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#BookbedFictory 005: ‘Speak, Ma’

BY KARL MABUTAS

Prompt: You suddenly wake up one day with the ability to hear everyone’s thoughts.

“The rise of a seemingly mystifying epidemic is causing a great uproar across countries alike. This new disease, as described from multiple unverified sources, is currently being pointed at some new bacteria: The brain contracts an undetectable infection from an unknown source, giving people the ability to hear other people’s thoughts coming through in the form commonly spoken by mouth. An asset as it may seem, but what happens inside is that the neurological functions overclock, basically working the neurons more than 10 times its maximum, resembling a severe, but in this case, a near-negligible epileptic shock, and will eventually lead to an untimely death.

The rise of people suffering with it are currently helpless, making them wait for their deaths, in a week or more based on the current records. The people on the internet tried to take action through online petitions to call for attention on this current dilemma, but they are still left with no answers. With this debilitating disease rising from an unknown cause, and with the invisible attack on the vulnerable, leading to rising casualties, we can only hope for a miracle. Back to you—”

I turned off the television as soon as I heard. I didn’t cry nor speak. I just stood without expression a few feet away from the television, the remote control falling from my hand as I got numb from my foot up to my shoulders. As much as I wanted to do something immediately, I let out a huge sigh.

And so this was the beginning of my end. Apparently, I was dying.

I got on my phone. For the first time I was about to call my daughter, then my two sons. As expected, only one responded.

“Ma?”

Anak, how are you?”

“I’m okay, Ma.”

“Julian, anak?”

“Yes, Ma?”

“Can I go over to your house today? I need to tell you something.”

“Moon Side Village, please. Thank you.” I said to the cab driver as I hopped in to the cab.

“Hmm, Moon Side Village. Her son or daughter might be rich. What a nice life she had,” the cab driver said.

Oddly, he spoke of me in third person, and so I replied the same way. “Her son is not actually hers. It was not a good life for her. She lives in a nursing home,” I said.

“What?”

“You said her son is rich and that the mother has had a nice life, didn’t you? ‘It was not a good life.’ I just told you that.”

The cab driver looked at me with concern. “I have not spoken to you, ma’am, since you entered my cab.”

Ah, I almost forgot. It just struck me, the power of my decaying brain. The quirks of my insides just started getting through all my life’s normality. I had to be cautious. I might invade some private space. No one likes that.

“Never mind, then. I thought you might be curious of my son.”

It was a long, silent drive to the city proper. It was my first time to travel on a December night, the blaring horns and the foul smoke had already died down as the night gently closed. But the foulness of it won’t ever be at par with how rubbish all the past years had been. After I came back from overseas a few years ago, I thought I was going to be okay. I settled in as a helper at an elderly home, so far from the life I got used to.

As the moon came close to its slumber that night,my palm felt sweatier. Today, I knew I was never okay. I never got through my fears of seeing my kids again, most especially now. I was afraid of letting my youngest bear the sad news of me dying. I felt like I had done nothing for him and yet here I was, adding more to the burden of what must been his worst days when I became their mother.

You see, I could not bear a child. But at some point, I instantly became one without notice. I did not know of the future I was presented with after their father and I wed by law, but it was not the children’s fault. Nor do I regret it. I had always dreamt of being with two or three kids having a great time in the living room before. The whole family being the children they once were—pillow fights, movies, midnight popcorn. And all of them sleeping, at least one of them with their head resting upon my thighs as I sang a lullaby. A lullaby so soothing it made the family feel at ease from the harmonies.

I had always wanted to reconcile with the others. But as far as I knew, having me back in their lives would be worse than death. And I knew that, for sure. Even now that I get to hear other people’s thoughts now that will surely make my assumptions a slap to my face. And that would be okay for me. Those kids being stubborn as they are in forgetting my wrongdoings to them, because I know what I did was very wrong and that I broke their trust in me.

Before I stepped on the welcome rug of my son’s house I brought my tissue out to clean the knob. I had this kind of habit for a very long time after the incident. I guess it had to do with my anxiety as I tried to confront my son about the situation. I almost tried to fix the welcome rug and I was already about to bend over when the door swung open.

“Ma, why didn’t you knock? I was waiting for you.”

“Julian, your rug is too dirty. If only I had the time to clean this up, but it’s too cold out here. Let’s get in.”

Only a fool would not notice how strange my behavior was as we went on to dinner. I was frantically arranging all the utensils beside the plate. At one point, I even dropped the knife unintentionally. I couldn’t even handle the fact that the plate had a dent in it. I could already tell this night was not going as planned, if there was even any plan I had in mind.

“Go tell me,” Julian said.

But I knew that wasn’t him speaking to me. It was his thoughts.

“Speak, Ma, so we can get this over with,” he said again.

After much deliberation, I grabbed a glass of water and drank it in one go and said, “Okay.”

He looked up and I cut right to the chase. “Julian,” I called out. “I can hear you. You know what I mean. I hear you.”

Julian stood up slowly, leaving his dinner unfinished.

“As much as I wanted myself to be out of your list of problems, I have no place to go to. And I’m sorry.”

He already knew what I was about to say next. He walked over to me slowly and hugged me tightly.

“I have the disease, Julian. I am dying,” I confessed. He, of all people, should understand my message very clearly. After all, he was the reporter of that news segment.

I left the home for elderly after a day and I stayed at his house. For three days, we went all-in with finding a cure. We went to several doctors. Shrinks, even. We left each one without answers. Tests revealed nothing. The only choice I had was to succumb to the earth. Fate had already dug a hole for me. In a way, to think about it now, that was kind of a caring move for fate. I was prepared a table that was my death, but at a cost of a rejection for life. All I had to do was accept and value what remains of me from this point forward. Each night, I saw Julian silently crying at the dining table. All I heard was ‘why’ in his head. I guess we will never find out.

One thing that kept me sane from all the distress was how I always saw Julian on the television. He was doing good as a reporter. I always tried to record all his appearances on the television all day. I watched them over and over again just to remember how it felt to be there. Like how I was before.

It was that night when everything I built for myself went to ashes.

***

“Today is my last broadcast. I am very thankful for the years’ worth of tuning in to give light to the headlines of the day. I will forever cherish this experience, and all you viewers, in my heart. This is Maria Jimenez, goodnight.”

As much as I didn’t want to leave what I had worked on for years, I think this was for the best for all of us. I left immediately after bidding my farewells to all the news team. I kept my tears until I got home. I should leave soon.

***

“And here’s our lunch.” My son arrived in time before I let a tear fall down again.

“Julian, anak, let me tell you something.” I immediately said after eating. “I am only counting a few years, or months, or days left, we’ll never know. But one thing we know is that in one way or another, I will still die. I want you to be ready for that specific time. Let’s not waste our time for more tests.”

“How can you give up so easily, Ma?” he thought.

“Should I answer what’s in your head?” I asked.

Then there was complete silence. The kind where you expect someone to interrupt the awkward space, that was the moment I made him realize the magnitude of the situation. And then he bawled beside me, giving in to his knees. I still was not getting any response from him, but I assured him I was going to be okay.

“The fact that we can’t do anything about it does not mean that there isn’t going to be a miracle,” he cried. “We will not give up. We will never lose a fight against life. It’s either we die of content or happiness. But never of any downside.”

In his mind, he said, “Speak, Ma. Please tell me everything will be okay.”

“Everything there is, everything that will be, will always be okay,” I allow myself to say. “Trust me.”

But little did I know that I was already having more serious problems than ever before.

***

As I cleaned around Julian house on the fifth day, I felt weird. I stood up, looking at Julian with concern. I slowly heard clear voices turn to muffled incomprehensible sounds. I was sweating profusely and bleeding through my nose.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up in an emergency room. Julian had recorded the whole incident and showed it to the doctor. The doctor let me watch it as she explained.

“You are seen with the symptoms of an absence seizure. Look at this portion where you stared at him with dead eyes. All your emotions have fallen off and you stood aloof for a few seconds. After which you came back to your senses, but what’s fascinating is that you suddenly forgot who Julian is.”

I listened intently as I witnessed firsthand the overwhelming despair towards what I was going through.

“Who are you?” I said to Julian.

“Ma, are you okay?”

“I said, who are you? I want you out.”

“Let’s get you to the hospital.”

Then the video stopped. I stared blankly at the phone. This couldn’t be happening so fast.

“I’m afraid we can’t help you with anything but to give you medicine for your seizures. We lack the knowledge of the ongoing epidemic,” the doctor said.

“It’s okay, doctor. I’m sure you’ll do the best you can and you have,” I responded, even though it hurt to feel helpless.

***

A week in, I started going to my therapist after my success in surpassing the average time of death. Left with no cure, we were told by the hospital that I would need someone to talk my heart out to while my life was on the line. I didn’t really know what to say to the therapists as I was generally reserved towards new people. I found it hard to be open to someone who would see through me like I was another sort of broken fixture.

“You do hear me, right?” She said in her mind.

“Yes, I hear you,” I replied.

And we got on with the counseling, me being the one who talked and her being the silent one that replied through her head.

Being the awkward strange old woman as I was, I looked down the whole time she talked to me. When I walked in, I noticed she was in a wheelchair with her hips under a tight belt, but I carried on to dismiss my curiosity. I talked to her about my former job as a news anchor and how I suddenly ended up working for elderly care.

“I really had no place to go to at the time that the scandal broke out.”

“And what was that scandal?” she pried.

“I ought not to tell anyone about this.”

I was still not ready to open a whole new dimension to our therapist-patient relationship. How much more to give a new perspective to my story to the kids whose responsibility of caring for them I tried to escape? And so we kept on with the short silence of waiting for my reply.

“Should I tell you a secret before you tell yours?” she said after a few moments.

I was a little reluctant at first but then I said okay.

“But first, I would like you to look at my face.”

I tried to make myself decline her order. But I guess I really had to face her now than later. I really wanted to get this over with. Now was not the time to waste more, given my life constraint. And I gently bobbed my head and stared at her intently. Suddenly, I heard her. “I wasn’t speaking to you this whole time.”

And that was when I suddenly looked at her in shock. “Funny, isn’t it?” Her mouth wasn’t moving at all. As much as I wanted to cry and feel pity for her, ironically we both laughed very hard for a few minutes. We stopped for a few seconds and then we laughed again.

“We’re both dying! Isn’t this session fun?” she said.

The next hours were the ones I felt the most vulnerable, but I chose to share everything to her. That’s when I knew that her type of seizure was that she fell down unexpectedly. She limped for a few brief minutes and lost control over her muscles. She gave up walking thinking it was ‘too bothersome’ to clean laundry after a total fall to the ground, but I thought she already lost hope like I did.

That whole afternoon was kind of an eccentric approach, the therapist letting me acknowledge that I was about to die, and using it as a mechanism to make me feel better. To make ourselves feel better, for all I knew. And I guess that worked. I felt relieved. At least, I was not the only one. And I was also not the only one who had accepted the fate we were all going to have. Even with the inhibition of having options, here we did not mind our upcoming demise.

***

“Are they okay?” she asked me.

“They’re good,” was what I could have told her.

But I sat there in shock. I didn’t really know before this day how massive of a sin I was committing. But the magnitude that had been faced upon me was too much that I felt like throwing up.

“I know you’re not a bad person,” she said.

“How would you know that?”

“You could have left after you saw them. And yet you still managed to make them happy.”

***

“What did you tell them, anak?” I asked Julian with worry.

“I told them about you, Ma. They deserve to know what’s been happening for two weeks now.”

“But why didn’t you tell me? Why are you like this, right now? Did I do something bad? Please tell me so I can—”

And he shouted, “Because!”

To my surprise, I jumped a step backward. Then he got over his impulsiveness, and in a calming tone he said, “I know you will stop me.” He then held my hands and asked me, “Don’t you want this to be over now? You deserve a peace of mind, Ma, and this issue should not be carried until your existence is painstakingly buried under. Ma, you are hiding from it. Face it while you still can.”

“How will I say sorry to Nikolai and Jacqueline if they don’t want to speak to me?”

“How will you know they don’t like you if you still haven’t tried? Please, Ma. I am helping you throughout this process. It’s time to help yourself.”

***

I left early the next morning to speak to my therapist with the matters at hand.

“I heard him call Nikolai and Jacqueline last night.”

“And?” the therapist looked at me in question. We were still in the method of silent counseling.

“I don’t really know what to tell my son and daughter. I really feel like I won’t be heard even if I try to make them listen.”

“Have you tried?”

“Actually, yes. But it was over email. I was overseas at the time and I kept on telling them I’m sorry with every message. But I got no response from the two. Of course, Julian replied since he was very young back then and he didn’t feel the same way his siblings did. Monthly messages turned to yearly messages turned to nothing. And that is how I presumed that they don’t want to see me. I also think Julian hates me now that I’m hiding from them.”

“And for all your frustration at your son and at this situation, you still haven’t left Julian’s house.”

I paused for a second. “Yes. I guess I haven’t.”

Then she wheeled forward to speak to me in a sincere tone. “You actually do not need me as some kind of life adviser. You already have things you want to do carefully ordered the moment you see them again,” she said. “You just have to have the guts to tell them what you, and they, need to know. And have the hope that they will understand. Find your hope.”

Unknowingly, I stared out of the glass window blankly until the therapist clapped and I came back to my senses.

“Of course you won’t do that. You just had your episode again. It’s been two months since we started here and you still haven’t built up your courage. I have spoken too much about my family already that I already ran out of things to talk about.” She guessed right. “What therapist would tell her client ‘Have the guts and be yourself?’ Everyone. Most especially when they are on their first year. I’m guilty of that too, you know. Tell you what,” she stood up for the first time in her wheelchair and moved closer to me. “Why don’t I take you to my family’s get together on Sunday? We can talk better. Be around people.”

“Aren’t you scared I might get you an ethical complaint?”

“I have already retired. I passed my therapy responsibilities to a colleague. I have broken too many ethical codes to be your proper therapist.”

Suddenly I was confused. “Then why are you still counseling me?” “Because you’re my friend, silly.”

***

“I didn’t tell you because I knew you wouldn’t agree to this,” Dennis told me. “I have seen the kids and I love them. I know I can’t bear one, and I’m happy I had. But what I can’t handle is the fact that I am inside this delusion that I am not hurting anyone. This is too much for me to bear.” I said. “I need to leave immediately, hon. I can’t.” As I tried to leave with my luggage half open, he said “Connie knows you, Maria.”

I stopped in horror.

“She wants to see you at the hospital today,” he continued.

***

“Are you sure you want to do this? Kuya Nikolai and Ate Jacqueline will be here in two days,” Julian asked me as I packed my things that Saturday.

“Exactly. I need to prepare myself for something big. I need my head clear before I can talk to them. Don’t worry, it’s only three days.”

As I got out of the main entrance, I hugged him. “I’ll be back soon. Take care!”

He stared at me intently and thought “Be safe.”

As I sat in the backseat, I shouted, “Don’t worry about me! I’m old enough. Bye!”

Then the van began to accelerate as Julian smiled back. For the first time, I saw him at ease.

***

The therapist’s family welcomed me wholeheartedly at their small family gathering at the beach, treated me to some water rides and grill. The weather was perfect for swimming, so we went right into the waters. The therapist even mentioned me to her husband, and he knew some things, but not the sensitive stuff, since three months in and I had already given in to the friendship built on decaying heads clasped together like sisters. I had even shared to her my secrets already. I was happy I could trust her with them. Her family thanked me for always being there with the therapist, even though I was the one that needed her counsel.

“We’re dying buddies” was what I could have told them.

At night we all gathered around a karaoke machine and sang our hearts out. The therapist gave in dancing that she stood up on her wheelchair and never sat back. It was fun to be intoxicated by alcohol while hearing people’s thoughts.

“They all speak at the same time!” I shouted at the therapist.

“I know!” she yelled back.

At one point, she had an episode. She fell to the ground, and all her family tried to fall on the floor as well. The rush of concern and worry turned to multiple laughs. As the rush of excitement died down, someone from the therapist’s family, her mother, stood at the front silently after singing a song.

“Hey, beautiful ladies there at the back! Today was a very nice day, the most fun I have had ever since—” she tried to control her tears “—since I gave birth to my daughter. She is the most precious thing that God has given me—after my husband, your father, of course.”

We laughed, but she carried on with the speech.

“My daughter is the most valuable thing that I will ever have, to hold and to cherish. And it’s just heartbreaking that you will leave us probably soon. And we, your family, cannot do anything about it. And we are very sorry.” Her mom’s tears finally fell. “And I just want you to know that I love you so much, from the bottom of my heart. With all the things that I did wrong to you, I am very sorry. I’m sorry for being very protective. I guess it’s just a part of me being your mother. I just wanted you to be safe every time, even after you left our house after your wedding. I’m so proud of you for being persistent. For always being that rebel teenage girl in our family sitcom. For that kind of attitude, you wouldn’t have been in that safe place you have today. I am so proud of being a mother of a therapist who makes people’s lives better, even at times of your possible demise. Your father and I love you so much.”

The therapist went over to her mom in front and hugged each other. That moment was so picturesque, just like how the small ocean waves in the background slipped away to the horizon. Tonight, I saw how a mother loved her child. We got hung up on all the bad things that make a mark on a relationship, and we shouldn’t be. Forgiveness and compassion came at the right time where it was most needed. Even as all things changed through time, some people clung to their own perceptions of another person, and as for my case: the liar who never kept her promise of a lifetime.

I hoped I would find my own calm after years’ worth of storm I had with me.

The therapist and I sat on the dark side of the beach for a while, away from the random thoughts we always heard.

“So, how are you keeping up?” she asked, opening the conversation.

“I envy you for having such a caring family. To be able to hug your loved ones like that, it is very emotional.”

“I assure you, Maria, you also have yours. Just try to talk to them. I know everything will be better.”

“What if they tell me that what I’m telling are lies to make myself the victim?”

“You’re their mother. They should know when you’re lying or not,” she answered. “You had your reasons, anyway. Tell them. But if what you envision happens, I suggest you put them in rehab.”

“You’re right, I guess I should put them there.” Then I remembered. “You do realize I still don’t know your name yet?”

“I know,” she replied.

“Well, what’s your name?” “I’m Hope. You found one. See?”

***

“Hey,” Connie greeted me.

I still hadn’t talked to her since the last time I visited her. I hadn’t had the courage to say what I said to the press. I felt helpless.

“You still don’t want to talk?”

“I… It’s not that, I want to, but, I—”

“It’s okay. I know. I forgive you. You don’t need to apologize.” I bowed my head as low as I could and I went beside her and cried silently. “It’s okay. It’s not your fault,” she soothed.

“You should flee soon. There won’t be any room for you here, now. Save yourself. The kids will understand.”

I flew overseas a few mornings after.

***

I still recall that last sentence she told me: “The kids will understand.” I hoped they did. I really hoped so.

As I got off the van, Hope asked me to listen to her. I knew she wanted me to listen to her thoughts. “You will do great there. I know you will. And if all else fails, you always have me.”

I replied a thank-you out loud.

“And by the way, I heard your thoughts a few hours ago,” she added. “Your kids will understand.”

***

As much as I wanted to sleep that afternoon, I could not bear the thought of Nikolai and Jacqueline, Julian and I in the same house. Most especially that it was real now. Someone pressed the doorbell. I knew it was them. I heard them announce their arrival. I didn’t know if that meant good or bad, but I hoped it’s for good.

There. At least, I was hoping. But at one point, I heard Julian and Jacqueline fighting. “You know I won’t agree to any of this, right?” Jacqueline said. Nikolai was silent. I guess he still kept his composure after all these years.

Now I hoped. But for the worst.

***

“Dad, who is she?” the little girl asked.

“She’s Maria, anak. Come say hi.”

“Hi, Maria! I’m Jacqueline. I think I saw you on TV.”

Then I saw another little boy with a stack of paper planes at his side, still making more. “That’s Nikolai,” the father said. “He’s very shy, but he will give in to his curiosity soon.”

And then we went to a small quiet room where I saw this baby boy. “He’s Julian,” he whispered, but he woke him up and I rocked him back to sleep.

I was a mother now. I was so happy.

***

I opened my door cautiously and tiptoed my way to my seat at dinner, and in my typical fashion, my head bowed down. At one moment I looked straight ahead Julian’s place, and there I saw them.

Wow, they had grown so much. Jacqueline was a doctor now, like what she always told me before, and Nikolai, in his flight attendant uniform. I was in awe and felt pride for my children. They had grown to be achievers. But still I could not speak what I thought. So instead, I simply said, “It’s nice to see you both.” And there went the long silence of them looking at me blankly while their thoughts were unheard by me.

This was it. The moment I feared for so long.

***

His father, Ramon Romero, forced me to do this, even as I tried to ask for forgiveness. He didn’t really like me at all.

“How dare you do this to us!” he screamed.

My career was now falling apart because of all this controversy.

“I came here to clarify all the things that have been targeted to me for the past six months,” I said in front of the media conference. “In light of the accusations towards me, I would like to shed light onto my alleged relationship with Dennis Romero, the network’s CEO, that everything wasn’t true. I never had any romantic feelings for a higher up, nor was I engaged in a long-term relationship with any of them.”

The camera flashes now blared my sight, but I continued.

“The purpose of my leaving was for me to grow as a news reporter and to explore more about where I can get to in my field of expertise. I would like to apologize to whoever was linked to this issue. Most especially to the Romero family. Thank you.”

I was on my way to escape, but I froze when someone called out: “You know Dennis Romero’s wife, Connie Romero, is still alive, right?”

I did not answer, but she insisted. “How do you manage to live as their kid’s stepmother every day and push yourself to an already broken family? Especially now that she is terminally ill? What can you say about you being a—”

“Whore!” somebody finished.

I ran towards the other direction and never looked back.

***

My children and I continued with our dinner. Nikolai looked very uncomfortable, and just like Julian when I first came into this house, I heard him say in his mind, “Please speak, Ma.” But nothing from Jacqueline.

We were halfway done when I spoke. “My children…”

They put down their utensils and acknowledged me. I took as much air as I could gather. Into the nose, and out through the mouth. This was happening, and there was no way I would want to waste this chance. I hoped their anger had already gone past the times. I hoped, in this way, I get to cover their long-bleeding scars.

But what happened next took me by surprise. Jacqueline suddenly stood up and ran to me and wrapped me in her arms. Then Nikolai hugged me as well.

“We missed you so much, Ma,” Jacqueline said while weeping.

“You left us without notice. I thought you left us for good, Ma. I really missed you,” Nikolai added.

I did not envision this kind of outcome. “I haven’t even tried to make amends, mga anak. I don’t deserve this. I really don’t.”

They cried harder, and at that point, I sobbed, too.

“I missed you both as well. I am really sorry for leaving you, anak. I am really sorry for being your stepmom. I feel like I used the three of you at your weaknesses. I don’t deserve this. I’m sorry for lying to the press about me not being your mom. I’m sorry for everything.”

***

“Dear Nikolai, Jacqueline and Julian,

If all of you are reading this, it’s that time that I have already left this world. I am really sorry for not having enough time to be a mother to you all. I will always remember the times that I gave birth to the three of you. I was crying the moment I saw you three. And also our fun times when we’re playing with water and splashing around in the backyard. You see, Mommy Connie had a severe disease that she couldn’t walk back home from the hospital. That is why I’m stuck in a machine, like how you, Jacqueline, always said as you all visit me to the hospital.

But don’t worry, God has blessed you all a Mama Maria that will be there for you every time, just not right now. Do not blame your father for having two wives, and your new Mama for her leaving, it’s not their fault. She might have flown to another country. While you all bonded with her for only a few months, she will be back, I promise. And Daddy Dennis told me that all of you saw the news about Mama Maria saying she does not love him. She lied so she can save Daddy’s company after his staff spread all those lies. I know Maria is good. She will be back. Trust me.

I love you all. Forgive me for the short span of time I had with you three. Believe in what you can accomplish.

Love, Mommy Connie.”

Jacqueline said that after I left, their dad always reminded them that I would return. But months after the issue died down, he was forced to step down as the CEO of the network, as ordered by their grandfather Ramon. Their father fell into depression back then and his poor health led him to his untimely death, leaving them in the care of their grandmother. I later found out that she would always tell them bad things about me. They were, for example, prohibited from replying to my emails.

But they had always believed in their mother’s words: I, their Mama Maria, will be back. That was her promise. And it was mine, too.

Seeing how happy my children were to see me—this was the best gift I had ever had in my life. If only this wouldn’t last.

***

Jacqueline and Nikolai, as usual, came over late. “How are you, Julian?” was how they would always welcome me on my doorstep. For each of our birthdays, we always got together for another message.

“Hi, Ma! How are you?” I said. “We’re good here. Just like how you left us, we’re still that close. I am now a news anchor, but for a noontime slot. Soon, people will see me flaunt my handsome face on—”

“Stop it, Julian. Hello, Ma!” Nikolai butted in. “The skies are still good at every flight. I hope you could still see some of my in-flight demos that you always record on your phone when I treat you to free air trips. Love you, Ma!”

Then it was time for Jacqueline. “Hi, Ma! I received funding on my research for a cure to your disease. We have found it, Ma. If only—” then her tears got over her speaking, “—if only you waited much longer you could’ve been cured of the disease. I really miss you so much. That five months you were with us until you completely forgot us, I will never forget those. I hope you still know us.”

Nikolai and I started crying as well.

“We miss you, Ma. I hope you could have stayed much longer. But it’s okay. I think you can still hear us up there.” Nikolai said.

“Ma, I honestly would give anything just to see you again,” I added. “I miss how you always call me every night just to check how I am doing. I miss the first moment I opened the door for you and seeing you clean my welcome rug. I miss you being the mother that I know. I hope you see Mommy Connie up there. Please tell her we said hi!”

“I thought you hated Ma.” I asked Jacqueline later. “Through the years, I always tried to make myself believe Mama Maria would come back. I had lost all the hope after Grandma took care of us that I even tried to shut her off even as she tried to communicate with me. I just couldn’t reply. But at that moment she entered the dining table that day, I suddenly forgot how hatred felt. All the weight I bore got lighter until all of it was gone. That was why I went in for a hug. I missed that feeling of home. And she was my home. Even after all the badmouthing from Grandma, I still believed Mommy Connie’s promise.”

Nothing will be erased from all that’s happened: The day she left, the day I decided to let go of her promise, and the day I brushed off her efforts of apologizing to me. But at least, even with that limited time, I decided to let go of everything and start anew. I got back on my feet and believed in family again. That’s how family works.”

We spent the rest of the day at the memorial park, celebrating Nikolai’s birthday and sharing our feast with Mama, Mommy and Daddy. Even Mama’s therapist, Hope, came over as well. She was one of the lucky few to have joined the experimental drug trials, which were miraculously successful.

Just like how Mommy made a promise to us, Mama made a promise too: even if we fight, she will always bring us back together. And she will always be at our side. And I think she still keeps that promise to this day.

“I think she can still hears our thoughts,” Hope said.

If so, then we love you, Ma. We always will. ☁️

This is an entry to Fictory, Bookbed‘s Fic Fest, in which participants write a fic based on a prompt. Three winners and the Crowd Favorite (by hits and shares) will receive prizes. If you enjoyed this story, share it or leave a comment below. Remember to add #BookbedFictory!
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