Aly’s phone rings as she and her friends dance the night away.
“Aren’t you going to answer it?” Katya asks.
“Answer what?” Aly asks in confusion.
“You’re phone, Aly. It’s ringing.”
Aly takes a quick glance at her phone. Seeing it’s her mom calling, she immediately presses the reject button.
“Why’d you do that?” asks Mary.
“Oh, I’m sure she’s just checking on me. It’s no big deal.”
Krrriiing! The alarm started to go off, awakening Aly from her deep sleep. She pulled the covers over her head and pressed her pillow against her ears, trying to convince herself that she was still dreaming. She wasn’t sure if she was ready to face another day. But as much as she tried to drown out the noise, the alarm didn’t stop. She knew it was time to get up.
Aly usually finishes getting ready for school in just half an hour but today she just didn’t feel like moving. Her eyes were still swollen and her limbs were too heavy. Her family had always expected her father’s death but no one knew it would come quickly. Her father’s death shocked everyone but Aly was affected the most. She was her daddy’s girl and she didn’t even get to say goodbye.
“Aly, honey, you have to eat. Are you sure you want to go to school?” Her mother asked, disrupting her thoughts. Aly simply nodded. She knew that her teachers would understand her absence but she didn’t want to stay home, fearing that spending an entire day at home would only remind her of her father’s memories.
School was worse than Aly expected. The moment she entered her classroom, everyone grew quiet. Soon, they started whispering to one another. Some gave her sympathetic smiles, while some offered their condolences. Aly didn’t like this one bit. She wished they would just go on with whatever they were doing before she arrived. The way they treated her only made her feel worse. It only brought back the bitterness inside.
“Mom?” Aly called out. “I’m home.”
The light in the living roomed turned on. Aly turned around and saw her mom sitting on the couch, her eyes glued to the floor. Aly was used to her mom acting like this when she comes home late. What made her worry is the empty box of tissue sitting on her mom’s lap and the pieces of crumpled tissue scattered on the couch and on the floor.
“Mom, what’s going on?” she asks, taking a few steps toward the couch.
“I called you, didn’t I?” her mom asks, still staring blankly at the floor.
“Well, uh, yes. Mom, please tell me what’s going on. Where’s Daddy?”
Daddy, she thinks. Oh no, please don’t let it be Daddy.
Aly pushes the thought away. She can’t think of these things now, not in the middle of Chemistry. Focus, as her dad always tells her – used to tell her. I probably shouldn’t have come to school, Aly thought. I can’t concentrate when I can’t think of anything else except this. In desperation, Aly closed her eyes and tried her best to let go of the feeling, which she knew was next to, if not impossible.
“Aly, are you okay?” asked Mrs. Cruz, her chemistry teacher.
Aly immediately opened her eyes and saw concerned faces staring at her. It made her nauseous. She wasn’t used to such attention. But as she opened her mouth to speak, tears welled up in her eyes and before she knew it she was crying.
“Aly,” Mrs. Cruz said as she put her arm around Aly’s back.
“Ma’am, I – I’m sorry.” Aly managed to say in between sobs.
“There’s nothing to be sorry about, Aly.” Her lips curved to form a sympathetic smile. “Come with me.”
“No, please tell me you’re kidding.” Aly cried, trying to convince herself that what she heard was just a joke, though something inside her knew that it wasn’t. She was having trouble breathing.
“When your father was rushed to the hospital, I tried to call you but for some reason I couldn’t reach you.” Her mother said softly, careful enough to avoid worsening the situation.
Then reality hit her. At the same time her dad was dying and being rushed to the hospital, she was with her friends partying. She knew about the call but didn’t answer it. If only she did.
Aly cried harder. There she was trying to have fun and now her father is dead. Dead! And there was nothing she could do about it.
I tried to call you; the words rang in her ears.
Oh, Daddy, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me, she thought as she collapsed onto the floor.
“Aly, you’re not alone.” Mrs. Cruz said.
“What?” Aly asked, still lost in thought.
“I know what you’re going through.”
A slight feel of defensiveness rushed through Aly. “How could you?” she asked. She was aware of her nasty tone, but couldn’t help it. How could anyone understand what I’m going through?
“I lost my father when I was only six.” Mrs. Cruz starts. Something in Aly starts to soften. She’s glad to hear that she’s not the only one who lost a father, but instantly felt guilty afterwards.
“He died in a car accident. He was immediately rushed to the hospital but was declared dead on arrival. You see, my father used to pick me up from school everyday. That day though, I waited for hours. When I finally saw our car, I was overjoyed. I remember being really excited to see him again. I thought, ‘Daddy’s finally here!’ but it wasn’t him. It was our driver. I kept asking him about daddy all the way home but he didn’t answer. When I finally learned about his death, I was devastated. I cried for months. I felt hopeless, like I had no reason to go on. I was only six, Aly. I got a chance to be with my father for only six years. It may be short but heaven knows I’ll forever keep those memories in my heart. But you, Aly, are luckier than I am. Yes, I may have lost my father at a very young age but I still consider myself lucky because God gave me a wonderful father. You, though, have shared 15 years with your father. If you ask me, I’d give the world to have another day, another hour, or even another second with him.”
Aly was now staring with wide eyes at her teacher. She still found it hard to believe that someone actually went through the same thing. It was as if she felt a spark of home in her. But, still, there was one thing. Aly looked at Mrs. Cruz hesitatingly.
As if reading her mind, Mrs. Cruz spoke. “Aly, I also didn’t get to say goodbye. For years, I was full of regret. I kept thinking that it was my fault. That if I could’ve said goodbye, then letting go would definitely be easier. But that’s not the case. I’ve come to believe that it doesn’t matter how you lost someone because either way, it would still hurt. I lost my father, Aly, and it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. But do you know what encouraged me to move on?”
Aly shook her head.
“When I was young, my father loved to teach me how to ride the bicycle. There were times when I’d fall and get hurt. At times, I even cried. But each time, he would take me into his arms and tell me in the most gentle way possible ‘When you fall, just get up. If you fall again, don’t give up. Just stand up again. Life is too short to be worrying about things that can no longer be worked out.’ Back then I thought it was just about me falling every time I try to ride the bike. But as I grew older, I’ve learned that those words had a lot more meaning.”
“I’m glad you moved on.” Aly said, feeling a lot better.
“Of course I moved on, but it took a lot of patience. And you will, too.”
That night, Aly prayed to God. She thanked Him for giving her fifteen years with her father. It may have been short, but for her, it was more than enough. As she turned off the lights and closed her eyes, a smile forms on her face. Somehow, she knew that things will get better, sooner or later.
This is just a short story I wrote for journalism a few months back.
Labels: literature, short story, writings