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I don’t know what it meant before. I was too young to understand the story she had concealed for so many years. I was so helpless to discover the reason behind her reckless exploit. But now, that I get old of remembering the past over and over again, it seems I have already memorized every word and action that had taken place.
I didn’t want to be alone. Dr. Farra said I had this monophobia which I barely understood. I overheard from her conversation with my parents that it was just normal for a six year old. She advised them not to leave me alone or it would trigger, and I might bring it when I grow up. However, they never did. And it helped.
One morning, I watched my father from the window, speeding off on his motorcycle away from our house. He has a work, I thought. I really missed my Dad. These past few days he and mom quarreled every time he comes home late. I really missed my Dad. I was still hoping he hadn’t forgotten his promise that he’d teach me how to ride a bike.
A loud banging on the door brought me back from my reverie. It’s Mom! I hurriedly walked towards the door and opened it.
“I’m going to a sick friend. Don’t worry, I’ll be back,” Mom said as she combed her long black hair.
“But---mom, I’m---afraid,” I stammered.
“You’re big enough Hunter. You can manage yourself.” Her voice was stern. It seemed complaining would result to a whip. So, I nodded. Then a plan shot my mind.
She went back to her room to get something. And as she did, I tiptoed across the stairs going to the car outside. I slid behind the left font seat and hid myself. In a moment, Mom went after, sat on the driver’s seat and aced the car towards the road.
The car stopped few yards from the front of a cemetery. I thought Mom will visit a sick friend. Maybe she meant a dead friend. Crouching, I caught a glimpse of Mom’s face in the rear view mirror. She was grinning. Did she see me? No. It was then I realized she was watching a woman emerging from the cemetery’s gate. The woman was beautiful as I studied her face. She had long black hair like Mom’s. She stood beside the road with crossed arms. Waiting for a cab?
Suddenly, Mom lurched the car towards the confused woman. In a split of second, a loud thud drilled my ears as my eyes saw the woman flying awkwardly. Her head hit the big rock when she landed on the ground. Blood streamed from her head like water coming from an unattended faucet.
“No!” I bellowed. The words stretched as it was in slow motion. I met Mom’s eyes in utter disbelief of my startling appearance. She read my eyes expecting for an explanation, but I held firmly mine. “What have you done, Mom?”
She glanced at the dead woman and sighed. “It was just an accident. Don’t dare tell it to your father or anyone or else I’ll cut your tongue.” It seemed a knife pierced my heart after what I’d heard. I trembled making to sit. I stared at her ferocious eyes, then to my knotted fingers. Few seconds later, Mom sped off the car away.
At home, I explained everything to mom how I was able to get in the car. But she just ignored me. She was busy chopping the chicken like she was slaughtering. I felt goose bumps looking at the scene.
Shaking, I went to the living room and opened the television. It was like my feet were frozen as I heard the news: “A woman … found dead… front of Sta. Lucia Cemetery… investigation shows… bumped by a vehicle… no witnesses… road is rarely used… suspect unidentified…”
Everything the reporter said was a murmur. But I knew what he was talking. I saw what had happened there, but Mom’s words kept playing in my mind. The next thing I knew, Mom shut off the television and smirked at me.
It was getting dark. I sat on the couch waiting for Dad. I waited for an hour. And at last, the door swung open and a stout figure emerged. “Dad!” I ran to him and at my surprise, he hugged me tightly that I couldn’t breathe.
“I lost my job, son,” he said in a near whisper. Then he cried. His eyes were bloodshot. Suddenly, a sweet voice behind turned his cries to sniffs. “You can find another, honey.”
Starting that night, Dad drowned himself to liquors and smoke. Every day, he carried a bottle of whisky and cigarettes. Mom tried to stop him, but he pushed him away. I always saw him by the table, drinking hard while looking sadly at the content of his wallet. I wondered if Dad was thinking about his diminishing savings or there was something more inside that wallet. I didn’t know, he didn’t let Mom opened it.
A year later, Dad was diagnosed of lung cancer and complications in the liver which I’d learned from Dr. Farra. He took medication and fought the cancer but he failed. He died.
I wished it was just a nightmare. That somehow, I would wake up on my bed, sweating. No. Reality is reality. Fates had won over me. I was destined to be alone.
The pit was dug too deep in the cemetery’s lawn. This would be my Dad’s final resting place. Thick crowd surrounded the pit as the priest uttered some words while showering Dad’s coffin with holy water. Two men manipulated the rope and the coffin descended. As it did, I looked at Mom. She was sobbing, too. I turned my daze back to Dad and whispered my secret.
Few days passed and everything went strange. Mom became nice to me as if she’d forgotten about the woman and Dad’s death. She never warned me again. I never dared to ask about it or else I’d be rewarded with whips.
She was always away from our house. So, I was always alone. Thank God, monophobia was barely attacking. I made my parent’s absence as the remedy to cope up with it. My tutor advised me to do this, and it worked.
One afternoon, Mom went into my room and awakened me from a sleep. “I’ll be meeting my friends. I’ll come home late,” Mom said. “There’s some food in the ref.”
I nodded. Then a plan shot my mind.
No. I wouldn’t follow secretly Mom again. I planned earlier that I’d teach myself to ride a bike. Dad wasn’t able to teach me. After Mom went, I strode outside to fetch my bike. But I was disappointed. The rain suddenly poured down.
I returned inside because of annoyance. I sat on the couch, and the door of the basement caught my attention. Eventually, my feet drifted me there.
As I examined the room, I found the box where Mom put all Dad’s things after his burial. I rummaged in it and found Dad’s neckties, documents and other stuffs. I also found his soft leathered wallet. I have the chance now, I murmured. Excitedly, I opened it and discovered Mom’s picture. No. I was mistaken. It wasn’t Mom.
I took the picture and studied it intently. The woman was vaguely familiar. Long black hair like Mom’s? Yes. I remembered. I know her. She was the woman Mom had bumped. How was it able to be here inside Dad’s wallet?
I flipped the picture backward and something was written on it.
Emily, my first love