Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By John Paul Lama

A life for a life.

Rex Solomon Alacran and Alicia Sylvia Pastoral Alacran were twenty-eight year old newlyweds. But love was not why they were driving to Rex’s hometown in Nagcarlan, Laguna, that fateful night. It was death.

Two days ago, the couple received word that Rex’s father, Victor Saul Alacran, died of a heart attack in their ancestral home in Nagcarlan. Rex filed for bereavement leave from the office as soon as possible, but could only get one two days later. Fortunately, it was a Friday, and Aisha, as his new bride preferred to be called, was willing to accompany him in his time of grief.

Even though it was a Friday, the traffic was terrible. Many people were going back home to the province that weekend, and it didn’t help that it was summer, when many families were going out of town for vacation during weekends even when schools were still ongoing. Thus, they only reached Nagcarlan after sunset.

Aisha was the one driving when it happened. Rex had been driving for over four hours, so she thoughtfully decided to let him rest and be the one to drive instead. What she didn’t think about was how unfamiliar she was with the town. There was only one road, but given how she grew up in the metro instead of the province, she thought people would only cross the road on pedestrian lanes. So when she saw a girl crossing the road, she wasn’t fast enough to hit the brakes on time, and ended up hitting the girl. Before she did, though, the girl turned to look at her, and they got a good look at each other. Aisha would never forget her face, but what struck her most about the girl was the pair of pearl earrings she wore.

The impact was loud enough to wake Rex up. It even left a dent on his car, as they found out when they stopped and got out to check. However, they found no trace of the girl they hit.

“Maybe she got up and left,” Rex said upon coming back from having searched around the car.

“Impossible. Even if she did, she’d look for us, wouldn’t she?” Aisha asked.

“Then what happened to her?”

“I don’t know,” Aisha asked. A chill ran up her spine when she thought that they had killed the poor girl.

“Maybe her body landed far from the road?” he suggested, looking at the woods and tall grass on both sides of the road.

“I wasn’t going that fast. And this road isn’t curving. We should see or find her body if we just go straight.”

“We’ve already looked and we didn’t see anything,” Rex said.

“I don’t know what to do,” Aisha said, looking down guiltily.

“Let’s just go,” Rex said. “She’s injured, but she can walk. There’s only one hospital around here for miles. I’ll call them later and ask if she checked in. If she did, we’ll go to her, apologize, and pay for her bills.”

Aisha, seeing no other option, agreed. “You drive this time,” she said, handing him the keys.

Rex nodded and got on the driver’s seat. In a moment, he started the car, and they got on their way.

They first visited Nagcarlan Church, as it was customary for Alacran family members to do so when visiting or returning to their hometown. There, Rex saw and greeted Fr. Romy Bautista, who had been the parish priest of the church since Rex was a child. The priest was old, but still very sharp.

“I’m so sorry for your loss, Rex,” Fr. Bautista said.

“Thank you father,” Rex answered.

“It must be terrible losing two important people in your life in just two weeks.”

Rex frowned. “Two?” he repeated in confusion. “Who’s the other one?”

“Didn’t anyone tell you? Joal Randi Carandang died last week of an aneurysm.”

“Who’s that?” Aisha asked.

“My father’s best friend, and a friend of the family,” Rex answered. “I better pay him a visit too.”

“After you’ve visited your father,” Fr. Bautista reminded him.

“Right. Well, see you on Sunday, father,” Rex said. He took Aisha’s hand and walked back to the car.

Ten minutes later, they reached the ancestral home of the Alacrans, where the wake was being held. It was older and larger than the other houses, which was understandable considering the Alacrans were one of the richest families in Nagcarlan.

The wake was being attended only by household servants and family friends. Rex’s mother Klaudia had died giving birth to him, and there were no other relatives to attend the wake; Rex was an only child, and so was Victor. Ever since the Alacrans had settled in Nagcarlan since the Spanish colonial era, the family had only produced a son in each generation.

Teodoro Romboa, the oldest living servant in the house whom Rex always called Mang Teo, greeted the two upon their arrival. “Welcome back, Sir Rex. I’m so sorry that you had to return under these circumstances.”

“Me too,” Rex said. “How did it happen? Was my father in pain?”

“We don’t know,” the old man answered. “When we went to his room in the morning to wake him up for breakfast he was already dead.”

“He died in his sleep?”

“Yes.”

“Then how do you know it was a heart attack?”

“He complained of chest pains the night before. And we called an ambulance right after we found him. I went with the paramedics to the hospital and stayed there until someone could tell me what happened. The doctor said it was a heart attack.”

“I see,” Rex said. Then he remembered. Speaking of hospital…

“Can I use the phone?” he asked suddenly.

“Of course sir,” Mang Teo said. “As far as I’m concerned, this house and everything in it is yours now.”

“Okay,” Rex went to his father’s bedroom, where the phone was, and made his call to the hospital there. While he was on the phone, Aisha looked around at the living room. There were plenty of pictures there of the different Alacrans throughout the generations. On the walls were the pictures or portraits of the individual sons and fathers of the Alacran family, while on the tables were the pictures or portraits of the sons and fathers of the Alacran family with their mothers, wives, friends, and servants. One picture caught Aisha’s attention.

“Who is that?!” she asked, pointing to a picture on a desk.

“That? Oh, that’s Sir Victor, Ma’am Klaudia, and their friend, Joal Randi Carandang.” Mang Teo said, looking at a picture of two men and a girl back in the eighties. “As I recall, he died a few days ago too, of aneurysm. Sir Victor took it really hard-“

“No, I mean the one behind it,” Aisha clarified, pointing to a picture behind the one he had just described. This had Victor standing in front of a newly constructed section of the house as it was finally being opened. There were two servants whose faces were visible in the picture. One was Mang Teo in his younger years. The other was the girl they hit, clearly identified by the pearl earrings she had and the face Aisha clearly remembered.

Mang Teo tensed and paused before answering. “That’s me and Rosandria Garcia. She…was a maid here thirty years ago.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Why do you ask?”

“She looks just like-“

Before Aisha could finish, Rex walked out of the bedroom and interrupted her. “Aisha, good news. I just called the hospital. No one fitting the description of the girl-“ He stopped himself just in time when he realized that Mang Teo was still there.

“Did something happen, sir?” Mang Teo asked.

“Oh, nothing that should interest you, Mang Teo,” Rex said. “Aisha, can we talk in private?”

“Sure,” she answered, joining him in the bedroom. On the way, she picked up the photo with Rosandria in it. As soon as they were inside, he closed the door behind him.

“I called the hospital. They said no one fitting the description of the girl we hit has checked in tonight.”

“I know who she is,” she said.

“You do?” he asked, stunned.

“Yeah,” She then handed him the photo, still in its frame. “Rosandria Garcia. That’s her name, according to Mang Teo.”

“But this photo is from thirty years ago-“

“I know,” she said. “I can’t explain it, but it is what it is.”

“Impossible,” he insisted. “You must have been seing things. It was dark, you were going fast-“

“I know who I saw, and I’m not making this up!” she snapped.

He raised his hands appearsingly. “Okay. Whether that girl we hit is or not the girl on the picture, we can’t help her if we can’t find her.”

“You’re right,” she said. “So what do we do now?”

“We should get some dinner and then some rest. We’re both very hungry and tired,” he said. “Tomorrow, I’ll put away dad’s stuff. Sunday, we’ll hold the mass and burial, then go back home.”

Aisha was about to say that she was asking about what they were going to do about the girl, but then she remembered why they came here in the first place, and realized that he was right to prioritize his father over the girl. “Okay. Do you want to eat now?”

“You go on ahead. I have to tell Mang Teo to fix a room for us first,” he said.

She nodded and went downstairs, not realizing that she had left the photo of Rosandria in Victor’s room.

The two had supper downstairs and waited an hour before finally going to sleep. While waiting, a neighbor paid a visit to the wake. From the neighbor, Rex and Aisha confirmed and got a few more details about the death of Joal, Victor’s best friend. He did die of an aneurysm last week, and was buried just the previous Sunday. It was a strange coincidence that Victor would be buried the Sunday after, but the two didn’t think much about it.

Before finally going to bed, Aisha expected to have a nightmare about the girl she hit. She did, but it wasn’t quite what she anticipated. She saw the girl being dropped off by an unseen man from an old car onto the side of the familiar road one dark night. The girl started walking away. However, she had not walked ten paces from where she was dropped off when the car suddenly returned and sped towards her. In the glare of the car’s headlights, her face was clear. It was the face of the girl on the road and the girl in the photo, the face of Rosandria Garcia. The only difference was her expression. Instead of the sullen look she had on the road, her look was one of terror, the expression one had when death was imminent…

Aisha woke up with a start and in cold sweat. She was on her side of the bed in the bedroom prepared by Mang Teo. Rex was sound asleep next to her. After calming down a bit, she was about to go back to sleep, when she felt an object in the bed under the covers. In the dark, she searched for it with her hands. Soon, she felt it, wrapped her fist around it, and took it out. Under the dim light of the moon and stars going through the open window, she saw what it was: a diamond ring.

Where’d this come from? she thought. She considered asking the servants, but decided to do so tomorrow. She put it in the drawer of one of the night tables next to the bed.

The next day, after eating breakfast and taking their showers, Rex got started on putting away the stuff his father in the master’s bedroom. He did it by himself since he insisted on doing so and Aisha didn’t want to be intrusive. Thus, Alicia had some free time that Saturday morning. She decided to spend it by asking the servants about Rosandria.

The newer servants didn’t know her, but the older servants – the ones who had been working in the house before Rex was born – knew her well enough to know who she was and why she had left. She was just a maid from Palawan, they all said, with no real possessions of her own when she came here other than the pearl earrings and the clothes she had. Nobody knew much about her, and to be frank, nobody cared, until one night, Sir Victor and caught her stealing one of Ma’am Klaudia’s diamond rings. Knowing how harsh prison life would be for the girl, the family told her they would press no charges as long as she left and never came back. She did, and they never saw her again.

Aisha immediately sensed something wrong with the story. Maybe it was because of the dream she had, but regardless, she intuited something amiss. Her suspicion grew when she asked Mang Teo for more details. Even though he said the same story as the other servants, he was clearly hiding something. He kept averting his gaze and just kept reiterating the story like a prepared speech. She felt that he, unlike the others, knew more than he was saying, she just didn’t know what.

After Rex was done putting away his father’s stuff in the master’s bedroom, he decided to pay a visit to Joal’s home. When Aisha asked him why, he said it was out of respect. They weren’t blood related, but Joal was his father’s best friend, and as ill-mannered as Joal was sometimes, he was always nice to Rex when he was still growing up.

Joal lived alone in a small house a short walk from the Alacran house. Unlike his best friend Victor, he had a sibling, a sister named Crisselda, who was now the owner and resident in his house.

“Good morning,” Rex said upon meeting the elderly woman.

The elderly woman didn’t recognize Rex at first, then remembered. “You’re Victor’s son, aren’t you?”

“Yes, and this is my wife, Alicia,” Rex said, introducing Alicia. “We’re here to pay our respects. Condolences to you and your family.”

“Likewise,” Crisselda said, somewhat reluctantly.

“We’re going to the cemetery tomorrow to bury my father. Would you like to join us to visit your brother?”

“To pay respects to your father, yes. But to visit my brother-“ Her voice trailed off.

“What’s wrong?” Aisha said, picking up the hesitation in her voice.

“You do know what my brother did for a living, don’t you?” she asked rhetorically, looking at Rex straight in the eye.

“I thought those were just rumors,” he said.

“What rumors?” Aisha asked.

“Some of them were,” Crisselda said, ignoring her question. “But what I do know for sure is that he did favors for your father for a price. Favors that would get both of them in trouble with the law if anyone ever knew.”

Rex was incensed. “How dare you dishonor my father and your own brother-“

“You’re not the one who had to live with the fear and shame,” Crisselda snapped. “The fear that he would hurt someone and get caught, the shame of having someone like that in your family.”

Rex heard enough. “Let’s go, Aisha. I’ve had enough of this old hag’s words.”

Before she could object, Rex grabbed Aisha by the wrist and practically dragged her away. As she did, she caught sight of something in the garage of the house. It was the same car in her dream, older but definitely the same.

When they got back to the house, Rex decided to cool off literally by taking another shower. Aisha, on the other hand, tried to piece together what she knew. She was still thinking when the phone rang. She answered, expecting it to be some neighbor expressing condolences, but instead got a girl.

“How’s Aya?” the girl asked.

Aisha frowned. “I’m sorry, miss, I think you have the wrong number. This is the Alacran residence. There’s no Aya here.”

“Not yet. Take care of the baby, Aisha.”

Aisha’s eyes widened when she heard her name. Before she could speak though, the girl had already hung up.

“Aisha?” Rex asked from the bathroom. “Who are you talking to?”

“No one. It was a wrong number,” she answered.

“Well, I’m about to get changed. You want to go or watch me?” he asked half-jokingly.

“I’m going,” she said, getting out of the room and closing the door behind her. She then returned to the room where she and Rex slept last night. It was then that she remembered the diamond ring she found the night before. She took it out, then went downstairs to meet with Mang Teo.

“Good morning, miss-“

“What is this?” she interrupted, showing him the diamond ring.

Mang Teo’s expression turned from polite to terrified. “Where did you find that?”

“On our bed, last night. What is it?”

“A diamond ring.”

“Yeah, but whose is it? Why was it on our bed?”

“I-it was the ring almost stolen by Rosandria from Ma’am Klaudia,” Mang Teo said. “I don’t know how it got on your bed.”

“It may have been left there.”

“Impossible. It was one of Ma’am Klaudia’s most prized possessions. After the near-theft, she kept it in a safe in the master’s bedroom-“

He was suddenly interrupted by Rex screaming from the master’s bedroom. The two immediately ran to the master’s bedroom and tried to get the locked door open. Moments later, it seemed to open on its own, because Rex was on the far side of the room, staring blankly ahead wide eyed, breathing rapidly.

“Rex! What happened?!” Aisha demanded as she got down before him and tried shaking him to his senses. When he recovered his wits, he answered with a stutter.

“The girl was here,” he answered. “She was here! I swear!”

Aisha hugged him, while Mang Teo could only ask: “What girl?”

“The girl we hit on the road,” Rex answered. “Rosandria.”

“Impossible,” Mang Teo said, though his terrified look said he believed every word.

“The impossible has already happened,” Aisha said, showing him the diamond ring. “You said it yourself. This was supposed to be in a safe. And we hit a girl who looks exactly as she did when she was working here thirty years ago.” With eyes glaring, she told Mang Teo: “It’s time to speak up, Mang Teo.”

Mang Teo looked at Aisha and Rex apprehensively for a few seconds, then sighed as if he made a decision. “Okay. I’ll tell you what I suspect.”

“Sir Victor and Ma’am Klaudia found the diamond ring in Rosandria’s room. They did offer to press no charges if she left and never returned. They had Joal drop her off. But she might have tried to resist. Things might have gotten out of hand, and he might have gotten carried away-“

“He killed her.” Aisha realized. “Killed her and never spoke of it.”

Mang Teo gave a solemn nod.

“And no one suspected him because everyone thinks she just left and never returned.”

Rex couldn’t believe it. “Listen to yourselves! Do you have any idea how crazy you sound-“

“Are you really going to call us crazy? A minute ago you were saying that a girl we hit was here.” Aisha countered.

“Excuse me, but everything I just said is only my suspicion,” Mang Teo interrupted.

“Why didn’t you voice it out back then?” Aisha retorted.

Mang Teo finally cracked. “I am a servant in this house,” he said, the fear palpable in his voice. “If I spoke against the master or his best friend, I might have been the one who ended up going home…or missing.”

“Well, they’re both gone, and there’s only one way to find out if your suspicion is true or not,” Aisha said. She then left and headed for the door.

“Wait, where are you going?” Rex demanded.

“To the road where we hit her,” Aisha said.

“Why?”

She stopped and faced him. “To find out if her body is there, and if it is, to give her a proper burial. You of all people understand that, don’t you? Besides, it may be the only way to stop her from attacking you again.”

“Wait…I’m coming with you,” he finally said, joining her. “Mang Teo, get us a couple of shovels.”

Mang Teo complied. Once they had their shovels, they left. As they left, Mang Teo could only stare after them. “I did it. I did it, so please leave me alone now…” he whispered repeatedly.

Suddenly, the framed photo of Rosandria and him with Sir Vic that was still in the room dropped onto the floor, shattering its glass case and tearing the photo.

“Why now, after all these years?” Rex asked once they were in the car. “Why us?”

Aisha started the car. Not wanting to hit another pedestrian, she drove slowly and kept her eyes on the road. “I don’t know for sure, but I think it has something to do with your father and his best friend being dead.”

“Huh?”

“Like Mang Teo said, he couldn’t voice his suspicion because they would silence him. Maybe now that they’re gone, he can speak out and get justice for this girl.”

There was a pause before he answered. “She was a thief, Aisha-“

“And you think that justifies what Joal did to her?!” she cried angrily, all the while keeping her eyes on the road.

“We have no proof that he did anything to her.”

“That’s what we’re going out there to find,” she answered.

That was the end of the conversation, or so it seemed. They were both quiet until they reached the spot where they hit the girl. Aisha parked the car on the side of the road and began to look around.

“Where do we begin?” Rex asked. It was a question she was wondering herself.

“I don’t know. Look for something…anything out of place.”

“We’re the only ones out of place here,” Rex muttered.

Even as she looked around with shovel in hand, Aisha admitted he was right. They were the only ones out of place. Even if there was any clue to where Rosandria might have been buried, after thirty years, it would be gone-

“Ah!” Aisha cried as she abruptly fell forward. For a moment, she thought she had tripped on a rock or a tree root, but then she suddenly felt something grab her by the ankle. She looked and saw a skeletal hand clenched tightly around it.

She let out a frightened scream as she kicked free of the hand and hurriedly backed away. Rex came running and demanded what happened.

“A hand came out and pulled me-!“ she said, looking at him, then back at the hand, only to find nothing there.

“What hand?” he asked, looking around.

“She’s there,” she said, realizing that Rosandria was trying to get her attention. She got up, walked over to the spot where the hand grabbed her, and started digging with her shovel. A few seconds later, Rex joined her.

Less than five minutes had passed when they finally hit something that wasn’t dirt. At first they thought it was just a rock, but then they started digging it out with their bare hands, and soon it was revealed as a human skull. With a little more digging, the rest of the skeleton was unearthed, and something else that didn’t quite belong: a pair of pearl earrings. For Aisha, it left no doubt as to who the skeleton was.

“What do we do now?”

“Call the cops,” she said simply. She only wished she could explain just as simply how they found the body…

The two agreed that one of them had to drive to the police station tell the cops about the body they found. They had no other way of getting the cops, given how this was the province and calling the cops via cellphone was impossible. Rex volunteered to do so, since the car was registered to him and it would be very suspicious if she drove there in his car. As he drove away, Aisha sighed and leaned against the trunk of a tree.

She looked carefully for the first time at Rosandra’s skeleton. Normally, she would have been unsettled, to say the least, by just standing next to a human skeleton just dug out of the ground. But wasn’t worried anymore. They had found her body, they were going to give it a proper burial, and they were going to clear her name-

A hand that suddenly covered her mouth snapped her back to reality, but prevented her from making any sound. She watched in fright as the ghost of Rosandria made itself visible next to her. While still keeping one hand over Aisha’s mouth, it slid its other hand over her stomach, then muttered one word in an inhuman voice:

“Aya,”

Upon hearing the word, Aisha unwillingly fell unconscious, and did not awaken until minutes later, when Rex and the police finally arrived.

“What happened?” Rex asked, concerned.

“I fell asleep,” she said loudly so the police can hear. Then, to her husband, she said: “I saw her. She touched me…and made me fall sleep.”

“Don’t say anything about her,” Rex whispered.

The couple spent the rest of the night filing reports and answering questions from the police. Instead of telling the police that the ghost of Rosandria led them to her skeleton, and thereby sounding like insane people, the two told the police that Mang Teo voiced his suspicion to them and they acted on it. It wasn’t a complete lie anyway; Mang Teo did tell them about his suspicion of how Rosandria died, and they did act on it. They just left the part out about Rosandria’s ghost.

It was almost dark when the police said they could go. At that point, they were very hungry and very tired, so they went straight to the Alacran house, ate there, then showered up and went to bed. With Rosandria’s body finally found, both went to sleep expecting no more attacks from the dead girl and no more nightmares about her. Indeed, the night passed uneventfully, but only because the whole truth would be revealed in the brightness of day…

The mass and necrological service for Victor were held on Sunday. As expected, the priest who presided over both was Fr. Bautista. Given the solemn nature of the service, only Fr. Bautista spoke. Whatever the others in attendance thought, they kept it to themselves until it was all over.

Aisha could not help but think about Rosandria, in spite of the service being centered on Victor. She could only imagine how terrified the girl must have been after being caught by the Alacrans, let alone being cornered and killed by Joal. She had to admit, she felt sorry for that girl. Nobody deserves to be killed just for stealing a diamond ring…

“Aisha,” Rex said, gently taking her hand in his and shaking it. “It’s over.”

She looked around and realized that the coffin had already been buried and covered; she had been more distracted than she realized. “Okay,” she said.

“Let me just say goodbye to the others,” Rex said.

She nodded. While Rex approached the others and exchanged goodbyes, Aisha approached by Fr. Bautista.

“Father? Do you have a moment?”

“Sure. Is something wrong?”

“It’s just…I know I should be mourning with my husband for the loss of his father, but I feel that we should also be mourning for that dead girl we found.”

“Your sympathy is not misplaced,” he said. “Considering she was with child…”

Her eyes widened with surprise upon hearing this. “What?!”

“Didn’t you know? She was pregnant when the Alacrans caught her. Morning sickness was one reason why she had been skipping Sunday mass in her final month, or at least that’s what she told me. That’s probably why she stole from them.” He sighed. “Still, desperate financial circumstances is never an excuse for theft-“

“Was her child a girl?” she asked abruptly. “Named Aya?”

This time, it was Fr. Bautista’s turn to be surprised. “How did you-“

“Who was the father?” she demanded.

“I don’t know, she never told me-“

“Aisha,” Rex interrupted. “It’s time to go.”

The couple left, with Rex driving slowly and carefully under the morning sun. Aisha felt emotions swelling up inside her. It was all coming together, but there was still one piece missing…

She felt a familiar hand suddenly cover her mouth. She let out a muffled scream as flash of light blinded her for a second. When she regained her sight, she was in the house again, only it seemed newer. Beside her was the ghost of Rosandria Garcia.

“What do you want from me, Rosandria?!” she demanded. “What do you want?!”

Incredibly, the girl answered in a familiar voice. It was the voice of the girl that called the “wrong number” and asked about Aya.

“I want you to know why I did what I did…to them and to you,” she answered. As she narrated her tale, scenes from the past played out before them, showing exactly the story she was telling.

“One night, Ma’am Klaudia was away, and Sir Victor was in one of his moods. One thing led to another, and we made love. It wasn’t forced; at the time, I wanted him as much as he wanted me. The difference is he wanted to hide our affair, while I didn’t. But he was the master of the house and I was only a maid, so I obeyed. As time went on, that became more and more difficult, and finally impossible, when they found out that I was pregnant and that he was the father.”

“Ma’am Klaudia was beside herself with anger. I honestly thought that Sir Victor would recognize my child, whom I was going to name Aya, as his and thereby protect me from his wife. But that was an illusion shattered when he blatantly refused to accept any maid’s offspring in his family.”

“They knew I wouldn’t just keep quiet and wouldn’t just leave. They planted one of Ma’am Klaudia’s diamond rings in my room and said they would press no charges as long as I left and never come back. When I still proclaimed my innocence, Joal took me in his car one night and left. At first I thought he was going to drop me off at the police, but then he ran me over and buried me in the woods.”

Suddenly, the images and scenes from the past faded, and only Rosandria and Aisha were left facing each other in the house.

“Now you understand,” Rosandria said.

“Yes…but why me? And why only now, after all these years?”

“You will know soon, Aisha. Until then, you must live.”

Without another word, Rosandria lunged forward and pressed her palm on Aisha’s belly.

Back in the car, Rex saw his wife suddenly fall unconscious in her seat. Fortunately, she was wearing her seat belt. Still, he was considering stopping the car and shaking her awake when suddenly, he felt a familiar presence. Before he knew it, two cold hands wrapped around his neck and began to choke him. In front of him manifested the ghost of Rosandria in the same form that she took when she first assaulted him in the house: pale, horrifying, and dead.

He lost control of the car for about five seconds then regained it as soon as the ghost disappeared. He stopped the car immediately and looked around. This stretch of road looked familiar, but he didn’t see anyone. Suddenly, the ghost appeared in the backseat and began choking him again. After a few seconds of struggling, he finally broke free.

When he caught his breath, he saw Rosandria materialize off the road this time. Mad with anger, Rex started the car, revved the engine, and sped toward the girl. At the very last second before the car would have hit her, she disappeared from the road, and Rex felt her ghostly hands undo his seatbelt. His last thought before hitting the tree off the road was the realization that this was the stretch of road where they hit her two days ago, and where Joal killed her thirty years ago…

Aisha woke up in the hospital with some cuts in bandages and a little soreness on her chest, but otherwise all right. Rex, however, was nowhere to be found.

“You’re awake,” a doctor said as he entered her room. “You were out for almost six hours. We were beginning to worry.”

“How did I get here?”

“A family driving by saw your car and called the paramedics,” the doctor answered. “You were lucky they were good Samaritans.”

“Where’s my husband?” she asked. “Where’s Rex?”

The doctor’s expression turned gloomy. “He didn’t make it.”

“What do you mean he didn’t make it?” Aisha asked, incredulous.

“I mean, he died when he crashed the car into the tree,” the doctor said bluntly. “He shouldn’t have been driving like that-“ The doctor stopped himself when he remembered who he was talking to. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.”

Aisha remained silent as she lowered her gaze.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” the doctor said. “But if it means anything, your child is alive.”

“Huh?” she asked, looking at him.

“You’re pregnant. Didn’t you know?”

“No. I mean…I wasn’t sure.”

“Well, now you are. And you sure better take care of yourself from now on, if for no other reason than for the sake of your child.” In the hopes of lightening the mood somewhat, the doctor asked: “Just out of curiosity, do you have a name for it?”

“Aya,” Aisha said. “Aya Rosandria Garcia.”

“What if it’s a boy?” the doctor asked.

“It’s a girl,” Aisha insisted. “I’m sure of it.”

Back in the house, Mang Teo sat alone in the living room where the coffin of Victor had been a few hours before. In contrast to the way it was earlier, the living room was dark and cold, but not empty.

“I did everything you said,” Mang Teo muttered. “Haven’t I suffered enough for being silent about what they did to you all these years?”

“It’s the end, Teo,” the ghost of Rosandria whispered to him from where she sat next to him. “The end for Victor, over for Rex, and over for you…but only the beginning for me.”

“When?” Man Teo asked.

“Nine months,” she whispered before finally leaving him and the house for good.

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John Paul Lama is a yondan (4th degree) blackbelt in Shotokan karate in ISKF Philippines. He has already earned his Master’s Degree in Basic Education Teaching. He enjoys reading philosophy and watching horror movies. 

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