Struggles of the Legal Wife
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"If happy ever after did exist, why do married couples split apart?" The same question Andrea Bartolome had in her mind when things between her husband, Mike Villaflor, started to be wrong. Her life with her husband is almost perfect. A doctor herself married a public-school teacher; both are professionals in different fields. The combination of their salary is pretty enough in preparation for Gian’s future---their son. Yet things perceived to be almost perfect need to overcome an obstacle. Their bond as a husband and wife started to have crack on the edges when Andrea started to doubt her husband having an affair with another woman. Who would’ve else be the number one opponent of a legal wife aside from the mistress? And that is something Andrea has been struggling with. Because of her desire to protect her family, how would a legal wife make a win over the mistress?
"Thank you very much to your team, Doc Andeng! Even though this mountain that you are climbing is very high, you still visit here every month to check up on adults and children here."
"Even our pets, Cora!" said an old man whose hat was in tatters. "Even our pet dogs and cats here can be vaccinated against common diseases. Thank you very much, doctor, for your service to us. Even if we don't have a single peso to pay you."
"Why do you have to pay me, Mang Ben... Well, it's a free consultation," I laughed. "It is enough for me to receive your many thanks for my team's service to you. That's too much to pay us."
I'm showing this without any plasticity, just to see that the people who live here in Manoag mountain are happy, I'm fine. It is really because the people from here must travel so far just to get to the center or the hospital, it's too much of a hassle for them if they are the one going to the doctors. So, I thought of starting this voluntary project for people like them who are not capable of accessing hospitals. Especially now that illnesses such as colds and coughs are trending among young people and the elderly because the rainy season is starting again, it would be better for them to have regular check-ups. Well, I can't visit them weekly since my schedule as a doctor is also tight, and at the same time I'm also a surgeon at the big hospital in Manaoag.
"Eat first before you leave." Aling Susan ran to pick up the missing biko from the long table that was prepared in the area. "It's freshly cooked, doctor. I can assure you this is delicious!"
What's beautiful about this place is that their houses are built nearly close to each other. They were able to have their meals together, and that was the reason why there was a long table made of bamboo prepared. There they spread a large banana leaf and prepare their food there. And they will share it together.
"Maybe just wrap me up some of it. After Mildred's wound is as tight as this and has done some treatment, we are leaving. You know I couldn't stay here for long since I also have patients waiting for me at the clinic," I was still a little shy when I said that.
With their very welcoming approach to us, it was really embarrassing to refuse their invitation to share a meal with them. If my schedule is loose, I won't say no. It's just, as I mentioned earlier... I'm a very busy person. Either at the clinic or at home.
"Your wound is going to be fine, Mildred. Don't forget what I said that you shouldn't play games, so you don't strain your foot or make another wound among the sharp objects here, huh?" my advice to the last patient I treated.
In her case, she scratched her skin because she enjoys playing games with her playmates. The children here don't have slippers, so she steps on sharp objects, leading her to have a mild wound on her skin.
"Aling Nena, the medicine I gave you, huh? Please don't forget about that. You must make Mildred drink those three times a day. Done in a week. Also, don't feed her spicy foods. As much as possible, just vegetables first. Okay?"
"Surely the next day, I will send here a sufficient number of slippers for the children. I'll just order because maybe 'til next month we'll see each other again. I hope as I come back here, I'll be able to see all of you look healthier."
"Oh, thank you so much for caring about us, doc!" Aling Marites came to me carrying the small container where she wrapped the biko. Of course, my friends also have it. "You are really a shining star fell from the sky to guide us and took care of us here. We are lucky that you care about us, doc. May you be blessed."
"You are very much welcome. All of you. So, we're g0nna go ahead." After packing our things, I also stood up from where I was sitting earlier. "I hope when I come back here, I won't have to treat as many people as now, okay? Always be careful!"
And my struggle as well as my fellow nurses started again when going down the mountain. The road is also very muddy because it just rained heavily. We really need to double the caution because just one wrong step can make us slip.
"Doc, how long do you plan to go here? Up above this mountain?" I heard Albert ask me, one of the nurses I was with. "I mean... it's not that I don't want to come here with you anymore or that it's tiring. But what I mean is that... aren't you having a hard time? Apart from the difficult way going on the peak of this mountain, uh... as well as your schedule, doc? Aren't you having a hard time having a tight schedule and still visiting those residents up here?"
"If you're worried about Bernard attacking me once again because of this project, just don't mind him," I responded, laughing. Bernard, my colleague in the Pedia Department, is one of the doctors who has always been frustrated about my presence. I don't even know why he has been frustrated or hated me that much, since as far as I know... I'm not doing anything wrong towards him. He's the only one who is often sloppy and then he gets angry with me.
"It's not Doc Bernard," I heard Marie say. "Uh... I'm sorry if we heard you and your husband fighting in the restroom the other night, doc."
When we finally got off and were in front of the SUV, I stopped to face the two nurses who accompanied me for today's visit. I'm not aware that someone witnessed my husband and I fight just last night.
"Albert and I accidentally heard someone exchanging words in the restroom, and we were on our way home at that time. Albert was a little curious-"
"You're the one who got curious, Marie! I just agree with you to stay at the back door and listen to their fight silently."
"Okay, fine! I was really the one who took the first move to eavesdrop!" Marie exclaimed while having a fight with Albert. And she looked at me again, straight to my face. "That's it, doc... we're really curious about what's happening inside. And we found out that it was your voice. I'm sorry if we listened to the battle you're having with your husband, doc."
I smiled bitterly. I didn't make it a big deal that they were curious about my husband and I fighting, but then I still felt an annoyance factor because of that. My attention was more focused because I remembered that night again... the night that crushed me so much.
"You can't even tell me where that lipstick I saw inside your pants came from, Mike! You can't even explain why you have that on your clothes if you really don't have another woman!" My voice was almost hoarse as tears continued to flow from my eyes.
"I came here to pick you up and ask you to go out with our son, Gian. Not to fight with you, Andrea. I don't understand how you can think of those things. You don't have to overthink that much, honey!" He tries to come closer to me and tries to hug me, but I just push him away and walk away. I can't squeamish being touched by someone like him.
"Did you see the photo I sent to you, Mike? I hope before you came here, you opened your messenger-"
"I saw that. And that's a fvcking lie-"
"Justify your answer then! How can you tell me that the picture Jasmine took of you with another woman at the bar is not true? How? What is your reason for denying me that? Convince me that's not true. Alright... I'll listen! I'll lend my ears to you, just make sure you're about to give me a detailed explanation that makes sense."
Ten seconds passed... twenty... thirty... but nothing. I didn't hear a single word from him. I gave him a chance to explain to me, but he wasted it.
"You want to break the marriage we had for a suspicion that you haven't proven yet? I hope you understand that we have a child, Andrea!" he snorted at me. "Because even if you push us to divorce, I will make sure that Gian goes to me. And will choose to be with his father."
And after that, I don't know anymore. I lost the strength to challenge Mike for a divorce after he said that he would make a way of having Gian stay with him on one roof. Well... I'm not afraid of having to fight Gian in court. Fight for custody. Because the thing I was afraid of the most was raising my son in an incomplete family. Until now, he is not aware that my relationship with his father is getting worse. It's because I didn't let him know there was something wrong between his parents.
I grew up in a broken family. My father left us because of his woman. And it is very difficult to live and grow up in a family that is not complete. So, I promised myself then that as much as possible, as long as I can endure and I can solve my problem once I have my own family, I will not give up the marriage I had. I will not give up on our relationship Mike and I had. I won't let my future child just be like me. I feel the feeling of growing up without a father... and for Gian... I don't want him to experience that either.
"Whatever things you heard that night, please don't spread it. I can also fix my problem with my husband. We just had a little misunderstanding, and I'm sure we can find a way to fix it," I said to the two with a smile.
And afterwards, we went inside the SUV. We are all tired, so we really need enough rest before starting another duty.
"Honey, aren't you going to eat first?" Mike greeted me. He was still wearing an apron while he had a ladle in his hand in the kitchen. "I'm going to eat with you. This dish I cooked is your favorite!"
"I'm tired, Mike. I want to sleep." I immediately went upstairs to go to our room.
Apart from the fact that we're still not okay because of the fight that happened last night, I still can't get along with my husband because I'm so tired. Imagine that I came from the mountain to check-up on the elderly there and the children, and even their pets and provide vaccination for them... Well, every time I go to that place, my energy becomes very low when arriving home.
So, I just ignored my husband's effort to cook me my favorite dish—of course, his specialty is chicken adobo.
"Andrea?" The bedroom door opened, and Mike was spat out, who was no longer wearing an apron. "Are you still maddi
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