Island Lullaby by Margie Tyone Bruce by Margie Tyone Bruce - Read Online



Gregory Steel Schaeffer is a reluctant heir to his father's fortune and obligations in a foreign country—the Philippines. His Filipina mother abandoned him when he was two years old and the prejudice he feels toward his mother, the country where she was from, and its people is very strong. But when his father becomes ill, he has no choice but to go and take over the business. As he makes business decisions in place of his father, he meets a fisherman's daughter, Narra Matibay, a beautiful, tender-hearted and carefree young woman. He vows never to fall in love with the likes of his mother, but can he resist the irresistible charm, the enchanting beauty and the soothing lullaby of the islands?
Published: Whiskey Creek Press on
ISBN: 9781633557352
List price: $3.99
Availability for Island Lullaby
With a 30 day free trial you can read online for free
  1. This book can be read on up to 6 mobile devices.


Book Preview

Island Lullaby - Margie Tyone Bruce

You've reached the end of this preview. Sign up to read more!
Page 1 of 1


Chapter 1

She was lying on the trunk of her favorite coconut tree that bent down toward the ocean, eyes closed, soaking up the sun. The aroma of salty air filled her senses. The sky was blue; not a speck of cloud could be seen; and the water shimmered under the sunlight. The sound of the waves crashing to shore, the water disintegrating in the sand and the palm trees swaying in the breeze were making a rhythm all on their own. In a moment, the coconut tree she was lying on turned into a hammock, swinging gently with the breeze. The ocean was singing to her, like a mother lulling her child to sleep. Just when she felt comfortable, the wind blew harder. She opened her eyes and saw a storm had gathered on the horizon. Instantaneously, the storm was upon her, the wind blowing down the trees mercilessly. The hammock she was in had turned back into the coconut tree it once was, bending down to kiss the shore. The wind roared fiercely, like a giant snake hissing across the island. She tried to scream but her own voice, muffled by the sound of the storm, she could not even hear. Before she knew it, she was tossed in the air and she landed hard on the ground.

* * * *

Narra Matibay opened her eyes. She took a moment to study her surroundings. She was sleeping on the floor, just like she always did. Right next to her was her two-year old nephew, sound asleep. She could hear banging and clanging of metal utensils in the kitchen, her sister-in-law, Michelle, probably preparing breakfast for her to take to her mother and sister at the fish market. She forced her eyes to open wider. It was just a dream. She sat up quietly and folded her blanket. She pulled the part of the mosquito net tucked under the straw mat she was lying on and sneaked out the opening. She carefully replaced it so as not to let any stray mosquitoes in which were buzzing angrily outside the net, trying to find a way to get to their next meal. It was wet season and an outbreak of malaria in the rural areas and dengue fever in the urban areas had been widely reported.

She peeked through an opening at the window and squinted. She saw the first rays of the sun peeking out of the orange horizon. Though blurry, she spotted her father’s bangkâ, outrigger canoe, he used as a fishing boat, resting on the shore. The bent coconut tree in her dream was still there, awaiting the rising of the sun, as it always had since she could remember. She tiptoed out of the room to keep the bamboo floor from squeaking and not wake up her nephew.

* * * *

Carrying a basketful of food on one hand and a thermal jug on the other, Narra walked through narrow passageways toward the fish market. Her mother had sold fish here for as long as she could remember. She inched her way inside the open building with no walls but a steel roof overhead. The vendors sat side-by-side on individual stalls with no structural partitions whatsoever.

The market was noisy, with vendors shouting their deals to attract the customers. Patrons visited before the break of dawn to buy the freshest catch from the ocean. The fish would literally jump out from the baskets; that’s how fresh they were. She spotted her mother, Melda, currently talking with a suki—regular customer, while her younger sister, Hazel, was scooping fish into the scale. When her mother saw her, she smiled. Ah, Narra, you’re here.

Narra walked inside the small stall, careful not to bump the buckets full of iced fish. She saw three out of the five buckets were empty. In a big round woven nigo basket, normally used to separate rice grains from their husks, were just a few remnants of latô, translucent green seaweed often called the miniature grapes of the sea and gusô, gelatinous seaweed, her personal favorite. The former good enough to eat fresh dipped in vinegar while the latter needed to be blanched, then tossed in vinegar and spices. When she was a little girl, she liked to pop the bulb-shaped ends of the latô and her mother would scold her for doing so, saying, "No one’s going to buy latô that’s been popped."

I’ll take over for you, Mama, so you can eat your breakfast, Narra offered.

Thank you, Narra. Narra’s mother turned to Hazel and said, You can go home and sleep, Hazel. I should be able to manage by myself now.

Who’s going to help you carry all the stuff? Hazel asked.

I’ll help you, Manang Melda.

Narra turned and saw Jed Romero, her neighbor and long time suitor, pick up a bucketful of iced fish and placed it in front of his stall, effortlessly, his muscles flexing just slightly. He had brought along the ocean water with him from fishing, now dried up and making his deep bronze complexion glossy.

Thanks, Jed. I’m sure you have your hands full helping your mom, Narra’s mother answered.

Hi, Narra, he addressed Narra warmly.

Hi, Jed, Narra replied.

Jed moved closer to Narra and almost in a whisper, asked, Are you staying?

Narra then realized why he was seemingly happy when her mother said Hazel could go home. He thought she was there to take over her sister’s place. No. I have to go to work.

Oh, that’s right. At Mariposa. I heard, he said, sending a bucket full of fish hard on the ground, which startled Narra. She ignored the offensive gesture but wondered what was up with him. He was very affectionate just a few seconds ago.

Narra turned to her mother. Mama, I should go. I’ll take the empty buckets with me. Is there anything else you want me to take home?

Narra’s mother shook her head. Thank you, Narra.

Narra turned to her sister who was falling asleep, leaning on one of the building posts. Come on, Hazel. You’ll sleep better at home. She turned to Jed who was busy displaying fish according to kind in a shallow basket in front of the stall. She decided not to bother him. She walked out of the stall. She didn’t get very far before someone touched her arm.


Narra turned. It was Jed. He had jumped over the fish display to catch up to her. He forced a smile and said, Congratulations.

She smiled back. Thanks.

* * * *

Back from the fish market, Narra hastily got ready for her first day on the job at the biggest hotel in the city, Mariposa Hotel and Resort. She took one last look at her reflection in the mirror with Michelle standing behind her. Her hair was pulled back into a neat bun. It was one of the requirements at work: every employee was to project a neat and clean appearance which meant short haircut for men and no hair down was allowed for women who had long hair. She smeared some lipstick on the apples of her cheeks and rubbed it there vigorously until the pinkness looked even. Then she finally applied the lipstick where it belonged, on her lips. She turned slightly to make sure there was not a crease on her burgundy uniform, not a run on her brand new stockings, her black high-heeled pumps were polished shiny—so shiny that if a fly were to land there, it would slip and slide—and a big enough tote bag to carry her wallet, small personal necessities: a hairbrush and a handkerchief—two things every girl should never be without—lunch, a pair of socks and sneakers to walk home in. She turned to Michelle who gave her a smile of approval.

She walked the narrow passageways between the houses in her village, called Sitio Kawayanan or Bamboo Grove, rightly called after the huge bamboo grove growing in the middle of the village square. Bamboo plants were notoriously fast growing so the villagers controlled its growth by harvesting each surrounding new sprout for food. They do not typically grow close to the ocean but isolated groves could be found anywhere and this particular one had been here for a long time. A few random ones were scattered all over the village and unlike the Chinese variety, the ones growing here were the larger ones, which tended to clump very closely together with culms touching each other.

In one corner of the village square sat the tiny chapel of the village saint, San Andrés or St. Andrew the Fisherman, where novenas were said and vigils were held during fiestas or when someone from the village died. In the middle of the square stood two opposing basketball hoops on a cement slab where the men, particularly the younger ones, from the village shot hoops during siestas.

Across from the bamboo plant was a small nipa—a type of palm plant—hut with a guava tree growing in front of it. It belonged to an old woman named Coring, short for Corazon, everyone assumed, who had been in the village as long as Narra could remember. No one could exactly tell how old she was, not even Coring herself. Maybe she just would not. Some people had said she was ninety, others, a hundred. She lived alone. No one knew if she had children or had a husband. Rumors had it when she was about forty years old she came to this village by herself, with nothing but a bundle of clothing and some spare change. She rented the hut she lived in now. She supported herself by selling sweets. She was a great cook. In the beginning, people thought she was a witch, luring people with her sweet and delicious cooking. But all the assertions were unfounded and the village people came to embrace her as one of their own.

She was, however, considered wise in ways that were not ordinary. She could tell people’s fortunes by reading the palm of their hands. She could interpret dreams. She also had the ability to ward off unkind spirits and other supernatural beings, which sometimes played tricks on humans. Lastly, she was a good storyteller. During nights of what the locals called brownouts, when the power went out, Coring would tell supernatural stories to anyone who was willing to listen. She would draw an audience of mostly children, and some adults who were young at heart and rich in imagination would also join in. Needless to say, she had a story to tell about the bamboo grove.

Narra smiled as she recalled the story: Long time ago, a few men from the village tried to cut down the bamboo grove for it seemed out of place in the midst of palm trees. They also wanted more space in the village square for recreation. As soon as the men started lashing at the culms with their bolos, or machetes, they developed rashes all over their body. Every time they struck at the culms the itching intensified but every time they stopped, they would feel some relief from the itching. When Coring saw what they were doing, she was aghast and ordered them to stop what they were doing right then and there. She declared that duendes or goblins made the bamboo grove their home. She proceeded to call and talk to the creatures with the men looking on. After a while, she claimed that the duendes demanded that the people not harm their home. In return, the duendes would let the villagers harvest whatever new sprout growth there was for food. But they should not cut down any existing culms. As soon as the men apologized through Coring, she told them to sprinkle rice flour on the rashes and they should disappear. The men did as told and lo and behold, the rashes magically disappeared! From that day on, the locals had newfound respect for the bamboo grove.

Narra, the old lady called out when she saw Narra coming her way.

Narra walked toward the old lady. Good morning, Manang Coring. How do the guava leaves taste today?

Sweet. Very sweet, Coring said as she gave Narra a toothless smile, her eyes lost in the wrinkles on her face. Her long gray hair, pulled back, was dull without a trace of the shiny, jet-black that it once had been. Every day, she would sit under the guava tree, munching on its new and tender leaves. She had long since stopped cooking, living only on the charity of her neighbors. The village people did not seem to mind. An old lady did not need much. So people in the village took turns in checking in on her, although no one kept track who gave her what and when. She would gladly accept the offers and politely refuse when she did not need what was offered.

Narra flinched. She knew guava sprouts were anything but sweet. They were tart, if not bitter. She could understand the old lady chewing them when she would use them to spit on heads of people who’d been charmed or to get rid of ills that had befallen people through undesirable contacts with creatures that were not of this world like duendes—goblins, and agtâ—dark giants. But to actually eat it? She could just feel her taste buds revolting at the thought of it. Slow down with the leaves, Manang. Give them a chance to grow.

Oh, but my dear, I’m doing them a favor by snipping them off, Coring said. She grabbed hold of a small branch and brought it down for Narra to see. You see where I’ve snipped a sprout from a week ago? Two new sprouts are coming out from the sides. For every stem I cut, two new stems come out from it, she said as she let go of the branch. You got that job? Everybody in the village knew about the job offer she received after graduation. It was a small village where everyone knew each other and people talked.

Yes, today’s my first day, Narra said.

Good, good. Give me your hand, Coring said and without waiting for Narra to reply, reached out for the younger girl’s hand.

Narra didn’t say a word. Coring had read her palm countless times and each time, her account was the same. So she knew exactly what the old lady was going to tell her. She wasn’t sure if Coring was that forgetful or if it just gave her something to do.

Manang Coring, I had a dream last night.

Tell me, the old lady prodded.

Narra proceeded to tell the old woman about her dream.

Ah, major change is coming—just when you think everything is all right, it isn’t.

Huh, Narra muttered. Thank you but I have to go. I don’t want to be late on my first day.

* * * *

Narra stared at the beautiful earth-tone façade of the main building of Mariposa Hotel and Resort. She’d wanted to work here since it went up five years ago. She was still in high school then. Now, fresh out of college, she couldn’t believe she’d actually be working here.

She remembered how people were against the development of this resort when it first went up. The people who used to live on the land where the hotel now stood, fought tooth and nail to keep their village, but ended up losing. The place was a private property, foreclosed by a local bank, and the people living there were squatters. She wondered where those people had gone. It was an American who bought the property and developed it to what it was now—a grand, sought-after resort. Talks of the owner of Mariposa buying their village came and went and the village was now at some degree of peace. In fact, many people had come to embrace the resort as many villagers were employed there either as part of the cleaning crew, kitchen crew or laundry crew. And now, she was going to be one of the attendants, part of the professional group, the highest position anyone from her village had ever held in this resort.

Walking along, she marveled at the gigantic fountain in the middle of the courtyard, which changed colors during the night, and the beautiful butterfly garden surrounding it, hence its name, Mariposa, Spanish for butterfly. Farther on both sides of the fountains were arches and gazebos, each with a magnificent flower garden, which had hosted many lavish and extravagant weddings. Two raised gardens stood beautifully at each corner toward the front gates, each with a mature Kalachuchi—Plumeria—tree as the focal point with blooming pale pink flowers, radiating an intoxicating fragrance in the air.

* * * *

Inside, Narra worked alongside three other attendants. Crimson Padilla was a bubbly twenty-two-year-old with cream-colored skin and short hair. Narra could tell she had a strong Chinese heritage with her straight black hair, fair complexion and beautiful Chinito eyes. She was on her second year working at Mariposa. Ramon Canta was a short and stout twenty-five-year-old who’d worked there for three years, and another young man, Orlando Dungog, a tall, thin, fair-skinned twenty-year-old, the same age as Narra, who was also on his first day on the job.

So, Narra, how did you get this job? Crimson asked.

I applied for it, of course, Narra replied.

I know, but who backed you up? Do you know anyone with influence?


Get out of here! Crimson said in disbelief. There’s no way you could have gotten this job unless someone backed you up. You have to be really smart. Like, graduate at least a Cum Laude.

When Narra didn’t say anything, Crimson asked, Did you?


Graduate Cum Laude?

Narra nodded modestly. She was considered an Octoberian, a college student graduating in October instead of March. She finished a semester ahead, having attended two sessions of summer school to accelerate her studies.

Wow, Crimson uttered in admiration. I had good grades in an excellent school but I wasn’t at the top of my class when I graduated. It still took me a year to get this job and with the help of my father’s friend at that.

The first hour on the job went fast for Narra. The place was busy. The phone rang almost incessantly. Guests were going in and out, turning in or asking for keys to their rooms. At ten thirty, it was time for Crimson and Ramon to take a break, leaving Narra and Orlando behind the counter. As sunlight streamed through the windows of the magnificent tall foyer, Orlando was helping a guest when the phone rang. Narra picked it up and then started scribbling on a piece of paper.

Chapter 2

Gregory Steel Schaeffer caught a whiff of the sultry early morning air as he stepped out of the air-conditioned shuttle provided by Mariposa Hotel and Resort that picked him up from the Mactan International Airport. Though the driver’s abilities with the vehicle drove him nuts, the driver himself was pleasant, greeting him constantly and smiling from ear-to-ear, revealing a set of brownish yellow teeth he attributed to probably from either years of smoking or poor dental hygiene or both.

My dooter pen pal stay Mariposa. The driver grinned.

Ah, he said and nodded.

I don’t really care.

You hub pen pal, sir? he asked.

No. He shook his head.

Just get me the hell out of this vehicle and fast!

What state from? asked the driver, turning his head to look at him and as he did; Steel held his breath. The driver must have seen the alarm in Steel’s eyes for he quickly turned back to his driving and jerked the steering wheel sharply to avoid hitting another cab in front of them. Then he honked his horn, one long beep. Sorry, sorry, sir, the driver apologized, looking at Steel through the rearview mirror.

Steel shook his head. He gritted his teeth and wanted nothing more than to put his hands around the driver’s neck. Please, just drive, he pleaded impatiently, his head aching.

Sorry, so sorry, sir, the driver apologized again. All okay.

He found himself answering the driver’s question earlier. Nevada.

Excuse me, sir?

You asked what state I was from. I’m from Nevada.

Ah, the driver answered as if thinking. Then he asked, Las Vegas?

No. Reno, he answered.

Ah, was all the driver said.

* * * *

He was glad to be out of the vehicle. He thought for sure they would get into an accident after the driver swerved and honked his horn almost every second, and watching the constant near collision of vehicles from where he sat gave him a pounding headache. He wanted to yell at the driver and get another cab but as he observed, this was the way people drove here—like maniacs. What a long plane ride—the shuttle ride, longer still. He walked toward the double glass doors where two uniformed security guards opened them for him.

He saw a young man at the reception counter helping a guest. There was also a young lady whose back was turned to him. She appeared to be doing some paperwork. He stood there, waiting impatiently. The lady stood up once and squinted in his direction. With the sun coming through the glass windows of the foyer and hitting her face, she couldn’t see him but of course, he didn’t know this. He stood there in disbelief as he watched as the lady busily went back to what she was doing before.

Welcome to Mariposa Hotel and Resort, sir. How may I help you? the young man finally addressed him.

Within the young lady’s earshot, Steel asked mordantly, "Is she blind or something? I’ve been standing here