“Margarette? It’s 6:35, hurry, please!” my mother called out as she knocked on my bedroom door for the third time.
“In a moment…” I replied with a bit irritation in my voice.
I was still sleepy, but after hearing all the noise made by my mother in the kitchen, I decided to finally get up. I rubbed my eyes, walked to the bathroom, and splashed some water on my face. The water in the pail was cold, and I paused for a moment. If I took a bath, it would take time. So I just wetted my hair and washed my face. I had to hurry. I didn’t want to make her angry early in the morning for it was her — special day. Was it really special for her?
I ate my breakfast, the usual canned dishes. Tuna afritada. Yesterday it was tuna flakes in oil. My mother didn’t really want to wake up early to cook. She was not used to it.
I put on my uniform as fast as I could. My blouse was barely ironed, my shoes unpolished, and my skirt unwashed for three days. I tried to fix myself in front of the mirror, but I realized that it was useless. Sleepy eyes, pale complexion, and damp. tangled hair. So me. Someone not well taken care of.
That was one thing I was pretty sure about myself. But then, I was trying not to blame her, or anyone. It was me, not her. She was not responsible for why I looked like… this.
“If you’re still not done, I’m leaving without you,” she said firmly, her hand holding the door knob.
“I’m done, almost. Just give me a sec. I need to get something.”
I ran to my room and looked under my bed. I crept under it and reached for the purple box. It was a small box. I had wrapped it myself and tied it with silver laces. Looking at it now, I felt like it was very plain, very ordinary. Still, I felt the need of giving the purple box to her.
She was waiting impatiently for me now.
“Uh, Martha? Before we go, I’d like to give you something,” I said timidly, trying to look straight at her eyes.
She wanted me to just address her with her first name. To be called mother by a 15-year old girl was, I thought, unbearable for her.
“Can’t that wait? We’re late.”
“No. I like… I mean, I need to give it now.”
She gave me a challenging look. “What’s that?”
“Uh, happy 29th birthday, Martha and…” I paused, and showed her the box. “Happy Mother’s Day…”
At last. The words came out successfully after my hesitant thoughts.
“What’s inside the box?” she asked, not getting the purple box from my hands.
“Open it if you want to know. Here, take it. And let’s leave for school.” I said trying to look unaffected. I should not let her see that I was hurt when she didn’t even show any interest in my gift.
“Thank you, but you should not have wasted your time, especially your money for it. Just put it there, I’ll open it later. Let’s go.” she said, cold as ice.
At the cafeteria, I shared a table with Rona who was my classmate. But I didn’t have any appetite. I just took two spoonfuls of my lunch. I looked at my wristwatch.
“Let’s go to our next class,” I said.
“What? It’s too early to go there and you still haven’t finished your lunch. Besides, we’re not having any quizzes or recitations, so eat first,” she said, with a look of concern.
“I’m not hungry. Anyway, Rona… Your younger sister’s thirteen now, right?”
“Yeah, but why are you asking about her?” she asked with a puzzled expression on her face.
“I’m just wondering. Rona, how will you… How will you react if she tells you she’s… pregnant?”
Rona seemed to be caught off guard. There was a few seconds of silence.
“What made you ask that question?” she said, looking intently at me.
“Just answer me.” I said, letting out a smile to make her feel that it was just nothing.
“If she tells me she’s pregnant? Well, I don’t really know, but I might… I might curse her. At her age, pregnant? For sure, my parents would turn her away.”
“But why? She’s just very young. Why not help her instead?”
“Because she’ll bring shame to the family. If you do something wrong, you have to face the consequences. Wait, why are you asking these questions, Mar?”
“Nothing, don’t mind me. Uh, I was just carried away by the movie I saw last night.” I said, forcing myself to smile. .
It will bring shame to the family… She has to face the consequences… Well, Rona didn’t know much about my life. And it was better to keep it that way. It was better that she didn’t know I was the daughter, not the sister of a college sophomore. That I was born when my mother was only thirteen years old, that I was an unwanted child.
It had always occurred to me that she might have really wanted me aborted but she just couldn’t bring herself to do it because she was only a 13-year old girl. Not knowing what she had done with her life and what was ahead of her.
When I turned five, she left me with my grandparents. They told me was that she left because she was still not ready to raise me. All those times I was longing for her even though I knew she didn’t like me. She just came back when I turned fifteen to take her responsibility, probably unwillingly, as a mother to me.
I was happy about it at first. Even if we were just renting an apartment and she just relied on her part-time job for our daily needs. My grandparents were still there to support us though they were not on good terms.
All of them regarded me as a product of misfortune. And how they hated my father whom I didn’t know and I didn’t want to know. It would be better for him to stay where he was, or else, grandpa might smash his face or mother would kill him for leaving her alone. Us alone.
Yes, we were together now. But even though we were living in the same roof, I still couldn’t feel the love of a mother that I had long been looking for from her.
At the student lounge, my seatmate Marco asked me to be his partner at a party to be held in Tim’s house. It was Tim’s birthday, and all the guys should have a partner, he said.
“Say yes,” he added. “I won’t accept no for an answer.”
“What? You know I’m never into parties. And why me? You can ask someone from our other girl classmates, but Marco, not me.” I said.
We were waiting for our next class and I was doodling in my notebook. But in my mind I was still bothered by mother’s reaction when I gave her my gift.
“You know, I’m too shy to ask the others. And besides, Nick also invited Rona and she agreed. Just this favor, Mar, and I promise to let you copy my assignments for this week.”
That made me laugh.
“Fine. It’s a deal. Just make sure your answers are worth copying.” I said.
(To be concluded next week.)
Farah Aimee Virador is a 4th year AB Literature student of the University of Southeastern Philippines.