April woke up earlier than usual, and at half-past seven, with disposable gloves on her hands, she's ready for her annual tradition.
Candy broke into the door and screamed 'Happy April Fools' Day!'
'Why should I be happy when I'm getting fooled?' April asked while putting slices of white bread in rows on her table. Her friend came in belly first, shaking her body and screaming to the top of her lungs Baby shame on you if you fool me once. Shame on me if you fool me twice…..Oooooh life goes on….
'Shhhhh. Don't wake up the whole town with your stupid song. LeAnn Rimes will regret the day she released that song if she hears you. '
Candy laughed as she put on disposable gloves and started topping up the slices of white bread with tuna spread; that's canned tuna mixed with mayonnaise. She likes teasing and pranking her friend, and she loves it when April's face turns red of embarrassment.
April never liked Candy's audacity. She does many things shamelessly, like singing out loud or dancing in the middle of the crowd that makes April want to dig a hole and bury herself alive. But there they were, friends since they could remember.
The red portable radio is on and tuned to that only radio station playing alternative music from the 80s to the early 2000s. Its thin antenna was directly pointing to the door to get more signal.
However, the signal fluctuates every time Candy moves her body. In that tiny house, no move is left undetected.
'Can't you just stand still?' April looked sternly at her wiggly friend. 'How can your students even respect you if you are like this?'
Candy laughed. 'Of course, I won't do this in front of them. Am I a fool?' She said as she continued wiggling her body exaggeratedly, teasing her friend all the more.
April could not understand how can Candy wiggle her body like a worm to the tune of Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek and then Everlong by Foo Fighters. And how could she even be that energized at seven-thirty in the morning?
They finished packing fifty tuna sandwiches at half-past eight, all neatly placed on two huge paper bags, ready for distribution.
'Let's go,' said April as she lifted both bags and handed one to her friend, who was busy applying her red lipstick.
'Leeeet's go!' said Candy in a sing-song voice and took one bag.
Philippine summer just started, and the heat at nine in the morning was almost at 36 degrees Celsius already. They walked on a narrow, unpaved alley on the way to the main street. The stench of garbage of uncollected garbage, lying there for more than three days was nauseating. A few meters away from the dump, Candy sniffed her collar and sleeves, thinking she carried the stench with her and that she just wasted her perfume if she will anyway stink all day long.
As they reached the main road, Candy opened her umbrella to shield their skin from the sun's rays. 'I've invested a lot on whitening soaps already,' she murmured. But the umbrella did nothing to prevent their sweat from dripping from their foreheads, and armpits.
It took them fifteen minutes to reach the Day Care Center, where wide-eyed students awaited Candy while their bored parents banter about the latest episode of the fantasy teledrama from the previous night under the shade of the mango tree.
'Good morning Ma'am Candy!' That greeting came from one of the gossip moms under the mango tree.
'Good morning,' answered Candy as she smiled and nodded to all other parents. She opened the classroom, and the students flocked inside and ran towards their seats. April watched quietly behind.
Candy held summer daycare classes for children who could not afford to go to preschool but needed Primary School preparation. Many parents could not send their toddlers to preschool because that's three years' worth of teaching them ABC. Nursery, Kindergarten, and Preparatory. That's quite a lot for parents earning below the minimum wage. They replaced those three years with a two-month summer class with Candy because that's all they could afford. The local government provided books, notebooks, pencils, slippers, and blue and red backpacks with pictures of politicians who sponsored the bags for the students.
'Alright, class, we have a visitor today,' she announced to the class as she looked at April, who stood beside the classroom door. All kids turned their eyes on her, which made her face warm and red. She could never outgrow her shyness.
'Say good morning to our visitor, Miss April!'
'Good morning Miss April,' said the class in chorus; each syllable was said as slow as two beats.
'Class, Miss April is here to give us,' she paused as she took one packed sand which from the paper bag,' tuna sand which!' she continued loudly, wiggling the sandwich high up in the air. 'Who wants tuna sand which? Raise your hands?' In which all students raised their hands. Because who wouldn't want a free meal?
They gave tuna sandwiches to each student, all aged five to seven years old: some naughty, some shy. The kids excitedly opened the sandwich bags, some immediately devouring it, some inspecting the spread as if some hidden treasure will come up as a surprise.
April and Candy were once sitting in that very same classroom, underweight and starving all the time. They knew how it felt to sit in school with growling stomachs, not knowing when they would be able to fill them. Hunger made them dizzy and nauseous. They would get sick, one after the other, and when they are ill on their beds, that was the only time they'll get a bowl of warm congee with bits of chicken strips.
They were also once recipients of ham and cheese sandwiches, distributed by a woman called Miss Rebecca, who wore black-rimmed eyeglasses and smelled like baby powder.
'Here's your sandwich,' said Miss Rebecca as she handed one to April.
'April, what will you say?' Her then teacher, Miss Mona, asked.
The shy five-year-old April said thank you in a whisper that only she could hear.
'Louder,' said the impatient Miss Mona.
April was almost in tears, both of embarrassment and fear of Miss Mona. She said thank you once again in a tone just a tad louder than a whisper.
'That's alright,' Miss Rebecca said gently. She smiled and ruffled April's hair and proceeded to hand over sandwiches to other kids.
It was the first time April ever tasted ham and cheese.
April and Candy never met Miss Rebecca again, but they could not forget her and her ham and cheese sandwich and how warm and joyful it is to have some food in the stomach.
The children didn't take a lot of time to eat their sandwiches and as Candy wanted to start the class, she announced April's departure.
'Alright children,' Candy's voice was louder than fifty chatting kids, 'time to say goodbye to Miss April.'
'Goodbye, Miss April, ' said fifty cheerful voices that made her face warm once again but not with shyness or embarrassment anymore. It was that warm feeling you get when you eat for the very first time after not having a meal for days, that same feeling you'll remember for a long time.
Candy walked April out of the classroom.
'Happy Birthday April. Thanks for doing this.'
Candy checked if any parents or students could see her and suddenly wiggled her body and sang softly, shame on you if you fool me once. Shame on me if you fool me twice…..Oooooh life goes on….
'Oh my gosh, Candy, please.' April looked around to check if anyone saw her crazy friend.
Candy laughed her infectious laugh and winked at her embarrassed friend.