The Palms - Sample
The last song ends as the clock strikes midnight. Sisa Reyes stands at the microphone, out of breath, as she addresses the room.
Sisa: “Oh, my! What a night! How about it, ladies and gentlemen?”
The standing ovation continues.
Sisa: “Thank you, so much! How about another round of applause for our very special musicians tonight?”
More wild cheering and shouts of “Encore!” come from the crowd.
Sisa: “Okay… one more for the road.” She turns to the musicians behind her. “How about Gentle Breeze?” They all nod.
Sisa: “We are going to step it down a bit now.” The drum begins a soft solo. The guitar joins in.
Sisa: “Time to let the bubbly settle.” More cheers.
She begins to sing the classic Filipino song. It is a slow and melodic tune. Kenda can see the room is coming off the wild emotional high it has maintained for the last three hours.
Kenda watches the singer in the spotlight with admiration. What a natural entertainer! How lucky she must be to have this ability to make people feel so good about themselves. Even in the midst of a foreign occupation and political unrest here and abroad, these people have come here and they have forgotten their worries. Amazing!
He looks around the room, as now the people sway gently with each other. Husbands hold their wives a little closer. Boyfriends hold the hands of girlfriends a little tighter. People come together so easily here.
As Sisa Reyes finishes her song, she stands in the spotlight, the audience cheers wildly and the last of the roses are thrown to the stage.
Sisa: “Thank you, Manila! Thank you, Twelve Palms Hotel! Thank you all, and good night!”
More cheering as the singer and the musicians retire.
Anna and her friends return to their seats at the small table.
Angela: “Masaharu, how did you enjoy the show?”
Kenda: “Amazing! Just wonderful. I had such a good time.”
Anna: “Me too. She is just tremendous. What a singer!”
Tio: “What are you going to do now, Anna?”
The question surprises Anna and Kenda too.
Anna: “What do you mean? I’m going home… aren’t you?”
Tio nods toward Kenda. “Oh, yes. We’re going home.”
Kenda understands the inference. He decides to put the unspoken question to rest. “I’ll just be heading up to my room. I want to thank you all for allowing me to join you here tonight. It was really impressive. What a great party! Thank you all very much.”
Anna: “Let’s just stay for a little while and relax. What do you think?”
Angela: “Sure, why not. The crowd will be leaving now. Better to wait a few minutes.”
Lulu: “More drink!”
They all laugh as Lulu is a bit intoxicated.
Anna: “Let’s have one more for the road. What do you say?”
Kenda: “I’ll buy. One more each!” He signals to the waitress. Soon, more drinks appear before them.
Tio: “Well… that was really something special! That swing music is so much fun!”
Kenda: “Just great. Thank you all again. I really enjoyed myself tonight.”
Anna takes a sip of her drink. “I am a little wobbly. I don’t think I can finish this.”
Lulu: “Give it to me. I’ll drink it!” She reaches over and takes Anna’s drink. Everyone laughs.
The mood is light as they drink and talk about their evening. Presently, the drinks are almost finished and they begin preparations to leave.
Tio: “Masaharu, it was very interesting meeting you. Maybe I will see you again someday.”
Kenda: “Yes, maybe. I’ll look forward to having that talk about Buddhism and Catholicism.”
Tio smiles. “Me too. Oh, and good luck catching your murderer.”
Tio finishes his beer. “Come on, old woman. We better get on home.”
Angela: “Goodbye, Masaharu. It was nice to meet you.”
Kenda stands and shakes hands with Angela and Tio.
Lulu stands. She is a little unsteady on her feet. Anna reaches out and grabs her arm.
Anna: “I got you. Come on Lulu. I’ll take you home.”
Lulu: “Okay. Masa… hasa… um… nice to meet you.’
Kenda laughs. “Nice to meet you too, Lulu. Goodbye.”
Lulu: “Good… bye… bye…”
Anna: “It was fun, Masa. Good night.” She holds Lulu by the arm. “Come on, you big nut! This way…”
Kenda: “Thank you for… all this, Anna.”
Anna: “Maybe we will do it again someday.”
Kenda nods as he watches the friends leave together. He decides to sit and finish his beer. The room becomes quiet as the crowd thins. He thinks to himself. What a nice bunch of people. No one was fighting here; no anger. No politics. No bad feelings. Just happy people, laughing and having a good time. This is nice. Really, really, nice.
Kenda finishes his beer and stands to leave. The waiter comes over and Kenda fishes in his pocket for some tip money. The waiter hands him a folded note.
He does not wait for the tip. He turns quickly and walks away. No words. Curious. Kenda opens the small paper.
It is written in Japanese. It says, ‘Rizal Park, Noon. Alone.’
Kenda looks around the room. What the…??? He sees nothing suspicious. Hm. He comes back to earth as he remembers why he is here. Maybe this is the first step. But… first step to… what?