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Contemporary Fiction Drama

I woke up suddenly. The nap I had was not the refreshing kind; it's the kind that makes me wish I didn't sleep on the porch steps of my childhood home. It was dark and I can hear the crickets chirping from beyond the trees beside our house. After a while, I contemplated whether I should go inside or not. The house was dark and forbidding. I can feel an ominous presence lurking from within. I closed my eyes and replayed the earlier events of the day in my mind, back to the time when I was speaking exasperatedly with my mother on the phone.


"I have something to tell you. Wait for me at the house."


She ended the call after saying those words to me with finality. My mother is a very stubborn woman and she will not let you win any argument against her. Believe me, I've been butting heads with her since the day I learned to talk and I have only won three battles. And I'm very proud of those three, hard-won victories. Meanwhile, my spoiled half-sister never had to win an argument against my mother because she always gets her way.


I looked at the porch light shining on the steps. There are moths encircling the flickering light and I wondered why they were so inclined to approach bright things that could possibly harm them. I remembered the yellow bicycle that I used to own when I was ten. I will never forget it because it was the proof of my first victory against my mother. We lived far from the school and I hated the kids who took the bus and my lunch. I made up my mind one day and asked my mother to buy me a bicycle. She outright refused. She didn't even give a reason when I cried and begged her. She just shook her head and said no with an expression that says, you should've known better than ask me that. It should not be a big deal to me because she can give me a ride to school and pick me up afterwards. But all of my friends in the neighborhood own bicycles and I was feeling left out. I thought after that moment of rejection, I should wait for the right timing to bring it up again. I waited while borrowing Susie's cute, pink bicycle in the meantime. Susie was my best friend who lived next door and very empathetic about my struggles with my mother. We still get together sometimes, when she gets a time off from the university.


I finally got what I wanted when my grandmother came to visit us that summer. I told her my predicament and she immediately confronted my mother for me. I knew then that I am going to finally get a bicycle, but when my mother broke down in front of my grandmother and me- I faltered. She said she was just afraid for me because it's dangerous. That was the first time I saw her show weakness in front of me. Then it dawned on me that my father died in a motorcycle accident when I was just a baby. Maybe my mother did not want me to suffer the same fate. I faltered but I strengthened my resolve. I still want the bicycle. I told them that I taught myself how to ride a bike and I'll be very careful. That did the trick, and there's my grandmother to back me up. They took me to a bike shop and I chose the bright yellow bicycle with a basket in front. When I got my first taste of victory, I knew then that I wanted more.


I stood up and brushed the dirt from my jeans. Impatient and disoriented, I looked at my watch, it's almost eight o'clock. I felt a surge of annoyance. My mother used to be a punctual person. I guess she's doing this to taunt me. Why do I have to wait here? What is it that is so important that I have to go back to my childhood home when I live in a different town now?


My second victory started as a defeat. I was eighteen and almost graduating from high school. My mother wants me to go to a university and study to become a lawyer. I refused because I want to study literature. I love stories and how they seem to affect anyone as they were told to the world. I shed angry tears while explaining this to her but she would not budge. It's like trying to remove a heavy statue from its base. So I packed my things while wishing for a grandmother to back me up just like I had when I was ten. My mother stared at me while I was on these very steps and said, "You're making a very grave mistake." To emphasize that I have won that argument with her, I did not apply for any college and worked in a bookstore in another town. She never forgave me for "throwing away" my life and our relationship was forever strained because of that. I regretted some things after that, and then I met Jaime. I knew he was the one for me the time I saw him walk inside the bookstore, so I didn't waste any time waiting for him to notice me. The moment we said "Hello" to each other, it was instant magic.


I have always hated waiting. The dreadful anticipation and guaranteed disappointment that I always get after it intensified my apprehension against the idea of having to wait for something. I was a restless kid and I am an adult on edge. People would often say that I didn't think twice before taking action. They just don't know that I don't want to talk myself out of something before having the chance to actually do it.


But my mother told me to wait. I have always disobeyed her with my rash decisions all throughout my life that I felt I owe this to her. So for once, I sat down again and waited. The crickets continued chirping, the night still dark and forbidding. To distract myself, I pulled out my phone and stared at my wallpaper. A toddler smiled back at me, her eyes shining with pure and innocent delight.


My mind wandered to the time when Jaime and I were living together and expecting our first child. Ever since I found out that I was having a daughter, I constantly thought of my mother. Will I have the same strained relationship with my own daughter? I wanted to set things right. I still remember the day I brought Jaime here in this house, with my mother's shocked expression when she learned that her daughter managed to find a man and get pregnant out of wedlock. I can tell that my mother hated Jaime the moment she laid eyes on him. She recovered after some time and said that she can still make things right for me. She seemed convince that I was here to ask for help and went to list the things that I should do as if everything that I've done is undoable. I just have to leave Jaime, get rid of the baby and enroll in school as if nothing happened. My mother was talking as if she's in a trance and it felt like she did not really mean everything that she was saying. Thank God my sister wasn't home that day to see me angrily throw her favorite vase on the floor to stop my mother from talking. For the second time in my life, I walked angrily away from her.


If there's something that I hated more than waiting, it's being surprised. I get that some surprises are pleasant and welcome in one's life but my experience with surprises is that they had a tendency of sneaking up on me when I was at my most vulnerable. The surprises were never pleasant. The waiting time is too overrated and almost unbearable.


When I gave birth to a lovely girl with little curls on her head, I knew I would not love anything more than her in this world. Her arrival was anticipated and Jaime left us reeling from shock when he left one July morning. Jenny was just ten months old at the time. When she turned one, Jaime was still missing. I was broken-hearted but I need to be strong for my daughter. She's the only one I have. I started being overprotective and paranoid when it comes to her safety. I finally understood my mother's irrational fear of motorcycles and bikes for me. She couldn't risk me leaving her like my father.


My mother heard of my predicament through Susie. Immediately, she went to see Jenny. The delight on her face when she held her granddaughter was apparent and she told me how sorry she was that she failed as a mother to me. I accepted her apology, after all she's still my mother. We bonded over dinners and my half-sister, Anna would often babysit for me. My mother often suggested that I move in with her and Anna. Anna's father died many years ago and there were just the two of them in the house since I moved out. I thought of Jenny, her precious smiles and I don't want her to end up like me. I disobeyed my own mother for too many times when all she wanted was the best for me. Well, except for the time when she wanted me to give up Jenny. Jenny remains my biggest victory against my mother.


The subject of our discussion earlier in the day was whether Jenny and I should move here this month. Between the rent and our necessities, my salary at the bookstore was stretched to the limit. So I am actually willing to move back in. But my mother's combative attitude made it easier to disagree than to acquiesce. I shook my head at my stubbornness. The day went on normally, not too many people went to the bookstore. At lunch, I called Anna to pick up Jenny at the daycare and babysit afterwards. She agreed too easily, but I guess she just loves her niece. After work, I went straight here. I fell asleep on the front porch and until now, I am still waiting for my mother. I just wish that whatever it is that she wants to tell me, she'll be quick and I can spend the remaining five or four hours of my birthday with my daughter.


A muffled thud came from inside the house. My phone beeped and I squinted at the text message. It's from my mother.


"I'm running late. You know where the key is."


I was suddenly filled with apprehension. What now? Should I really go inside? Where the hell is my mother? I am sure an intruder is inside. I picked up my bag and silently stepped in front of the door. The key was hidden under the flower pot beside the door. It has always been there. I picked it up, pushed it in the lock and turned. I held my breath as the door opened slowly.


I never had the chance to brace myself as a loud pop resonated in the dark living room. I dropped my bag as the lights turned on and I saw my mother standing while holding a cake with candles on it. Behind her were my friends singing the birthday song. My mother handed the cake to Susie. She stepped forward and said, "Welcome back home! Happy birthday!" She hugged me and I wondered briefly why I always assumed the worst in her. Just like every mother, she just wanted what she thinks is good, no best, for her child. If I have to return here to give Jenny a brighter future, I'll gladly do it. It's my mother's victory this time. And I'm willing to hand her all victories in the future.


I looked around and saw my sister carrying Jenny, who was very happy with the red balloon tied to a string she was clutching in her chubby hands. I raised a hand to my chest, exhaled a sigh of relief and thought, what a pleasant surprise

July 10, 2020 00:52

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2 comments

Corey Melin
01:40 Jul 11, 2020

Very beautiful story of a fractured family but doing what it takes to stay united as years go by. Well done

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Justine Mae D
10:37 Jul 11, 2020

Thank you Corey! Your comment made my day, knowing that there's someone who appreciates my stories.

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