By Rick Robin Paderes Cagnaan
It was one bright morning in Cateel, a bustling town in Davao Oriental. When Rainey was an eight-year-old kid, she wished to have a friend. One day, as she was alone in the park, a boy her age walked up to her and saw her lonely face.
“Hi,” he said.
Rainey did not turn her head. She was still sitting on a swing. She looked sad. She never had a friend.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“No one would play with me, that is why,” she wept.
The little boy comforted her. He said, “How about we play together?”
The girl’s eyes beamed with amazement. “Really?”
He nodded his head.
So Rainey and the boy played together, and as they enjoyed playing at the playground in the park, he introduced himself to her.
“My name is John Ellis Costello.”
“I’m Rainey Ellice Gracellano, but please call me Rainey.”
“What are you doing out there all alone?”
“My mom and I went to the park to spend our family time together. I was there playing, but no one wanted to play with me.”
“You’re lucky you just found one.”
Rainey’s mom found her and Johnny playing together and observed. She was not upset, but overjoyed. The little girl found a new friend in Johnny.
“Hey, Johnny!” Rainey joyfully said.
“Yeah?” Johnny replied.
“You know, I love rabbits. They’re cute and fluffy that you can stroke its fur. I have a pet bunny, Johnny. Mom told me that animals are capable of love as much as people are. This bunny is such a reminder that God created living things.”
Johnny became awestruck. He remembered what the pastor told him about the story of how God created the Earth.
In the beginning there was darkness, and God made light. Then He made the sky, the sea, and the ground. The next day, God created every animal; every living thing that walked on their feet, every living thing that crawled, and every living thing that flew. Afterwards, God made a man in his image and called him Adam; but God was not satisfied, so He made a woman out of his rib, and called her Eve. This is how God got things done in a week, the story will tell you how to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation and thank Him for it.
When they finished talking, Rainey held Johnny’s hand and pledged their friendship.
“Absolutely, Rainey; we’ll be best friends forever. I’ll always be there for you, no matter what.” Johnny said.
With that, Rainey went home with her mom; now that she had found a friend.
Years went by, and both Rainey and Johnny remained friends. By then, Johnny had feelings for her that he did not bother to reciprocate. Rainey had felt the same thing. Is it time to take friendship to another level? But then, they were able to finish high school and move on to college. At that time, their families moved to Davao City to support them in their studies. She took up teaching, he chose mechanical engineering. They studied very hard, faced so many challenges, and often got good grades.
One fateful day, before their graduation, Rainey and her best friend went to the park and talked it over. It was then that Johnny was ready to show his feelings for a girl who since childhood had been his best friend.
“Rainey, I wanna tell you something.”
“Yes,” Rainey was eagerly listening.
“Rainey, I own up to you that I had a crush on you.”
“What?” she looked puzzled.
“Yes, Rainey. I do. All the years we’ve been through as friends, I thought it would be time to take this relationship a little further.”
“You mean all this time you had feelings for me?”
Johnny nodded. Rainey’s face blushed. “I don’t know what to say, but…”
Then, tears fell from her eyes.
“Johnny, I have to tell you something. When we were kids, we used to play together, listen to stories, sort of stuff kids do. We’ve been friends since childhood, Johnny; and we’ve made a promise that we’d be there for each other, no matter what. But then, I had a very big crush on you the whole time.”
“I… I didn’t know that. It was very obvious, I didn’t notice that.”
Rainey’s arms were wrapped around him as she shed her tears on his shoulder. He consoled her and told her that they’ll stay together, for better or worse.
“Rainey, will you be my girlfriend?”
Rainey nodded her head and stopped crying. “Yes, Johnny, my new boyfriend. Promise you’ll stand by me, dear?”
“No matter what, Rainey. From friends to lovers. Our friendship remains the same, but we’ll always be there for each other, and we’ll face these hardships.”
Rainey and Johnny graduated from college and found their respective jobs to support themselves and become productive members of the society. Their relationship bloomed more and more as they faced even more hardships. One time, they had an argument which led to their break-up; but eventually they reconciled and brought their relationship back on its feet.
“I’m sorry,” Johnny sobbed, his arms wrapped around her. “I did not mean to hurt you so much…”
“Me too,” replied Rainey as she hugged him back. “I’m very sorry for hurting you. It’s just that we had to get ourselves back on our feet.”
“Does that mean you’ll forgive me, my dear Rainey?”
“Apology accepted, poor sweet baby…” she said as she cradled his head, which had rested on her shoulders. “We would have been together, and somehow we survived. We faced so many hardships, and still we managed to stay together. After our break-up, it was time that we started all over again.”
Another instance was that Johnny would come over to his sweetheart Rainey’s house and sing her a courtship song. When she heard that tune, she showed up, looked down the window and saw him playing guitar. She was impressed, and so were her parents.
A few years have passed, and after years of friendship that started with their childhood, Johnny decided that it was time to go further. It was then that he had returned home from his work, so he’s ready to propose a marriage. One night, Johnny had made it home in Buhangin after devoting his time to work when he saw that his partner Rainey was there, her mother preparing dishes and her younger sister studying lessons.
“Rainey, my childhood best friend, we’ve always been together for years; yet we’ve become just the lovebirds we’ve been when you became my girlfriend.”
Rainey stood amazed, as he fished out from his jacket an engagement ring.
“Rainey, will you marry me?”
Her lips were pursed in excitement. She knew that time would come for them to be together and start a family.
“Yes, my dear Johnny,” she said very ardently as she took the ring from his hand, wore it around her finger and hugged him tightly.
“Not so tight,” Johnny said as his cheeks turned red.
The next day, Rainey consulted her mother about friendship, love and marriage. She’d been wondering about starting a family and keeping their relationship strong.
“Nanay, we’re getting married,” she said. “But I need your advice. I haven’t known what it’s like to start a family, but I really want to.”
“Anak,” her mom replied. “I’ve learned a lot from my experience. I was a young, pretty lady back then, about your age. My suitor, though working hard just for a meager salary, would court me. My parents initially never liked him for a husband, but they gave him a friendly advice. Know what they told him? ‘Be faithful to your spouse, even if neither you nor she is perfect.’ They don’t want dowry, but they understand very well that love kept them together and it can keep us together, despite the social status.”
“Johnny had told me about his dad. He was a serviceman at Subic Bay, but as the bases were about to shut down, he chose to move to Mati with his sweetie and get married there.”
“Oh, is that so?”
“Yes, Nanay. The wedding has to be a simple one.”
“If that’s the case, you have our blessing.” Turning to Tatay, her mom said, “Am I right, dear?”
“Yes,” Rainey’s dad replied. “But a civil marriage might go first before nuptials officiated by the church. I agree with my daughter, it has to be very simple.”
The talk went on when Johnny overheard it. When Rainey finished talking, she told Johnny, “They agreed, Johnny. So, we have to plan our wedding first.”
He nodded with approval. “Yes, so it has to be simple?”
“Correct. We must go to the City Hall at San Pedro Street to get a marriage license. Afterwards, we’ll have a simple wedding at the San Pedro Church.”
“Okay, Rainey. Thinking simple, huh?”
“Yes, and we might have an idea about where we can have our reception.”
After weeks of planning their wedding, Rainey and Johnny underwent civil marriage. Three days later, at the San Pedro Church, they said their vows at the altar. They made their promise that, as husband and wife, they would remain faithful to each other and fulfill their duties as pillars of the family, for better or worse. The couple each put a ring on the finger to symbolize their binding love. The parents of the couple, and even their relatives, were present.
“Do you, John Ellis Costello, take this woman to be your lawfully-wedded wife?” asked the priest officiating the wedding.
“I do,” Johnny said.
“And you, Rainey Ellice Gracellano,” turning to Rainey, he asked, “do you take this man to be your truly and lawfully-wedded husband?”
“Yes, Father,” she said.
The priest nodded. “Alright then, Johnny, you may kiss the bride; because from this day on, you’re Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Costello.”
As was customary for couples who were married, they began kissing each other, signifying that the best friends have become a loving husband-and-wife duo.
Months later, they moved to San Jose, a bustling city in the Silicon Valley area, near the Bay Area cities in California; where they decided to start a family there. They finally had a son named Casimiro Ellis, or “Caz”. A product of a blooming friendship between childhood best friends who eventually loved each other. Rainey, Johnny and their newborn son Caz had become a big, happy family; nurtured by love, friendship and ties that bind; they’re ready to face the struggles of becoming parents to him, all for better or worse.