on that same patch of beach that John manifested his idea, they both held each other in the ocean airy night, necking and kissing, mere minutes from their public confession.

"Well, we have our lives somewhere out in front of us now. Ours to guide and steer, how do you feel about that, Janice?"
"It feels so good! Thanks for being such a great guy."
"Thanks for being a great girl. You know, with all those rich and famous people in there, as well as a few media people, The Parchment is going to get some tremendous free publicity from tonight."
"You just knew that all along, didn't you?"
"Yes, that was part of my plan. We are truly going up from here!"
"We are, and, no stopping us, for sure!"
"Can I make a confession to you?"
"Sure, go right ahead. Priestess Jan is right here to listen to you confess."
"I've been thinking, perhaps, even if I knew you were my cousin, I still would've fell for you that time. You are just that great."
"Hmm. Okay, since you were kind enough to reveal that to me, want to hear my confession?"
"I knew we were cousins all along."

John couldn't quite make out if he heard a wave crashing, or water rapidly crawling back into the ocean darkness.


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