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By the Railway Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Feyikemi, Jun 24, 2005
Child & Youth Rights   Short Stories
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Lala forces herself to sleep one more minute but the high-pitched wailing next door is pounding on her head. Normally, she would wake up to Mrs. Santos’ never-ending sermon about her eldest daughter, Rita, coming home very late the night before. But this morning, her cries are so painful that they make Lala stand up and notice. What is it this time? Maybe her drunkard husband beat her up again or stole the money she’s been saving up for Rita’s typing course. Whichever it is, Lala, cursing and kicking the sheets violently, gets up to look for her mother. As if the noise from their neighbor wasn’t enough, not seeing her mother and her usual breakfast of black coffee and pan de sal make her wish for the roaring train to drown the craziness in her head. Instead, she is startled by her mother almost knocking the door off its hinges.

“Mama!” she yells. “What on earth…?” she starts wiping the mud off her mother’s shoulders, as she looks in disbelief at the usually stern woman all dirty and sweating.

“Lala, you will go to your Aunt Cecile today,” her mother says calmly. The girl can’t believe that Luding, as everyone calls her mother, did not make breakfast for her daughter and is now calmly telling her what to do for the day. Clearly, Lala tells herself, this is the weirdest day of all.

“Can I at least have breakfast, Ma?”

“I’ve packed your bread and boiled egg in your lunch box. Cecile will meet you at the tricycle station in a few minutes.”

“What’s going on? I’m supposed to go to the dressmaker today remember?” she tries to buy some time talking to her mother while slowly reaching for the packed breakfast. Lala swears she could eat through the aluminum container as she gets hungrier every second.

“You will start getting ready now, Lala!” At that moment, mother and daughter stare at each other in surprise, for in Luding’s home, nobody is allowed to show any act of violence, and shouting tops her list.

“Where were you last night?” the calmness in her mother’s voice is back.

“The gang and I were celebrating.”

“What did you do?” This time, Lala takes a step backward, scared that her mother might do something crazy. After all, she broke her own rule for the first time today.

“What do you mean? Um, we had some beer, we…we played some games…what’s going on, Ma?”

“How much did you drink?” Luding’s voice is rising again, “Who else was with you?”

“Mama, you’re scaring me!”

“Rita’s dead! When you came home last night, you said you were with her and now she’s dead!”

“Wha…” Lala drops on the chair and stares in space in shock. “No, Ma, how can that be?”

“Her mother and I found her in the tracks, what remained of her limbs were tied to the tracks. Cora came here early this morning looking for her daughter.”

“Ma, I swear I had nothing to do with this.” Lala whispers.

“I want you to get ready to meet your aunt. I will bring some of your things tomorrow and you will not come home until I tell you.”

“Why? I want to see her.”

“Didn’t you hear what I said? Rita was tied to the tracks, there’s nothing left to see.”

“I’m staying to find out. She was my best friend.”

“Go now before I drag you there myself.” From Luding’s look and tone, Lala knew at that point, she had to obey. She grabs the now cold and stale breakfast, dresses quickly, and heads outside without a word to her mother.

Lala can’t help looking at Rita’s home across theirs as she heads for the station. Last night, Mrs. Santos had warned the girls not to go near the tracks when Lala went over to pick Rita up. It sounded funny to them that Mrs. Santos was worried about the bad luck that falls on newly graduated students.

The girls had finally graduated from the public school in the poor community of the Bagong Pag-Asa Relocation Project in the heart of Manila. All they wanted was to celebrate their freedom because for poor students like them, graduating meant freedom from the rotting and oftentimes foul-smelling classrooms, mostly bad teachers, shortage of facilities, and inferior teaching methods that drive away students rather than encourage them to stay. Lala was always smarter than Rita in school, but Lala would concede anytime that when it came to practicality, Rita was the best; Rita was the one who always got it going with the boys without getting in trouble, anyway. Just when every adolescent female in their place marries shortly after menarche, due to early pregnancy; Rita got away scot-free. Lala never engaged in illicit sex lest she faced her mother’s fury. Time and again, Luding would remind her that being poor doesn’t mean one has to take one’s morality to the pits, especially that of a woman’s.

She remembers how Rita had repeatedly tried to get her into some of the adventures that most teenagers are eager to experience. Always encouraging her to go out with some guy whenever there was an event in school or simply, just to get around meeting people.

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Writer Profile

WRITING IS MY PASSION. I have always loved writing - both in English and Filipino.

I would like to believe that I have touched some people's lives with the feature articles and poems that I've written in the past. And I hope my future writings will affect many people.

I delve into the deepest and darkest areas of the human soul, where very few people deal with and many prefer to suppress.

My style is always to let out angst in a creative way.

I also write about love, joy, and inspiration and I'm looking at sharing them here.

u r butiful
khaingwinhtun | Jul 9th, 2005
U R Beautiful......

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