Monday, August 17, 2015

Maganda

Nakaupo ako sa pathway ng TSU.

At sa kisame ng silong ng pathway ay naroon ang isang digital clock na may oras na alas cuatro y siete ng hapon.

Sa kabilang upuan ng pathway ay naroon ang kaibigan kong si Reymark, matalim ang tingin sa akin na parang ibig niyang makipagbugbugan sa akin sa hindi malamang dahilan.

Nagpatuloy ako sa pagmumuni-muni, pinapatay ang oras na nakaupo doon magdamagan, habang dinadaanan ng ibang mga estudyante. Pansin kong panay ang tingin sa akin ng ibang estudyante lalo na ng mga babae.

Sa kadahilanang hindi yata natiis ni Reymark ay lumapit siya sa akin saka umupo sa aking tabi. Alam ko na ang pakay niya: ang magtanong.

At tulad ng una kong inaasahan, ito ang kanyang itinanong.

"Ang daming babaeng tumitingin sa iyo! Bakit hindi mo pinapansin, ang gaganda nila!"

"Bakit?" tanong ko.

"Hindi mo ba inisip na baka ikaw ang tipo nila?" nagpatuloy siya nang hindi ako nagsalita. "Ang daming magagandang babae dito sa TSU! Ang ipinagtatakahan ko lang ay bakit wala kang nililigawan sa kanila. Ang gaganda nila eh."

Tumingin ako sa kanya.

"Ano?! Bakit wala kang nililigawang magandang babae dito?"

"Dahil... mas maganda pa ako sa kanilang lahat."

Natahimik si Reymark sa narinig.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dugo

"Sa buong buhay ko, sinabi ko na sa sarili na ayos lang kung ako ang duguin kapag nasugatan kaysa naman ang ibang tao. Pero habang may mga tao naman na gusto akong saktan, natutukso ako na paliguan silang lahat sa sarili nilang dugo hanggang sa sila'y mamatay sa hirap. Mas mahirap, mas madugo, mas masarap, mas malinamnam..."

-jay calicdan

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ang Guro sa Gubat

Isa kaming larawan ng masayang mag-aaral sa isang magandang hardin sa kasukalan ng isang gubat. Nagbabasa, nagsusulat, kumakanta, at sumasayaw kasama ang alaga ng matandang lalake na siyang guro namin, ang kanyang aso, pusa, manok, pato, itik, at gansa.

Masayang-masaya kaming lahat. Lalo na sa akin. Dahil doon ko lang naranasan ang isang kakaibang saya na hindi ko pa natikman sa buong buhay kong puno ng lungkot at pasakit. Halos ayoko nang humiwalay pa sa mga kalaro at guro kong hawak-kamay na umiikot-ikot upang maglaro.

At napagpasyahan ko na ngang hindi na umalis dito kahit kailan.

Ngunit, ang kasiyahang iyon ay biglang nahinto sa pagngiti ng aming guro. Binigkas niya ang mga salitang tatapos sa panandalian naming kasiyahan, "Uwian na!"

Nagtilian ang ibang bata sa sobrang saya pero hindi ako masaya. Papalubog na ang araw ng mga oras na iyon mula sa malungkot na tanawin ng kanluran. Nagsimula namang maglakad ang ibang bata papalayo sa guro naming matanda.

"Ayoko pong umalis!" pagpipilit ko. "Masaya po ako dito!"

"Hindi ka maaaring manatili dito, bata," ang sinabi sa akin ng matanda. Katabi niya ang kanyang mga alagang hayop na kasama naming naglaro. "Sige na, kailangan mo nang umuwi."

Nalungkot ako sa sinabing ito ng matanda.

Oo, masaya ako dito pero babalik na naman ako sa mundo, sa tunay kong mundo, na puno ng lungkot at pasakit na parang walang hanggan. Hindi ko na mapigilan ang paa ko na maglakad papalayo sa matandang guro.

"Diretso lang, bata. Masaya na akong malaman na napasaya ko kayong lahat sa aking hardin dito sa gubat. Pero kailangan mo nang umuwi sa tunay mong mundo, kung saan ka talaga nararapat."

Muli kong nilingon ang matandang lalake, katabi niya ang kanyang mga alagang hayop, at pinapanood akong lumalayo sa kanila.

"Umalis ka na dito na may baong ngiti at saya. Iyan lang ang bagay na magpapasaya sa akin..."

Nakita ko, nagpahid siya ng luha nang muli ko siyang sinulyapan.

Napaluha na rin ako, sa lungkot at sama ng loob.

"B-bakit po?!"

"Dahil walang kasiyahan ang nagtatagal sa mundong iyong ginagalawan. Tulad ng ibang mga bata, malungkot din sila na aking pinasaya at binigyan ng ngiti kahit sandali."

Nagpatuloy ako sa paglalakad. Nakita ko sa ibang mga bata ang kanilang kasiyahan at tawanan habang naglalakad pauwi. Baon nila ang masayang araw na kasama ang aming guro sa gubat.

Ngunit hindi ako... na malungkot, at muli na namang nag-iisa sa totoong mundo.

Sa isa pang pagkakataon ay muli kong sinulyapan ang aming guro. Naroon pa rin siya, nakatayo, habang katabi ang mga alaga nitong hayop. Masaya siyang kumakaway sa akin ngunit halata sa kanyang pustura ang lungkot na kanyang dinadamdam.

"Hanggang sa muli!" malungkot kong paalam.

"Hanggang sa muli, bata," bulong niya sa hangin.

Malungkot akong umalis nang bigla silang naglaho na parang bula.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Utang na Loob

Taong 2011, tag-init.

Sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon, nagkita rin kami sa wakas ng tita kong halos sampung taon ko nang hindi nakita. Siya ang tita kong mayroong mahabang pasensya sa kabila ng matindi kong kapasawayan noong kabataan sa tuwing ako ay kanyang inaalagaan. Pareho kaming natuwa dahil na-miss talaga namin ang isa't isa.

Siya si tita M.

Bumaha ng kumustahan at balitaan hanggang umuwi kami sa bahay ni Mr. C--ang kanyang mabuting asawa na isang British--doon sa Eastwood Residences.

Doon ko nakita ang pinsan kong lalake, si P. Nadatnan ko siyang nagbababad sa harap ng computer para mag-internet. Niyaya niya akong kausapin ang isa naming tito sa Australia na si tito B.

Nagkataong dumating naman si tita J, ang all-time favorite kong kabalitaan at ka-chismisan sa tuwing uuwi ako sa kanila noong kabataan hanggang ngayon. Niyaya siya ni pinsan kong si P na kausapin ito upang mangumusta.

"Hay nako! Huwag na!" Nabigla ako sa sinabi ni tita J saka siya humiga sa malambot na kama. "Hindi na kailangan!" dagdag pa niya.

Nagtaka ako.

"Hay, Diyos ko! Utang na loob!"

At doon ko nalaman ang ibig niyang sabihin--wala daw utang na loob si tito B matapos siyang suportahan ni tita J papunta sa Australia!

"Hay! Utang na loob!"

- - - - -

DISCLAIMER: I didn't mentioned any names so stop being paranoid, please.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

CHAPTER 5: ALL WALKS OF SOCIETY

Confessions of a Novice Nun
by Trisha Quarts


THE SUCCEEDING DAYS HAS PROVED to me one thing: Mr. Bradford is way too persistent when he wants something.

I met him for the third time on Saturday – it was the next week since the last time we 'bumped' into each other outside my workplace – when Mother Elizabeth's congregation and I were touring the city asking for donations around the neighborhood. Dressed in the same style of upperclassman sophistication, Mr. Bradford donated a much too large amount of money to us after greeting me a brief 'hi', smiling the same way when I first met him.

Which brought back the question again: was it coincidence, or planned?

I didn't expect him on that Sunday, but when I went back to my apartment from church, a bouquet of flowers greeted me at my door with a card that says:

"I still expect our dinner-friendship-date."

I didn't give it much thought how he knew where I lived. I simply concluded that it was fairly easy for rich people to gain simple access to trivial information such as my apartment’s address.

On Monday, my question was answered. I became fairly certain that nothing was ever coincidence anymore when Mr. Bradford came by my workplace exactly on time with my arrival. We greeted each other briefly, and because I felt on edge around him, I immediately excused myself from him, telling him that I have work to do. The same friendly smile bid me a goodbye.

And the next day, Tuesday, the thought of telling him my status as a novice nun crossed my mind when I realized that I could not avoid him. And try as I might, he will not easily give up on me unless I honor the dinner-date promise I made with him. Because there sat on my door's foot was a box with an elaborate ribbon. And when I opened it, I was met with the pure white dress from the expensive shop that first time we met. It was neatly folded and covered in an expensive looking paper.

That was when I reached my breaking point.

I told myself, enough is enough.

"Mr. Bradford?" I opened as greeting to him after hearing that his phone has stopped ringing.

"Yes?" he says on the other line.

"Good morning. This is Amy Reed."

"Oh! Miss Reed! You finally called! Did you like my present?"

I tried to calm myself down – it has been such a long time since I got mad that the feeling seemed foreign to me.

"Mr. Bradford, why on Earth did you give me an exaggeratedly priced dress?"

"I thought you liked that dress?"

He sounded unsure.

"Yes, I might have liked it before, but this is too much. You have seen me asking for donations around New York last Saturday, in my quest to help the less fortunate. What do you think did I feel after receiving a dress that costs ten thousand dollars? How do you think I would feel wearing it?"

A few silent moments passed between us before he spoke again.

"I'm sorry. I just thought you might like it… You seemed different around me lately."

Sighing from my annoyance, I softened my voice when I spoke next.

"I'm sorry, too, for getting mad. I was just tired."

I sat at my bed's foot as I heard Mr. Bradford’s quiet laugh.

"Tired? This early in the morning? What are you, an owl?"

His comment finally brought back my smile.

"There was just something on my mind these past few days, and however hard I try, it kept occupying my thoughts. I feel tired because of it."

"That's not because of me, right?"

I shook my head though he couldn’t see me.

"No. It was because of someone else. But I've got to be honest with you Mr. Bradford…"

"Isaac," he cut me off. "Call me Isaac, please."

"Isaac," I conceded. "The things you have told me a few days ago outside the streets – I think that was Tuesday or Wednesday last week – frightened me off. I was a bit aloof around you because of that. I'm sorry."

There was silence again as he digested my revelation.

"So, I guess that's not a good way of meeting someone, isn't it?"

I chortled.

"No."

"But you see, Miss Reed, I am that same person you met for the first time. It's still with me. I just…" I heard him huff. Even though I couldn’t see him, I imagined him tugging at his hair in frustration.

After a few more tries with no luck, he seemed to finally give up completing his sentence as he said, "Maybe we could talk in person instead?"

Seeing no other way around it, I agreed with him straightaway.

"Alright. Where shall we meet?"

"Great. Uhm. This may sound like I'm forcing you to go out with me, and I know that you know that I hope that's how it is, but, here goes: there's an event I need to attend to this Sunday evening. It's a charity event. For the upper-class people of society. I will be able to explain to you everything there. Please, don't think I'm trying to trap you into anything. I just genuinely wanted you to see it my way. And maybe you'll understand why I am the way I am – why I do all that it takes to get something that I want."

I thought about it for a few brief moments, weighing my options. Even though something in my gut tells me to avoid him, remembering how he smiled as he helped me the first time that we’ve met, and how I see that same smile was still with him, seemed to weigh more than my fear of him. So with that, I reckon it wouldn’t hurt to give him another chance.

"Well, if it's a charity event, I guess that's alright," was my answer after mulling over the circumstances.

"Thank you Miss Reed."

He sounded relieved from the other line. It made me smile again.

"Call me Amy."

"Amy," he answered right away. "One more thing, Amy."

"Yes?"

"I told you that it's for upper-class men, right?"

"Yes."

"Wear that dress."

With that parting line, he hanged up on me as I was once more left in wonder how he could sound so carefree one moment, and then bossy the next.

Did I do the right by agreeing to meet him?

That Sunday, I received another call from Isaac, telling me that he'll send me a stylist for my hair and make-up. I tried to refuse him, telling him it was an unnecessary expenditure, and even asked him if I could return the dress to him. However, he told me that the event requires people to come styled, and also pressed unto me that the dress was mine, and I could do whatever I want with it.

I settled to sell the dress after I used it for the event.

At around four, my stylist finally arrived. He came with a flourish, subtle tendencies of femininity leaking out as he walked into my room, and a voice higher in pitch than that of males. It was apparent that his sexual orientation wasn’t that of a straight male.

I've seen gay people before, have interacted with them a few times myself, but never really spend more than an hour with them. In my religion, gay people weren't truly that accepted. But as I interacted with Chasen, I was made to see things differently.

"Miss Reed, right?"

 "Amy," I nodded before I closed my door and turned to face him.

For a gay man, I didn't expect him to look and act refine. But he does, and was even dressed exactly like a man, wearing a coat and a black pair of shoes.

"What? Your first time to see a gay?"

I blinked twice, caught unawares.

"How did you read my mind?"

"I'm used to that look, Amy. I've received more than a handful of them when I was young. And I still receive them once in a while."

Embarrassed for being one of the people with those look, I turned away from him with my face surely as red as a tomato.

"I'm sorry. I am not used to your gender. I was raised in a convent."

It was then his turn to sound surprised.

"You're a nun?"

"No, no, no, I'm not," I immediately denied, afraid he would ask more and I would have to lie about my true status as a novice nun. But he didn't, and for that I was glad. And instead, he gave me a long response which made a strong impression on me.

"I can see how you would think I am committing a sin for being gay. You were told that way. You grew up thinking there's only men and women. But Amy, I tell you, I've struggled with myself for more than eighteen years.

Imagine yourself caged for forever – could you breathe? I told myself – no, forced myself – over and over to be straight; to like girls. But I never did. And one day, I just thought I can't live like that anymore.

What have I done to deserve it? All the scrutiny, judgements, accusations…

As a kid, I grew up fighting with other kids who tell me I was gay. Why? Because it's the truth. And it was hard to accept it. And they were making fun of the truth like it was a crime.

And so one day, I just snapped. I don't want to hide anymore. I want to live a normal life. I want to get out of my own cage. I want to be loved, and I want to give love in return – not a forced love to a woman, but an unending love. A love where I would give my all.

And so, Amy, I will ask you again. Do you still think I'm committing a sin?"

For a few moments, I was speechless, and was only able to gaze at his deep-blue eyes. Somehow, I understood what he meant.

I could see it in his eyes – his struggles, his fears, his

questions, the unfairness he has received...

And his eyes looked so intelligent, laden with wisdom he acquired from his experiences at such a young age.

And I knew it was right of me not to blindly accept my religion's belief.

This was a good man.

"Everyone commits sins. And everyone is the same in the eyes of God. You are as sinful as the next man I would meet on the streets."

My words earned me an unbalanced smile from him.

"Such a heavy topic for a stranger I just met," he said.

I laughed.

"What can I say? It was a nice way of meeting people."

He stood to walk towards me. Once in front of me, he offered his hand for a hand-shake.

"Hi. I'm Chasen Walls."

I took his outstretched hand.

"Amy. Amy Reed."


(Sorry, the content of this part was removed by the author.)

* * *

Hello! Good day, readers!

Thank you for reading this story titled, "The Confessions of a Novice Nun" The preview of the first part of a pure and damned trilogy, written and created by Trisha Quarts. This novel is originally published online at FanFiction, titled, "The Revelations of An Innocent Mind" and soon to be publish! Sorry, the soft copy of this book is not YET available! ^_*

Sunday, August 2, 2015

CHAPTER 4: THE SHADES OF FEAR

Confessions of a Novice Nun
by Trisha Cuarts


ALL THE EVENTS OF THE PREVIOUS DAY CAME crushing back to me as the sun greeted me in the morning. As I sat up from my bed to proceed with my day, I felt a gaping hole just right on my chest. For a moment, I contemplated dismissing Ethan's departure as just something of my own mind's doing, expecting that any second I'll hear him groaning from another room. However, the letter safely tucked between my lamp-shade's foot and the night-stand where it was placed was enough proof that he was truly gone, and that there was nothing that I could do about it.

I had a typical first day of work: I mixed orders of coffee, spilled an entire grande cup, and got scolded by my supervisor. It wasn't rolling well, to say the least.

And the thought of my neighbor kept haunting me the entire shift.

I kept wondering how he was, where did he go, was he eating his meal three times a day, and what did he mean when he wrote that it was best for him to leave me.

I kept seeing him in the faces of our customers, half-expecting him to suddenly show up in front of me.

I once mistook a guy with bronze locks as him.

I was so distracted and on-the-edge the entire day that even I got frustrated about myself. My co-employee, Desiree, comforted me a little by saying that the first day of work is always the hardest, and that it will get better as the days progress. But still, I couldn’t help feeling bad about doing so poorly.

Because of my bad first day, I set a goal to get better the next.

I arrived the earliest the next morning and tried to memorize all the orders.

I brought a notebook and a pen to write down all the flavors of the coffee, vowing to myself that I will memorize the processes and ingredients, thinking that I have to have a routine with my day so that I would commit fewer errors.

I tried to be as cheerful as possible, greeting all the customers with a smile.

And most of all, I tried to put at the back of my mind all my worries about my former neighbor, hoping that I could get my head on my tasks.

At the end of my second day, my supervisor seemed at least satisfied with me. He even patted me on the back, telling me to keep my attitude up. And as he did this, I noticed Desiree furtively eyeing him as she wiped the table near the door.

I settled to approach her.

"Something wrong?"

She was taken aback by my question, jumping a little on the process.

"Wh-what?"

"Why do you keep staring at Mr. John?"

There was a tint of pink on her cheeks as she looked down at the table she was cleaning, obvious in her attempts to avoid my eyes.

"What are you saying? I wasn’t staring at him."

"Come on, Desiree. I saw you. It was quite obvious, actually."

She stared without blinking at me for three solid seconds.

Then suddenly, I didn't even have a chance to protest before she was grabbing both my arms and was dragging me towards the ladies' room.

Once inside, she gripped both my arms, startling me with her suddenness.

"Promise me you won't tell anyone!"

Surveying the room, she spotted the open door, and then marched three quick steps to close it.

She was instantly on my side after that.

"Amy, John is just so hot."

"Alright?" I retorted, unsure of what to react to her.

"I mean, have you seen the way he smiles with his dimples? I kind of am crushing on him a little. I kept waiting for him to ask me out, but he never does, and I never say anything because he probably doesn't like me like that, because he's our supervisor, but do you think I should say something?"

I blinked three successive times, trying to grasp what she said with how fast she said it.

"Err, why not?"

She squealed. "What? Are you crazy? I can't tell him! I'm just a crew here."

Finally understanding her apprehensions, this made me question some things about affection.

Was it really this hard to say what's on your heart?

Was it this frightening that even bold Desiree could not easily say that she likes John?

"Desiree," I called out her name, placing a calming hand on her shoulder. "I think you need to tell him how you feel. Would you rather never tell him, and then watch him go with another girl?"

I was surprised when she suddenly looked like she would cry.

"But that would be super awkward if he doesn't like me back."

"How old are you again?"

"Twenty. Why?"

"Well then, I think you're old enough to be mature about this."

She stared at me for a long time, as though trying to read me. And then, without warning, she suddenly hugged me as she squealed. I was more than astonished by her energy

– I've never met someone as spastic as she was.

"I'll try, Amy. I hope he likes me back!"

And with that said, she quickly ran outside, leaving me alone at the ladies' room a bit confused on what just happened.

When I went back to the shop, I saw Desiree talking to John inside his small office. A smile broke on my face.

It was at that time that I saw him.

One moment I was glancing outside the shop as a mop of tousled bronze hair caught my eye. And then the next, it was gone.

I didn’t have much time to process what I saw. My two legs seemed to have their own mind as they trudged out when I opened the café’s door and were on instinct as they ran outside.

All my thoughts were filled with the knowledge that it was him; all my hopes were fueled with the possibility that it was Ethan.

Then I bumped onto someone.

"Ooufgh," the man uttered incomprehensively as I knocked the air out of him. I instinctively steadied him by clutching onto his arms so that he wouldn't fall.

"I'm sorry, but I need to catch someone…" I hastily said, trying to look at a gap above his shoulder for Ethan.

"Amy?" The man said.

He – calling out my name – made me finally look at him.

And then a flick of recognition hit me.

"Mr. Bradford!" I gushed.

"What a coincidence! Bumping into you again…"

"It's really nice to see you again, but I need to catch up with someone,” I hurriedly said without allowing him to speak, before I extricated my hands on him.

Turning onto my heel passed Mr Bradford’s side, I ran to cross the street, hoping to catch up with Ethan.

I sprinted a few blocks, trying to look everywhere for my former neighbor. When I didn’t see him, I joggled a few more until exhaustion was making me run slower. It seemed like everywhere I look, he was nowhere in sight. And if I was being honest with myself, I was not even sure that it was truly him that I saw.

With all the frustrations and disappointments creeping up in my chest, I finally gave up running to crouch forward, catch my breath, and lean my hands on my thighs.

Faraway, Mr. Bradford seemed to catch up with me.

"Miss Reed!" he called out.

I waited for him to reach me as I steadied my labored breathing. Upon reaching me, he was also catching his breath as he said, "I assume you didn't catch that someone?"

I shook my head in a 'no' with a frown. He scratched his head.

"Well, wow, what do I say? Long-time no see?"

I tried to smile, but even I know that I was faking it.

He cleared his throat to dispel the little awkwardness that was forming between us.

"So, uh, I was wondering why you didn't call."

"Oh."

Caught unawares, I straightened my spine, taking a few seconds to formulate a proper response.

"Uhm, I didn't need help touring the city," I finally came up with.

He laughed a bit.

"I gave you my number not just to help you tour the city, Miss Reed."

Confused, I asked, "What do you mean?"

"Well, I was wondering if you want to go out or something. Maybe we could grab some drink later?"

Oh.

"I…"

"But clearly, my timing is off."

I instantly shook my head at him.

"No, you don't understand Mr. Bradford. I-I don't drink."

A look of shock crossed his features.

"Never?"

I shook my head with a smile.

"No."

"Oh. My bad." He seemed to be blushing a bit. "But you're at least of legal age, right?"

I chuckled. "I'm twenty-three."

"Great. Uhm, maybe next time… how about a dinner, you know? So that we could talk about… stuff."

It was a little funny seeing him fumble with words. It was as if I could almost hear what he was thinking: with the unsure look on his face, it was as though he was mentally scolding himself.

"A dinner sounds great," I retorted to placate him. He immediately gave me a huge smile.

"Great! Well, it's a date then…"

The second the words were out of his mouth, his expression changed to one of dread, seeming to have said something he didn't plan to.

"That is, I mean, if you want it to be a date…" he tried to say differently.

I took both of his hands to calm him down a bit. And somehow, the action seemed to work on him.

He kept a steady gaze on our entwined hands as his features returned to normal.

"Mr. Bradford, what happened to you?"

He looked at me with confusion and so I clarified, "You were so confident when I first met you. What's wrong?"

With a solemn look, he replied, "Sorry. I was just afraid that I'd lose my chance with you if I didn't ask you right away. I'm just accustomed to getting what I want."

When he said those words, all the apprehensions and all his self-doubt suddenly vanished. Instead, they were replaced with a confidence that was hard to miss once I looked into his eyes.

And then, when I focused on said eyes – which have the darkest of blues that I had ever seen – looking at me with a certain kind of intensity, I understood too quickly the graveness of what he just revealed to me.

This is a man who can and will get whatever he wants.

There is a lot more to him than meets the eye.

"It's not hard to offer my friendship Mr. Bradford," I said, hoping to convey that I wasn’t seeking any sort of relationship with him.

"So, it's a friendship dinner then."

I nodded my affirmation.

"I don't date, so yes, it's a friendship dinner."

He nodded solemnly; breathing heavily as he did.

"Well, I can wait. I told you – I am accustomed to getting what I want."

I chuckled a bit, trying to mask the sudden discomfort I was experiencing with his presence.

"You've just met me. You don't know if you really want to date me." And more importantly, I am training as a nun.

But then, he looked at me with so much intensity that my smile was immediately wiped out off my face. He turned my hands so that he was the one holding them, and somehow, the innocent gesture that I did earlier to calm him down suddenly morphed into a tension-filled one.

"Miss Reed, you clearly don't understand me. I might have stammered on my words earlier, I might have seemed stupid, but you see, I have a gift – an eye, if you must – for things that I like, things that I want. And when I settle my eyes on one, I would do all that it takes to get my hands on it – whatever it takes. I knew it since the moment I met you that I wanted you. And I would stop at nothing, nothing, to have you."

His look, where before a carefree one, suddenly turned electric; possessive; domineering.

It made my heart beat loudly, as if it was trying to warn me about him.

I didn't know where the stammering and funny man went, but I knew then at that moment that it wasn't him who was before me anymore. This was a different side of Mr. Bradford. It was his darker side, which, in our short time of knowing each other, I already had a glimpse upon.

"Have a good day Miss Reed."

And there he left me on the sidewalk, confused and frightened of him.

And suddenly I wondered if our meeting was really a mere coincidence…

Or all along, he had a hand in it.


oOo


I didn't call Mr. Bradford for the next days. There was something in my mind, in my gut, that kept me from calling him. Maybe it was the fear that I experienced the second time that I met him. And so I carried on with my life, trying to forget the two conflicting men that kept invading my thoughts.

The next day when I went to work, Desiree seemed to be in a foul mood. She didn't talk to me, nor responded when I greeted her. I figured the talk with John didn't go well, so I didn't try to ask her about it. I settled to just focusing on my job.

This same focus was what I hoped to achieve on Thursday when I tried to lose myself with my mission with the prisoners.

Meeting Mother Elizabeth and her congregation reminded me of my true purpose to New York. They were kind to me, and taught me a lot of things I should do to prepare for my proclamation as a nun. But try as I might, I still couldn't put my entire head in the tasks ahead of me.

The first project we planned was to have the prisoners help in our feeding program. They were assigned tasks to cook food, place them on containers, and give them to the street people. It took a whole day for us to plan everything. I was assigned to see that all prisoners were performing, and not taking for granted their chance to help the community.

And so the next day, with everything set, we put out stands in one of the few secluded streets of New York. The said place seemed familiar with the beggars because in less than an hour, it was already crowded with them.

As I helped on disseminating instructions to the prisoners, I saw one with the number 50664 sitting at the faraway benches. His isolation seemed deliberate, as though he doesn't bond well with the others.

I walked towards him with a warm smile.

"Hello, Mister. I apologize for disturbing you, but you need do your assigned task so that we could help all these people in need."

He smirked at me with sarcasm.

"What'st for me?" I traced a thick southern drawl in the way he spoke. The grubby man looked like he was in his fifties, with grayish hair, pitch black eyes, scraggly face, and three missing teeth.

I tried to speak again with an encouraging smile.

"Well, for one, it is at least better than doing nothing inside your cell. Second, this can help you in your parole,” I said as I took a seat beside him while he kept the sarcastic smirk on his face.

"Have been in jail for four years, miss. Ain't nothing good it did me. I ain't never goin' out."

"But wouldn't this – helping the others – at least give you something to feel good about yourself? It's never late to be a Christian to your neighbor, and I think you can be a good one."

He laughed without humor.

"Good Christ'an, eh? Piece of shit, is more like it. See miss, I don't care 'bout them religion, or all the Jesus-God-damned-things you tell me. I ain't never goin' anywhere after this except hell."

I cringed upon hearing him swearing so explicitly. But even more so, I felt saddened by how deep he had fallen that he sees no other endings for himself besides going to hell.

I decided to try to understand him better, and so I asked, "What is it that sent you here to prison?"

"Murder," he said without even blinking – the coldness in his eyes speaks volume.

"I was hired killer. Been doing it for six years. Not really that good, and crappy old trick didn't work out, so I got cops smelling my shitty trail and got me." He laughed sinisterly. "Hope I've been as quick as our guy ‘Russian Roulette’. That boy works like a ghost. Got no cops on his trail. Always cleans after his job. Never got no one seen his face, that one. "

"Russian Roulette? Is that a code name for him? What does he do? Is it the same as yours?"

"Yep, a fucking murderer, that's what. Earns millions. Boss' favorite. Even got the cops scared. Slits your throat if ya didn't see him. Fires a gun like its fucking invisible."

He suddenly stood up while I contemplated the grimy things he just revealed to me. There was something intriguing in the way he told me about this “Russian Roulette” person.

"I'd be careful around here, Miss, if I were you. Russian Roulette is cruel. But I ain't seen anyone finer than him. Easy on the eyes, that boy. Will rob your heart and kill you at t'same time, if you're not careful. Better not cross him in the streets, if ya' know what I mean."

"But why does he do what he does? Why did he become a hired killer?"

The man only laughed.


(to be continued...)