Princess fell into a bottomless slumber; dreaming of Mutinlupa and the two rooms. Everyone but Ernesto was in the big room and rain was pinging off the metal roof. She was sitting in the corner on the floor, away from the rest, and they were watching for water seeping up through the cracks. Each of her family, staring at the crack in the door. Mae was hypnotized by their dread and anticipation. No one spoke or twitched a knuckle.
And she asked, "Is there water in the street yet?" No one answered. It was like she was already a ghost and all of them bewitched without her. They were just waiting for the first trickle to breech the sill.
"Where's Ernesto? Is there water in the street yet?" she asked again, and still no answer. She wanted to go and look for water in the street, but her body was stock-still. Her mother was near and stale perfume waltzed in gusts of familiarity. She wanted to touch her mother, but torpid muscles kept her glued in place.
"I love you, mama," she said. But they were just waiting for the water.
She knew she dreamed this, because in a twinkle her eyes opened; startled awake to find two little girls standing in front of her. Two little girls like herself, straight and slight, but dressed in identical peter-pan shirts and green-plaid jumpers with white socks and red crossover ties. Their long hair was pinned back with barrettes. They had her tribe's olive skin and flat nose and almond-shaped pacific eyes; one a smaller version of the other.
The littlest one said to her in perfect English, "Are you a princess?"
The bigger one said matter-of-factly, "I told you, she's not a princess, that's just her name."
"That's not her name. That's silly," the little one said with a big giggle.
The two girls continued to gape at her from an arm's length. Still in a daze, Mae felt like the girl in the dream, semi-conscious and transfixed. It was dark out and she took in her surroundings. She could see through an archway into a dining room and a light was on in another room where plates and silverware jingled with the opening of cupboards and drawers.
"You must be Mary and you must be Sarah," Mae said.
Then Jinky turned on the light over the table and put two bowls of cereal on the table.
"Mary. Sarah. Come eat your breakfast. Are you awake, Princess Mae?"
The sight of Jinky in her work uniform shook Mae's senses and she sprang up from her sleep, still in the purple dress. Summoning all her energy, she said, "Yes mama, I'm awake."
"Okay, go in your suitcase and show me what you've got to wear. Your father is taking you to the school soon and you need to get ready. When you have your clothes bring them to me and I'll show you the bathroom and the shower. It's different here, you know. It's not like back in the Philippines, okay?"
"Okay. Yes, mama."
The girls were elbows-up on the table fiddling with their spoons, but mostly ignoring the Cheerios and watching Princess Mae. Mae was hungry, but there was no bowl for her.
Sarah, the littlest one asked, "How come Princess is calling you mama?"
"I told you, she is from the same place as where your father is from. She doesn't have a mother here, so I am going to be her mother. And since she doesn't have any sisters either, you can be her sisters. How would you like that?" Jinky asked, like it was an option. They were her sisters, after all... half sisters.
Mae rummaged through her bag for something nice, but nothing magic happened in the night; there was only the same old shorts, pants, tops and counterfeit t-shirts bought at the second hand stores in Muntinlupa. She picked a few of these and took them to Jinky.
YOU ARE READING
Princess MaeGeneral Fiction
Princess Mae lamented many things about her life; hunger, poverty, struggle, and sleeping altogether in the crush of their two-room tenement. For these things she blamed her mother and the poor choices which had left her the sole provider of four c...