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Booktungan: MV Redemption Episode 11

BY LUCILLE DE MESA, CELESTINE TRINIDAD, IVY RIOTOTAR, SARAH BULALACAO, MIKKI SHIU AND BJ MEDINA
Click here to read the previous episode.

With Dimitri and Phil both stunned into silence, Brenda tore away from their grip. She stood up and walked away from them, wrapping her arms around herself, as if they could somehow shield her from the harsh reality she had tried so hard to escape.

Brenda really thought she could run away from it all on this trip. She thought she could forget. Rummaging her backpack, she found her vape and decided to smoke. The guilt kept gnawing at her inside, every puff followed by a tear flowing on her cheeks.

“You’re such a monster. I wonder how you nurse people back to health!”

She thought telling her best friend about everything would make things better.

But it didn’t.

It only made everything so much worse.

***

“When I grow up, I want to be just like Mama!”

This was Brenda’s mantra throughout the years, and even when she was older, and finally, in medical school.

Having a father as the Vice Mayor of their city was not easy. Brenda and her brother were always expected to be the best. They were supposed to be perfect. But nothing they did ever seemed enough, even when Miguel decided to take up law, promising to follow the footsteps of their father.

It was their father’s trusted confidant, Tito Rom, who would console and praise them instead. He was their father’s campaign manager, and chief of staff of the city hall. Most of the time, he acted as a dad in lieu of the temperamental Vice Mayor.

But for Brenda, it was only her mother that truly loved and appreciated her. But she was always on hospital duty and was home so rarely that Brenda saw little of her. In her absence, Brenda started emulating her: her choice of clothes, her music preferences and even her chosen field.

“When I grow up, I want to be just like you, Mama!” Brenda would recite. “Helping people. Saving people’s lives.” She touched her mother’s cheeks. “I want to make things better for everyone.”

“Oh, Brenda. My baby.” Her mother would always take her in her arms in reply. “That’s a great dream to have, and I’m so proud of you.” Brenda looked up at her mother, and saw the wistful expression in her eyes, despite her smile. “But you can’t save everyone, Brenda. You have to remember that.”

Brenda never forgot what her mother said, but she remained firm in her belief that she could save everyone. She chose to go into obstetrics and gynecology, which was also her mother’s specialty, and threw herself into studies and work, shunning sleep and rest. She could not just be a doctor, but be the best doctor there was—for her mother, and also for her father.

But she was not content in saving the lives of her patients, so she took it to another level. She started saving other people in other ways. She fought back for the kids who were bullied by the bigger, older kids; she called people out for their faults, even if she knew it could hurt them, because she thought she could help them change for the better; and she cheered for people who she believed had so much potential, if they could only believe in themselves.

Brenda the Savior. The one who cannot be pushed back. Brenda the Strong.

Or was she, really?

She had nightmares of being trapped alone, screaming in a small, dark room full of medals and trophies. 

Brenda the Abandoned, a small voice inside her whispered. That’s what you really are.

She became possessive of things, even people. She kept on trying to save people she cared about. People like Girlie.

On their first day in high school, Brenda was probably the only one who had noticed Girlie sitting at the back of the class, her eyes on the floor, looking as if she wanted it to swallow her whole. Brenda had decided right there and then that she was going to be Girlie’s best friend.

But things have changed.

***

Brenda now looked at Phil and Dimitri, who were cautiously walking toward her. “Girlie said I was a monster,” she said. She looked straight into Phil’s eyes. “Am I?”

“Brenda,” Phil’s voice was soft. “You can be a bit pushy sometimes—”

“Because you guys need pushing,” Brenda interrupted hotly.

“There you go again, see,” Phil said. “Please let me finish, okay?”

Brenda nodded.

“You’re not a monster,” Phil said. “Your heart’s in the right place. It always has been. But you can be a little…” He paused again, and looked at Dimitri.

“You’re so focused on the act of saving people sometimes,” Dimitri filled in, “that you forget the person you’re actually saving.”

Brenda stared open-mouthed at Dimitri, for he was rarely this serious. His words made her remember a lesson they had in medical school before.

“Don’t forget your patient,” their professor said, stressing each word. “Don’t treat the chart. Don’t treat the disease. Treat your patient. Listen to their needs, and give them what they truly need, not what you think they need.”

“Brenda,” Phil said, breaking into her reverie. “What happened? Tell us.” He placed his hand over Brenda’s shoulder. “We’re right here. You…you don’t always have to be strong.”

***

Brenda could still remember every detail of that fateful night. It was an unusually light work day in the hospital, and she could go home early for once. She decided to buy sunflowers, her mother’s favorite, before going home. She meant to leave it in the vase in the living room, as a surprise for her mother when she got home from the hospital herself.

The house was barely lit. Silent. The servants were surprised to see her home early. The light in her parents’ bedroom was on, and she saw her mother’s silhouette through the window. “Mama’s home!” she said happily, feeling like a child again. The servants tried to stop her from opening the bedroom door, but she was too fast, too excited to see that her mother was home.

“When I grow up, I want to be just like Mama!”

Brenda remembered how her mom giggled when she said that to her, and she could hear the familiar giggle now, coming from inside her parents’ bedroom.

The sunflowers fell on the floor, a few meters away from where her mother’s dress was lying, just beside the long-sleeved polo of her Tito Rom.

Her tears fell as soon as she saw the image that would ruin everything.

There, on the bed, were two people she knew and trusted since she was a child, naked and wrapped in sweat.

Brenda stepped back, unable to comprehend what was happening. She needed help. Brenda the Savior needed help. Brenda the Strong lost her strength.

“When I grow up, I want to be just like Mama!”

Maybe she had been going about everything wrongly all these years. Maybe she never really wanted to save anyone.

Maybe she really just wanted to save herself, because no one else could.

***

“I have to go, Phil,” Brenda said, slipping away from his arm on her shoulder. “Th-there’s something I need to do. When I get back, I promise I’ll tell you guys everything.”

She hurried toward the direction Girlie had gone. She knew it would be an apology fifteen years too late, but she had to give it anyway.

Not long after, Brenda spotted her best friend in the distance, just across the river. She was about to call out to her, but her voice died in her throat.

Girlie wasn’t alone. Drew was with her, and they were kissing.

To be continued…

MV Redemption is Bookbed’s first Booktungan story. Booktungan is a collaborative storytelling program open to aspiring and published writers. Episodes released every Sundays. Interested? Sign up here.
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