EDITOR'S NOTE: I wrote this for a CW10 class when I was in first year. Chiness helped me. This is purely a work of fiction. :)
I sat on the front steps of my sister’s dormitory typing a message on my K-700i. Without looking at the keypad, eyes staring blankly at the deserted street, my thumb pressed the keys rapidly finishing my message in less than ten seconds. A drawing of a yellow envelope appeared on the screen, below it were the words Message Sent.
Ate, where art thou?
Beep-beep, beep-beep.
Wait, I’m coming. (^_^)
Ok. Hurry up. It’s already 2:30.
Beep-beep, beep-beep.
I’m almost there. Wait a minute.
I was erasing her last message when a shadow hovered over me like a lost phantom in the afternoon. I looked up and saw my sister standing behind me, smiling. Her hair was tied in a bundle at the back of her head, secured by what appeared to be a chopstick. Silver beads were dangling freely from the tip of the chopstick, swishing left and right with every movement of her head. She was wearing a dress made of cotton that glowed yellow as it reflected the afternoon sun. Her bony hands were emphasized by the loose and baggy sleeves that looked like saggy skin hanging from an old woman’s arms.
At the back of my mind I remembered an old Chinese movie we used to watch as children. It was an action-packed movie about a kung-fu master known as the Iron Centipede. He was actually a Robin Hood type of hero who struggled against a corrupt clan of warriors known as the Flaming Bees. The Iron Centipede always wore a tunic with loose sleeves. Whenever he appeared in the scene, his clothes swished like a vortex, creating the sound of clothes fluttering against the wind. My sister’s dress resembled closely the Iron Centipede’s tunic.
“Was that quick or what?”
“If you call a thirty-minute delay quick, then I’ll agree with you.”
I puffed up my cheeks while my sister raised her left eyebrow threateningly. From a stranger’s point of view, we looked like rivals ready for a big fight, but actually, we did these whenever our “corny radars” sensed intruding jokes attempting to make us laugh. We struggled to control our laughter, but we ended up laughing at our distorted faces.
Ading, what’ll you do next after you get your laptop?”
“I have no idea, but if you have other plans, we can stay there, ‘till say 5:30?—Just to avoid the rush hour?” I said.
“5:30’s fine with me. I’ll just check out some stores in Mega. It will be quick, promise, cross my heart.” My sister said while drawing an” x” mark over her chest. I smiled at her hoping that we had read the word, quick, in the same dictionary. I read mine in Oxford. I think she read hers in Chamber’s.
By three in the afternoon, we joined the long procession of shoppers passing the security check of SM Mega Mall. My sister joined the line for girls which was considerably shorter than our line. I was greeted by a stern-looking guard standing at the entrance, nastily clutching a metal detector in his right hand. His ears were sticking out in a peculiar manner, like that of dwarves minus the pointed tip. It gave me the impression that he was very eager to hear his detector beep. He glanced at a poster on the wall bearing the faces of the most wanted men in the Philippines, and then he shot a suspicious eye at me as if checking if I resembled any of them.
I opened my backpack and he inspected it rabidly, moving the metal detector on every corner of the bag. His detector remained silent, and when he finally realized my innocence—no bomb, no ammunition whatsoever in my bag—he allowed me inside, reluctance painted on his face. My sister was already waiting at a telephone booth when I saw her. Waving her hands furiously, she beckoned for me to move faster.
“Villman’s Computer Shop’s located in the third floor”, I told my sister while reading the address from their claiming receipt.
“I remember that. It’s even beside an art gallery. But I don’t remember whether we used this elevator or the escalator in the Department Store.” I was about to answer her when she blurted out, “Wait! Don’t talk! Memory… Memory… Don’t fail me… I remember now! We took the Department Store escalator. Ok, this way then!” She started walking towards the Department store while I trailed from behind.
Ate, wait! I think it’s faster if we take the escalator near Celine. That will bring us directly to Villman’s.”
“Are you sure about that? But we took the Department Store’s escalator when we went for repairs, remember?”
“We did take that route but the Department Store’s so packed with people it’s difficult to move around. It took us forty minutes to reach Villman’s, remember?” I exaggerated my question to prove my point.
“If you insist…”
“I insist”, I said firmly.
My sister grinned.
Why did I fall for that one?
I found myself bathed in the yellow light of Celine sitting on a long wooden bench among several women stooping down, their hands on either foot, trying to fit their choice of sandals. My sister was sitting on my left tediously counting the beads on the shoe she was fitting. An apparently well-off lady embellished with golden bracelets like overweight snakes was sitting on my right. She was having a heated debate with a saleslady in peach about the sizes of shoes in the store.
“Miss”, croaked the lady in a disparaging voice, “I have always worn size seven shoes, so don’t tell me that my feet have grown without me knowing.”
“Ma’am, it happens to everyone. One moment you’re size seven, the next you’re eight. Be thankful you’re not nine”, the saleslady retorted wearing an irritated face.
“Not to ME!” said the lady firmly.
Ading, hello? Are you still there?” my sister said, nudging me on the ribs, bringing to an end the radionovela episode I was rapturously listening to.
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing”, I answered promptly, not wanting my sister to realize that I was eavesdropping.
“Ok. What do you think about these shoes? Nice, huh?”, my sister drawled. She stood up and walked back and forth in front of me, flaunting the glittering shoes.
“Er—I don’t really know. In a girl’s point of view, are they supposed to be nice?”
“Look at the beads! They glitter! Look! They’re beautiful! Tell me they are!” My sister implored, gathering her hands piously, her voice sounded desperately like a child bawling for candies.
“Hmmm.. They’re beautiful? If you say so.” I shrugged.
“Don’t you find them lovely?” She voiced, fixing her gaze on the shoes that glittered against the polished floor. She fell silent, as though entranced by the playful sparkle of light on the glistening shoes.
I felt a pang of guilt. After all, it took my sister more than an hour hovering over the racks and searching for the perfect pair that would match her taste, like Cinderella with her glass slippers—except of course, hers was an awfully beaded one.
I should have told her they were just fine, I thought, wishing I could find a way to console her.
But at least we could now leave this store, my mind’s other half argued, and my lips suddenly curled meaningfully.
Ading?” My sister’s voice sounded hoarse. Her head rose slowly as if reluctant to detach her gaze from the floor.
Just bear in mind, the storm shall pass, I whispered to myself.
Ading—“, she was now facing me. I couldn’t make out the expression on her face.
Is she angry? Is she sad? This is it, I crossed my fingers behind my back.
“Can I have one more hour?” My sister implored, clasping her hands again, her voice squeaking like china colliding with each other.
“Please, please, please… Just one more hour. Please.”
“But how about—“
“Please, Ading. Just one more hour?” She was leaning closer now, her eyes were half-pleading, half-demanding.
The argument’s over. Nothing’s stopping her, I thought miserably.
My neck now felt like thawing gelatin, and I found my head bobbing back and forth in an unmistakable nod.
“So much for hoping”, I sighed as I watched my sister disappear behind a cabinet of sandals.
Hands propping my heavy chest, my back created a gradient brae as I contented myself watching the saleslady in peach. Through the corners of my eyes I saw her placing a size seven sticker over a size eight while the lady with snake-like bracelets busied herself giving the store manager a free lecture on her feet size’s history.
“What time is it?”
“Half past five”, I said.
“Yes”, I answered in an it’s-about-time-you-realized sort of way.
“Can you hold this for me, Ading? My ice cream’s melting.”
“Let me have that”, I said, taking the glossy paper bag that held her sandals.
“Thank you.”
“Quick! The ice cream’s spattering on your dress.”
It was too late. Two large blotches of brown ice cream had fallen and trickled on her left sleeve. They spread rapidly, forming a horrible swastika that clashed violently with her white dress.
“That’ll leave a mark”, I said, feeling sorry for my sister’s besmirched outfit.
“Definitely”, she remarked in an unusually delighted manner, “But someone’s going to let me look for a new dress.”
“Not me.” My answer was cold.
“You guessed it right! It’s you!”
“No, I’m not allowing you. How about my laptop? It’s nearing six. We’ll go get that first.”
“You’re not allowing me?”
“You are?!”
“No! I’m—not—allowing—you”, my voice sounded crisp as I emphasized each word of my statement.
Sensing my clabbered patience, my sister stood transfixed unable to speak. For a moment she appeared apologetic, then she stirred from her reticence and began using her well-coiled reverse psychology against me.
“Can you endure the humiliation your beloved sister will go through because of this stain?” She murmured, trying to sound miserable as she stretched out her left arm giving me full view of the terrible stain on her sleeve. It now resembled an amoeba with its undulating pseudo pods about to swallow food.
She opened her mouth again, and to my horror, she began her usual speech of plea accompanied by seemingly choreographed gestures. She clutched her fist, raised her head to the ceiling, straightened her arms, bowed her head and rested her clasped fingers over her heart.
“You’ll choose a laptop over your own sister? Oh! The pain! The excruciating pain! I can’t take it. My heart—“
“Ok! You win! You can look for a new dress! Just stop that terrible monologue! You’re attracting too much attention”, I blurted out, pulling my sister’s hands down to hide the gestures that were catching people’s eyes and curiosity.
“Really?” My sister purred, almost shrieking, the hint of exuberance teemed in her voice.
“Yes, Ate! Let’s get this over with as quickly as possible!”
People were still shooting glances at us; their faces wore lopsided expressions. I even heard a child tell her mother, “Mommy, when I grow up, I don’t want to be like them.”
“You better not be baby, or mommy and daddy will be extremely unhappy.”
My sister took no notice of the people. Instead, she pulled me by the elbow into another shop in psychedelic shades of pink, white and crimson. I just had enough time to make out the name of the shop—HerBench.
I wondered if I would ever see my laptop again as I watched the amoeba engulfing more of my sister’s sleeve.
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