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After they came home from shopping, Wilma baked macaroni in the toaster oven. Princess Mae's best friend was invited for dinner.  Farewells had already been said between chums and schoolmates, but she and Bles had been forever friends and the parting was excruciatingly hard for both. Over dinner the mood was light and her older siblings were particularly nice and did not tease at all.

It was Mae's chore to wash dishes, but Ernesto the eldest, volunteered for the job; just up and did it, mind you. Bles and Mae were given money to go to the Sari-Sari store for chips; and some candy and gum for the plane. Her mother took the pesos from the inner pocket of her purse and pretended it was nothing. But then after all, starting tomorrow there was one less mouth to feed.

At the Sari-Sari store Mr. Ramos gave her an extra box of Choco-Mani and patted her on the head, telling her, "I will miss seeing the most beautiful girl in Muntinlupa. Always remember Mr. Ramos and the Sari-Sari store. Of course, after going to America, you'll never come back here to the Sari-Sari store of Mr. Ramos."

"I'll come back," Princess Mae said. "I have my mother and my brothers and my sister."

"And me!" Bles said.

"And Bles.  I have to come back for my best friend."

"Yes, of course, your family and your friend. But you will make new friends," he said, doubting she would come back. "Maybe when you're rich and happy, you can bring your mother to America to live with you. I bet she would like that. By then I'll be dead, I think. But remember me. It's nice to be remembered." And he patted her head one more time and pressed another piece of candy in her hand.

The girls went down to the corner and sat on a stone wall under the branches of a large dita tree. Here they would sit; as her sister Mitzy used to. They would sit as young girls do, away from the dote of their mother, dancing with eyes and gestures and flips of the hair. Mae and Bles had recently found their spot on the wall, waiting for a dance partner.

Manoy had begun stopping at the wall whenever Mae was around. He was a warm and handsome neighborhood boy of sixteen; one they had always known. He was confident and respectful, never touching or even suggesting what he thought about at night in his bed. Mae's curiosity for boys was growing. In school she would give off the signals that come to girls earlier than boys, but those boys were awkward and shy; mostly ignorant of their unspoiled puberty.  Princess Mae, on the other hand, felt herself becoming a woman and the attendant want of being desired and touched had begun to percolate.

Manoy came down the street with great fanfare; running, skipping and cartwheels even. He had them laughing and laughing as he sat on the wall, a little distance from Mae.

"Oh, chips for me?" he asked.

"Not for you, young man. They're for us," Bles said. 

"Do another cartwheel and you can have a chip." Mae giggled.

"If I do a cartwheel and another and stop it in a handstand, then give me a second chip," Manoy said.

"Hold the handstand for five seconds," Mae countered.

Manoy backed up very far to make the show, then dashed up before them; first the cartwheel, then the second to a handstand and the girls counted in unison, "three, four..." pausing for the last as the boy swayed a little, then "Five!"

Inside Mae's desire swept round in a cyclone of sorrow, knowing the boy's intention was her, and while his desire she held, it was for this day only and nevermore. They would never dance the dance of desire again. Today was their forever.

As it was that Manoy had never been forward or disrespectful to Mae, now would be his last chance. He helped himself from the bag of chips and it was Mae who took his hand playfully and said, "No, no, no.  I will pick them." And he stayed close, her heart flailing its hormone driven blood to the edges of her being. Almost unable to breathe as she handed him his two chips and their eyes and hearts and bodies had no account of the transaction. Dressed only in the want and the parting and the understanding that this was it; for them it was all there would ever be.


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